JAMMU AND KASHMIR, A YEAR LATER8 min read

BY : MADHUSHREE PAUL

August 5th, 2019. The day when India saw celebrations, year-long targets overcome, protests, hordes of people taken into custody, heartbroken families.

A Complete Nation.

Or so it may seem.

On August 5th, 2019, the Prime Minister of India, Mr. NarendraModi announced the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A, that was inserted in the Constitution of India. The repealing of these articles had left the country in projecting mixed feelings.

But what exactly was Article 370 and 35A?And why does it matter?

To know that we need to get on a merry-go-round into the history of Kashmir (while keeping it short and crisp!)

How it started…

Post British-India, when the Indian subcontinent was divided into two parts namely, India and Pakistan, the ruler of Jammu & Kashmir wanted this part of the Himalayan region to be independent. To make it official, Raja Hari Singh signed a standstill treaty with both India and Pakistan. Pakistan had signed the treaty not too long after that.While awaiting India’s response to their treaty, Pakistan breached the agreement by invading Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947.

What needed to be done…

Consequently, Raja Hari Singh sought out India’s help but Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru (First Prime Minister of India, 1947) decided not to intervene unless Raja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with India. As a result Jammu & Kashmir became a part of the Dominion of India. In the aftermath of these conflicts, the political leaders of Jammu & Kashmir wanted special provisions to protect the rights of the residents and to maintain the demography of the State.

And so Article 370 was included in the Constitution of India on October 17th, 1949, which allows:-

  • Jammu & Kashmir to draft its own Constitution.
  • This Article exempts Jammu & Kashmir from the Constitution of India.
  • It restricts Parliament’s legislative powers in respect of the State to only Defence, External affairs and Communications.
  • To extend Central Laws into the subjects of Jammu & Kashmir, prior consultation with the State Government is required.
  • Also, it lets Jammu & Kashmir have its own flag.

Article 35A on the other hand, introduced by the Presidential Order of 1954, empowers Jammu & Kashmir Legislation to define a “permanent resident” of the State and prohibits Indian citizens from outside Kashmir from buying lands and property.

Article 370 is actually categorized under “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions.” It is the first Article in the XXI Part of the Indian Constitution. The Category head gave the Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir an option to delete, modify or retain its special status. Evidently, it was retained.

What prevailed until 5th August, 2019…

Even though Article 370 is categorized under “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions” it has never ceased to operate.  Over the years there have been way too many attempts to strip off Jammu & Kashmir of its special status, but the Indian Judiciary system has, time and again, decided against it. The Delhi High Court in 2017 rejected a petition that sought dissolution of Article 370 and asserted that its continuation is a fraud on the Indian Constitution.[1]

Until August, 5th 2019.

There were nearly 23 petitions filed against the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A with NGO People’s Union of Civil Liberties, Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association and an intervenor seeking the matter to be referred to a larger bench in the Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court refused the plea. The Center, infact, contended that abrogation of provisions of Article 370, which granted special status to erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, has become a “fait accompli” leaving sole option to accept the change.[2]

It’s not as if the Article cannot be repealed. It can. Article 370 (3) provides for the deletion of Jammu &kashmir’s special status by Presidential Order. But it can only be executed by the precedence of the concurrence of Jammu & Kashmir’s Constituent Assembly.

J & K’s Constituent Assembly was dissolved on 26th January, 1957.

And that leaves two possibilities. Either the deletion cannot happen, or it can be done with the concurrence of the State Assembly.

Here’s the deal now, the deletion did happen on 5th August, 2019 without the concurrence of the State Assembly.

In fact, the two former Chief Ministers of Jammu & Kashmir – Peoples Democratic Party Chief Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah — were kept under house arrest in Srinagar.

The Indian Government decides to abrogate Article 370 and 35 A right when Jammu & Kashmir doesn’t have an active Chief Minister.

Coincidence much?

It is in fact alleged that the BharatiyaJanata Party, which the Prime Minister of India is an integral part of, has had two long term visions over 70 years. One, winning the Ayodhya dispute (that they did…) and abrogating Article 370 and 35A off the face of the Constitutions.[3]

What was promised would happen…

“A new wind of development is blowing in Jammu and Kashmir and there has been a check on terrorism, nepotism and corruption in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.”

To get this “new wind of development” to blow, the Modi-Shah Duo were eerily very secretive about the whole initiative. Apparently, the issue was not discussed with stakeholders.

Talk about surprises!

The natives of Jammu & Kashmir are legit feeling betrayed due to the sudden scrapping of their constitution. The Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir is actually not that far off from the Constitution of India. To be precise, 94 of 97 entries in the Union List are applicable to Jammu & Kashmir; 26 out of 47 items of the concurrent List are extended; and 260 out of 395 Articles of the Constitution of India have been extended to the State.

What actually happened…

To start with, the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir was stripped off its princely status and now it is a Union territory divided into three districts namely, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

People in hordes were taken into custody by the Indian Police stationed at Srinagar and other checkpoints. Some of whom have not been able to contact their families since last year. Minors, teenagers and youths and old all alike.[4]

As far as communication goes, the internet speed has been restricted to 2G because 4G will cause more and more spread of false news, in a time when the whole world is fighting the Coronavirus together and internet is the only instrument keeping everyone connected. News about COVID-19 doesn’t reach the locals of Kashmir. It has been a year. One whole year, and yet the Supreme Court still decides to reject the numerous pleas to restore 4G speed internet services.[5]

People who were thought to make trouble were taken in. Actually, nearly 4,000 men. Ever thought how that might be the reason why the young youth finally decides to be a part of terrorism? How staying in a custodial jail without any trail renders these people unable to understand the difference between right and wrong and leads them to find faith in terror?

An internal analysis on militancy from the Indian Army found that 83 percent of local youth who had joined a militant organization had a ‘record of stone-pelting.’ (Public Safety Act allows the government to detain any person above the age of 16 without a trial for two years[6])

Heavy military troops were put up to control any kind of protests from the locals in the aftermath of the revocation of Article 370 and 35A. Houses are being burned by the Indian army due to apprehension of locals sheltering terrorists.[7]

Kashmir’s water supply department will now be called the Jal Shakti department. The Chenani-Nashri Tunnel has been named after Hindutva ideologue Syama Prasad Mookerjee. The Shere-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium will also get a new name: SardarVallabhbhai Patel Stadium.[8]

How to distract everyone…

After 5th of August, 2019, schools have been shut down, there have been on and off curfews to maintain peace and hold the Union Territory together, most of the political leaders are still under house arrest. Jammu & Kashmir is, basically, cut down from the outer world.

It is evident how the BharatiyaJanata Party has taken steps to change the face of Kashmir into what the party believes in Hindutva.

While all of India was busy celebrating Bhoomi Puja in Ayodhya on the 5th of August, 2020, few remembered that it was a one year anniversary of heavy military, protests, house arrests, degraded employment, people losing their homes, and the most important, a princely state losing its heritage.

The Bhoomi Puja in Ayodhya was celebrated a year later on the same day Jammu & Kashmir lost its special status.

Still a coincident?

Nahhh… This whole step by the BharatiyaJanata Party is way to clichéd to be ignored. The locals of Jammu & Kashmir are already heartbroken due to the present status, and our Prime Minister meanwhile decides to rechristen places to give Jammu & Kashmir a more Indian look?

There is a lot of tension going around and the Indian Government seems to be more and more inclined towards “Uniformity” instead of “Integrity”.

But was this the right time to take such actions?

Was Jammu & Kashmir not an integral part of India?

The mini-Switzerland has finally been stripped off its title. And fear not BJP Bhakts, someday it might as well cease to exist! Obviously with the help of Hindutva driven forces that do not see India for Unity in Diversity.


REFERENCES :

[1]https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/article-370-not-a-temporary-provision-sc/310481

[2]https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/no-need-for-larger-bench-rules-supreme-court-on-plea-on-scrapping-article-370/story-OgFNM16BpwyvcQh5QswT7I.html

[3]https://www.deccanherald.com/J&national/national-politics/bjp-traces-its-70-year-old-commitment-to-abrogate-article-370-870450.html

[4]https://thewire.in/rights/kashmir-minors-children-police

[5]https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/restrict-internet-speed-to-2g-orders-j-k-govt-day-after-media-reports-said-l-g-pushed-for-4g-services/story-3Q7CNUvl1hXCTSFFzrxovL.html

[6]https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/08/04/kashmir-article-370-blackout-arrest-covid-pandemic-modi/

[7]https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/in-pictures-indian-forces-set-ablaze-a-kashmiri-neighbourhood-locals-36470

[8]https://thewire.in/government/kashmir-name-changing

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