By Krishna Jha
It is Independence Day, a day for reckoning, for taking stock of the past, going deeper into the present, and for trying to fathom the shifts in future. Past could be a year, decade or few months. The signals are that democracy has been brought to its edges. The second term of five years for the BJP has started with a stormy session of the Parliament, starting with budget with its fault lines, triple talaq that has sharp edges on both sides, labour laws that promote unremunerated labour, draft education policy to spread illiteracy, the health policy permitting quacks to practice medicine, and the amendment to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which can now be misused to label anyone as a terrorist.
But that was not all. By the end of the session came the scrapping of Article 370, and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir. The article has a long history. In 1947, when independence was at our door step, with promises of a democratic, secular, welfare republic, which was spelt out in the Constitution adopted in 1950, so was partition. A country was born with a communal identity, taking a bloody toll of thousands, rendering lakhs homeless. It was a phase of annihilation. Yet attempts were made to collect the shreds. Thus was born Pakistan. When in the first elections in 1952, democratic forces became victorious, it was called the ‘victory of secularism’. It all had started with the intense political and constructive decisions that were taken during the months of post independence, stretching to years.
The accession of Jammu and Kashmir was one of them. The document was legal and executed by Maharaja Hari Singh, ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. He had agreed to accede to dominion India and Lord Mountbatten as governor general of India signed along with Maharaja on October 26, 1947. In a letter, Mountbatten wrote on October 27, to Hari Singh, “…It is my government’s wish that as soon as law and order is restored in Jammu and Kashmir, her soil will be cleared of invaders, question of state’s accession should be settled by reference to the people,” which meant plebiscite or referendum to determine the status. But this led to a dispute with Pakistan that had already occupied part of Kashmir. India took a stand and said in clear terms that accession was final and unconditional.
In January, 1948, India moved to UN and security council resolution said that Pakistan must withdraw from the areas it had occupied, which it never did and in reaction, India too refused to have plebiscite.
Maharaja Hari Singh had put forward certain conditions saying that India can decide on policy matters of only defence, foreign affairs and communication. To formulate its own constitution there was the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, a body of representatives elected in 1951, and on Mir Qasim Resolution ratified on November 17, 1956, was dissolved on January 26, 1957. It was the same day when state constitution came into force in Jammu and Kashmir that said, “The state of J& K is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India.” But also added that any change or dissolution of the Art 370 should be finalised only after consultation with the state.
Today, Article 370 has been abrogated, and the state of Jammu and Kashmir has not been consulted at any stage.
People in Kashmir are under siege. The leaders who fought terrorism and separatism in the state are in jail. The dissolution of Article 370 was based on the rationale that it hindered the development process. But data available at government sites contradict it. The fact is that in the human development categories, the state stands much above the national average. One example could be enough to substantiate the claim. It has the lowest percentage of people living below poverty line, only ten per cent while India stands at the average of 22 per cent. The inequality ratio, especially in rural areas stands at 0.221. With negligible indebtedness and minimal inequality, the state of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 registered achievements higher than most of the states in India including Gujarat. (IPA Service)