Around 890 central laws are now applicable in Jammu & Kashmir and 250 unfair state legislations have been eliminated after Art 370 and Art 35A were revoked in 2019. Col. (Retired) Jaibans Singh, a veteran Indian army officer and a reputed analyst of Indian defence and security issues tells Sabita Mishra, Special Correspondent, News Intervention that Art 370 and Art 35A were misused by some politicians and both these articles should have been repealed decades ago.
Sabita Mishra: Could you give a short perspective on the now abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution?
Col. (Retd.) Jaibans Singh: Many legal luminaries and prominent citizens of India have, for long, expressed the conviction 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 This line of thought logically concluded that Article 370 should have been repealed within six months after having completed the constitutional obligation. For six decades the country remained behind time in this regard. The so-called mainstream local parties of Kashmir argued that Article 370 provided the constitutional link between the Union of India and the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is a fallacy. How is it that a billion plus citizens of this country survived happily without the provisions of Article 370 that seemed to be a matter of life and death for some political leaders of J&K? Was the rest of India withering under political restrictions simply because Article 370 was not applicable to them?
Seminars on the subject were arranged across the country in education and other institutions. These and articles on J&K by prominent thinkers and experts indicated a universal acceptance for the abrogation proposal mooted by the Union government under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sabita Mishra: How were the Article 370 and Article 35A misused, and why was it important to repeal these special provisions?
Col. (Retd.) Jaibans Singh: The provisions of Article 370 and article 35A were misused by politicians, especially from the Kashmir Valley to establish a feudal cult in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. When the demand for its repeal gained momentum they got worried about their future and spoke vociferously against such a move by the Union government. When seen in this context the reaction of both NC (National Conference) and PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) reflected the insecurity that they harboured on the subject. There were many areas where Article 370 was posing impediments in the progress of the state and its people. There were many progressive legislations and provisions of the central government which could not be extended to the J&K because they had not been legislated upon by the state government. Repeal was the only method by which the people of Jammu and Kashmir could fully enjoy the rights and privileges granted to them by the Constitution of India.
Sabita Mishra: Can you specify some parameters where Article 370 and article 35 A were detrimental to the people of Jammu and Kashmir?
Col. (Retd.) Jaibans Singh: The economic and political loss that the people of the state suffered due to continuation of the Articles far outweighed the preferential treatment that it assured. The list is very long indeed. I will refer, very shortly, to the main aspects that come to my mind.
· Many progressive legislations and provisions of the central government could not be extended to J&K because they had not been legislated upon by the state government.
· Panchayats of the state were constantly fighting for empowerment which was being denied since 73rd and the 74th amendments to the Constitution of India had not been extended to the state.
· More serious was the loss borne by the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes who were not availing the benefits of central schemes.
· Business suffered because people from the rest of the country could not establish infrastructure in the state.
· The socio-psychological divide created by the statute negated integration of the youth of the state with other parts of the country.
· The 1947 refugees from Pakistan and people of the Valmiki Samaj were denied citizenship of the state for seven decades since independence.
· Women of Jammu and Kashmir, due to provisions of Article 35A, were being denied full-fledged rights to land and property in the state.
· The state government was not accountable to the nation despite looking for assistance all the time. The Right to Information route could not be applied to find out where the funds went? The poor people remained ignorant while the rich and mighty were in collusion.
Sabita Mishra: Could you share specific examples of the positive changes or developments you have observed in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A?
Col. (Retd.) Jaibans Singh: The biggest change is that the people are happy, as is evident from the fact that no agitation has taken place since the repeal and now nobody even speaks about the said Articles. Those who supported their continuance are politically marginalised. The second big change is that it has paved the way for greater political and economic integration with the rest of India. 890 central laws which were not applicable to the state are now in place while 250 unfair state legislations have been eliminated. So many marginalised communities like the West Pakistan refugees, the Valmiki Samaj and most importantly the women of J&K have benefited tremendously from the change. These are just a few examples, the list is very long.
The economic environment in the state has witnessed a huge positive trajectory. There is a surge in national and foreign investment due to a conducive business atmosphere being provided to the investors. As per records, in 2021, the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir attracted investments amounting to US$ 2.5 billion (₹ 20,680 crore). There is a fast paced development of infrastructure and creation of industrial estates, with a special emphasis on MSMEs. The environment is peaceful and full of hope for the future.
Sabita Mishra: How do you assess the potential implications of the abrogation on cross-border activities, including infiltration and ceasefire violations, along the Line of Control?
Col. (Retd.) Jaibans Singh: There has been no implication at all. The more important countries immediately accepted the abrogation as an internal matter of the country carried out under accepted constitutional norms. Pakistan did make a noise, but nobody listened to it. Now, Pakistan’s own condition is such that it cannot support its stooges sitting in Kashmir. So far as the world is concerned, the matter is over and done with.
Sabita Mishra: In your perspective, how has the Jammu and Kashmir community responded to the abrogation of special status and its integration into the rest of India? Are there signs of increasing acceptance and unity?
Col. (Retd.) Jaibans Singh: “Kashmir will burn if Article 370 and Article 35 A are tampered with.” “Central Government should refrain from playing with fire,” are examples of the statements that were made by separatists and so-called tall leaders of the mainstream local parties of Kashmir like the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Non-reaction by the people of Jammu & Kashmir indicated how divorced they were from the ground reality.
The acceptance is complete and irrevocable. Article 370 and Article 35A are now history that may not even be taught in consideration of its irrelevance. Yes, there may be a lesson here for all constitutional democracies as to how a few words or Articles can keep a people subjugated for so long. 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. The integration now is complete and integration with India irrevocable.
Sabita Mishra: What lies ahead for Jammu & Kashmir?
Col. (Retd.) Jaibans Singh: The question of colonisation of Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and especially Gilgit-Baltistan, which are integral parts of Jammu and Kashmir under illegal occupation of Pakistan and are being exploited brutally and it needs to be addressed with urgency. The world in general and India in particular need to wake up to the massive atrocities and human rights violations that the people of the region are being subjected to for no fault of theirs. India has a special responsibility since the people of POJK are a part of our country and we have a constitutional and moral obligation to protect them. There is a new dawn in Jammu Kashmir as the region moves forward to enjoy all fruits of democracy and freedom guaranteed under the Constitution of India. The ball, now, is now entirely in the court of the people; they can make or break their destiny and the future of their younger generations.