Mission Kashmir: Why scrapping Article 370 is a historic move by Modi govt

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August 5, 2019 7:09 PM

The Narendra Modi government on Monday revoked Article 370 that gave special state to Jammu and Kashmir and divided the state into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. By doing this, the Centre has effectively taken control of the state with law and order directly falling directly under the Home Ministry.

Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday completely changed the dynamics of the troubled state vis a vis India. (PTI)

Article 370 scrapped: With the announcement of revocation of contentious Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday completely changed the dynamics of the troubled state vis a vis India. While some are calling it a historic moment, some others believe that the Narendra Modi government just corrected a historic blunder made by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1949. Whatever one may call it, doing away with Article 370 is a landmark move that will put Jammu and Kashmir at par with other Indian states — a demand that BJP founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee made decades ago.

Why BJP called Article 370 a blunder

Article 370 gave some special powers to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It allowed the state to have its own constitution, its own prime minister (which was later removed) and its own flag. The article also restricted the Parliament’s jurisdiction to draft laws for the state except for three areas — defense, foreign affairs and communication.

Bharatiya Jan Sangh (which later became BJP) founder Syama Prasad Mukherjee protested against these special provisions arguing that it would be a threat to the unity of India. He famously coined a phrase that ‘Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur do Nishan nahi chalenge’ [There can’t be two constitutions, two prime ministers and two flags in one nation]. Mukherjee fought against the special provisions inside and outside of Parliament. However, he died in suspicious circumstances in 1953.

After Mukherjee, senior Jan Sangh leaders continued to oppose the special provisions and promised to revoke them if elected to power. Earlier in March, former finance minister Arun Jaitley said that the separate status to Kashmir ‘led to separatism’ which ‘no dynamic nation can allow this situation to continue’.

Why Article 35-A was discriminatory

Article 35-A was inserted in the Constitution through a presidential proclamation in 1954. This article empowered the state to decide permanent residents and their privileges with regards to land ownership and employment in Jammu and Kashmir. And people who were deemed ‘non-residents’ were not allowed to buy property, settle down, seek government jobs, college admissions or scholarships. Kashmir activists claimed that some of the provisions were heavily tilted against the minority (in this case Hindus) and favored people who migrated from Pakistan. In a detailed blog in March, former finance minister Arun Jaitley said that Article 35-A was surreptitiously inserted and it was neither a part of the original constitution nor did it come as a constitutional amendment.

The senior BJP leader further said that the article gave the right to the state government to discriminate between two state citizens living in the state on the basis of declaring some as permanent residents while leaving out the others. “It also discriminates between permanent residents of the State and all other Indian citizens living elsewhere. Lakhs of Indian citizens in J&K vote in Lok Sabha elections but not in Assembly, municipal or Panchayat polls. Their children cannot get government jobs. They cannot own property and their children cannot get admitted to governmental institutions. The same applies to those who live elsewhere in the country. The heirs of ladies marrying outside the State are disinherited from owning or inheriting property,” he had said.

Why scrapping Article 370 is a historic step

The Narendra Modi government has divided the state into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. By doing this, the Centre has effectively taken control of the state with law and order directly falling directly under the Home Ministry. Like Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir will have a state assembly but legislation will have to pass through the Lt Governor who will be appointed by the Centre.

Constitution expert Subhash Kashyap said that Jammu and Kashmir will have assembly but its powers will be limited like Delhi and Puducherry. “It will not have police or land under its control. The Lt Governor will have rights on these subjects,” he said. Commenting on how the move changes Jammu and Kashmir’s equation with the Centre, Kashyap said that now both the regions are Union Territories, meaning that both the UTs will be under the direct rule of the Government of India.

Today’s development will make separatists who have been calling for freedom from India irrelevant in the Valley. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill will also reduce the regional parties like PDP and National Conference to mere forces that will have little or no say in deciding the fate of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

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