MODI TAKES MAJOR CONSTITUTIONAL DECISIONS ABOUT JAMMU AND KASHMIR
The bold decisions taken by the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government in India, vis a vis the State of Jammu and Kashmir, were long overdue and are likely to have far reaching consequences for the whole subcontinent in general and for India and Pakistan in particular.
Removal of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution, has always been an article of faith with the BJP. Decisions taken to declare Jammu and Kashmir provinces as union territory (with legislature) and Ladakh province (without a legislature) are unprecedented.
The BJP government wasted little time to take the bull by the horn after being returned to power with a bigger mandate in the recently concluded general elections.
It is pertinent to mention that Article 370 had been incorporated into the Indian constitution by the Constituent Assembly of India, which drafted Independent India’s constitution, immediately after the British granted independence to India and newly formed Pakistan. At that time, keeping the nature of this article in mind, as also the existing circumstances, the founding fathers had put this article in the category of “Transient and Temporary Provisions “of the constitution. However, over a period of time, this Article became a political tool to be used by its proponents to gain political mileage. In the process, a purely temporary provision, meant to serve a temporary purpose, was allowed to attain a near permanent status, with grave consequences for the nation. On the one hand, the Kashmiri politicians used it to rouse public sentiment by declaring that it was essential to maintain their identity, and on the other, they used the same provision to gain and retain political power; a power which they greatly misused to fill their own coffers, while paying lip service to the overall development of the state.
Over the last seventy years, this provision helped build a separatist mindset among Kashmiris and prevented Kashmir’s complete integration with the rest of the country (mentally and physically), creating political turmoil and instability in the state on recurring basis. Pakistan exploited the situation in 1989-90, to create violent insurgency that rages even today. Pakistan gradually handed over the reins of the armed uprising in Kashmir to radical Islamists sent from its own seminaries of Lashkar e Tyeba and Jaish e Mohammad, who turned a purely political issue into a religiously-ordained jihad. The worst sufferers of this armed uprising were the miniscule population of the aborigines of Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pandits, as the jihadis decided to Islamize the Valley in keeping with their philosophy.
Article 35 A, on the other hand, had been inserted into the constitution surreptitiously, without either a debate in the Parliament or a discussion in the Cabinet through a Presidential ordinance. This article defined the status of the permanent resident of the state and his/her privileges.
With no investment taking place in J&K, as no non-state subject can own property there, Art 370/35 A has adversely impacted all aspects of development in the state; infrastructure, education, health, social development, employment, industry, etc. Kashmiris themselves have suffered because of Article 370. As, the Indian Home Minister, Sh. Amit Shah, said during the debate in the Parliament on the issue, “Repeal of the Article will take the state on the road to development and within a short time, J&K will become India’s most developed state.”
It is pertinent to mention that those who have opposed the repeal of Article 370 constitute 16 % of the State’s geographical area and only 40 % of its population, whereas all others have supported it.
Another provision of these constitutional changes envisage bifurcation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, keeping in mind the special and unique requirements of each region. Kashmir and Jammu will now be a union territory with a state legislature and Ladakh too will become a union territory, but without a state legislature. For long, people in Ladakh region, mostly Buddhists and Muslims, nursed a strong grievance that they were being lorded over by the Kashmiri politicians who always wielded political power. Even to resolve small issues they had to rush to Srinagar/Jammu as the state capital was located either at Srinagar during summer or at Jammu during winter. With the road between Leh and Srinagar remaining cut-off for nearly six months in a year, Ladakhis suffered immense hardships. Now, after gaining the status of a union territory, most of their issues will get resolved locally. Besides, with direct access to New Delhi, the development of Ladakh will be put on a fast track.
In my opinion, the historic decisions taken by the Modi Government were long overdue and will go a long way in ending the Pakistan-sponsored insurgency in the State and restoring peace in the valley. In a short span of time, the State will be put on the fast track of development. END