The developments and its repercussions — some immediate, some short-to-medium-term and some that will unfold slowly over time — are a separate part of the debate. What one must acknowledge on Monday (5 August, 2019) is the making of history.
When Union home minister Amit Shah walked into Rajya Sabha and triggered total chaos with his statement that Article 370 of the Constitution of the India that allowed special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been revoked and relegated to the dustbin of history, he wasn’t just announcing an unprecedented decision in favour of national integration but also giving shape to the voice of billions (including ordinary Kashmiris) who want nothing more than the troubled, bleeding state to be part of the Indian story.
Article 370 and Article 35A, that derives from it, weren’t just toxic bits of legislations. They were a living testimony to the failure of the then political leadership that allowed such provisions to be drawn up and enforced and an impediment to equality of all Indian citizens — a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Article 370 arose due to lack of political will of the Jawaharlal Nehru government and it took the political will of Narendra Modi to remove the historic wrong and reinforce Indian sovereignty.
The Modi government has played its cards well. It was aware of the legal and constitutional minefield it was walking into — not to speak of the political, civil and even incendiary reactions that will inevitably follow — and hence took well-calibrated steps that changed the total game plan on Kashmir.
Some decisions such as local leaders being confined to their homes, deployment of additional troops, putting the entire state under a lockdown, suspending data services, evacuating tourists, shutting down educational institutions, banning public gatherings, and imposing Section 144 of the CrPC in Srinagar district — can be linked to the immediate implementation of the decision. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The plan has been drawn over time and executed to the minutest detail. From avoiding legal pitfalls, preempting political obstructionism to cleansing the Valley of terrorists, clamping down on separatist leaders, shutting down the terror fund tap to severing Pakistan’s hydra-headed hold over Kashmir, the Modi government deserves plaudits for thoroughly thinking it through.
As announced by Shah on the floor of the Rajya Sabha on Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status has been totally revamped. The abrogation of Article 370 also collaterally removes Article 35A, a contentious provision that made mainstreaming and integration of Kashmir with the Indian state next to impossible.
With Monday’s presidential notification, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has been made into a Union Territory with a legislative Assembly (such as Delhi) while Ladakh has been bifurcated into a separate Union Territory without a legislature (like Chandigarh). Ladakh will no longer have to suffer under Kashmir’s yoke.
The Centre’s move is a masterstroke because Article 370 was abrogated and junked by bypassing the Parliament in much the same fashion that it was surreptitiously inserted into the Constitution and came into force in 1952. With the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory, Article 370 has been weakened and rendered toothless. It's worth remembering that Article 370 was placed in Part XXI of the Constitution under the headline “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions”. Article 35A was its derivative.
As Arun Jaitley wrote on Twitter, “A historical wrong has been undone today. Article 35A came through the back door without following the procedure under Article 368 of the Constitution of India. It had to go.”
My complements to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji and the Home Minister Shri Amit Shah for correcting a historical blunder.
— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) August 5, 2019
In one fell swoop, the law that exempted Jammu and Kashmir from the Constitution of India, restricted the Parliament’s sovereignty over the state in terms of legislation and even allowed the state to draft its own Constitution, has been discarded with the introduction of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019.
The presidential order, signed by Ram Nath Kovind, introduces changes in the text of the Constitution and clarifies that “it shall come into force at once, and shall thereupon supersede the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954 as amended from time to time". The notification, as read out by Shah in Rajya Sabha, adds: “All the provisions of the Constitution, as amended from time to time, shall apply in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir....”
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) August 5, 2019
The Opposition led by the Congress and the three dynastic families in Kashmir is furious that it never got the chance to indulge in obstructionism and fuel civil unrest due to the meticulous steps preceding the announcement, but it is also a reflection on the fact that the Modi government was three steps ahead of its adversaries on the political chessboard.
For those who are shedding crocodile tears on the abrogation of a discriminatory law that is violative of the basic rights of Indian citizens and came in the way of national integration, they may do well to remember that extraordinary problems need out of the box solutions.
The Modi government wasn’t given a huge mandate — twice over — to tinker at the edges of a failed policy that has caused a gangrenous sore on India’s body politic for decades. NDA 2 enjoyed a massive political capital and the decision to abrogate Article 370 is a fitting tribute to that mandate.
Updated Date: Aug 05, 2019 18:22:25 IST