Parliament of India has sent a strong signal to Islamabad and rest of the world about its fundamental goals.
The 5 August Parliament session will go down in history as a day to be remembered. There is every reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to believe that they have undone a grave wrong done to the country in the wake of India’s tragic Partition in 1947. A historic wrong has been corrected and in all likelihood this theme will resonate in the coming weeks and months in every aspect of public dealings vis-à-vis the Modi government. Home Minister Amit Shah is already being hailed as Sardar Patel 2.0. Needless to say, the bad news of economic slowdown is drowned in the accolades for the abrogation of Article 370. In any case, economic rise and fall is cyclical, but annulment of 370 is a one-time achievement.
On 5 August, Parliament of India changed the dynamics of politics and also sent a strong signal to Islamabad and rest of the world about its intent and fundamental goals.
The introduction of Article 370 in the Indian Constitution, albeit under the chapter “Temporary Provisions” (Article 370, the text Part XXI of the Indian Constitution: Temporary, transitional and special provisions), is one of the many unresolved mysteries of history. In many ways this anomaly of 370 continued for more than 70 years with interested sections of the Kashmiri political parties clamouring for it to be made permanent.
Article 370 was brought in as the procedural mechanism of extending Indian Constitution to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. But under the cover of Article 370, many hurdles were created in the implementation of important provisions of Constitution of India and various welfare laws in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 was abused and more than 130 laws applicable to the rest of India were not implemented in J&K. RTI, RTE, Prevention of Corruption Act, and laws related to STs, OBC etc., were not implemented in the state of J&K.
Another misuse of Article 370 was the presidential order passed in 1954. The order says, “in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 370 of the Constitution, the President, with the concurrence of the Government of State of Jammu and Kashmir, is pleased to make the following order…” This order further says “after Article 35, the following new Article shall be added, namely”:
“Article 35A. Saving of laws with respect to permanent residents and their rights. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, no existing law in force in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and no law hereinafter enacted by the Legislature of the State:
Defining the classes of persons who are, or shall be, permanent residents of the State of Jammu and Kashmir;
Conferring on such permanent residents any special rights and privileges, or imposing upon other persons any restrictions, as respects:
(i) Employment under the State Government;
(ii) Acquisition of immovable property in the State;
(iii) Settlement in the State; or
(iv) Right to scholarships and such other forms of aid as the State Government may provide, shall be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any rights conferred on the other citizens of India by any provisions of this Part.”
It is very clear that both Article 370 and 35A were meant to keep the state of J&K out of the Indian political and social mainstream, which benefited one or two powerful political families and their inner coterie.
This bastion of the feudal political family was dismantled on 5 August by Indian Parliament.
There is no dearth of committees, groups and teams, both official and NGOs, involved in exploring the “crisis” in J&K and finding solutions. Dozens of government appointed study teams, fact finding missions and interlocutors have submitted multiple reports running into numerous volumes and tonnes of pages, all gathering dust in the Ministry of Home Affairs and other dusty corridors of power in New Delhi and elsewhere. The latest on this list is the self-appointed team of Concerned Citizens’ Group (CCG) led by a former Union Minister, which has not made us any more wiser by its absolutely new and stunning findings that the “alienation” and “disempowerment” among Kashmiri youth is at an all time high, especially in the 15 days after the fall of the PDP-BJP government. If the wisdom of this CCG team is to be believed, the highly educated but unemployed alienated youth of Kashmir have managed to quickly acquire guns and these gun-wielding youth may do something desperate, like attacking the Amarnath Yatra by pelting stones. Why these youth should get guns if they have to just throw stones, is not yet explained by these wise intellectuals. Again according to them only 18 incidents of stone throwing were reported in the last three years but it is likely to increase now. The report sounds more like a suggestion for violence than a warning. By the way, all along one thought that these incidents of extreme violence were by non-state actors from Pakistan and sponsored by the ISI and the highly radicalised sections of the Pakistani army.
PDP and its founding leaders have had a history of hobnobbing with political parties of every hue as long as the alliance allowed them to be in power. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed began his political career in the 1950s in the Democratic National Conference, a splinter group of the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference led by Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq. The National Conference itself began as a splinter of J&K Muslim Conference started by Sheikh Abdullah and Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas in 1932. Ghulam Abbas broke off from the National Conference and revived the old Muslim Conference in 1941, supported the Pakistan demand and laid the foundation of the so-called Azad Kashmir. The National Conference merged with Congress in 1965, quit in 1987 to join V.P. Singh’s Jan Morcha and Mufti became the first (and till date, only) Muslim Union Home Minister. He rejoined the Congress under P.V. Narasimha Rao. He left Congress in 1999 along with daughter Mehbooba Mufti to form his own party, the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The Congress and National Conference too shared a political alliance weighed down by a love hate relationship, more hate and less of love of course. The fist Prime Minister of India put Sheikh Abdullah behind bars till J&K erupted in revolt in 1963 over the theft of the Holy Relic (Moe-e-Muqaddas—the Prophet’s hair) from Hazratbal. After his release and visit to Pakistan he was a disillusioned man till death. The next chapter of deceit in J&K began with Indira Gandhi’s Congress, in a political coup, usurping power from Farooq Abdullah, leading to a long drawn period of disturbance and exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, reducing their number to 2,000 from about 200,000 just three decades back. Neither the Congress nor the National Conference can be absolved of their responsibility in fanning one of the worst pogroms against the Hindu community in J&K. The Congress raised the issue of Resettlement Bill in 1983 and played the Hindu card, winning 23 seats in the Jammu region.
Praising Prime Minister Modi as “the man of the moment”, Mehbooba Mufti said she believed that Modi could be the true harbinger of peace and stability in the Valley. “Prime Minister Modi has the potential to become the man of history and his leadership is an asset which needs to be harnessed. Our hopes are pinned on him to work together and bring Kashmir out of the mess,” she said. But when the abrogation of the temporary and irrelevant Article 370 became a reality, these very same parties have now raised the banner of revolt. These parties will be exposed sooner or later.
But it is important for the Modi government to consolidate the gains of their action. The first and foremost is to restore law and order, bring normalcy and allow free movement of people and goods. No peace and economic progress can be expected under a condition of suspicion and terror.
Terrorism from across the border will continue for some time. Pakistan has already reacted to the Parliament’s decision to abrogate 370 and the formation of the two new Union Territories. Indian Army will have to be stationed at strategic places along the border to prevent any misadventure by Pakistan and foil attempts of infiltration. Government of India under Narendra Modi has shown that it has the guts and the strength to realise the enshrined goals for the larger interests of Indian society and nation as a whole.
Such decisions have also got ramifications for India’s national security. It will have a positive impact on the maintenance of national security. The time people from elsewhere in India start settling down in J&K, a number of problems emanating from terrorism will be automatically contained. A strong pluralist society will become a strength for J&K. India will have to very cautiously calibrate a strategy to deal with the current situations especially where one finds a close nexus built between separatists and terrorist groups. The focus on overall development by attracting investments and creating opportunities and jobs will help J&K become a peaceful, prosperous and more stable place on earth. The abrogation of 370 was warranted and complete integration of J&K with India certainly has been a positive and welcome step from every front.
Dr Arvind Kumar is Professor of Geopolitics and International Relations, MAHE. Seshadri Chari is an eminent strategic and political commentator.