Article 370 is history. It is this Article that confers on the state of Jammu and Kashmir special powers within the Union of India. And for those who say it is a rabbit that Narendra Modi has pulled out of the hat, an old black and white photograph is now doing the rounds on social media, which shows a young Modi at a protest demanding removal of Article 370.
Union Home minister Amit Shah proposed it in the Rajya Sabha even as a notification issued by President of India was put out in the public domain.
It is precisely in anticipation of uproar in Jammu and Kashmir that heavy clampdown was imposed, with internet services switched off and several political leaders put under house arrest. More than 10000 boots on the ground were sent to the Valley in particular and tourists asked to move out. Exams were cancelled and even non-local students asked to leave the state.
In one stroke, Jammu and Kashmir has been mainstreamed.
Why is Article 370 such a contentious issue?
Because it grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir under “temporary, transitional and special provisions”. This ensures all the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. Which is why till 1965, the border state had a prime minister in place of a chief minister. The Governor was called Sadr-e-Riyasat.
Article 370 ensured that the residents of J&K lived under a separate set of laws. This included ownership of property (only permanent residents defined duly could own property). Except for foreign affairs, finance, defence and communications, Parliament needs the J&K government’s concurrence to apply other laws.
In fact, even emergency in J&K can be imposed only in the event of war. Essentially, it meant the Union of India was powerless with respect to Jammu and Kashmir in many aspects.
This has paved the way to redraw the geographical borders of the state. Ladakh will be a Union Territory while Jammu and Kashmir will be Union Territory with an Assembly.
While 370, everyone knew, was part of the BJP manifesto, this decision has taken people by surprise. Leh wanted UT status and separation from Kashmir but not Kargil. Two, it is unheard of that a state that has existed for 70 plus years has now been downgraded to a UT. Now it will be like Delhi and Puducherry where a Lt Governor can create hurdles for an elected government if the two are not in sync.
In one stroke, the Modi-Shah duo has exhausted all its big options on Kashmir. What will be the effect of this decision in Kashmir, only time will tell. It is imperative that this decision is followed by a reaching out to the people. But how will the NDA do that given the manner in which it put most political representatives under house arrest, hitting at their credibility as stakeholders.