B L Saraf
It should; it shouldn’t ? In all seriousness, this question kept taxing mind of both – the ‘ integrationist ‘ and a ‘federalist ‘ in Kashmir and elsewhere. And – the question pertained to a particular provision in the Constitution of India, enumerated as Article 370. With their own reasons, former bayed for its abolition while as latter, for their reasons too, fought for its retention. At times the debate had severe polarizing effect on the thinking of country’s political class. Under the veneer of integrationist and the federalism debate, what we witnessed was the blackmailing potential of this Article’s that came to the fore, thanks to the exploitative tendencies of a politician. In the process, merits involved in the matter fell way side. Article 370’s real or imaginary effect on real politics was highlighted by both the sides to buttress their respective positions. The integrationists accused Kashmir leaders of using Article 370 as a tool to accumulate personal riches and perpetuate the family rule : the Kashmir leaders, on the opposite side, blamed them for using it as an implement in order to rage passions and garner votes in the mainland.
Article 370 is dead ; very few can dare say – Long live Art 370.
If Art 370 had the blackmailing value, as contending parties argued, then it was good to see Duke Wellington’s refrain- “Publish and be damned” come into the play and relieve nation of the ‘ hostage syndrome’.
On 5th August 2019, with the stroke of a pen the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir built with the blood and sweat of Dogra warriors, disappeared; only to reappear in truncated shape of two union territories – with one having some semblance of a democratic pretence : in as much as it will have an elected Assembly. But profile of its legislature too has suffered a change . Legislative Council – popularly known as Upper House stands abolished.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah have delivered J&K to the nation in its entirety and merged it with the Union. By and large, the nation has appreciated the move as, indeed, fairly good number of people in J&K have wellcomed the development. Some people have, nevertheless, flagged quite a few legal and political issues with immediate and far reaching consequences. Many bemoan downgrading of the state. Well, that is best left to the other day.
The 5th August 2019 will be remembered for other reason also. For sure, more than anybody else, Jawaharlal Nehru must be feeling thankful to the PM and HM for delivering him of the ‘ Original Sin’ – of laying down foundations of India in Kashmir, on which today we have, perhaps, built an enduring building. Nehru got Kashmir to India after snatching it from the jaws of Pakistan.
Today, Nehru faces wrath of the nationalists for the fact of getting Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to India when at the relevant time everybody hailed him as the ‘ nationalist ‘ . While as those who wanted Kashmir to go to Pakistan described him communalist in the cloak of a secularist .
Euphoria over, it is time to come to the terms with the developing situation. First of all, it needs to be recognized that abolition of Art 370 was a popular demand of majority in Jammu and a significant section of KP society.Their wish stands fulfilled . Nonetheless, some among the abolitionist, in Jammu, may be wondering whether they have got more than they had bargained for . State has suffered a decline and a fall. Jammu region in association with Kashmir province has been reduced to a glorified Municipal Corporation – la Delhi. How helpless figure Arvind Kejriwal cuts as the CM of Delhi must be a food for thought for many of us? Then a demographic threat looms large on the Jammu province. No wonder, we hear need of a Domicile law entering the discourse, so soon after the event.
The demand is gathering momentum that some legislative measures should be put in place to insulate the already shrunk job market from possible outside threat and secure it for the local youth. Similarly, farmers want statutory protection from being dispossessed by the non-local land sharks who may invade them with the might of their wealth . These are genuine concerns which must be addressed.
Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) are in celebrations. One hopes that time will soon come when they may reflect coolly on the after – effects of the exercise that are bound to unfold in near future. Maybe, some challenges faced by them have withered away but nobody can, for certain, visualize at this juncture how the situation develops for then, in view of them changed political and legal scenario.
Could be, some new challenges are thrown up? Their representation in the Legislature will evaporate – in as much as their two representatives in the Legislative Council will return back as the house itself stands abolished. Then there is every possibility that in view of demand for increase in Assembly constituencies in Jammu region and making additional room for SCs and STs in the state Assembly, Pandit’s enfranchising cause may suffer at the altar of announced Gerrymandering that will be underway, soon .
The Hindus in Kashmir have been clamoring, since 1990, for a minority status, with no success so far.With Central Minorities law having been made applicable to the state, in the given architecture of the Law, chances of Hindu being declared a minority in the state are very bleak . On the contrary, what Muslims in J&K have been getting, till now, as a gratis will flow to them as a matter of right. Because, on account of their faith and belief, they get covered under the definition of National Minority numerated under the provisions of this Central law.
HM Amit Shah told the Parliament, while piloting the J&K Reorganization Bill, that UT Status of J&K is a temporary measure and full statehood will be restored to it as soon as possible. PM Narendra Modi expressed the same view in his address to the nation which followed the scrapping of Art 370. The promise must be made good very soon. Many in Kashmir feel hurt. They need to be assured of their well being in new order and their feeling be assuaged, with real action and in real good time. A sullen and festering Kashmir gives the picture which a nation like India, that aspires to reach the heights in economic and political world, wouldn’t want world to see .
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge )
B L Saraf