Author : Kanak Nigam, Student at O P Jindal Global University
“Kashmir has always been more than a mere place. It has the quality of an experience, or a state of mind, or perhaps an ideal.” (Morris, 1985). These words were spoken by Jan Morris about one of the most beautiful places in the world- Kashmir. The lush greenery, the exotic culture, the rich heritage is what make Kashmir as beautiful as the infinite poetries define it. “A valley between the Great Himalayan range and the Pir Panjal mountain range, Kashmir is a place of beautiful simplicity and pristine natural beauty. Kashmir is painted with a unique culture that keeps you intrigued throughout your journey, from Srinagar to Sonamarg and Gulmarg till Pahalgam.” (Anon., n.d.). However, it is distressing that this alluring work of nature is not known for the mystic feel it provides, instead when one hears Kashmir, the cries of the politically and socially suppressed in that region can be heard. Even when one does web-search for “Kashmir”, a ton of articles present themselves, all talking about the ‘issues’ in Kashmir. This land of exotic beauty, is captured through search engines as the area under dispute and is reflected as a cause of conflict for India with her neighbors – Pakistan and China.
HISTORY AND POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE
“The Kashmir region in its contemporary form, dates from 1846 when by the treaties of Lahore and Amritsar at the conclusion of the First Sikh War, Raja Gulab Singh, the Dogra ruler of Jammu, was crowned Maharaja (ruling prince) of an extensive but somewhat ill-defined Himalayan kingdom ‘to the eastward of the River Indus and westward of the River Ravi.’ ” (Kashyapamar, 2019). Further, the land was vaguely divided into three fragments after the British left the Indian subcontinent, partitioning the nation into a Muslim dominated Pakistan and a Hindu dominated India. Kashmir was divided into – a part under Pakistan (Pakistan occupied Kashmir-POK) or Azad Kashmir, China governed Kashmir or Askai Chin and Jammu & Kashmir that is part of India. There was another part of this beautiful land, Ladakh which remained undisputedly a part of the Indian territory.
During the turmoil that emerged in the nation due to the unravelling of the decision about the partition of the country, the states were required to choose between the newly formed nations to be a part of. Kashmir and the seven sisters of the northeast were among the last ones to make this decision with regard to their nationality and hence face the consequences till date. Hari Singh, the then ruler of Kashmir, believed that if he delayed his decision, the probability of Kashmir emerging as an independent state would be greater. Instead, the land faced various violent infiltrations by the newborn Pakistan. Subsequently, Hari Singh signed an instrument of accession in order to gain protection against the frequent violent attacks, as advised by Lord Mountbatten, the then governor of India, to accede to India. This step declared Pakistan as unauthorized infiltrators into the Indian subcontinent. However, Pakistan made it clear that they were not abiding by the Instrument of Accession by initiating the first war with India in October later that year (1947) which lasted for over a year.
Due to the further deteriorating condition of the already ruined relations between the two nations over the accession of Kashmir, the interference of the United Nations was inevitable when it recommended a plebiscite to acknowledge the desire of the natives of the state as to whether they wanted to be a part of India or Pakistan or emerge as an independent nation. While India was always in favor of plebiscite to resolve all issues related to the territorial disputes including settling the Kashmir situation in 1947. “In spite of the agreement on this mode between the two nations and plethora of statements reaffirming the same, the plebiscite exercise could not be undertaken with sincerity” (Sharma, 2003). Subsequently, in the year 1949, an agreement on establishing a ceasefire line was signed by India and Pakistan according to UN advisory. This officially divided the state into Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) or Azad Kashmir and India Administered Kashmir, more practically and popularly known as Jammu & Kashmir.
In 1949, Hari Singh appointed Sheikh Abdullah, the founder of state political party, National Conference, as the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, who in turn joined the Indian Constituent Assembly to negotiate a special status for the state. This is how Article 370 was born and underlined Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy within India. “Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet. The Article 35A was incorporated based on the 1952 Delhi Agreement entered between then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah. The agreement extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.” (Today, 2020) Interestingly, it carried quite a few provisions enacted by Raja Hari Singh in 1927 including owning up of immovable property in Kashmir to be limited to only permanent residents of Kashmir. “Article 35(A) empowers the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature to decide who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the State and confer on them special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare.” (Today, 2020) “One of the few initial decisions that Sheikh Abdullah got done was to abolish hereditary monarchy and re-designate himself as Sadar-e-Riyasat who was to be elected by the Assembly. By 1953, however, the relationship between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the state government led by Sheikh Abdullah turned sour, leading to Mr. Abdullah’s dismissal and arrest.” (Taneja, 2019) . On the other side of border, even after the official and clarified accession of Kashmir by the Hindu dominant India back in 1949, Pakistan was adamant on interfering in the state citing their self-acclaimed belief that the Muslim majority in Kashmir belongs to Pakistan and has no place in India. This belief led to yet another war between the two nations when Pakistan attacked the Indian border in the year 1971. This was concluded within a year with the defeat of the attacker and eventually resulted in the Shimla agreement. This agreement laid down the basis of the future that the neighbors shared. The ceasefire line henceforth became the ‘line of control’, the boundaries were solidified, and the nations agreed to resolve their disputes aiming to walk towards a peaceful future. However, it did not last very long.
With the intent of peace and harmony in the Kashmir region, an accord between Indian former prime minister, Smt Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah was signed in the year 1974 that made latter the Chief Minister of the state after estranging from the mainstream politics for years. In spite of incessant efforts in and out of Kashmir, the following years did not necessarily seem any better for Kashmir or the people of Kashmir perhaps reflecting gap between intent and will. The situation continued to be far from being civil and peaceful pertaining to the frequent escalations in violence including Kargil war in 1999 which again proved Indian superiority over its neighbor on all counts of strategy, diplomacy and warfare.
In parallel and effected with cross border dispute, were incidents of violence and unrest within Kashmir continued unabated. Political analysts, then and now, significantly and surely feel Article 370 as the crux of the prevailing distrust and lack of oneness. Historians too reflect the inclusion of article 370 into the Indian Constitution was the big step taken by the Indian government towards acknowledging, if not resolving, the Kashmir issue. Nevertheless, the bigger step towards acknowledging the issues being faced by the Kashmiris would undoubtedly be the very recent revocation of the said article.
The most significant aspect of Article 370 was the provision that any changes could be brought about in it only by the concurrence of J&K assembly, including its accession into the Indian territory. The stringency and flexibility built in the article was not a sound mix – violence and protests have been routine phenomenon in the state causing humongous challenges for the citizens to follow a normal life over many years. The state witnessed continued conflicted priorities on Human Rights, Human Lives and Livelihood owing to uncertainties and inconsistencies in political will and actions. In order to relieve Jammu and Kashmir of this everlasting state of war and struggle, the Indian Parliament, post detailed debates, discussions and deliberations, took the very bold and brave step on 5th of August 2019 – revocation of the famed article 370 from the Indian Constitution.
“If we look back, Nehru’s promise that Article 370 was a temporary provision and will get eroded over a period of time had turned out to be a chimera. Further, the accession of J&K State into Indian Union was approved by J&K assembly only in 1956 itself.” (Thapliyal, 2019), Hence, interestingly the revocation of article 370 was decided even before its imposition. However, revocation by the Indian parliament on the 5th of August 2019, signified historic moment with huge reactions for and against the decision across World in general and J&K region in particular.
Article 370, entailed to provide a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir given its controversial history, was meant to be revoked before it was even a part of the Constitution. It was believed that providing a special status to one of the states of the nation will only lead to its further dissociation from the union. This belief had a huge support from the citizens of the country back then. However, when this was acted upon by our government, led by Shri Narendra Modi in 2019, certain part of country and section of Kashmiris seemed to be against it. Yet, witnessing the situation in the state worsening day by day, the central government stood by its decision. The revoking of the article made Kashmir just like any other state of India. It no longer functioned according to ‘Ranbir’, the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, and had direct implementation of the Indian Constitution. 5th August 2019 thus became the Red-letter day in the history of modern Jammu & Kashmir.
According to the article, except for defense, foreign affairs, finance and communications, Parliament needed the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws. Thus, the state’s residents lived under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians. As a result of this provision, Indian citizens from other states could not purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir. This has major impact on one side not allowing free flow mixing of citizens of country with those in Kashmir and on the other side discouraged business investments from outside the land. The Union Government was constrained in taking decisions aligned with National policy. “They could not even declare emergency on grounds of internal disturbance or imminent danger unless it was made at the request or with the concurrence of the state government.” (Anon., 2019). Article 370 states that the only two articles of the Indian Constitution that were binding on Kashmir were article 1 and 370 itself. Article 1 deals with the identification of a ‘state’ of India. Hence, Jammu & Kashmir were tied to the Indian union as a state through article 370. This implied that revocation of it would render it to not be a state of India. Therefore, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh as a consequence of the historic decision.
Abrogation of Article 370 comes with the motive of integrating the state of Jammu & Kashmir into Indian mainstream. The inevitability of this action had been known to the citizens, but its implications were not something they had gotten a chance to ponder over. Hence, the sudden onset of a new journey in the life of the Kashmiris left them a bit confused as to whether it is a benefit or not. Sure, the ‘special’ status has been removed but the term ‘special’ does not necessarily always imply positivity. This status to Jammu and Kashmir catalyzed many unprecedented and unjust situations that arose within the state. Since this unfairness was something these people had been living with throughout the decades, a slight deviation from it seemed like a ploy particular to certain section of the society. The main reason behind the disapproval of the revocation has been the nature of the government undertaking the action. Narendra Modi led BJP has a reputation of promoting ‘Hindutva’ in the nation. Hence, if a government that is with perceived religious bias towards Hindus, undertakes any action that has to deal with the only Muslim dominated state in the country, questions are bound to raise. However, people must look beyond this and understand the implications that await the life of the Kashmiris.
The revocation denotes that the Kashmiris and the rest of the citizens of India remain equal in all aspects. The cruelty faced by them throughout the years can now be fought against by the various remedies in the Indian constitution. The benefits of the various government initiatives and provisions that the Kashmiris had been deprived off, can now be availed. The citizens have access to the Right to Information and hence cannot be prone to deception though the above was also provisioned in the erstwhile Ranbir, constitution of Jammu & Kashmir. Pertaining to the criminalization of instant triple talaq, which was a prevalent practice in the state, the women would be highly benefitted. The minorities of Jammu and Kashmir can get the benefit of the reservations in education and commercial institutions across the country. The retraction of the numerous restrictions in the state will have a direct bearing on the development of Jammu and Kashmir. One of the major drivers to the development would unequivocally be the relaxation of trade and land deals. The new state of affairs would do away with the earlier restrictions on transfer of land and hence will now lead to growth and employment along with private investments in education, health, and tourism. The opening up of opportunities towards establishment of factories and manufacturing units would have positive impact on overall eco-system. The natives of Kashmir will thus gain by the increase in real estate value that was stagnant over generations. “With the restrictions removed, the tourism potential of the state will be fully realized with investment in tourist infrastructure and hotels that will create more jobs. It touted and welcome film shootings, adventure and religious tourism which will also benefit the rural economy. The government said higher education has witnessed a boom across the country but not in J&K as the state does not have a single private university and students are forced to go to other parts of India. The children can now avail the quality education and finally get edified without any discrimination or any other unjust practice that denied them the right before. Similarly, there are no large private hospitals in the state and patients have to travel to Delhi and Mumbai for advanced treatments. But now private investment would bring quality health care to the state that will create jobs and growth and make J&K a medical tourism hub.” (Sinha, 2019). The concept of dual citizenship ceases to exist rendering all the Kashmiris to be known as Indians and instilling the sense of oneness both in terms of rights and upliftment.
“India made emphatic statement of this decision of revoking Article 370 is a highly ‘internal’ matter to its sovereign and that the particular situation is not up for discussion at any International platform. In alignment to India’s growing global stature, prominent countries have acknowledged the abrogation. With the exception of Pakistan and China, major countries in the world backed the Indian move that aims to integrate Kashmir more closely with the rest of the country.” (Roche, 2019) (Roche, 2019). Given the political differences and various seemingly unresolvable disputes between India and her neighbors, their disagreement with one of the most controversial decisions taken by the Indian government was foreseeable. At the end of the day, what matters is whether or not the citizens of the country are on board with the decisions of the government since they are the ones to be benefitted from. Democracy always calls for differences in views and drive varied opinions on the decisions by the Government but interest of the majority of demography remains paramount.
We, as a society, must use poise to quantitatively analyze decisions, like these, without drawing consideration of seemingly irrelevant factors. It is no secret that our society has always been intolerant and sensitive to the religious issues, and hence, when we view the whole revocation of article 370 subjectively along with the fact that a Hindu-promoting political party is at the driving seat of this decision, our perspective gets clouded but important is to wipe that off to clarity. However, we must view this objectively from a longer-term perspective and note the various benefits that accompany this inevitable and major pronouncement. One cannot deny the fact that the ‘special’ status of Kashmir did more disfavors to it than we give it credit for. Therefore, abrogation of article 370 from the Indian constitution is a straight ladder towards development and hopefully peace, which the state of Jammu and Kashmir was recoiled from all these years.
Revocation of Article 370 is surely a gainful milestone wherein a three-digit code unleashes the huge possibilities and opportunities for the people of Kashmir … this is the time when Kashmir, which has been the political doll for many years, dances to the music of peace and harmony!
- Morris, J., 1985. Among the cities.
- Kashyapamar, 2019. Kashmir. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
- Taneja, R., 2019. How Jammu And Kashmir Got Special Status. A Look At History.
- Thapliyal, M. G. S., 2019. Article 370 : the untold story. Indian Defence Review.
- Sinha, S., 2019. More jobs, growth in tourism: J&K govt on benefits of abrogation of Art 370. India Today.
- Roche, E., 2019. Article 370: Most countries back Indian government’s move. Live Mint.
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- Sharma, B. L., 2003. The Kashmir Story. l.:s.n.
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