Fate of the application of Article 370 and Article 35A in J&K is in the hands of the Governor during Governor’s Rule.
Finally, on 19 June 2018, the Bharatiya Janata Party announced its withdrawal of support to the Mehbooba Mufti led PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir. This led to the imposition of Governor’s Rule, for the eighth time in this action filled state. In their respective statements, both Amit Shah, the party president and Ram Madhav, party general secretary and its points man in the state clearly admitted that this step had become necessary to protect the core support of BJP in Jammu and also that the political cost of staying in the government was becoming too expensive for the party at the national level. Both accused the PDP of non cooperation and placing hindrances in the way of implementing developmental policies of the Centre in the state, especially in Jammu and Ladakh.
Those familiar with the ground situation in the Jammu and Ladakh will tell you that the fears of BJP’s central leadership about the “political cost” of sharing the bed with an opponent like PDP in the state are far more serious than what meets the eye from New Delhi.
“In 2015, when the voters of Jammu overwhelmingly voted in favour of BJP and gifted it 25 seats out of 37, they were hoping for liberation from the draconian “Kashmiri-colonialism” which has permanently haunted the people of Jammu and Ladakh,” says Rajiv Chuni, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir POK Residents Council and a vocal champion of civic rights of migrants from POK, the largest community of refugees living now in J&K and outside the state.
Chuni’s comments equally reflect the disappointment of BJP’s own workers and sympathisers across India who were expecting the party to implement its promises on J&K and hoping for the return of peace to the Kashmir valley.
PERFORMANCE IS THE ONLY CHOICE
Now that Governor’s Rule has given the BJP and the Central government exclusive control over the state, the only choice available to Narendra Modi’s team is to fulfil their party’s decades old promises and agenda on J&K; establish peace in the valley; and to rehabilitate J&K into the national mainstream, as envisioned by BJP leaders like Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. Coincidentally, Amit Shah was in Jammu on Saturday to lead the martyrdom day events in the memory of the late Dr Mukherjee.
Given the prevailing mood of the nation, BJP’s performance in the trouble torn J&K in the coming few months is bound to set the tone for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, and hence the prospects of the party which wants to return to power in the Centre the second time.
Interestingly, the administrative and social agenda which deserve Modi government’s attention in J&K are far more unambiguous as compared to its other task of handling an endless hue of political provocateurs, separatist groups, militant organisations, terrorist gangs and their foreign promoters who dominate the Kashmir valley today. More so because these issues are doable and within the administrative purview and control of the Governor. The very basic fact which goes in favour of the Central government are the vast constitutional powers and authority which the Governor enjoys in J&K during Governor’s Rule. Unlike in the rest of India where President’s Rule is governed by Article 356, which puts many limitations on the powers of the President, it is Section-92 of the State Constitution of J&K which gives nearly unlimited powers to the Governor. The list includes the power to legislate just like what a full-fledged Assembly and “The State Government” enjoy.
VAST POWERS OF THE GOVERNOR
In simple words, the Constitution of J&K empowers the Governor to make new laws or dismantle any of the existing laws and rules. The only institution that remains out of Governor’s purview is the High Court of J&K, which does have the powers to review the Governor’s certain orders, but is also subordinate to the scrutiny and directions of the Supreme Court of India and the President of India on any issue. This simply means that the fate of the application of Article 370 and Article 35A in J&K lies exclusively in the hands of the Governor during Governor’s Rule, of course subject to the final consent of the President of India, getting which should not be a problem for the Modi government. In such a situation, the only other requirement is the willpower at the Governor’s and the Centre’s levels to take the decision. Incidentally, Governor’s Rule has come at a time when Article 35A of the Indian Constitution as well as its application in J&K through Article 6A of J&K Constitution stand challenged in the Supreme Court of India.
REPEALING THE INHUMAN LAWS
There are a host of other administrative rules and laws, applicable in J&K today that are so inhuman in nature that Team Modi will win national applause if the Governor decides to abrogate them. For example, there are at least nine communities like POK refugees, West Pakistan refugees, the Balmiki community, children of state women who married men from other states, and Gorkha families of soldiers of the Maharaja era who have been perpetually denied the most basic of civic rights since generations simply because the state laws don’t accept them as “permanent residents”. These rights include the right to citizenship, right to vote for the Assembly, right to property, right to education, right to employment, right to marriage by free will, right to be a member of a cooperative or even right to take loan from a bank.
Similarly, the people of Ladakh have been resenting the valley’s “Kashmiri colonialism” because despite being five times bigger that the geographic size of Kashmir valley it is governed by the Kashmir Division. By giving Ladakh the status of an administrative division like Jammu and the valley, Team Modi is bound to win the hearts of the Ladakhis.
MANIPULATED KASHMIRI MAJORITY
Governor’s Rule can also liberate the state from what is resented by people of Jammu and Ladakh as the “manipulated majority” of the Kashmir valley, which has become the fountainhead of most of the state’s problems. It’s strange that in an Assembly of 111 seats, elections are held only for 87 seats, while 24 seats are left permanently vacant in the name of POK. The Kashmir valley enjoys permanent majority in the Assembly with 47 seats, while Jammu gets 37 and Ladakh only 4 seats. Filling up the vacant 24 seats with the POK community and the aforementioned communities who are denied Assembly election voting rights, will not only rehabilitate the basic democratic aspirations and democratic rights of these groups but will also free the state from the artificial and brutal majority being wielded by the Kashmir valley in the Assembly. Similarly, application of Panchayati Raj in J&K, like the rest of India, will shift the Central funds to the grassroots and deprive the gang of political, militant, religious and bureaucratic manipulators of the oxygen they have been thriving on since 1947.
In a state where regions like Jammu and Ladakh have come to be known as the most peaceful regions of India, rehabilitation of social justice and democratic functioning will go a big way in taking the wind out of the sails of Kashmir’s agenda-driven leaders. Governor’s Rule provides the best opportunity to the BJP of J&K and Team Modi in New Delhi to gift a peaceful J&K to India and win 130 crore hearts in a single stroke. What is now needed is the will power at the level of Team Modi.
Vijay Kranti is a senior journalist and Chairman, Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement ‘CHASE’.