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Jammu and Kashmir: Why revoking Art 370 was vital

The abolition of J&K’s special status will complete the ongoing process of annexation into the Indian Union, as it was a temporary provision, and will bring misguided and stone-pelting Kashmiri youth into mainstream politics, writes Sudhanshu Tripathi for South Asia Monitor

Prof. Sudhanshu Tripathi Aug 15, 2019
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Unusual situations demand unusual actions. This is what happened with revoking Article 370 and superseding Article 35A of the Indian Constitution with respect to special status and such privileges enjoyed by the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir(J&K). Further, the state has been divided into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
 
These privileges, though meant to preserve the kind of then existing Kashmiri culture or ‘Kashmiriat’ of the state’s Kashmiri populace, later became a weapon in the hands of the rulers, now confined to two families, with like-minded other Kashmiri leaders, to browbeat the Indian Union to not extend its constitutional powers, provided by the Indian Constitution, in the larger interest of the state, and the country, which is solely responsible for maintaining the entire country’s unity and integrity, including that of J&K.
 
Though Article 370 was a temporary provision, as mentioned in the text of the article, the 370(3) forbids the President of India to not abrogate the article without seeking the express consent of the J&K Constituent Assembly. It obviously precludes any likelihood of such a grave crisis continuing for more than three decades, where gruesome violence, terror and uncontrollable mayhem have become the order of the day.
 
The issue is whether the Indian Constitution is a dead instrument, wherein what is written ought not be changed at any cost, or an evolving text to apply to living people for their welfare and to remove their difficulties with changing times. Constitutional provisions cannot foreclose the changing demands of society to accommodate people’s wishes and aspirations.
 
In the case of J&K, the Constitution cannot ignore the ground realities of persisting macabre violence and butchery of innocent Kashmiri people for such a long period by Pakistan-supported terror networks with which some Kashmiri leaders maintain a close nexus to serve their mutual vested interests.
 
If Pakistan’s goal is to destabilise India – against whom it has lost four wars -Kashmiri leaders simply want to secure their privileges forever to continue their dynastic rule in J&K by misleading common people about impending threats to their autonomy and privileges and keeping them cut off from mainstream India.
 
These leaders, instead of focussing on the common man’s needs, like education, employment, medical services, economic growth and development, as other state leaders in India do, themselves provoke uneducated Kashmiri youth to collude with Pakistan’s instigated terrorism and resort to separatism to create and maintain panic and terror, and also to serve the global jihad for pan-Islamism, aimed at creating global Muslim solidarity to establish Ummah (global communion of the Muslim faithful). These leaders are part and parcel of this terror agenda for which they receive large amounts of money. They never wanted revocation of Articles 370 and 35A, because that will make them irrelevant vis-a-vis the Union government and mainstream India.
 
Kashmir’s ancient history shows centuries old cultural similarity with the rest of ancient India’s rich cultural traditions of humanism, religious tolerance, and adherence to universal moral values when the region was the abode of Buddhist monasteries and Hindu ascetics. Islam, when it arrived in Kashmir, recognised the unique cultural pluralism or syncretism, paving way for communal harmony in Kashmir and extended its support for this rare ‘Kashmiriat’ as a distinction to survive.
 
There is another angle to scrapping of Article 370 for the state and it pertains to geographical contiguity of J&K, not only with Pakistan, but also with China and Afghanistan. While Pakistan wants to capture the Valley on the grounds of Muslim brotherhood, China has imperialist designs over. While Pakistan has been fomenting trouble in J&K and exporting cross-border terrorism into the state for decades, to create civil war or cause communal riots to destabilise the country, China is providing Pakistan support.
 
With the US getting ready to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the likely scenario will be more dangerous for the state and also India, as Afghan Taliban militants, with the help of Pakistan’s ISI and some leaders of Kashmir.
 
Article 370 confers powers on the President to issue orders with concurrence of the state government where the subject matter is not covered by the Instrument of Accession. In this case, the President has obtained concurrence of the J&K government. So the order is valid.
 
The result of revoking Article 370 is clear for all countrymen, including Kashmiris. Indeed there is no normalcy or security for ordinary people in Kashmir. It is only due to Article 356 that the Union government has maintained any semblance of law and order and security there, at the cost of thousands of soldiers of the Indian army and para-military forces. The local police and civil administration have failed to perform their duty due to politicisation of the entire state administrative machinery. 
 
The abolition of J&K’s special status will complete the ongoing process of annexation into the Indian Union, as it was a temporary provision, and will bring misguided and stone-pelting Kashmiri youth into mainstream democratic politics and also block the road towards separatism.
 
As Jawaharlal Nehru said in Parliament: “Article 370…. is a part of a certain transitional provisional arrangement. It is not a permanent part of the Constitution. It is a part so long as it remains so.” It has lost sanctity and the purpose for which it was formulated, because ‘Kashmiriat’ does not stand for terrorism, separatism or the obsolete “two-nation theory”.
 
Against this scenario what were the options before the union government? Should the bloodshed be allowed to continue and let innocent persons be killed by terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists? Shouldn’t India go ahead to restore peace and security in the crisis-ridden state so that the constitutional machinery may function there and the way towards genuine political participation, economic development and social progress be initiated? With Kashmir becoming normal and safe for common people in the future, full statehood will be restored, as stated in the Parliament.
 
(The writer is Professor of Political Science, UP Rajarshi Tandon Open University, Prayagraj, India)

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