K B Jandial
We are witness to the history of J&K in the making. Undeterred by the controversies and adverse fallout of demonetisation of currency and emboldened by huge public support for the most daring surgical strikes in PoK and Balakote, the nation witnessed Modi’s yet another stunning masterstroke on 5th August 2019. The nation was pleasantly thrilled when Amit Shah informed Rajya Sabha that the President invoking power vested in Clause 3 of Article 370 has issued. The Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order 2019 superseding the earlier Presidential Order of 1954 and abrogated all clauses of Article 370 except a clause he proposed in the Statutory Resolution adopted by the Parliament, exercising the powers of J&K Legislature under President Rule. Even though Article 370 remains but there are no controversial provisions. With this, nation’s long awaited yearning was fulfilled.
On the recommendation of the Parliament, the President on 6th August, 2019 issued a notification invoking powers vested in him by clause (3) of Article 370 which reads, “370. All provisions of this Constitution, as amended from time to time, without any modification or exceptions, shall apply to the State of Jammu and Kashmir notwithstanding anything contrary constrained in article 152 or article 308 or any other article of this Constitution or any other provision of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir or any law, document, judgment, ordinance, order, by-law, regulation, notification, custom or usage having the force of law in the territory of India, or any other instrument, treaty or agreement as envisaged under article 383 or otherwise.'” (Article 152 of chapter relates to provisions of States & Article 308 deals with Interpretation in the chapter dealing with “Services under the Union and the States” which say that expression “State” “does not include State of J&K”)
With this, the era of “State within the State” is over and the controversial provision that made J&K separate from India is buried forever. The psychological barrier that it created between Kashmir and rest of India stands removed. Earlier also, on September 11, 1964 an attempt was made in Lok Sabha by Arya Samaj leader and Independent MP from Bijnor, Prakash Vir Shastri ( Tyagi) through a private member’s Bill to abrogate this Article which got good support of Congress MPs but the Govt didn’t have a spine to do it while Modi has “spinal cord of steel”. The popular BJP slogan- Modi hai to mumkin hai- has been proved right.
The insiders say that well-guarded preparations for its abrogation had started in Modi 01 but its manifestations came to the fore with the appointment of Modi’s confidant BVR Subrahmanyam as Chief Secretary on 20th June. As Governor N. N. Vohra, with his methodical and critical mind, didn’t fit in Modi’s scheme of things; he was eased out just two months later and brought in, for the first time, a political Governor Satya Pal Malik on 22nd August, 2018. It was then that the die was cast for burial of Article 370 and all other connected provisions. Huge mandate to Modi in 2019 elections and crowning of Amit Shah as Home Minister only gave the decisive push to the strategy which involved many experts at different stages and levels. These involved Ministries of PMO, Home Affairs, NSA, Law and Justice, Attorney General, Defence and few reliable hands in J&K administration. Despite it, a cloak of secrecy was maintained all through till the bombshell was dropped in Rajya Sabha amidst speculations of “something big” is happening. This too is unparalleled.
The leaks in the social media about impending “something big”, are now appear to be part of the strategy to force people in Kashmir to raise their stocks in their houses to meet their domestic requirements, at least for few weeks, in the event of long spell of preventive curfew.
This monumental constitutional move has many ramifications unfolding for the nation notwithstanding the triumphant jubilations of the people across the country except Kashmir valley. Apart from political and constitutional fallout, this move has strategic, diplomatic, economic and psychological ramifications.
Bifurcation of the State leading to creation of two Union Territories has huge strategic ramification, albeit positive one. With UT status, the MHA would be able to deal with internal and external dimensions of the State directly. The danger of “bad Talibans” who would be ‘jobless’ after impending peace pact between US & Talibans in Afghanistan being brokered by Pakistan, going eastward is real one. The question is where these Talibans would go, of course, not to Haj. With major political dispensation either of PDP known for soft -separatism agenda or pro-autonomy NC coming to power in elections, the Centre was handicapped in giving the decisive fight to such terrorists.
The timing of this move too is significant, coming close on the heels of “reset” of US-Pakistan relations, primarily motivated for honourable exit of US forces from Afghanistan. Modi Govt has planned as unfolded by PM himself in his address to the people of the State on 8th August, 2019, a decisive fight against terror with simultaneous massive multi-sector economic development initiatives and roping in corporate sector to create job creation through unprecedented push to industrial and economic growth primarily in Kashmir besides job opportunities within the Govt sector.
Kashmir has once again come to centre stage internationally and this move is being watched closely by Islamic world and other nations. The External Affair Ministry is already on the job in briefing important countries about constitutional and democratic exercise in correct perspective. Cornered Pakistan’s frustration is understandable but it has no moral right to question India on full integration as it had itself gifted away nearly 5200 sq.km area of Aksai Chin to China in 1963 and annexed Gilgit-Baltistan in 1970 and made it Northern Area. Moreover, Pakistan’s threats are not new especially when it is directly involved in terrorism in Kashmir.
As all the three distinct regions of J&K have different political aspirations: Jammu, even though sore over ignoring its demand of separate statehood for Dogras, and Ladakh are rejoicing over scrapping of Article 370 but Kashmir seethes over taking away their special status with which they have been groomed and nurtured for nearly seventy years. This special status- separate flag, emblem, own constitution, state subject laws- has done no good to the people of the State except promotion of the feeling of a separate nation and separatism, giving a fertile land for exploitation by Pakistan. This feeling did not exist in Jammu and Ladakh regions which wanted greater integration with India. While the ‘breeding factor’ of separatism is demolished the Pakistan factor and radicalised youth would continue to be a serious challenge. Moreover, this move has potential to push more Kashmiri youth to militancy in the absence quick healing touch and de-radicalisation initiatives.
The Govt is claims that Kashmir is limping back to normalcy but peace in Kashmir appears to be a long haul. The people are hugely shocked and angry which cannot be fathomed due to complete lockdown which is essential to violence and bloodshed. As lot of preparation has gone into this huge preventive security bandobast, it is expected that there would be no blood shed anywhere especially in Kashmir by apt handling of the situation.
While the real test of Kashmir situation would be seen only after the end of this lockdown and release of mainstream political leaders, but in the meanwhile the interest of the nation would be better served if the leaders and political workers in the country and in Jammu and the media especially the electronic media exercise restraint in making it as triumph over Kashmir and talk of buying land there. Such unwarranted talk would further alienate and hurt already shell shocked Kashmiris. Today is the time, not only to reach out them in structured manner but also apply healing touch.
While Article 370 has gone for good but Kashmiris remain there as an important part of India who need to be reassured about their huge stakes in secular nation where over 20 cr Muslims, more than of Pakistan, live proudly sporadic incidents of lynching notwithstanding.