Over the past few years, the Hindi film landscape has seen a shift of sorts. 

What was earlier considered a more open, factual, and socially strong industry is gradually falling prey to the ruling establishment’s political ambitions. 

Some of the debatable recent films include The Accidental Prime Minister, The Kashmir Files, The Kerala Story, 72 Hoorain, and The Vaccine War

There may be others, but the list is already long enough to make a case. What was interesting in all these movies was their complete ignorance of facts. 

They simply didn’t care about the truth or the after-effects of what they showed. 

While The Accidental Prime Minister was a visible ploy to portray Rahul Gandhi as a gullible politician just before the 2019 general elections, The Kashmir Files gave rise to hate speeches in the country and The Kerala Story simply furthered the same. 

The Vaccine War had sly digs against the government’s critics. 

Even films like Fighter and Tejas were quick to rhetorically bash the opposition parties and praise the Prime Minister. 

Before labeling me as an anti-national, please see that I have used the word ‘debatable’ to begin with. 

In this context, it is completely fair to doubt the credentials of any fresh release. Article 370 is the latest to fall in this bracket. 

Many people are skeptical about its authenticity. In this article, I will use facts to decipher the film’s content available as of now in the form of trailers and teasers. 

And trust me, there’s enough merit in them to reach a conclusion.

Everything would be factual with clickable sources or readable image evidence. But first, let’s see…

What is Article 370 Movie Based On?

The film, directed by Aditya Suhas Jambhale, is based on the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution that gave special rights to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It stars Yami Gautam, Priyamani, Arun Govil, and Kiran Karmarkar in lead roles.

So, is Article 370 movie real or propaganda?

Till now, there are two main reasons why I think Article 370 is nothing more than propaganda in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. 

I will only base my reasoning on facts. Still, you are free to disagree with me.

Blatantly Blaming Jawaharlal Nehru for Making Demands

On Feb 19th, the film released one of its teasers. It has a voiceover from prominent actor Ajay Devgan. I have embedded the video below.

It is an introduction to what the movie is about. 

Translating to English, the narration says, “Out of the nation’s 565 princely states, almost everyone had decided to either join India, or the new country of Pakistan. But the future of some places was still uncertain, like Jammu & Kashmir, where the population was largely Muslim but the ruler was Hindu. Maharaja Hari Singh always wanted to be a part of India. However, Prime Minister Nehru was not ready to accept Kashmir’s accession until the Maharaja agreed to hand over the reins of Kashmir to Nehru’s close friend Sheikh Abdullah.

So, they are saying, that Maharaja Hari Singh always wanted to be a part of India.

This proposition is possibly based on a political rhetoric launched by the ruling party’s members, especially Kiren Rijiju.

Ever since the party came into power in 2014, one of its goals has been to discredit historical facts and present Congress and its leaders as villains of independent India.

In all probability, their and Article 370 movie’s hypothesis is based on a speech made by Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1952 in the Lok Sabha.

We need to go back a bit to understand how it all began. It is essential to have a backdrop before reaching an end result.

A good starting point would be the Quit Kashmir Movement.

Over the years, people from a certain ideology have criticized Nehru for supporting the Quit Kashmir movement and thereby supporting Sheikh Abdullah. 

They have come up with logical reasoning and biased perspectives to make you trust them. 

I won’t blame you for falling for the trap (if you did) since it is very tough to get to the root cause of any problem. 

The reason behind the Quit Kashmir movement and Nehru’s support thereof goes back to Maharaja Hari Singh’s tyrannic rule in the valley, rooted in the signing of the Treaty of Amritsar.

It was signed between the Britishers and Dogra monarch, Gulab Singh in 1846.

The latter bought Jammu and Kashmir for Rs. 75 Lakhs from the East India Company. 

You can read more about the Treaty in this article in The Outlook

I am not going fully overboard because my goal is to bring forth the factual apathy done by the makers of Article 370 movie, at least in the teaser.

Certainly, it demands going back into history, but Kashmir’s history is centuries old. Even a whole book wouldn’t suffice.

What followed in Kashmir was probably even worse than what went through during the British rule.

Source: Frontline The Hindu

The population of Kashmir faced economic difficulties, and there was widespread poverty and unemployment. 

The agrarian system, with its feudal structure, exacerbated the problems faced by the majority.

Rich became richer and inequalities rose to an all-time high. Heavy taxes were enforced in the region, leading to the economic slandering of common people.

Religious discrimination was prominent during the Dogra reign in Kashmir. 

Native Muslims were deliberately ignored by the administration for the purpose of welfare.

As expected, the discontent among the people erupted into widespread protests in July 1931. 

The trigger was the arrest and trial of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a young man accused of raising his voice against the ruling administration. 

His trial sparked public outrage, leading to demonstrations. 

On July 13, 1931, a large protest took place outside the Central Jail in Srinagar, where Abdul Qadeer Khan was being tried. 

The protest turned violent, resulting in firing by the authorities. Many protesters were killed, and this event is often considered a turning point in the agitation.

The religious discrimination supported by the Maharaja eventually transpired into communal riots during those years. 

Moreover, this period gave rise to Sheikh Abdullah as a leader of the Kashmiris.

Hence, when Sheikh Abdullah launched the Quit Kashmir movement in 1946, as debatable as it might be, he wanted Hari Singh to quit because of his evil misdeeds and nothing else, as described by many.

And the same was the reason behind Nehru supporting Abdullah.

The easiest thing to do for right wing ideologues and anyone reading their ‘purported facts’ is to believe Sheikh Abdullah was the most villainous thing to happen to Kashmir because he wanted Hari Singh out. 

In reality, it isn’t true.

The guy, instead, batted for communal harmony and the ‘government of the people.’ 

He never believed in the two-nation theory, just like Nehru.

Sheikh was against communalism and also believed that religion had no place in politics. You can read more about this in his speech at the UN Security Council.

If you want to read more about Hari Singh’s reign, you can go to this article

I am in no way saying the monarch didn’t do good things; all I mean is the weight of his wrongdoings was far heavier.

Neither am I trying to say Sheikh Abdullah was a godly figure. In fact, his relationship with Nehru strained later on and he became a controversial figure.

Read more about him here.

I have given you a decent backdrop. Now let’s quickly get to…

Was Maharaja Hari Singh Always Ready to Accede to India?

Article 370 movie claims that Hari Singh was always ready to accede to India.

We need to first answer, who would know a man better? Someone writing about him or his own son?

Hari Singh, by nature, was an indecisive man. I am not saying this. In case you don’t want to believe journalists of that time, you must take into account Hari Singh’s son, Karan Singh’s words.

He noted that his father was “indecisive by nature, merely played for time” (might be behind a paywall. See screenshot below). 

The Maharaja would often avoid the question of accession to Mountbatten when the latter came to discuss the same.

Source: Frontline The Hindu

The truth is Hari Singh always wanted to remain independent. It was the only thing he was sure of until December 1946.

But, after a point, when the Britishers stamped Jinnah’s two-nation theory, he was forced to choose either India or Pakistan or stay independent.

Again, we need to go back in time for a while to clearly understand the context before jumping to conclusions.

For any decision, there is always an eye-opening event. For Hari Singh, there were two:

i) The Muslim League’s Atrocities

ii) Pakistan’s attack on Jammu and Kashmir

The second one is quite popular, so I’m going to skip it and focus on the first point.

In December 1946, the Muslim League instigated a pogrom against the Hindu minorities of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Rawalpindi.

Over two thousand of those affected fled to the Muzaffarabad region in J&K. 

Read the following screenshot:

Source: The Wire

Hari Singh finally had a strong reason to turn to India not because he wanted to be with us but because he had to choose one of the two new countries and Pakistan was already showing its true colors.

If he decided to stay autonomous, he would have lost the British suzerainty.

But he had lost all touch with Nehru after putting Sheikh Abdullah behind bars for raising calls for his ouster and a new administration in the valley, which would be for the people and not for select individuals.

When Nehru had gone to visit Sheikh, Hari Singh had held him captive at the borders for three days.

Now, since he wanted to accede to India, he started finding ways to break the ice. Here’s his first attempt:

Source: The Wire

Kiren Rijiju and Article 370 movie are probably referring to his second attempt, which was also indirect and informal, coming through Rai Bahadur Gopal Das to Sardar Patel:

Source: The Wire

Direct communication never happened, according to facts available, during July or August 1947 between the Maharaja and Nehru.

Did Nehru Deny Kashmir Accession Because He Wanted the State’s Reins to Be Put in Sheikh Abdullah’s Hands as Claimed by Article 370 Movie?

After two failed attempts, Hari Singh directly communicated with Nehru through Mehr Chand Mahajan, who became Kashmir’s PM upon the dissolution of the Radcliffe Commission.

Source: The Wire

Both Article 370 movie and Kiren Rijiju have tried to use this point. The movie’s voiceover says, Nehru was not ready to accept Kashmir’s accession until the Maharaja agreed to hand over the reins of Kashmir to Nehru’s close friend Sheikh Abdullah.”

Rijiju in his tweet had said:

As a sidenote, it is always better to learn history from historians and academics, and not politicians and movies.

It is time to go back in time once again.

Kashmir and Hyderabad were two princely states that were peculiarly mirror images of one another in composition.

Hyderabad was a Hindu majority ruled by a Muslim elite, while Kashmir had a Muslim majority ruled by a Hindu elite.

Moreover, Hyderabad was never annexed by the Britishers. On the other hand, Kasmir was, in essence, a creation of the EIC.

The state’s revenue was far higher than Kashmir, making it a naturally lucrative option for both India and Pakistan.

Most of the politicians from both sides, including Sardar Patel, were ready to give up Kashmir for Hyderabad.

Besides, it also gave the Nizam of Hyderabad a lot of leverage and bargaining power.

However communal harmony in the region was gradually depreciating. It being a Hindu majority, the people of the state wanted to be a part of India, without a doubt.

However, the Nizam was looking for a better deal. He would have gone to the side which gave him better financial gains and authoritative control.

Now comes the reason why Nehru wanted Sheikh Abdullah to be released from prison.

It was not a blunder, as claimed by Article 370 movie and several ruling ideologues. In fact, it was sort of a well-planned masterclass.

Democracy is about the will of the people and not of the ruler. If the latter had been the case, Hyderabad would have gone to Pakistan.

Nehru and the Indian think tank had to take the initiative or the power to choose sides away from the Nizam.

They needed to set a recent example. If the accession of Kashmir had come from the Maharaja, the Nizam of Hyderabad would have remained dictatorial.

However, if it had come from the people of the princely state, he would have been forced to join India because that’s what the people of Hyderabad wanted.

Or else, India would have had the reason to invade Hyderabad on the basis of the will of the people.

Nehru had to indicate to the Nizam that Kashmir’s accession was not just Hari Singh’s will but also the public’s. 

The majority population of Kashmir was with Sheikh Abdullah. Releasing him from prison and instating him as the formal leader of the region meant achieving this goal.

He would have gone to the people and the whole accession of Kashmir to India would have been seen as the choice made by the majority population.

It wasn’t because Abdullah was Nehru’s friend or because he wanted to fulfill his personal goals. The entire case was linked with Hyderabad’s accession to India.

Imagine having a state almost in the middle of India’s southern region, joining Pakistan. It would have been a bigger catastrophe than Kashmir back then.

You just have to leave the hyper-nationalism card out and then read Nehru’s statement in the Lok Sabha. There’s no way you won’t be able to understand it.

I can go on to explain why Nehru was not directly responsible for the PoK situation. But that’s not my goal here.

My objective was to present facts relating to what the movie shows. Since it has not been released yet (the article was published on 22 Feb), I cannot make assumptions.

I will come again if Article 370 movie has more such things in its narrative.

Now, the second reason, why the film reeks of propaganda.

Narendra Modi and Ruling Party’s Leaders Promoting the Film

“I do not know what the film is all about but yesterday I heard on TV that a film is coming on Article 370. Good, it will be useful for people to get correct information.

Narendra Modi at a rally in Jammu.

I will repeat myself here: It is better to learn history from historians and academics, and not politicians and movies.

Any film that’s promoted or quoted to be factual by the ruling government has high chances of being state propaganda.

The reasoning is simple.

No politician in power, especially a tyrannical, conservative one, would ever let a film critical of their ambitious actions released let alone promote it. 

If the PM is already calling it a ‘factual’ movie, you, as the audience, should know the film has already been watched by him or by his party members. 

They did the same with The Accidental Prime Minister to create a public perception of Rahul Gandhi, and with PM Narendra Modi, to make his image better before the 2019 elections.

Moreover, films like The Kashmir Files, The Kerala Files, and others were promoted by the leaders of the party.

Why didn’t they say ‘Bheed shows facts,’ or ‘Article 15 was a harsh reality of India?’ They never endorsed Afwaah, Anek, or Mulk.

All of them were equally ‘social.’

PM’s endorsement is more of a red flag for neutral audiences than a matter of pride for the makers.

Moreover, several other ruling party’s members have seen a screening of the movie already. Tajinder Bagga is one of them:

Doesn’t this make Article 370 a mere propaganda or political tool? What have politicians got to do with movies in their public capacity? Why free screenings for them?

Final Word

There is always a reason behind everything. Unless you put yourself in the shoes of Nehru and other Congress leaders, or Mahatma Gandhi, you wouldn’t understand why they had to agree to the partition. 

The time was different. Freedom was imminent not ‘present.’ 

Sitting on our sofas, it is easy to judge decisions of the past. But it is equally difficult to understand their perspective. 

India is the best country in the world; it has always been. 

However, it is gradually stepping into dark waters, slyly propelled by the ruling masters.

Now, please don’t come up saying, going by my logic even Hitler’s actions could be ‘understood.’ That would be childish, to say the least.

As PM Modi said ‘people will come to know about the facts,’ I shall watch the film and come back to share if it has more facts or disinformation or if is it just an attempt to whitewash history.

If the movie shows Nehru’s ‘people first’ democratic approach, then it is based on facts. If it calls him a villain, Article 370 movie is nothing more than propaganda.

If it shows the aftermath of Article 370, then it is not propaganda. For years, the internet was banned in the valley due to the abrogation. 

There has been violence. Democratic rights of individuals have been taken away in the recent past.

If it shows the plight of Ladakh, then it is real. People there have been protesting for statehood.

If it shows the statehood protests going on for years in J&K, then it is real. Else, you know, right?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *