In his broadcast to the nation on August 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a facetious attempt to justify his Government’s chesty decision to abrogate the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution. It was done in a military-like operation by detaining all political leaders of the State, keeping the entire population of the Valley virtually captive in their homes with the deployment of lakhs of security forces personnel and by snapping all communication channels between the State and the rest of India/world. By scrapping Article 370, the Modi Government has created a Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (with Assembly) and a Union Territory of Ladakh (without Assembly).
In his broadcast, the Prime Minister described Article 370 as the sole cause of all the imaginable problems — from cross-border terrorism to unemployment — in the border State. Some of the problems created by Article 370 as listed by Modi are: increase in nepotism and corruption; discrimination among citizens; denial of equal rights to girls and women; loss of lives of almost 42,000 innocent people in the last three decades; no special benefits to the members of the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Communities (OBCs) as applicable in other parts of the country.
Then the Prime Minister announced financial benefits like LTC and HRA to Central government employees posted in Jammu and Kashmir at par with their counterparts elsewhere. Besides, he said now that the Article 370 has been made inoperative, the vacant posts in Jammu and Kashmir will be filled. J-K and Ladakh will be developed as major tourist attractions, film industry will be invited to shoot their films in the two Union Territories.
Most of Article 370 has, for all practical purposes, been eroded. Now hardly five per cent of the original Article remains. (With the approval of the State Assembly, the Centre is authorised to make any changes in its provisions). When Article 370 became operative in 1954, Jammu and Kashmir was a fully autonomous State with only Defence, External Affairs and Communications being under the control of Government of India.
It had its own Prime Minister, its president called Sadr-e Riyasat, its own Supreme Court, its separate Information and Broadcasting Ministry, its independent Radio Kashmir and so on. All that has changed over the decades. Chief Minister replaced Prime Minister and Governor appointed by the President of India took the place of Sadr-e Riyasat. Radio Kashmir retained its name but it was like any other radio station in the country being under the control of I and B Ministry. The Supreme Court of India has superintending powers over the State’s High Court. Major remnants of Article 370 were the State’s own Constitution, its separate flag, its law discriminating against women, denial of permanent presidentship to refugees who had migrated to Jammu from Punjab State of Pakistan and, of course, the law prohibiting outsiders to purchase land in the State.
Under the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, the State Assembly is competent to deal with all these matters. BJP was part of the alliance government (along with PDP) from March 2015 to June 2019 barring a three-month period when Governor’s Rule was imposed after Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death as the BJP was renegotiating the alliance terms with the late Mufti’s daughter Mehbooba mufti.
Did BJP, as part of the State government, ever suggest that the Pakistani refugees who had been living in Jammu since 1948 be made permanent citizens as per the procedure laid down in Section 9 © of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir or to extend certain privileges to SCs, STs and OBCs, or to end discrimination against women. Even otherwise, the law allowing discrimination against women was under the consideration of Supreme Court when Article 370 was abrogated. As for the law prohibiting outsiders from purchasing land, such laws exist in varying forms in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and States of the North-East.
As for the infiltration of terrorists, how can Article 370 be held responsible for that? The borders are controlled by the BSF and there has been a heavy deployment of security forces within the State. If the Central Government employees including security forces posted in Jammu and Kashmir were not getting financial benefits like their counterparts elsewhere, it was clearly a lapse on the part of the Central Government and not the “fault” of Article 370.
It appears the Modi government is dominated by the gun-loving lobby which does not want any issue settled amicably. Modi himself is a confused man, torn between his natural instinct of utter hatred against a certain section of people and the reaction of the foreign countries which he had come to face after he became Prime Minister in 2014. In his 2017 Independence Day speech, Modi had observed that the Kashmir problem could not be resolved either by bullets or by abuses and that a solution could be found only by embracing them (Kashmiris).
On October 23, the Modi government appointed former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Dineshwar Sharma as a Special Representative to start a dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir in a bid to find a solution to the persisting problem. However, two days after his appointment, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat announced that the Army’s operations in Kashmir would continue “unabated” in spite of the Government’s attempt to have a dialogue with the stakeholders of the strife-torn State. Gen Rawat also said that the appointment of dineshwar Sharma would have no impact on the Army’s activities in the Valley.
Eventually the gun lobby won. Dineshwar Sharma was not even allowed to continue with its work. And what could have been a peaceful resolution of the problems was turned into an ugly military operation.
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