Monday, August 5, 2019

Hope scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir's special status will usher in a new era there

The right-wing Union government led by BJP's Narendra Modi, today took a hugely important decision regarding the status of one of the most sensitive states in the country, Jammu and Kashmir.

It's a decision that no previous government in the 72 years of independent India has dared to take: to revoke a provision that was incorporated into the Indian constitution in 1954.

That provision, contained in Article 370, conferred on the state a huge amount of autonomy, so much so that the state, unlike the other states of the Indian Union, had its own constitution and its flag. There were also limitations to the applicability of the Indian federal law in the state.

Basically, the provision enabled the state of Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of India but without having to follow all the laws of the Indian government.

WHAT DID THE GOVT DO

Today, the government delivered on its good-old promise, and revoked the provision, stripping the state of the preferred treatment it enjoyed all along, ever since it came into being in the late 1940s.

The government went beyond just that: it split the state into two Union territories: Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature, and Ladakh without a legislature.

A Union Territory is an administrative division of India, wherein the federal government holds a lot of administrative powers, unlike in the case of States which have far more administrative powers.

The sensitivity of this momentous decision can be gauged from the preparations the government did over the past week in J&K. There has been a huge induction of Indian Army troops, yesterday the government snapped all telecommunication networks - landline, mobile and internet - and late last night, it placed major political party leaders of J&K under house arrest; and declared curfew in Kashmir.

Not surprisingly, the government move has set the cat among the pigeons.

THE PROS AND CONS

Three key arguments for keeping the special status

- The provision was part of a solemn guarantee granted to the people of J&K considering the special circumstances surrounding the way the state became a part of the Indian Union, immediately after the British left India in August 1947.

- People and its leaders value the autonomy that came along with the special status, and removing it should have been done only with the concurrence of the people.

- Jammu and Kashmir state is not like any other state in India; it has a different history and that must be taken into account while deciding the policies of the state.

Three key arguments for removing the special status

- The special status created a dichotomous situation wherein J&K, a sensitive border state of India, is a part of Indian Union but had its own administrative and governance mechanism thereby limiting the control of the Indian government -- be it for security or for the development of the state and its people.

- There was a context in which the provisions were incorporated into the Indian constitution. After many decades, those situations have vastly changed, thereby necessitating a new look.

- The autonomy provision was a temporary one incorporated into the constitution with a purpose. It has not been able to bring about peace in Kashmir, and it can be said that the provision has failed to achieve any purpose.

MY TAKE

For me, today's development is just another turning point in the tumultuous journey the state, its polity and people have had for close to 80 years, pre-dating the exit of the British.

What has happened today is only a change in the law; what finally matters is a change in the hearts of the people of the state. How they take the changes remains to be seen.

Hope the new law will help the Union government to bring in the much-needed reforms in the governance of J&K and thereby bring about the required change in the hearts of the people.

We all know that there is tacit support from a section of the people of J&K for the decades-long militancy. Will it end with the development and prosperity of the people? Only if that happens will we be able to say that what the government did today was right.

As of today, we can't totally blame the government for exploring an out-of-box solution to find a way out of the problem that has been simmering for decades, costing hundreds of thousands of lives.

We have to just patiently wait and watch.

6 comments:

Josna said...

Although every part of my being resists your conclusion that we just have to wait and watch patiently, I appreciate your having laid out some of pros and cons in the way you have done. In my view, though, there are precious few pros.The Constitution has been disregarded without going through any kind of process, either in the parliament or in the state itself; Jammu & Kashmir has been split into two Union Territories, over which the central government will have even great powers; all communications have been cut, curfew has been called, and the place is overrun with soldiers; having endured a long occupation by the Indian military and denied the long-promised plebiscite, the people of the state are now being subjected to even more undemocratic controls; wealthy entities outside the state will now be able to buy up prime real estate on both land and water--and you can be sure that they will; and the unilateral move is courting even more conflict with Pakistan.

Can it be, as I have been reading elsewhere, that this is a move also designed to whip up more nationalist frenzy in India in order to distract the people from the disastrous economy?

Liz A. said...

This kinda sounds like what's happening all over the world, and not in a good way.

SG said...

You have said it very well. I just have one question. If the entire Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India, what happens now to the POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir)? This reorganization includes POK or not?

Pradeep Nair said...

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Hi Josna,

The lockdown in Kashmir is unfortunate. It's a sad deja vu for the people there. Curfew, the arrest of leaders, infusion of soldiers, lack of democracy, the tension on the border, etc., have all been, sadly, the story of that region ever since Independence.

Things have gotten so bad over the years, I can only be optimistic and pray for peace.

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Hi Liz,

Yes, there is a wave of nationalism sweeping across the world. That's one reason why this decision on Article 370 happened now and not earlier.

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Hi SG,

This question was raised in Parliament. And Home Minister Amit Shah replied saying PoK is part of India. By extrapolation, I would guess, it would mean the reorganization theoretically applies to PoK as well.

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Darla M Sands said...

Best wishes! Good change is more difficult to enact than bad, I think.

Pradeep Nair said...


Hi Darla,
Indeed. You said it!
Tks.