Union Home Minister Amit Shah addressed the Rajya Sabha saying that repealing Article 370 was the only way to resolve the crisis and deadlock in Kashmir even if it takes time. In a presidential order, August 5, 2019, President Ram Nath Kovind exercised his power under clause 1 of Article 370 to do away with sections under Article 35A which give privileges to “Permanent residents”. Jammu and Kashmir will now be governed by the same norms as other states. After the removal of Article 370, the provisions of the Indian Constitution are now applicable to the state.
The order supersedes the 1954 constitutional application (special status to J&K). One can say it’s best dealt through the doctrine of “insaniyat”, with no countenance from the separatists. Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019 was introduced to bifurcate the state into two union territories: J&K (with legislature), and Ladakh (without legislature). The amendment was also introduced to extend the reservation for Economically Weaker sections (EWS) in educational institutions and government jobs in J&K.
Article 370 was introduced to accommodate the apprehensions of Maharaja Hari Singh who would not have acceded to India without certain concessions. On August 26, 1947, Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession agreeing to accede to the dominion of India. In March 1948, he appointed an interim government with Sheikh Abdulla as the Prime Minister, and in July 1949, he and three other colleagues/ministers joined the Indian constituent Assembly and negotiated Special Status/Article370 drafted by Sheikh Abdullah. Then-president Rajendra Prasad issued it under Article 370 on PM Nehru’s advice. Since territorial integrity was paramount post-independence, the Indian Constitution Article 370 mentioned that only Article 1 and 370 would apply to J&K. The President determines the other articles in consultation of the state.
Article 35(A) was inserted via 1954 provision. Under part XXI of the constitution titled Temporary, Transitional and Special Provision, Article 370 with respect to J&K is categorised as a temporary provision giving it an autonomous status. The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, settled provisions of permanent residents/Article 35A of J&K for the state legislature and Supreme Court’s jurisdiction was extended to the state. The central government was given the power to declare national emergencies in the event of external aggression. The power in case of internal disturbances could be exercised only with the concurrence of the State Government.
Article 370 limited the union parliament’s power to make laws for J&K to those subjects mentioned in the Instrument of Accession (defence, foreign affairs, and communication) and others as and when declared by the presidential orders with the concurrence of state government.
Article 370 grants autonomous status to J&K and 35A incorporates special rights and privileges to the citizens of the state. It is the bedrock between the state’s relationship to the constitution applied to India. India has used Article 370 at least 45 times to extend provisions of the Indian Constitution to J&K.
Abrogating the Article altogether may threaten the peace in the state. Consequently, there will be a significant impact on the demography, culture and moreover the politics of J&K.
All Kashmir-based parties, including the National Congress Party (NCP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), opposed any tinkering with Article 35A and 370. Before the abrogation, political leaders including former Chief Minister, Omar Abdulla and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti were placed under house arrest. Mobile internet services were also barred subsequently. Mufti retorted, “We want to tell the central government that tinkering with the constitutional provision would be akin to setting a powder keg on fire.” “We will fight any such attempt till death and take J-K out of this morass,” she said.
Removing Article 35A will allow Indian citizens to purchase land and settle permanently in J&K. This has fueled fear in the minds of Kashmiris—they think it would lead to the state’s demographic transformation from the majority of Muslims to majority Hindus. The people are already suffering in isolation. The centre can’t act unconstitutionally without carrying out a proper procedure for the amendment. There is no purpose of sovereignty if it’s forced. After all, people’s concerns are essential in a healthy democracy. India has a rich diversity (historical, ethnic, linguistic, and topographical as well as economic), and it should acknowledge the rest of the states apart from the “northern asymmetrical hegemonic states”.
What If It’s A Success?
It will take time for Kashmirs to recover from their current state (mental, physical and social life). But merging the economy of Kashmir will make it an ideal state globally. Once this challenge is overcome, a new liberal life will expand their vision to better socio-cultural exchanges. This will make Kashmir a real paradise boosting its tourism, better infrastructure and economic inclusion with the rest of India. The terror activities will decrease, and a more secure picture will be set in their mind. Gradually, the trade and investment will boost the economy. The cultural exchanges, better education and entrepreneurship will improve the state’s position. Yet, all this is in the hands of the present-generation youths of Kashmir as the challenge indeed is to reform with time.