Recently, August 5 marked the first anniversary of the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and conversion of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories i.e. Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
What is Article 370 and Article 35A?
- Article 370 was the basis of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to the Indian union at a time when erstwhile princely states had the choice to join either India or Pakistan after their independence from the British rule in 1947.
- The article, which came into effect in 1949, exempts Jammu and Kashmir State from the Indian constitution.
- It allows the Indian-administered region jurisdiction to make its own lawsin all matters except finance, defence, foreign affairs and communications.
- It established a separate constitution and a separate flag and denied property rights in the region to the outsiders.
- It provided that the residents of the state live under different laws from the rest of the country in matters such as property ownership and citizenship.
- Article 35A was introduced through a presidential order in 1954 to continue the old provisions of the territory regulations under Article 370 of the Indian constitution.
- The article permits the local legislature in Indian-administered Kashmir to define permanent residents of the region.
- It forbids outsiders from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs or winning education scholarships in the region.
- The article, referred to as the Permanent Residents Law, also bars female residents of Jammu and Kashmir from property rights in the event that they marry a person from outside the state. The provision also extends to such women’s children.
Myths around the Valley of Jammu & Kashmir
- Kashmir has been a favourite site of our national mythmaking that have over the years assumed larger-than-life manifestations in our collective psyche.
- Kashmir has most things that popular myths are made of i.e. mesmerising beauty, cross-border terror, deep states and their agents, war and heroism.
- The myths about Kashmir are not created by the right wing alone but by successive Indian governments over several decades, enthusiastically embellished by a vibrant, popular culture.
- Article 370 has been considered as the root cause of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir but this sentiment notwithstanding the fact that there is little material basis to it.
- The constitutional provision is also held responsible for ruining J&K, stalling its development and preventing proper health care and blocking industries.
- The private enterprises could set up industries in the former State on leased land and the acquisition of land by public sector enterprises from outside the State was never a problem.
Implications of Mythmaking on Kashmir
- The rare political unity in the rest of the country supporting the abrogation of Article 370 was a function of this mythmaking.
- The popular cultural articulations about Kashmir and Kashmiris in the media, films, music and other cultural representations have further strengthened these myths.
- The “Kashmir needs to be reunited with the rest of India” has been a powerful claim made by such representations and political articulations.
- The popular perception of ‘Kashmiris as troublemakers and sympathisers of terror’ has led to a noticeable increase in the mistreatment of Kashmiri Muslims in the rest of the country.
Government’s Intention behind Abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A
- The Union government has promised to ensure that everyone living in the two Union Territories would get a sense of the egalitarian principles that are firmly embedded in India’s Constitution.
- The critics of Article 35A say the provision did not have any parliamentary sanction, and that it discriminates against women.
- The provision empowering the State with ‘special’ status has always been the elephant in the room.
- Jammu & Kashmir has, along with its sensitive topography, appears like a foreign policy issue, instead of a domestic one due to its status in our Constitution.
- It will politically give chance to all parties to rule the state and allow its development.
- It will also prove to be good diplomacy to deal with Pakistan over territorial disputes.
Developments in the Valley after Abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A
- The major developments in the valley extend to a wide range of issues like social and political equality, education, jobs, reservations and other rights enjoyed by the underprivileged in the rest of the country.
- The abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A will ensure the applicability of progressive central laws such as Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1954, the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014, the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993.
- The rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley and nearly 4,000 of them have got jobs in the UT and many others are listed for employment.
- Over 20,000 refugees from West Pakistan, who were treated as aliens in their own country and denied all rights, have been given domicile rights and financial assistance of Rs 5.50 lakh per family.
- The Jammu & Kashmir government has also initiated a massive recruitment drive to fill up 10,000 vacancies in the local government.
- Other measures which have ensured mainstreaming of the region are the enforcement of the Right to Information Act, 2005, direct supervision of the Central Vigilance Commission with regard to anti-corruption cases and the setting up of the 18th Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) for the UTs of J&K and Ladakh.
- After the abrogation of article 370, a 36% decline in Terror incidents in the J&K Union Territory due to the house arrest of all Pro-Pak separatist leaders and direct control of the J&K region.
Article 370 and Territorial Pluralism
- “Federalism” is derived from the term ‘foedus’ which means an agreement, compact or treaty and the territorial communities agree to join a union because the latter agrees to guarantee them a certain measure of autonomy.
- Federalism is thus nothing but a restraint of sorts on the Centre’s powerswhich demonstrates what may be termed as territorial pluralism.
- Section 5 of Government of India Act, 1935 described India as a “Federation of States” and such a State is one in which part of the authority and power is vested in the states while another part is vested in the Union or association of those states.
- The Centre should be clear to it that the continuing political vacuum in the Valley can only cause damage.
- The Union government must expedite the restoration of political processes in Jammu & Kashmir.
- The government must restore all freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution, including the right to free speech, which in this day and age, includes access to the Internet.
- The display of decisiveness over Articles 370 and 35A seen in Islamabad and Beijing as reflecting India’s enhanced strategic confidence has contributed to the current border tension.
- In a year stricken by an extreme winter and the COVID-19 pandemic, the path towards eventual delivery of normality which will usher in growth and development has just been laid.
Source: The Indian Express