Respecting J&K Special Status

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court, in a judgement on July 17, has ruled that the constitution of the state is “sovereign in character” and that it cannot be challenged. Article 370 of the Indian constitution confers a special status on the state of J&K.  And Article 35A bars non-residents of the state from buying land or property.  The High Court further ruled that the “laws made by the Maharaja of J&K are protected by the Constitution of 1939 and the subsequent constitution framed by the Constituent Assembly of the state, which includes protection given to the state subjects and non-transfer of immoveable properties to non-state subjects” and that  “the state cannot be compared to other states…”
It is imperative that we accept the special status of J&K in the Union of India, accorded under Article 370 of the constitution. The BJP’s manifesto wants to abrogate the Article. The Sangh Parivar is bent on treating the J&K like any other state, not accepting its distinct unique position enjoyed for historical reasons.  Its belief that the only way to  end the Kashmir dispute is to alter the demography of the state by settling people from outside the state, with the right to vote and acquire land, is misplaced. This will aggravate the situation, having far reaching implications.
The people of Kashmir Valley, cutting across the party lines, will fight tooth and nail any attempt to abolish Articles 370 or 35A, to deny the state the special status. The special status, of not equating J&K with other states, is the reason d’être for its access to India, although majority of the people are Muslims. And taking away the special status will not only ignite the anti-India passions and arrest the process of normalization, but also give impetus to the separatist outfits like the Hurriyat and the JKLF, which otherwise lack credibility. They do not have a mass base, representing all the regions of the state.
Abolition of Article 370 requires a constitutional amendment. Article 368 says that a Bill seeking to amend the constitution must be “passed in each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.”  The NDA does not have a majority of the total membership of Rajya Sabha.  Therefore, the talk of abrogating Article 370 and taking away the special status of J& K is a political posturing, intended to polarize the people.
Even if organizations like the RSS think tank – Jammu & Kashmir Study Centre- succeed in challenging the J&K High Court ruling and the validity of Article 35A, altogether a new untenable situation will emerge in the state. It will open a Pandora’s Box, invalidating some 41 Presidential Orders. The Centre, through these Presidential Orders over the years, had extended 94 out of 97 subjects in the Union List to J&K and made applicable to the state 260 of 395 Articles of the constitution.  It is these Orders that have overridden certain provisions of the J& K constitution – like replacing the elected Sadr-e-Riyasat (President) with a Governor appointed by the Centre, changing the Prime Minister of the state to Chief Minister, extending the powers of the Supreme Court and the Election Commission of India to the state. That would ipso facto restore J&K to its pre-1954 position, with the powers of the Centre restricted to Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications. Do we want this to happen? And whose interest does it serve?
The solution to the Kashmir problem is not abrogation of Article 370 or 35A. It is winning over the people of the state. Today, the three regions of the state- Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh- are not integrated. People are bound to develop a sense of belonging to India, with their unique religious and cultural identity preserved, and realize the importance of democracy and the rule of law.   It is a misplaced notion that left to them, the people would opt for Pakistan- a country torn apart by the internal strife, the religious bigotry, with the Army-ISI-Mullahs nexus posing serious threat to its very survival. This was not the country that its founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted to have.
The Centre should take a firm principled stand of not allowing Pakistan to extend its ‘moral, material and political support’ to the separatists that Pakistan High Commissioner in India Abdul Basit repeatedly proclaims. We should call the bluff  and remind Pakistan  that  it should  not meddle in the internal affairs of India, that it first  grant civil and political rights to the people of POK and that ‘the right to self determination’  means cessation of the entire  state of J&K, including POK,  from India and Pakistan . This is not what the people of J&K want. Nor are they interested in joining Pakistan which faces existential crisis.
It is important to isolate the separatists. We must deal firmly all those militants and separatists who raise Pakistan flags and anti-India slogans. They are funded and instigated by the LeT, Pakistan Army and the ISI.  The successive governments have allowed the separatists to contact Pakistan mission in Delhi and visiting Pakistani leaders contacting them. This must stop.
Pakistan seems to have realized that the Modi government is weak. The flip- flops of the government vis-à-vis Pakistan are evident for everyone to see. This is the reason why there have been some 800 ceasefire violations since the NDA came to power. The anti-India elements feel emboldened.  No doubt the Joint Statement, issued by Narendra Modi and Nawab Sharif at Ufa, Russia, has gone for a toss. This is a serious diplomatic failure. We need to negotiate with Pakistan to normalise relations.  But the talks for peace can’t be blindfolded.  We need a coherent policy and political will to pursue it.
–Free Press Journal

The writer is the Author of the book ‘Nehru and World Peace’ , Professor of  Political Science and a retired Principal, Founder Secretary, Association of Indian College Principals. Email: [email protected]

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