Only Modi has the ticker to revoke Article 370

By Vijay Badhwar

Only the Modi Government could do this – to revoke Article 370 – a folly that had festered for 70 years, simmered and boiled over in two wars, for no benefit to anyone but a few politicians who brainwashed the simple Kashmiris into hardliners and terrorists to serve their selfish cause.

The separatist leaders could not fathom Modi resolve, thought the election manifesto was only a vote-catching exercise. The Government actions during the last few weeks to get the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims back in a hurry and ask tourists to leave the valley made them think, however, that something was brewing. Article 35A, may be, but 370, NO. It was too far-fetched, a holy cow that could not be tinkered with, they thought.

”˜Modi hai to mumkin hai’ (With Modi everything is possible), the crowds cheered in the streets after the motion to revoke Article 370 was announced by Home Minister Amit Shah in the parliament at 11 AM on Monday morning, August 5. That the Government would find a key to unlock the revocation of Article 370 within its clauses by a decree by the President that the Parliament could get through by simple majority in the two houses was simply flabbergasting.

It would be interesting, though, to follow the arguments when the issue is tested in courts in the coming months.

As it stands, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is now bifurcated into two union territories – J&K with a legislature and Ladakh without a legislature as for Diu and Daman.

The BJP Government’s timing to bring the issue to a head in the absence of a State Government in J&K was a loophole that the Government exploited as the Article 370 required referral to the people of the State through the elected State Government for any changes to the status quo. There are legal opinions that in the absence of a government in the State, the Centre may assume that role.

The governments in the past had resigned to the status quo, a problem for the ”˜too hard basket’, the terrorism in the State a given. To contain it within the J&K boundaries was an outcome pursued.

But Modi-Shah combination was simply not content with this, their sweeping win this year was encouragement enough to go for the ”˜kill’ to solve the problem once for all, an outcome most nationalists longed for.

It was an oft-repeated lament that Nehru had failed them to start with, notwithstanding the pressure he was put under by the cunning of the outgoing British rule, with compounding error by daughter India Gandhi not to get the Kashmir issue resolved with Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on his knees in Simla after the Bangladesh defeat in 1971.

Octogenarian Dr Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh who signed the accession documents, said to IANS that the accession to India was final and irrevocable as it had been confirmed and validated by the J&K constituent assembly.

There were many changes to the land as parts of it are also occupied by Pakistan and China. The Kashmiri pundits have been driven out from their homes and still live in camps in Jammu and Udhampur.

Article 35A was introduced in 1954 by Indian President Dr Rajendra Prasad and defined the status of the Kashmiri people in the land. It dealt with issues such as the Valley residents having their own laws, no reservations for scheduled castes and tribes, no one from outside the state able to buy property in the state etc. Since it was decreed by the President, it could also be removed by the order of the President.

Dr Karan Singh opined that the accession to India and J&K constitution was final but the issue of relationship between the state and Centre had never been settled.

The happiest people in India following the revocation of Article 370 were the Kashmiri pundits. Nearly 400,000 of the Hindus living in the Valley were displaced in 1990 following threats from JKLF. They said that they were made refugees in their own land, forced out from their homes with threatening announcements from the mosques to leave without their women and property.

Now they can return, they hope.

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