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Abrogation of article 370

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF KASHMIR ISSUE

BACKGROUND:           

The Kashmir dispute dates from 1947. The partition of the Indian sub-continent along religious lines led to the formation of India and Pakistan. However, there remained the problem of over 650 states, run by princes, existing within the two newly independent countries.

In theory, these princely states had the option of deciding which country to join, or of remaining independent. In practice, the restive population of each province proved decisive. The people had been fighting for freedom from British rule, and with their struggle about to bear fruit they were not willing to let the princes fill the vacuum.

Although many princes wanted to be “independent” (which would have meant hereditary monarchies and no hope for democracy) they had to succumb to their people’s protests which turned violent in many provinces.

Because of its location, Kashmir could choose to join either India or Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, was Hindu while most of his subjects were Muslim. Unable to decide which nation Kashmir should join, Hari Singh chose to remain neutral. But his hopes of remaining independent were dashed in October 1947, as Pakistan sent in Muslim tribesmen who were knocking at the gates of the capital Srinagar.

Hari Singh appealed to the Indian government for military assistance and fled to India. He signed the Instrument of Accession, ceding Kashmir to India on October 26.

INITIATION OF INDO-PAK CONFLICT:

Indian and Pakistani forces thus fought their first war over Kashmir in 1947-48. India referred the dispute to the United Nations on 1 January. In a resolution dated August 13, 1948, the UN asked Pakistan to remove its troops, after which India was also to withdraw the bulk of its forces. Once this happened, a “free and fair” plebiscite was to be held to allow the Kashmiri people to decide their future.

India, having taken the issue to the UN, was confident of winning a plebiscite, since the most influential Kashmiri mass leader, Sheikh Abdullah, was firmly on its side. An emergency government was formed on October 30, 1948 with Sheikh Abdullah as the Prime Minister. Pakistan ignored the UN mandate and continued fighting, holding on to the portion of Kashmir under its control. On January 1, 1949, a ceasefire was agreed, with 65 per cent of the territory under Indian control and the remainder with Pakistan. The ceasefire was intended to be temporary but the Line of Control remains the de facto border between the two countries.

In 1957, Kashmir was formally incorporated into the Indian Union. It was granted a special status under Article 370 of India’s constitution, which ensures, among other things, that non-Kashmiri Indians cannot buy property there.

WHAT IS ARTICLE 370?

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.

Included in the Constitution on October 17, 1949, Article 370 exempts J&K from the Indian Constitution (except Article 1 and Article 370 itself) and permits the state to draft its own Constitution. It restricts Parliament’s legislative powers in respect of J&K. For extending a central law on subjects included in the Instrument of Accession (IoA), mere “consultation” with the state government is needed. But for extending it to other matters, “concurrence” of the state government is mandatory. The IoA came into play when the Indian Independence Act, 1947 divided British India into India and Pakistan.

WHAT IS ARTICLE 35-A?

This article comes under the provisions of article 370 from the presidential order for territorial regulations. 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. While Article 35A has remained unchanged, some aspects of Article 370 have been diluted over the decades.

WHY WAS IT ABOLISHED?

The ruling BJP and its right-wing allies have challenged Article 35A which it calls discriminatory, through a series of petitions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party had long opposed Article 370 and revoking it was in the party’s 2019 election manifesto. They argued it needed to be scrapped to integrate Kashmir and put it on the same footing as the rest of India. After returning to power with a massive mandate in the April-May general elections, the government lost no time in acting on its pledge. Critics of Monday’s move are linking it to the economic slowdown that India is currently facing – they say it provides a much-needed diversion for the government.

WHAT ARE THE CHANGES?

Kashmir will no longer have a separate constitution but will have to abide by the Indian constitution much like any other state. All Indian laws will be automatically applicable to Kashmiris, and people from outside the state will be able to buy property there. The government says this will bring development to the region.

“I want to tell the people of Jammu and Kashmir what damage Articles 370 and 35A did to the state,” Mr Shah told parliament. “It’s because of these sections that democracy was never fully implemented, corruption increased in the state, that no development could take place.”

The government is also moving to break up the state into two smaller, federally administered territories. One region will combine Muslim-majority Kashmir and Hindu-majority Jammu. The other is Buddhist-majority Ladakh, which is culturally and historically close to Tibet.

CRITICSMS:

Abrogation of article 370 has generated many emotions, from celebration to anger, from euphoria to despondency, from pride to humiliation, it has seen a wide spectrum of emotions reflected through millions of conversations through social media.

Tensions between the two countries has spiked since India abrogated the article 370.  India’s decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, and it has downgraded the diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian ambassador. Many criticised the abrogation of article 370 as assault to the constitution and undemocratic.

Points to ponder post annulment of article 370

  • Valley politicians will join hands

Kashmiri politicians may not be the only channels of communication between New Delhi and the Valley, but within the Valley, they do influence opinions. On the other hand, it is also increasingly felt that the separatists do not represent the voice of the entire state. Given the widespread aversion to the BJP in the Valley, it has been difficult for New Delhi to have an open debate even with the Kashmiri society. Today’s announcement, therefore, will increase this difficulty and deepen the mistrust.

  • Radicalisation and recruitment will increase

Terrorism in Kashmir is a parasite that has survived on the killings of local Kashmiri boys. It has used every episode in its history of violence to nurture the feeling of hatred, alienation and subjugation among young Kashmiris to breed new terror recruits. From Maqbool Bhat to Afzal Guru to Burhan Wani – every fallen Kashmiri has been eulogised and projected as heroes. While there is no barometer to assess the levels of radicalisation, the figures of terrorists killed in post-Burhan Wani days in the Valley is an indication enough to understand how issues related to the Valley are exploited to further radicalisation.

  • Chance for Pakistan to internationalise Kashmir

After remaining on the backfoot for a while on the Kashmir issue, finally Islamabad has found an issue with the help of which it can internationalise the matter.

Suggestions for economic development of Kashmir

  • Elimination of terrorists.
  • Encouragement of tourism
  • Export of indigenous apples, tulips, saffron, Kashmiri chillies etc
  • Establishment of factories
  • Promotions of MSMEs
  • Creating awareness about government jobs
  • Creating SHGs
  • Investment in human capital
  • Ensuring minimum wages to daily workers
  • Encouraging FDI
  • Ensuring safe and secured business environment
  • Monitoring corruption and money laundering

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