The partial abrogation of Article 370 and nullifying the ill effects of Article 35A required a steely resolve and a firm political will which was absent for the past 72 years. Due to the ill effects of Articles 370 and 35A, Jammu and Kashmir could not be fully integrated with India even after 72 years of freedom, and discrimination was writ large.
Separate constitution, separate flag and separate identity of the state was fully exploited by the mainstream political parties of the Valley, the Congress, the separatists and a rogue nation like Pakistan. Meticulous planning and ideological clarity on the part of home minister Amit Shah paved the way for this historic decision, correcting the historical blunder committed by the Congress government.
Separatist forces tried to spread the illusion that it was in the interest of the people of J&K to continue with their separate identity. The reality is far from it. Kashmiris suffered when separatist leaders flourished, amassed wealth, sent their children abroad for jobs and education at the cost of the Kashmiris. Every Indian contributed to the growth story of Kashmir and taxpayers’ money was pumped into Kashmir even when there were other economically backward states in the country which equally needed the funds from the Centre, but no Indian complained.
Article 370 is the second Article of Part XXI of our Constitution and is unique in many ways. The heading of this part, reading “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions”, makes it amply clear that Article 370 was only a temporary provision and this is supported by the language of Article 370 which also starts with the word ‘Temporary’.
Pessimists and pseudo-secularists who are now seeking refuge in the Constitution of India cannot read the Constitution as a tool of convenience and read it selectively, so as to rely upon portions that are convenient to them and ignore the other provisions. In SBI vs Santosh Gupta (2017) 2 SCC 538, the Supreme Court opined that “it is thus clear that the State of Jammu & Kashmir has no vestige of sovereignty outside the Constitution of India and its own Constitution, which is subordinate to the Constitution of India. It is therefore wholly incorrect to describe it as being sovereign in the sense of its residents constituting a separate and distinct class in themselves.”
Articles 370 and 35A resulted in deep and pervasive violation of the fundamental rights of Indian citizens guaranteed under part III of the Constitution. Fundamental rights have been held to be non-negotiable and part of the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution, as laid down in 13 judge bench judgment by the Supreme Court of India in the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case. 106 central legislations will now apply to J&K, many of which deal with protecting fundamental rights of citizens which were not applicable before, such as on manual scavenging and child labour.
It was indeed heartening to see that on an issue as important as Article 370, most parties set aside political differences to come together for a greater cause. It was only because of this bipartisan politics that the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill was passed with an astounding majority of 370 yeasayers against 70 naysayers in the Lok Sabha, and 125 yeasayers against 61 naysayers in the Rajya Sabha.
Parties like the Congress, Samajwadi Party, National Conference and PDP that opposed the Bill need to introspect to realise how disconnected they are from the ground realities and the feelings of the common man. Congress, through its leader of opposition Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, gave an opportunity to Pakistan to attack India by relying on his false Lok Sabha statement that Article 370 is not an internal matter as the issue is pending before the United Nations. It seems that his script was written and drafted by Pakistan.
On 16 August, in a major diplomatic victory for India, the United Nations Security Council in a “closed consultation” acknowledged India’s measures to bring normalcy and development to Kashmir. India’s move on Kashmir was acknowledged by France, Russia and the US who contended that India and Pakistan must address the Kashmir dispute in a bilateral setup.
The continuance of Article 370 was an impediment in eradicating terrorism. Pakistan used Article 370 as a weapon. Due to this, in the past three decades almost 42,000 innocent people lost their lives.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.