In an unprecedented move that isn’t just big at the moment but will have consequences that might outlive all that live today, the PM Narendra Modi-led government revoked the special status of Kashmir.
While the Muslim-majority Kashmir believes Article 370 is the essence of the valley’s connection to the rest of the country, the Home Minister Amit Shah in his parliament address argued that the law had hindered J&K’s integration with the rest of India.
Home Minister Amit Shah in his parliament address, argued that the law had hindered J&K’s integration with the rest of India.
The move is the most significant policy transformation in the seven decade of India’s independence with respect to the disputed region constantly engulfed in tension. The Home Minister’s announcement and the subsequent Presidential order implementing the scrapping of Article 370 ends J&K’s rights to enact its own laws.
A further announcement is the bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories as J&K and Ladakh. Ladakh will have no state assembly whereas J&K will have a state assembly and a Lieutenant Governor, similar to the national capital region Delhi’s governance structure.
Scrapping Article 370 – What was it?
Article 370 was included in the Constitution on October 17, 1949 which exempts J&K from coming under the direct radar of the Indian Constitution apart from Article 1 and Article 370 itself. It permitted the state to have its own Constitution, restricting the power of the Parliament on J&K’s fate without the concurrence of the state assembly.
The provision exempts J&K from coming under the direct radar of the Indian Constitution apart from Article 1 and Article 370 itself.
Article 370 has its roots in the Instrument of Accession (IoA) which was instrumental in the Indian Independence Act, 1947 which culminated in the partition of India and Pakistan. The act gave the 600 princely states three options: remain independent, join Dominion of India, or join Dominion of Pakistan.
A form of contract, IoA promised that India will honour its guarantees to the states. As per the act, the centre holds the power to legislate on Defence, External Affairs and Communications with respect to J&K. Similar special status is enjoyed by a number of other Indian states ‘under Article 371, from 371A to 371I’.
What does this mean for Kashmir?
The scrapping of the Act revokes Kashmir’s autonomy. It revokes bans on land owning in J&K for residents of other states. Such moves have provoked widespread protests and backlash in the disputed valley.
Voices in the valley are calling the decision to scrap Article 370 ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’.
As per the law, government jobs and college seats were reserved for J&K residents by the state government. This was to ensure that Kashmir’s identity is kept from being overrun by people from the rest of India.
Ghulam Nabi Azad,Congress in Rajya Sabha: Shameful that you have turned J&K into a non entity by making a Lt Governor there, so that you can appoint even a peon or a clerk, sitting here(Delhi). #Article370 pic.twitter.com/aIjKu3Ju5n— ANI (@ANI) August 5, 2019
The voices in the valley are calling the decision to scrap Article 370 ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’. Local leaders in Kashmir have warned that repealing the law will trigger backlash and widespread unrest.
Was Article 370 temporary?
The government argues that Article 370 was a temporary provision. It derives from the first article of Part XXI of the Constitution which is titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’. There can be two interpretations of this heading, 1) Article 370 is temporary as the J&K State Assembly had a right to modify/delete/retain it where it retained it; 2) accession was temporary until a plebiscite.
In an April 2018 ruling, the Supreme Court observed that despite the ‘headnote using the word temporary’, Article 370 is ‘not temporary’. A five-judge Bench in the Sampat Prakash case (1969) refused to acknowledge Article 370 as temporary, saying that it ‘never ceased to be operative’, thus adjudicating it as a permanent provision.
Against India‘s age-old policy
From its roots, India has stated that any dispute regarding to J&K accession will be settled in ‘accordance with the wishes of people rather than a unilateral decision of the ruler of the princely state’. Article 370 aligns with India’s basic idea of federalism in structure.
A Government of India’s White Paper on J&K in 1948, observed that India regarded accession as purely temporary and provisional.
A Government of India’s White Paper on J&K in 1948, observed that India regarded accession as purely temporary and provisional. When Article 370 was finally included in the Constitution, it was reiterated that India is committed to plebiscite and a separate constitution for Kashmir.
But down the years, centre government’s have used Article 370 on 45 separate occasions to extend Constitutional provisions to the state. By the 1954 order, almost the entire Indian Constitution was extended to J&K. 94 of 97 entries in the Union List, 26 out of 47 items of the Concurrent List; 260 of 395 Articles and 7 of 12 Schedules have already been extended. So much so that in 1963, Prime Minister Nehru said in Lok Sabha that “Article 370 has eroded”.
Voices from the Valley
The valley in itself is in a state of lockdown for the past couple of days. The state administration, imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in Srinagar district from midnight last evening. Major mainstream leaders PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference’s Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah and J&K’s People’s Conference’s Sajad Lone are under house arrest. Congress leader Usman Majid and CPI(M) MLA M Y Tarigami have claimed to have been arrested around midnight.
Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy. Decision of J&K leadership to reject 2 nation theory in 1947 & align with India has backfired. Unilateral decision of GOI to scrap Article 370 is illegal & unconstitutional which will make India an occupational force in J&K.— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) August 5, 2019
Farooq Abdullah said that “annulling Articles 370, 35-A will tantamount to constitutional coup”. An angry Mehbooba Mufti, who was an ally of the BJP government, tweeted under house arrest calling it the “darkest day in Indian democracy” and that “India has failed Kashmir in keeping its promises”.
Farooq Abdullah said that “annulling Articles 370, 35-A will tantamount to constitutional coup”.
The regional parties have vowed to safeguard the region’s special status on Sunday evening. The local voices say revoking the special status can be construed as an act of aggression against the people of the state. The move will have repercussions internationally. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif called India’s decision “unacceptable”, and has urged for an emergency meeting of Pakistan parliamentary leaders.
Meanwhile on the ground
Today’s happenings with have its concrete roots in the actions taken over the weekend is a long way off the NDA government’s narrative touted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who spoke of “winning over Kashmir with love, dialogue and good governance”.
Kashmir has been under the central government’s rule for over a year, after the BJP withdrew its support to the coalition government. The region has been shackled by fear and hysteria from over a week and the tension has continued to grow. Force deployment is amplifying every day, the iconic Amarnath Yatra was cancelled, which is symbolic of the centre’s stand on J&K and guarantee of protection to pilgrims.
Communication has been cut with mobile, broadband Internet and cable TV services shut down. Tourists and migrant labours in Kashmir have already been sent back. The Army confirmed reports of terror attack plans on the Yatra from Pakistan-backed terrorists. All Universities, schools and colleges in J&K have been closed and students have been told to evacuate hostel premises.
To the people of Kashmir, we don’t know what is in store for us but I am a firm believer that what ever Almighty Allah has planned it is always for the better, we may not see it now but we must never doubt his ways. Good luck to everyone, stay safe & above all PLEASE STAY CALM.— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) August 4, 2019
Amid confusion and lack of reports from the valley, India Today reported that people in the valley were ‘lining up at departmental stores to stock up dry ration and essentials. Ex-Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah had said some of his friends in Gulmarg hotels were ‘forced to leave’.
As per Scroll.in, “Whenever information does trickle through into the Valley, though, it is likely to receive tremendous amounts of pushback from the state – which is why the government curtailed civil liberties in the first place.”
Who’s in support and who’s against the move?
The J&K Reorganisation bill is expected to be passed in Rajya Sabha today and will be up in Lok Sabha tomorrow. Apart from the J&K political leaders, opposition has been massive in its vocal denunciation of the move. MDMK leader Vaiko in Rajya Sabha accused the centre of having ‘played with the sentiments of people of Kashmir’, he said, “When additional army personnel were deployed there, I was worried. Kashmir should not become Kosovo, East Timor and South Sudan.”
The J&K Reorganisation bill is expected to be passed in Rajya Sabha today and will be up in Lok Sabha tomorrow.
Among the parties who have welcomed the Government’s move are Shiv Sena, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janta Dal (BJD), Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP, Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Telugu Desam Party supports the Union Govt as it seeks to repeal Article 370. I pray for the peace and prosperity of the people of J&K.#Article370— N Chandrababu Naidu (@ncbn) August 5, 2019
BJP ally Nitish Kumar led Janta Dal (United) is against the move. Others opposing it as the Indian National Congress, Vaiko-ked Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC), Tejaswi Yadav-led RJD and the CPM.
By: Chitresh Sehgal, Senior Editor, Dkoding Media