The courageous and righteous action taken by Narendra Modi-led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government by rendering Article 370 and Article 35A redundant and reorganising the state of Jammu and Kashmir has received approbation from across India. Some negative elements say that the matter should have been discussed further.
I have remained dedicated to the study of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan and China for a decade and a half now. In this time frame, I have written nearly 2000 articles on my area of study, many pertaining to Article 370 and Article 35A.
I have also given scores of lectures and participated in as many discussions across the country where these legislations came up for dialogue and debate. Recently while speaking at the Gujarat University, Ahmedabad and MS University, Vadodra, on the occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas, I emphatically rooted for the removal of Article 370 and Article 35A from the Constitution. I did not know that the time for this aspiration to come true was so near.
I have collated and given below excerpts of 15 articles of mine written since 2013 in which I have made a mention of Article 370 and Article 35A. These were uploaded on my blog www.defenseinfo.com and also carried by many other publications. Now it is difficult to trace all the inputs, hence, only my blog links have been incorporated in this paper.
This apart, I have written on the subject for many publications, newspapers, magazines and books. The main among these are the ‘Organiser’; ‘Indian Military Review’ and my book ‘Jammu and Kashmir: The Tide Turns’.
Article 370 and Article 35A formed an intrinsic part of the efforts towards creating awareness about Jammu and Kashmir and subjecting the matter to a national debate. A study of these excerpts will give an idea of the deep study carried out for years on end before the government reached to the momentous decision to change the status-quo in the region. It will also clearly establish the manner in which the decision making process progressed from one stage to the other.
Those rooting for more debate are either uninformed or merely playing to the gallery now that their very rigid stand on the subject has been simply blown away. They had their chance and failed to leverage the same; now, the die is cast and not too soon.
Article 370: How reality is overshadowed by myths (December, 14, 2013)
How is it that billion plus citizens of this country are surviving happily without the provisions of Article 370 that seem to be a matter of life and death for some political leaders of J&K? Is the rest of India withering under political restriction simply because Article 370 is not applicable to them? The fact is that Article 370 does not give any such facility to the people of J&K that can enhance their life in any manner.
There are, on the other hand, many areas where Article 370 is posing impediments in the progress of the state and its people. There are many progressive legislations and provisions of the central government which cannot be extended to J&K because they have not been legislated upon by the state government. It is well known that Panches and Sarpanches in the state are fighting for empowerment of the Panchayat’s which is not coming by because 73rd and the 74th amendments to the Constitution of India have not been extended to the state. More serious is the loss being borne by the all important Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes who are not availing the benefits of central schemes.
Dr Jitendra Singh, Member of Parliament from Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir and Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office and Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), during his interaction with the media on taking charge of DoPT referred to Article 370 of the constitution that gives special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. His comment evoked a sharp response from the ruling National Conference (NC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to create an avoidable controversy.
The matter has since been hotly debated on television and has been written about in newspapers and websites. The overwhelming opinion is that there is absolutely no harm in debating and discussing the status of Article 370.
Omar Abdullah says that Article 370 provides the constitutional link between the Union of India and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Many legal luminaries and prominent citizens of the state, on the other hand, are convinced that Article 370 was set up as a temporary measure to implement the Indian Constitution fully in Jammu and Kashmir. This line of thought logically concludes that Article 370 should have been repealed within six months after having completed the constitutional obligation. The country is already behind time by seven decades in this regard.
Many look upon the inability to do away with Article 370 as a failure of the political leadership at both the centre and the state level. The economic and political loss that the people of the state suffer due to continuation of the article far outweighs the preferential treatment that it assures.
As things stand there are so many national schemes that cannot be extended to the state due to the limitations posed by Article 370. Businesses suffers because people from the rest of the country cannot establish infrastructure in the state. The socio-psychological divide created by the statute negates integration of the youth of the state in other parts of the country. The state is not accountable to the nation despite looking for assistance all the time. The objective of every law and statute is betterment of the people; if such betterment is not coming by, then legality cannot be quoted as a reason for continuing with it.
There is a widespread perception that those who misused the law and the constitutional situation to establish a feudal cult in the state of Jammu and Kashmir are now worried about their future, since a more representative and aware character is fast emerging. When seen in this context the reaction of both NC and PDP reflects the insecurity that they harbour on the subject.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during an election rally at Jammu in December 2013, sought debates and discussions on Article 370. The statement drew a stringent response from the Kashmir-based political parties.
The fact that seminars on the subject are being arranged across the country indicates universal acceptance of the proposal mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Jugal Kishore gave an impassioned narration on the manner in which Article 370, instead of connecting Jammu and Kashmir to India, is creating walls and barriers. He reinforced his contention by explaining how the legislation has stalled development, negatively impacted important parameters like health and education and restricted political empowerment at the grass roots level of Sarpanches and Panches.
Jagdeep Dhankar stressed on the temporary nature of the Article 370 and narrated the manner in which the first Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru, absented himself from parliament when the legislation was passed and later attempted to put the blame on Sardar Patel, all to please his good friend – Sheikh Abdullah. Jawaharlal Nehru has gone on record to say that the Article would wither away in time which, sadly, has not happened.
Instead of engaging in a logical debate there are leaders who predict doomsday even if the Article is mentioned. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has, on his twitter handle, remarked, “Mark my words & save this tweet- long after Modi Govt is a distant memory J&K won’t be part of India or art 370 will still exist.” Mehbooba Mufti has called upon the Prime Minister’s Office to clarify to “reassure the people of Jammu and Kashmir that no mischief is on the way.” These are rhetorical statements that do not pass the test of logic.
There are voices saying that the impact of development funds sent to the valley is negligible. Whose fault is it? The state government uses Article 370 to absolve itself of all accountability. The Right to Information route is not followed in Kashmir to find out where the funds went? The poor people are ignorant while the rich and mighty are in collusion; so how can the facts emerge?
A loud and clear message should be sent to the terror recruits in Pakistan that they would face certain death while making an infiltration attempt. A fear psychosis should be created in their minds. At the same time the actual “legal aspects” should be communicated across the world; the fallacies surrounding the role of India Army in Jammu and Kashmir, Article 370 and state suppression etc should be exposed. The duplicity of the self serving supporters of foreign sponsored terror in Jammu and Kashmir should be laid bare.
There are issues like the 1947 refugees still surviving without state recognition and colonisation of people in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir by the federal government of Pakistan that are not being addressed in a serious manner. Organisations like the Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre (JKSC) sponsored by the Sangh have been creating awareness in the national capital region of Delhi and outwards in the rest of India about the actual situation on ground and how it is being negatively impacted by Article370. Now the whole nation is looking forward to the complete and irrevocable integration of Jammu and Kashmir within India. The divisive agenda of some vested interests, maintained over decades for personal benefit, stands exposed.
There is talk about the Kashmir leadership looking for assurances from the BJP on political issues pertaining to Article 370, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) etc. There is one simple question to be asked in this regard – if the PDP could have ruled while espousing the concept of self rule, and the NC could have ruled while espousing the concept of autonomy which are basically unconstitutional, why can the BJP not rule while espousing the concept of abrogation of Article 370, when the issue lies within the ambit of the Constitution of India?
There is a second aspect to this reunification drive also. The direction that the debate on Article 370 is taking has rattled the separatists to the extent that they are now feeling the necessity to close ranks to meet the challenge. Earlier debates on the issue would witness a huge salvo of political rhetoric by the media savvy Kashmir-based political leadership of the state that would overwhelm voices coming out from the Jammu and the Ladakh region. Now, the voice from Jammu region advocating debate and discussion has become determined and steadfast.
Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre, a Delhi-based Think Tank engaged in the study about the state of Jammu and Kashmir organised an interaction with some residents of the state whose rights are being curtailed due to application of Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution on the state. The interaction was organised at the Constitution Club, New Delhi on 11th July, 2015.
Legal experts now feel that a bigger damage to the spirit of the Indian Constitution is being done by the provisions of Article 35A. Article 35A, experts say, denies residents of the State protection under various Articles, including Article 14 (equality), Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on basis of religion, caste, race or place of birth), Article 16 (Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and reservations), the fundamental rights under Article 19 including the right to free speech and the right to life and liberty under Article 21. The victims of this draconian statute are of the opinion that there is no place in democratic India for such provisions that actively curb the rights and privileges’ of the citizens of the country. There exists every reason to do away with them.
Mr. Narayanan goes on to denounce the present government as being in “denial mode” and unable to grasp the “Gravity of the situation” in Kashmir, which according to him is the result of the BJP policy of “the centrality of Article 370 and the erosion of the special status in Kashmir.” This is a falsity!! Yes, there is a well defined movement to create awareness about the legal and political aspects of Article 370 and the manner in which it is harming rather than benefitting the people of the state. Surely, there is nothing wrong in creating such awareness.
They do not pause to think that, in the very same India and without Article 370 or some other special status, their contemporaries are moving forward at a frenetic pace. They do not realise that they can also do so and better if they would only concentrate on their studies.
The basic fault line that Article 370 and 35A have elicited is the uneven distribution of constituencies. Sheikh Abdullah assisted by his brutal majority engineered that warped formation of constituencies which favoured the Kashmir Valley and left Jammu and Ladakh region bereft of a political status commensurate to their geographic and demographic strength. Jammu has a bigger area and equal population as compared to the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh has a bigger area than both Jammu and Kashmir, yet, the legislative constituencies are such that maximum strength in the legislative assembly comes from the Kashmir Valley. Successive Kashmir-centric governments are steamrolling all efforts to carry out a long overdue delimitation of the constituencies and this is being done under protection of Article 35A and Article 370.
There are many benefits that the people of India enjoy due to development initiatives of the central government that are denied to the people of Jammu and Kashmir due to restrictive legislations like Article 35A and Article 370. A good example is of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) who get 27% reservation in the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir where they have not even been identified because the empowering legislation has not been extended to the state.
Elections herald hope and opportunity (Organiser, April, 16, 2019)
The campaigning, sadly, is following the well trodden path of negativity. Political parties are more engrossed in deriding each other. The main agendas put forth are political issues like status of Article 370, Article 35A and AFSPA that have limited relevance for the day to day life of the common man. Small parties with limited popular reach are at each other’s throats. Each is renouncing the other as self serving and opportunist. In effect, this implies that all are self serving and opportunist. Only BJP is placing its campaign on issues of development and security that are most important for the people who wish nothing more than to lead a normal life.
The endless debates on Article 370, Article 35A, AFSPA et al are not what will help the region and its people to evolve. These are subjects that are of interest to only a few who leverage them for political gains. What is going to help is a strong government that can root out the endemic corruption that is eating into the very fabric of the state. A government that can propel the state to its rightful place in the development index with modern forward looking economic policies; a government that can boast more about its own achievements than indulge in a blame game with the centre.