By Sagarneel Sinha
The move of the BJP led NDA government to scrap the special status of Jammu & Kashmir by modifying Article 370, according to me, is a historic decision. The reason is — it integrates Jammu & Kashmir for the first time with the State of India completely. Earlier, the state, which will be now divided into two Union territories — Jammu & Kashmir with a legislature and Ladakh without a legislature, had its own flag and its own constitution — meaning that there was no direct application of laws passed by the Indian parliament until and unless approved by the Legislature of Jammu & Kashmir. Although, Jammu & Kashmir’s constitution clearly mentioned that it was an integral part of India — but the truth is Article 370 did come in the way.
It was this framework which actually made Jammu & Kashmir a separate state from India, although being its part, and helping Pakistan aided separatists based in the valley to further their secessionist agenda to gain independence from India. The separate Constitution has always helped the separatists and Pakistan to reiterate their propaganda that Jammu & Kashmir is actually not an “integral part of India”. Further, the refugees of West Pakistan have not been conferred the rights of citizenship despite living for decades in the state because of now void Article 35 A, which stems itself from Article 370.
There are arguments that there is no proper debate on this issue, particularly with the local Kashmiris who are locked in their homes by security forces.Obviously, one can’t deny the fact that it would have been better had the centre first tried to win the hearts of all Kashmiris — then there would have been no need of employment of heavy security forces. But we can’t forget the fact that the talks of removing of Article 370, although not removed technically but the BJP government had made it toothless, has always been an agenda of the saffron party finding place in its party manifesto. So, BJP did what it had promised before the elections. It was its duty to implement the promise, particularly after its stunning victory, which is supported by the majority of the electorate — also evident from support of non-NDA parties like BSP, AAP, YSR Congress, TRS and BJD.
Another important fact that is being ignored is the fast changing scenario of political situations of Afghanistan where there is a strong chance of Taliban, which has good relations with Pakistan, coming back to power, has played a major role for the hurried decision of the centre regarding Kashmir. The recent change of mind of the US president Donald Trump towards Pakistan that was seen in Imran Khan’s visit signalled that Pakistan is still important for the United States,which is actually trying to negotiate a respectful deal of its defeat with the Taliban in Afghanistan — where it needs the help of Pakistan to deal with them. Actually, the clock of Afghanistan is moving back to the time of 1989, when the then Soviet Union, already facing internal challenges, was forced to withdraw from Afghanistan — after incurring heavy losses fighting against extremist forces aided by the United States and Pakistan. Importantly, it was also the same period when the extremist Islamism rose in the valley to fight against the State of India.
One shouldn’t forget the false and deceitful statement of Trump that India’s prime minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate between India and Pakistan in Kashmir; which was actually aimed to satisfy Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan. It was this statement which made the government of India to hurry its decision to take control of Kashmir by killing the very purpose of Article 370 — which prevents the centre to take individual decisions regarding Jammu & Kashmir. Undoubtedly, the criticism that the centre should have first won the hearts of Kashmiris has some valid points but given the situation of Afghanistan it seems that Modi government was left only with this option. So, if analysed with the security angle, this act is justified. Plus, there should be no doubt that Pakistan would have tried its best to destroy the discussions of modifying Article 370 in the valley by activating its agents — separatists and the terrorists. Also, Pakistan’s renewed interest in aiding infiltration along the LOC after remaining cold for the last two months justifies the act of the central government.
On the other hand, we can’t ignore the certainty that the Article 370 was not part of the Instrument of Accession signed between King of Jammu and Kashmir Hari Singh and government of India on 26th October, 1947. It was introduced later in 1949 keeping with the spirit of IOA. But not to forget that the Article 370 was drafted in Part XXI of Indian Constitution — which is titled as Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions. So, it is clear that Article 370 was a temporary article contradicting to what Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah’s National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP say.
The founder of National Conference and the then prime minister of Jammu & Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah — father and grandfather of Farooq and Omar respectively — himself was unsettled with the provisions of Article 370 being temporary giving powers to President of India to modify it. It was this view that Sheikh Abdullah, who earlier advocated union with India in 1947, wanted independence from India — leading the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to dismiss the government of NC in 1953. Importantly, over the years the central government, mostly under the Congress party, has used the Article 370 to amend a number of provisions of the constitution of Jammu & Kashmir through Presidential orders — even after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir.
That’s why terming the passage of the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganistion Bill 2019, as “murder of democracy” is not accurate. The significant facts are that this bill not only integrates Jammu & Kashmir in true sense but also delivers justice to the people dwelling in Ladakh. This can also bring investments to the region which has seen almost no major investments for the last decades. Plus, the refugees of West Pakistan living for decades will now be able to get the status of permanent citizenship. Not to forget that, through this bill, central government has also checkmated Pakistan at a very crucial time over the issue of Kashmir — as given the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, it was easy for our neighbour to claim that “J&K was not an integral part of India”. So, this historic decision is actually aimed for India’s interests — including the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.(IPA Service)