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Mired in Misconceptions

Srinath Raghavan

By A.G. Noorani
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 487, Rs.850.00


The question of autonomy for the State of Jammu and Kashmir has been mired in myths and misconceptions. In the six decades since the adoption of the Indian Constitution, few provisions of the document have been as misunderstood and contested as Article 370. The Sangh Parivar and its associates have for long demanded the wholesale abrogation of the Article, which they claim inhibits the 'complete integration' of the State with the Indian Union. Radical champions of Kashmir's cause curiously echo this position in viewing Article 370 as bogus and irrelevant. The more mainstream and moderate position amongst Indians sees the Article in a more favourable light: as an example of India’s flexible and accommodative approach to Kashmir. A.G. Noorani has for long argued against all three positions. A lawyer and publicist, Noorani's engagement with Kashmir goes back to over five decades. He started out as an advocate of plebiscite in Kashmir. Following Pakistan’s attack on Kashmir in 1965, Noorani, like other proponents of plebiscite such as Jayaprakash Narayan, deemed the idea as no longer feasible. In the years since, he has called for the grant of meaningful autonomy to the State. Throughout this period, he was also an associate of Sheikh Abdullah-a statesman who he rightly felt had been grievously wronged. In his command over the constitutional problems of Kashmir, Noorani has no master. In this volume, he brings together a collection of key documents pertaining to Article 370 and its workings. These include official and personal letters, memoranda, gazette orders, court rulings, and so on. Many of these are not available even in the best of our libraries. As such, the volume will be indispensable to anyone with a serious interest in Kashmir. Noorani deserves our gratitude for putting together this excellent compilation. Then again, he is not merely interested in making these documents easily accessible to readers. He also wants to advance a particular reading of the history of Kashmir. The book is subtitled A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir. Given the contents of the book, this is misleading. But it does advertise Noorani’s intent with this book. As a historian of Kashmir, Noorani is not entirely reliable-especially in his treatment of the early years after accession. After all these years, he still finds it difficult to rise above the passions of that period. He continues to write as a partisan of Sheikh Abdullah and as an ...

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