What is Article 370? How does it affect us?… An Interview with Sumit Dutta Majumdar, Author of ‘Article 370’ Explained for the Common Man

sumit dutta majumdar

Q 1. You have previously written the bestseller GST: Explained for the Common Man. How was the experience of writing Article 370: Explained for the Common Man different for you?

Ans: The experience has been quite different. In the case of the book on GST, the subject was within my domain expertise. I had already written three books on GST − in 2014, 2016, and 2017. Those were meant for tax professionals. The challenge there was in writing a book on a complicated topic like GST in a simple language and style, so that the common people could understand the basics of GST.

The writing of the current book on Article 370 had two challenges. One was same as that of the book on GST, that is, to write on a complicated issue in a simple language and style. The other challenge was that, honestly speaking, I didn’t have the domain expertise on the issues related to Article 370 and abrogation of the ‘special status’ for Kashmir provided by that Article. Of course, during my career as a taxman for about 40 years, I had dealt with various legal and constitutional issues, and thus I was conversant with the nuances of the Constitution. Particularly, I remember the critical days of the preparation of the GST Constitution Amendment Bill of 2011. Post-retirement, on invitation, I had presented my views on the GST Bill to the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha. In any case, I had to do lot of reading to understand the issues relating to Article 370 before sitting down to write the book.

 

Q 2. Article 370: Explained for the Common Man covers an important and timely topic. What inspired you to write this book?

Ans: Yes, it was indeed an important and timely topic. Being of general interest, I had been reading about various issues related to Article 370 and the abrogation of ‘special status’ for Kashmir. But I had no plan to write a book on this subject that time. It was around the later part of August when Mr Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee, Editorial Director of Niyogi Books, suggested that I may write a book on Article 370 in a lucid language explaining for the common people, somewhat similar to what was done in the case of GST: Explained for the Common Man. That book was well-accepted by the readers. Initially, I had hesitated, only because the subject was beyond my domain expertise. But Mr Bhattacharjee continued to support me, saying that if I read a few books on the subject, I’ll surely be able to write the book the way the publisher wanted.

I mulled over the proposal for a day and finally decided to take up the challenge. My son, Rishi Majumder, a journalist, also urged me to take the challenge. When I informed the publisher of my decision, all of them came forward and supported me. Apart from Mr N.K. Bhattacharjee and Mr Bikash De Niyogi, publisher and managing director, particular mention will have to be made of Ms Tultul De Niyogi, co-publisher, Ms Trisha De Niyogi, and Ms K.E. Priyamvada, who edited the book.

 

article 370, book coverQ 3. How did you go about the process of conducting the research and structuring your thoughts when you wrote this book that deals with significant historical, political, and constitutional issues?

Ans: Once I decided to write the book, I knew that the first step was to collect and read as many books as possible on the subject − the historical background of the making of the Constitution, the role and character of the princely states in general and Kashmir in particular, the military history of the Kashmir conflict, the constitutional provisions, particularly those relating to Article 370 and also the Constitution of J&K with emphasis on its provisions liking to the Indian Constitution. I read 11 books, most of which were collected from Chittaranjan Bhavan Library and some from my son’s collections. Those were the most exciting and challenging times. I also extensively read all news reports and articles that came out on the subject after the August 5 and 6 actions. That’s how I came to know the views of different experts on the subject. My children and friends also helped by mailing me relevant and important articles found in print and electronic media.

Armed with all these materials, which in fact kept on coming continuously, the structure of the book was finalized. During this period I was in constant touch with the publisher, particularly Mr N.K. Bhattacharjee, Ms Trisha De Niyogi, and Ms K.E. Priyamvada. Consultation with them helped a lot in finalizing the structure. I must also mention that Mr Bikash De Niyogi had also given some very important inputs on the structure of the book. After the first cut was submitted to the publisher, Mr Bhattacharjee suggested some changes, especially on the last three chapters. At this stage, my son also helped me with his critical advice at some places. Here, I must acknowledge the promptness with which Niyogi Books brought out this book.

 

Q 4. With the rapid spread of online information transmission and social media, do you feel that there is still a space for informative books on socially relevant topics?

Ans: Of course. The online information received through social media as well as various websites has its importance in terms of time. Everybody wants to know the information or, for that matter, analysis of the information instantly, now itself. But in order to have a complete picture of an event in its proper context, its rational analysis, views and contra-views, etc. at one place, one has to look for a book, and quite often, more than one book if the issue is a controversial one. So, there will always be space for informative books on socially, politically, and economically relevant topics.

 

Q 5. What are some topics that you would like to write about in the future?

Ans: My writing started with a book on ‘Asiad Stadia’ based on my knowledge and experience of working in the Secretariat of 1982 Asian Games Special Organizing Committee. My second book was a Bengali novel. Both were written in my early thirties. After these two, for many years I was too busy with my office to write a book. In mid-90s, I wrote a book on taxation called Customs Valuation Law & Practice. This has six editions, the last one being in 2016. After retirement, I started writing on GST and there are four books on it. The first three ones in 2014, 2016, and 2017 were meant for tax professionals. The fourth one titled GST: Explained for the Common Man, published by Niyogi Books, is meant for the common people.

Now, depending upon how the readers respond, I will decide on further writing on other social and political issues which I feel the common person should also understand; for example, there are topical and relevant issues related to National Register of Citizens (NRC), National Population Register (NPR), Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), etc. These are quite complicated matters for the common man.

Besides, whenever I got time away from other engagements, I have been writing down for the past one year about select important events in my life, as some sort of memoirs. Let’s see when I can complete it. As of now, I have just come up to the interesting events of 1984. So all possibilities are open.

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