The state of Jammu and Kashmir has remained in discussions since Indian independence while partition made it one of the most controversial regions in the whole of the sub continent. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have witnessed drastic transformation in terms of politics and governance since then but they have remained ignorant about these changes. There have been various issues which prominently influence Kashmir on social, economic and political grounds and special status to Jammu and Kashmir as per Article 370 of Indian Constitution is one among them.
People of Jammu and Kashmir feel insecure when discussions about abrogation of Article-370 are triggered and they begin to predict the possible miseries in the future. Nevertheless BJP has stated alphabetically- A for Article 370, B for Berozgaari , C for CBM and so on and so forth. Curtains have been raised and the show is on.
The Narindra Modi led Govt. has hit the chorus and Kashmiri mainstream politicians have begun their prelude and the play entitled "Article -370 " is ready to be enacted while the myths and realities, facts and fiction are yet to be distinguished properly.
All the characters play a disguised role in order to befool the audience mixing myth and reality in such a proportion so as to prepare a perfect feat of confusion and disarray.
What is Article 370? What if it is abrogated? Can Article 370 be abolished? These are the common questions everyone feels like asking. As un-pragmatic phobias have dominated Kashmiris since antiquity and the things about Article 370 cannot be erased as such.
Once an elderly man asked me, "YE DAFA 370 KUS CHU ?” (What is this article 370), I replied, Article 370 is an Indian saint who prays for the welfare of Kashmiris and if he is killed or imprisoned, we would be in loss. My answer satisfied him but how could I satisfy the youth of Kashmir who are enough passionate to know about K- issue and other related hot topics.
But the truth cannot be denied that many people are unaware about the ‘how and why’ of this article and need to be educated about how it found its way into the Indian constitution despite grave misgivings of Sardar Patel and a large number of the members of Congress Working Committee and Constituent Assembly. Why should a state like Jammu and Kashmir of the Indian Union have a special status? It gives an alarming signal not only to a common Kashmiri but also to the separatist groups, our neighbouring countries and indeed to the international community that J&K is under atrocious domination of India and hence it would never become an integral part of India.
India had been at war with Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir and while there was a ceasefire, things continued to remain uncontrollable and situations refused to slow down the raging war. One thing that could have possibly calmed down the situation was Article370.
Article 370 of the Indian constitution is a law that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. According to this Article, except for defence, foreign affairs finance and communication, Indian Parliament needed the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws here. Thus the residents of J&K lived under a different and separate set of laws. It was incorporated in 1947 and drafted by Gopalaswami Ayyangar.
B. R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Constitution of India, was against Article 370 and it was included in Indian Constitution against his wishes. Dr Ambedkar had clearly told Sheikh Abdullah, "You wish India should protect your borders, She should build roads in your area, She should supply you food grains and Kashmir should get equal status as India. But Government of India should have only limited powers and Indian people should have no rights in Kashmir. To give consent to this proposal, would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do it." Then Abdullah went to Nehru, who directed him to Gopalaswami Ayyangar, who approached Sardar Patel asking him to do something as it was a matter of prestige for Nehru, who had promised Abdullah accordingly. Patel got it passed when Nehru was on a foreign tour.
On the day this article came up for discussion, Dr Ambedkar did not reply to questions on it though he did participate on other articles. All arguments were done by Krishna Swami Ayyangar. It vividly implies that Article 370 is an oceanic blunder in Indian Constitution from Indian point of view and a ray of hope for Kashmiris who never consider Kashmir as an integral part of India.
Now the question arises- is Article 370 still intact in its original form? Well, I guess no!
Autonomy as envisaged in the Constituent Assembly is intact only in form and not in substance. A series of Presidential Orders have eroded Article 370 substantially. The subsequent series of Presidential Orders have made most Union laws applicable to the State and today the autonomy enjoyed by the State is rather a shadow of its former self, and there is no institution of the Republic of India that does not include Jammu &Kashmir within its scope and jurisdiction.
There are only few things left which distinguish Jammu & Kashmir from other States of India and these include: residents and their rights; the non-applicability of Emergency provisions on the grounds of internal disturbance without the concurrence of the State and the name and boundaries of the State, which cannot be changed without the consent of its (J&K) legislature. But hopes are alive and Kashmir still enjoys the status of an autonomous state by hook or crook and apprehensions about abrogation of Article 370 attracts international interference too.
What if Article 370 is abrogated? Nothing special..! Jammu and Kashmir would lose its special autonomous status which the people of the state would never appreciate and rather hate. Non state subjects can buy land and get citizenship here. There are many other provisions which would come to effect after abrogation of Article 370 but can Article 370 be abrogated or revoked? Clause 3 of Article 370 says ‘The president can declare that this Article shall cease to be operative but only on the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State. In other words, Article 370 can be revoked only if a new Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir is convened and is willing to recommend its revocation.
On the other side, Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution to change this provision. But this could be subject to a judicial review which may find that this clause is a basic feature of the relationship between the State of Jammu and Kashmir and India and hence, cannot be amended. Then why this chaos and confusion among people, they should rather think about the implementation of Article 370 in a judicial way and enjoy its benefits in the long run for freedom. Let’s hope for the best.
The writer is a government teacher and can be mailed at email@example.com
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