We have seen an outpour of emotions and arguments from all quarters since article 370 of the Indian constitution was amended on 5 Aug 2019. An overwhelming number of Indian citizens welcomed this as a historic decision aimed towards ending the status quo in Jammu & Kashmir. Since independence, J&K has been the most volatile region in the Indian subcontinent with India and Pakistan both staking their claims and both the countries controlling some part of the region.
Pakistan is leaving no stone unturned to paint the recent developments in J&K as genocidal and subverting people’s democratic rights. It is on an all-out media offensive with its entire propaganda machinery working to malign India and its democratic credentials.
A few people mainly related to Indian media industry have also raised their concerns over India’ move towards article 370 as an unconstitutional and undemocratic act by the BJP government. Let’s try to examine the merits of this argument and if the Government of India is really being undemocratic.
Among all the systems used for governing a state, democracy is widely considered the aptest. Though none of the governance models known today can be termed as flawless looking at how they have served people around the globe, still democracy is among the lesser evils or the most preferred.
India decided to opt for a representative form of democracy after it drafted the biggest written constitution known to the humankind. Citizens of India elect their leaders at various levels and the elected in turn form the governments with the duty to govern and make laws at various levels as representatives of the people. This system has a lot of checks and balances to prevent misuse of power. Also, the Indian constitution is arguably the most liberal document of its kind.
Article 370 has been a point of contention since its inception with Dr B R Amedkar, the chairman of the constitution drafting committee refusing to endorse it. Dr Ambedkar famously replied to Sheikh Abdulla, a Kashmiri leader: “You wish India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you food grains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India. But the Government of India should have only limited powers and Indian people should have no rights in Kashmir. To give consent to this proposal, would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do it.” It is another story that article 370 was still adopted due to insistence from PM Nehru at the behest of Sheikh Abdullah without following the due constitutional process. Article 370 was termed as “temporary and transient” before being adopted which makes it anything but writing etched in stone, it means this article sooner or later had to go.
Article 370 basically accepted Jammu & Kashmir as akin to an alien entity within Republic of India, where Indian parliament had no jurisdiction to make laws and the state enjoyed a distinction of a virtually independent state within India. The rights given to minorities and women given by the constitution didn’t apply in J&K and no person outside was allowed to call J&K their home citing arbitrary citizenship rules. Thousands of scheduled caste Valmiki workers were constitutionally confined to only performing sweeping jobs because if they wish to do anything else, they would not remain residents of J&K.
According to many legal eagles, abrogation of Article 370 required only a presidential order. However, the present government has not only secured a presidential order but a cabinet approval, 2/3 votes in Rajya Sabha and more than 3/4 votes in Lok Sabha. To the people casting aspersions on the process, if this is not a constitutional process of making/amending laws than what is?
There is no other way prescribed in the constitution or any associated law for amendment in the constitution. So the question is why is it being termed as unconstitutional and undemocratic. It would not be unfair to say that people who call it such, either have little understanding of the law or are bigoted. Such individuals also seem to have no affection towards maintaining the territorial integrity of the Republic of India. J&K has unparalleled historic, military and strategic importance for India and we have rightly decided to fully integrate it and people who are trying to oppose this move seem to be the real perpetrators against democracy and the constitutional values.
Also, the people suggesting that this is BJP government’s sudden and arbitrary move can’t be any farther from the truth. This is anything but sudden, this is an unrelenting agenda of BJP even before it was founded in 1980. Abrogation of Article 370 is a core agenda since the foundation of Jan Sangh, the parent organization to BJP. If an agenda which is forewarned since decades can be called sudden than I can call myself a stillborn. The thing that opposition can’t stomach is them being outsmarted and an assumption that this will remain a perpetual poll promise and never a reality. Also, BJP secured a huge victory in 2019 with the abrogation of 370 as its main poll promise so people’s blessings are already with this decision. If this is not democratic and constitutional then it’s a wonder what is!