Revocation of Article 370 A step towards equality and dignity

Rekha Mahajan
Revocation of Article 370 shows BJP is tough on Kashmir and Pakistan, the decision to strip the state of Jammu and Kashmir of autonomy after seven decades, is the correction of a historical blunder.Now Jammu and Kashmir will no longer have a separate constitution but will have to abide by the Indian constitution much like any other state.
The revocation of Article 370 was passed by an “overwhelming majority” in the Indian Parliament. It has attracted not only the support of the nationalist parties such as the BJP, but many other Indian political parties that typically oppose the BJP.The Bahujan Samaj Party and its leader Mayawati stated that Article 370 and 35A had caused social, economic and political injustice in Jammu and Kashmir, and the people – including the Buddhists – will now get the long-pending benefits that was denied to them. She stated, “the Buddhist followers of Ambedkar were feeling happy”.
It was because of Articles 370 and 35A that democracy was never fully flourished while corruption increased in the state. “The citizens of Jammu and Kashmir can become citizens of India automatically; whereas the citizens of India have no such right when it comes to their claiming a similar right in the State. Consequently, the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir can own property and settle anywhere in India, on the other hand, Article 370 prevented any Indian from claiming any such right.
Article 370 was a source of gender bias. If a women a married outside the state she lost all her rights .All India Services Officers who served here for 30 – 40 years did not have right to acquire property .There children couldn’t get jobs here,couldn’t take admissions in professional colleges.
Article 35A also ensured that the thousands of descendants of Valmikis (Dalits) who were brought in from Punjab by Sheikh Abdullah as government sweepers in 1957 were never allowed to get any government jobs other than sweepers. And they could not even get a Scheduled Caste certificate from the state government, so were not eligible for any benefits under central schemes.
One of the worst human tragedies the state faced is the denial of basic democratic and citizenship rights to nearly 600,000 refugees from Pakistan who entered the state at the time of partition or as a result of wars between India and Pakistan, thereafter. These refugees have made the state their home for the last over six decades, yet neither they nor their children can get citizenship rights in the state, as result of the applicability of Article 370. They neither voted nor fought elections.
The case of Gorkha population of around 100,000 who became part of the Dogra King’s army 170 years back, is equally tragic. Article 35A had ensured that they are deprived of basic human rights. Like the others, they had no right to vote in local elections, nor can they availed of any welfare benefits.
The Constitution of this Muslim-majority state did not have the word “minorities” anywhere in it. Unlike in the Indian Constitution, their rights were not protected. J&K was also the only Indian state with no tribal rights (and the state had no right to education either).
This infiltration had been made possible by the existence of Article 370. “Within the broad framework of the special status envisaged by Article 370, which isolated the state from rest of India, it was far easy for secessionist elements to infiltrate into the administrative cadres of the government.
Article 370 had also been misused by political oligarchs to perpetuate their hold on power by preventing various democratic legislations from being applied to the state. Take the case of ‘anti-defection law’, which is a useful provision for preventing defections. This legislation vests the powers of deciding whether a legislator has defected or not, with the Speaker. However, in Jammu and Kashmir, the power has been vested with a party chief, thus turning the leader into a virtual dictator.
Article 370 and 35A were responsible for Jammu and Kashmir backwardness while only benefiting a select few like the separatists and their associates
.Earlier their were restrictions on transfer of land but abrogation of Article 370 will lead to growth and employment and private investments in education,health and tourism .The land rates which had remained stagnant in the state will now increase like in other parts of the country thus benefitting landowners.It touted film shootings, adventure and religious tourism which will also benefit the rural economy. With the restrictions removed ,the tourism potential of the state will be fully realised with investment in tourist infrastructure and hotels that will create more jobs.Revoking Article 35 A will now open gates for investment in property in J&K and this in turn will help end violence.
Higher education has witnessed a boom across the country but not in J&K as the state doesn’t have a single private university and students are forced to go to other parts of country but now with the PPP model in education,the students will not have to travel outside the state. Similarly ,there are no large private hospitals in the state and patients have to travel to Delhi and Mumbai for treatment.But now private investment would bring quality health care to the state that will create jobs and make J&K a medical hub.
About 57000 acres of Land has been identified for industrial setup in the UT’s which will connect remotest villages for connectivity .Ladakh has been allocated 6000 crores for the process of development.
(The author is Secretary BJP Jammu &Kashmir UT)