The abrogation of Article 370 will be remembered in the realm of history as an unprecedented event when with one stroke of legislation, a remarkable and highly sensitive relation with J&K, was relegated to doom forever.
Jammu and Kashmir’s fate was decided on 5th August’2019 as the state was engulfed in radio silence – the state faced a total locked down and the Government deployed 1000’s of additional armed forces. The Amarnath Yatra was cancelled for the first time in decades, pilgrims and tourists were asked to return back to their home states, the residents of Kashmir were asked to stack their homes with enough food supplies. In addition to this, schools and colleges were shut down, internet services were suspended and troops from the Central armed police were stationed at every corner in J&K.
These measures taken by the Government created perplexity amongst the residents and it fuelled speculation of some impending danger. The Government, of course, refuted such conjecture by the media houses and cloaked the whole scenario as a preventive measure against any terrorist activity. The Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Satya Pal Malik in an interview on 12th June had assured the people of Jammu and Kashmir that Article 370 and Article 35A will not be touched. He reiterated the same just 2 days before the abrogation of the said articles as well. This is being perceived as rather unusual as well as a bizarre factor. However, if we put the pieces together, it wouldn’t really come as a total surprise. It’s been 2 months since the Bhartiya Janta Party came to power for its second tenure with an astonishing mandate and just a bare perusal of its manifesto can unfurl their intent. The order on Kashmir doesn’t regard to be kosher in its entirety yet.
Understanding Kashmir’s long history of turmoil which has been conceived as an outcome of Article 370 makes it crucial to reflect upon Jawahar Lal Nehru’s vision of Kashmir and why he acceded to bestow it with special status. Position of Jammu and Kashmir today can be deduced and related to the events that took place during the era when the whole area was under the administration of Maharaja Hari Singh. Another imminent personality who had played a noteworthy role in safeguarding J&K’s special status under the Indian Constitution was Sheikh Abdullah, a scholar whose ideology on secularism had attracted Pandit Nehru’s attention.
He later went on to become the Prime Minister of Kashmir. When India gained Independence, there were many princely states including J&K, most of which joined India, but Kashmir wanted to stay independent. When Pakistan attacked Jammu and Kashmir, which history remembers as the Baramulla massacre, a petrified Hari Singh called Pandit Nehru for help. It was here that our former Prime minister extended help allowing for Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India. The condition which was joined to the Instrument of Accession determined that the Union of India could only make laws on grounds of Defence, External Affairs, Communication and Ancillary subjects.
Many questions surfaced when article 370 was proposed in the constituent assembly. Ayyangar, who eventually drafted Article 370, spoke in the Constituent Assembly on October 17, 1949: “We have agreed that the will of the people, through the instrument of the Constituent Assembly, will determine the Constitution of the State as well as the sphere of the Union’s jurisdiction of the state.“ Pandit Nehru had stated,” Article 370 is a part of certain transitional provisional arrangements. It is not a permanent part of the Constitution. He added, “There is no doubt that Kashmir is fully integrated. The fact that there may be some special matters attached to it doesn’t come in the way of its integration.”
Article 370, has been incorrectly interpreted right from its inception. This article has periodically attracted such strong sharp teeth by the self-served connotations which now seem to be standing as a threat to the secular fabric of the Nation. It has fervently been branded as minority appeasement, fuelling militancy and terrorism, hazing the vision of an integrated and united country etc.
The whole country is celebrating and congratulating the government on such a landmark accomplishment. However, the fate of our beloved Kashmiris is still unknown to them. The government is disregarding the fact that relying on militaristic tools can, in turn, be self-defeating in the future. The perpetual alienation of the whole state might deepen the resentment in the Kashmiris. The Bhartiya Janta Party has time and again bashed the Nehru-Gandhi regime of misusing their majority status in the Parliament, can not the same be said for them?
The BJP government with much ease and planning executed the abrogation of this special status. Commenting from a historical backdrop, the article had to go. It was envisaged like that. But, the real matter of concern is its legal as well as moral connotation and whether the statements made by Home Minister Amit Shah justifying his stance will stand the ground or prove fatal.
The question also arising in the minds of many fellow countrymen is whether this step was taken in haste? Will this produce even more aggressive resentment amongst Kashmiris? Can the government ensure that the lockdown will not result in the death of innocent lives if they resist or protest? Wouldn’t India’s most restless and disaffected region become even more volatile? Were the Kashmiri Muslims able to celebrate Id-ul-Adha, a major festival for the Muslims amidst such turmoil and agony? Will this deter the youth from joining militant groups who fuel the minds of naïve youth against India?
Was BJP only interested in the piece of land, that is Jammu and Kashmir, or the lakhs of human lives that have reaped the soil of Kashmir and preserved it as ‘Heaven on Earth’?
It will take time to reach the conclusion of this story. Until then, we can only hope that peace prevails in the affected regions and keep them in our prayers.
The author is a final year law student at the Faculty of Law, Delhi University.