Col Amit Sehgal (Retd)
Article 370 has been the most sought-after thing in the to do list of the Modi Government 2. Though this article of the Indian constitution affects only the state of Jammu and Kashmir; due to the on-going Pak sponsored terrorism in the state this has come to be seen as the Mother of all evils. A very high majority of the Indian population is of the view that this article is the root cause for trouble, once removed all shall be fine. There may be some truth in it but not the whole truth. To understand this, we need to take a peek in the history of Jammu and Kashmir state as this article was borrowed from the pre-independence era State Subject Act 1927.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir never existed in its present form before the treaty of Amritsar of 1846, between East India Company and Raja Gulab Singh. Ladakh, Gilgit, and Skardu were not part of this treaty. These areas were annexed by the great Dogra General Zorawar Singh. In nutshell, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is a cauldron of different ethnic and religious groups who have very little in common with each other. A Rajput Muslim of Jammu region has more in common with a Dogra Rajput of Jammu in terms of customs and traditions than what he has in common with a Kashmiri Muslim. The same can be said about a Kashmiri Pandit and a Kashmiri Muslim. This is also true that this state has been part of most of the great Indian Empires. Since the state was carved out of Maharaja Ranjit Singh empire, Punjabis were the most dominating community in the state administration and they also enjoyed the trade privileges. The State domestic population was not well educated as it never had any Colleges or Universities. The Jammu and Kashmir University came into existence post-Independence; before that, the state colleges were affiliated to Punjab University. The opening of colleges in 1905 and 1907 in Srinagar and Jammu brought out a fresh crop of locally educated Kashmiri Pandits and Dogra youth. The neo educated youth, freshly out of colleges with new ideals found that the Punjabi administration coterie was not allowing them to get into the State administration. It is these people who laid down the foundation of the concept of State Subject. Maharaja Hari Singh conceded to this demand and in April 1927 the state subject law was passed. This law ensured that no non-state subject got any state Government job. Kashmiri Pandits were the biggest beneficiaries of this law.
“The irony is that when this Act has been amended the groups which have rejoiced are the ones who fought for the formation of this act “.
Why is there Opposition to this act with in the state
Most states have some rules to ensure that the state’s inhabitants enjoy few privileges over the others. Here is an act which was giving sweeping privileges, yet there are voices to revoke it by those who were to benefit from this.
The problem lies in the way the ruling parties in Jammu and Kashmir have misused this act to promote nepotism, corruption and fundamentalism. Till such time the old formula of the division of Government jobs existed which kept the jobs in Kashmir safe for the people of Kashmir and similarly the jobs in Jammu safe for the people of Jammu things were fine. For Ladakh, the apt phrase was out of sight out of mind. Some crumbs were given to them to make sure they never make too much noise. All were co-existing and there was no problem. The trouble started brewing when the Kashmir politicians started to alter this balance to change things in favour of the Kashmiris, the voices of dissent started to rise. The Central Governments never understood the in-depth dynamics and kept supporting the Kashmiri politicians to do whatever they felt like as long as they did not support the separatist agenda. The events of 1989 were the result of this closed eye policies of the Central Government, which could not foresee the trouble brewing in the valley resulting in the ethnic cleansing of non- Muslim population from Kashmir. The Kashmiri Pandits, victims of Pak sponsored ethnic cleansing overnight from the most affluent class, were now homeless and stateless. They then became the strong voice in the country to amend this act as they suffered due to misuse of Article 370 by the Kashmiri politicians.
The discontent against this act was brewing in the Jammu region too as the Kashmiri politicians were slowly encroaching upon the Jammu turf. This reached its nadir when the first and only Jammu region Chief Minister, Gulamnabi Azad Government was toppled by the Kashmiri politicians on the issue of Amarnath Shrine Board. The voices for separation from the Kashmir were on the rise in the Jammu. Kashmir politicians were still certain that they can get away with it as long as they are not supporting the separatist agenda.
The voices to break the hegemony of Kashmir were on the rise. BJP with its agenda to ensure that these injustices to be set right got overwhelming support from Kashmiri Pandits, Jammu and Ladakh region. To conclude, it is not BJP which is the reason for this act to be amended; it is the Kashmiri politician who did not read the writing on the wall and believed that they were the only choice the Central Government had to handle Kashmir problem. Modi Government 2; true to its word; has called the bluff of the Kashmiri politicians. The road ahead is not easy and will need to be tread carefully.
Col Amit Sehgal (Retd)