Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Kashmiris  become Indians

By Prakash Nanda
Updated: August 22, 2019 11:36 am
The Modi government, on August 5, revoked the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. With more than two-thirds majority it then passed in both the Houses of the Parliament the measures to make the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution irrelevant and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Over the last 10 years, I have written many a time that if Kashmir continues to burn then it is due to rising Islamism in the valley on the one hand and the encouragement to this Islamism not only by the Kashmir’s ruling politicians but also by the mainstream media experts, academicians, retired bureaucrats now gainfully engaged in various think tanks and so-called non-governmental organisations in Delhi on the other. I had also argued that the “special provision” for Kashmir through Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was taking away the state form the national mainstream, not bringing it near as argued by the so-called liberal establishment in Delhi.
In fact, in my last piece on Kashmir, following the Indian airstrikes in Balakot (https://udayindia.in/2019/03/12/balakot-bombing-is-a-job-half-done-now-is-time-to-take-on-the-real-enemies-of-kashmir-in-delhi/) ,I had argued that though February 26, 2019 would  always be remembered as a golden day in India’s military history as the  pre-dawn punitive strike deep inside the Pakistani territory  demolished  the terrorists’  training camps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, it was “only a job half done. The other part that Modi must do – and he is the only Indian political leader who can do – is to ensure that a minority in the Kashmir valley, aided and abetted by the hardcore Islamic fundamentalists inside and outside India on the one hand and the so-called secular liberals in the capital Delhi, does not impose their agenda on the rest of the country. Our so-called Kashmir problem can be resolved if Modi shows the similar guts that he displayed against Pakistan against our internal enemies.”
I am really happy that Modi has lived up to my expectations by making the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh Indians in true sense of the term. The “temporary” provision of Article 370 is no longer there. Though my long-stated expectation that the state needs to be reorganised by making Ladakh a Union Territory (UT) has been  met, I am really not convinced as to how Jammu and Kashmir has been reduced to a UT, albeit temporarily. however, what is most commendable on Modi’s part is that no longer will the elites of the valley be able to literally colonise the people all over the state under the grab of Article 370.
Article 370 was an instrument of appeasement to the separatists.  And appeasement, by its very nature, is like a pain-killer tablet. It suppresses the pain for the time being but does not stamp out the disease. On the other hand, appeasement further encouraged those appeased to demand more and more. And worst, it legitimised the “separateness” of those appeased. It gave them the feeling that they were different from the rest.
Under Article 370, the Kashmir valley dominated in resources, powers and representations over Jammu and Ladakh. The power-structure in the state has permanently tilted in favour of the valley-elites. For instance, Jammu is 70 percent larger in are than Kashmir and has 45 percent of the state’s population. But Jammu has only 32 seats in the state Assembly, while Kashmir has 42. In fact, if one adds the areas of Jammu and Ladakh together, and here the people have no quarrels with Delhi-establishment, and leave the Shias living in the Kashmir valley, the valley-based agitators turn out to be the least-representatives of the people of the state as a whole.
Jammu and Kashmir has received 10 per cent of all Central grants given to states over the 2000-2016 period, despite having only one per cent of the country’s population. In contrast, Uttar Pradesh makes up about 13 percent of the country’s population but received only 8.2 percent of Central grants in 2000-16. “That means Jammu and Kashmir, with a population of 12.55 million according to the 2011 Census, received Rs 91,300 per person over the last sixteen years while Uttar Pradesh only received Rs 4,300 per person over the same period,” a study said,  adding, “ Even among the special category states, Jammu and Kashmir receives a disproportionate amount of Central assistance. The state received Rs 1.14 lakh crore in grants over the sixteen years under review, according to the Union Finance Ministry’s data, which is more than a quarter of the Central funds disbursed to the 11 special category states in that period.”
Broadly speaking, nearly 75 percent Jammu and Kashmir’s revenue comes by way of the transfers from the central government in some form or the other year after year. But the valley-based elites never liked a single question from Delhi as to how the money was  being spent!  No wonder why   despite huge natural resources, the state government had always been approaching the Centre with a begging bowl and  why  corruption is rampant in Jammu and Kashmir.
Thanks to Article 370,  permanent residents of  Jammu were  second class citizens in the state. They may vote in the central elections, but have no right to participate in the Assembly elections. They cannot even apply for the central government jobs in the state. It is because of this Article and its associated provisions that  children of the daughter of the state cannot inherit properties if they marry outside the state.  Whatever its advocates  may say, the fact, however,  remains that if there are certain rules or laws in Jammu and Kashmir that are not in tune with the laws prevailing in the rest of the country, it was precisely because of the Article 370, whether directly or indirectly.
It may  be noted that the  incorporation of Article 370 in the Constitution of India was purely a temporary measure and that it was incorporated in a specific situation that no longer remains valid. In fact, when in the wake of aggression from Pakistan on October 24 1947, the then Maharaja Hari Singh signed an “Instrument of Accession” on October 26, 1947, he had empowered  the Union of India to have absolute jurisdiction in respect of three subjects namely defence, foreign affairs and communication. The idea was to save Kashmir from Pakistan. The Maharaja and the Government of India were clear that as regards the full integration was concerned, the final decision would be taken through the “Constituent Assembly” of Jammu and Kashmir, and that till then the state will have a special status as enshrined in Article 370.
The Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir on November 17 1956 “adopted, enacted and gave to themselves (the people of Jammu and Kashmir) a new constitution which they called the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir” and made a written commitment in the Preamble to its newly framed Constitution that “Jammu & Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India.”
As historian Suryakrishna Pillai rightly argues, “There was no question of retaining Article 370 in the Constitution after the Constituent Assembly acting on behalf of the people of Jammu & Kashmir finally decided that Jammu & Kashmir was an integral part of India. The matter ended there for good”  and the only task left before the Centre was to amend under favourable circumstances  the Constitution for abrogating Article 370 and to repeal the constitution of Jammu & Kashmir which grants special status to that state. There were many such favourable circumstances, but the Government of India did not have the requisite guts to do the needful. On the contrary, it “evolved the obnoxious and unwise policy of appeasement of Muslims in the Kashmir valley and thus committed the blunder of making a non-issue an issue”,  according to Pillai.
The most important reason cited in favour of the retention of the Article 370 is that but for it India will not be able to retain a Muslim majority state. But if that is so, how come Christian majority- North eastern states and the Sikh majority-Punjab do not have special Articles for themselves? The question is also not related to the principle of secularism, something that the “secularists” point out whenever the question of abrogating this temporary Article arises. In fact, contrary to the spirit and content of the Indian Constitution, there is no mention of the word of “secularism” (or for that matter socialism) in preamble of constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. And it is well known how the non-Muslims in the State have been suffering in the state over the last few years.
Article 370 has not been beneficial to the people of the state themselves either.  The people of the state did not enjoy the reservation facilities. There is no record of the number of OBC’s in the state. Mandal commission report has not been implemented and hence the backward classes here have no reservations in various fields. Deprived sections of the society like SC/STs did not have any reservation in J&K till 1991. Though in 1991, they were provided reservation in employment and education they still do not have any representation in politics and in the state assembly. It’s not  surprising therefore why Mayawati’s BSP supported the Modi government in scrapping the Article 370.
All this makes it obvious that that  Article 370 should have been abrogated by the Government of India much earlier.   According to Pillai, Article 370, which according to part XXI of the Constitution of India, was a temporary, transitional and special provision ought to have been firmly annulled either by invoking Presidential power under Clause (3) of the same Article or through constitutional amendment under Article 368 read with Article 355. When the Instrument of Accession was executed on October 26, 1947 and the Constituent Assembly acting on behalf of the people of Jammu & Kashmir accorded final sanction to the said accession on November 17, 1956, the Kashmir chapter was closed for ever. “Why a closed and concluded matter was made a subject of controversy again?”, he had asked.  He, if alive,  would be happy now that Modi has done precisely what he had argued.

By Prakash Nanda

(prakash.nanda@hotmail.com)

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