ByÂ Adrija Shukla:
One keeps hearing a lot about Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in print, electronic, as well as new media. It is the This ArticleÂ grants special status to Jammu & Kashmir. The BJP mentioned in its manifesto that the party would abrogate itÂ if it comes to power in the general elections of 2014. There was a lot of hue and cry when the Prime ministerial candidate of BJP, Mr. Narendra Modi, mentioned during his campaign in Jammu, that there should be a debate over pros and cons of article 370. Now that BJP is in power, debates over Article 370 have sparked off once again. Many national leaders are still advocating the relevance of this Article, but the question that rises here is – what are the people of India and the people of J & K getting from Article 370?
Before analyzing this, let’s first see how this Article came into existence. During the time of independence, the unification of Indian republic was taking place. As many as 565 princely states were integrated into India under the dynamic leadership of Shri Sardar Patel, who was the country’s Home Minister then. Kashmir could also have been one of these if he would have been allowed to do so by the then Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. Sheikh Abdullah, on the other hand, was an ambitious leader, who had a dream to rule an independent Kashmir. He persuaded Pt. Nehru to grant special status to Jammu & Kashmir, and was the architect of Article 370, along with Nehru. Pt. Nehru obliged and fulfilled his wish by appointing him the Prime Minister of J&K in 1947.
The main purpose of this Article was to ensure that the distinct identity of J&K’s population was preserved. Though the Article was introduced as a temporary provision that was to be removed in due course of time, that never happened, even after 66 years of independence.
The fact is that the provisions mentioned in the Article 370 separated J&K from India in the name of making it a part of it. The state has its own constitution and flag and the laws of Indian constitution cease to have an effect there. The most perverse aspect of this Article is that the Central government will have to seek the state’s concurrence to apply any law in the state. People of India have one citizenship, whereas the people of J&K have dual citizenship. Citizens from rest of India can’t buy property in J&K.
All these years, no political party has ever touched Article 370, fearing to lose their vote bank. If we ponder upon what special benefits this Article has given to the J&K people, we won’t be able to find much. Literacy rate of the state is 67.16%. Economic growth hasn’t been up to the mark, and poverty prevails in many areas. Every other day, we hear about attacks by terrorists in the state. People live in fear.
As other citizens are not allowed to buy property in the state, it is not able to get the benefits of private investments. This is affecting the economic growth of the state to a great extent. This is also affecting the youth, as the people are left with very little employment options – that, too, majorly from the government sector. As a result, they migrate to the other Indian states in search of jobs. Those who choose to stay there after completing the education and are not able to find jobs, fall prey to the anti-national activities in order to earn their living.
Immediately after Modi government took reigns of the country, Mr. Jitendra Singh, a minister of state, who hails from J&K , gave a statement that there should be a debate on the relevance on Article 370. There was an immediate reaction and resistance from the CM of J&K, Mr. Omar Abdullah, who tweeted that long after Modi Govt. is a distant memory, either J&K won’t be part of India, or Article 370 will still exist!
If it ceases to be a part of India, will it be able to survive independently? Let’s have a look to the aide provided by the central government to the state of J&K. J&K has not been able to generate sufficient revenues from its own resources and has been facing serious financial problems. J&K’s plan expenditure are 100% financed by the Central government. Kashmir is presently the most subsidized state of India. Bihar is the poorest state of India, but J&K gets 11 times more central assistance than Bihar.
Today, the general sentiment in the country is that Article 370 is doing no benefit to the people of J&K, and nor is it of any help to others. It has just become a barrier in the path of development of the state and the country, and benefiting only those who are trying to make selfish benefits out of power they were given to serve people. The state that is full of wonderful scenic beauty of the nature, and which was once regarded as the Switzerland of India, has become the battlefield, with a lot of violence, bomb blasts, murder of innocent people, and terrorist activities since the last 25 years. One is bound to ponder on whether Article 370 is responsible for all these ills of the state. It is high time that the new government takes a bold step and scraps Article 370, which continues to keep the state in isolation. Maybe the scrapping of Article 370 ends the agony of the people of J&K and paves the way for making of a Switzerland in India.