In 2018, when Minister of State for several portfolios, Jitendra Singh, had pitched for a repeal of Article 370, a controversy had been triggered with many political leaders criticising the brazenness of what has until now been only the Bharatiya Janata Party's demand. Cut to 2019, the debate to abrogate Article 370 is now as normal as conversation on a war on Pakistan.
With the Jaish-e-Mohammad attack that resulted in the deaths of 42 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama, the call for doing away with the article has been rekindled.
Article 370 gives autonomous status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was originally meant to be a temporary arrangement, brought at the time of Independence with the understanding that it was to be repealed later. However, successive mentions of the article, especially by the Supreme Court which has upheld its validity in the state several times, has given it a kind of immovable authenticity.
In 2015, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court observed that Article 370 is a "permanent" provision of the Constitution and said it could not be "abrogated, repealed or even amended". The court, reported Indian Express, also described Article 35A as one "giving protection to existing laws".
"(The) Article 370, notwithstanding its title 'temporary provision' is a permanent provision of the Constitution. It cannot be abrogated, repealed or even amended as mechanism provided under Clause (3) of Article 370 is no more available," the court had observed.
In 2016, a Supreme Court bench led by Justice Kurien Joseph had said, "...Article 370 makes it clear that this article shall cease to be operative only from such date as the President may by public notification declare. And this cannot be done under the proviso to Article 370 (3) unless there is a recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State so to do."
Article 370, says Indian Express, was then nothing more than a goodwill gesture by Jawaharlal Nehru that "no longer serves its original purpose of making Kashmiris embrace the accession to India". Its critiques argue that all it has done is to create a lawless sense of entitlement in the Valley.
With the talk on Article 370 is the question on the necessity of Article 35A, which came to be in the Constitution of India through a 1954 Presidential Order. Article 35A confers special status to the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property or jobs in the state.
As many as five petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court against Article 35A, with the lead case filed in 2014 by a little known Delhi-based NGO, We The Citizens, reported Kashmir Observer.
Yet only four days after the 14 February attack, the Supreme Court on 19 February agreed to look into a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging Article 370. The PIL, filed by BJP leader Ahwini Upadhyay, said the court must decide on the President of India's jurisdiction and thereby delineate who exactly can rule over Jammu and Kashmir, reported Indiatimes.
Attempts have been made to abrogate the article and facilitate a seamless transition of Jammu and Kashmir into India. This, many feel, will reduce the militancy in the area and the idea that Kashmir belongs to separatists and is separate from India.
In the current political climate, not only leaders but also everyday civilians have increased the pitch demanding the abrogation of Article 370. The demand is also no longer limited to the BJP. Hisar MP and Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) leader Dushyant Chautala and actor Kangana Ranaut have called for the move, as has JSW Group Chairman Sajjan Jindal and spiritual leader Jaggi Vasudev.
His reaction drew massive support from Twitter users. Anupam Kher said he has signed an online petition for the Article "to go". Underneath the tweets of the likes of Vivek Agnihotri, Subramanian Swamy and Tarek Fatah, were clarion calls from thousands of social media campaigners who claimed that taking down the article was the one path to ensuring the safety of people and the Armed forces in the state. Narendra Modi's forgotten 2014 poll promise was back to haunt him again.
I signed an online petition about it. Article 370 has to go. https://t.co/i8rDOIbAll
— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPKher) February 20, 2019
Rajasthan Soldier Welfare Minister and Congress leader Pratap Singh Khachariyawas and Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh have also asked for the scrapping of the article, reported the Daily Excelsior.
However, like Khachariyawas told the newspaper, many who are in favour of removing Article 370 are vouching for it because they feel the legislation will bring a change in Pakistan's attitude towards India. This draws the people in Jammu and Kashmir, the ones reportedly benefiting from the article's provisions, to question as to whether its repeal will indeed serve any other purpose than ensure the Indian government's mental peace, observed Legal Services India.
This is probably why, while in the whole of India a clamour grows for doing away with the article, a strike was called by the Joint Resistance Leadership of separatists in Kashmir in support of Articles 35A and 370 on the same day when the Pulwama attack took place. While the strike was withdrawn, leaders had argued that should the two articles come up in the Supreme Court, it would jeopardise their very existence.