With the bold decision of bringing out a presidential order for repeal of article 370 Prime Minister Narendra Modi ably assisted by Home Minister Amit Shah has raised the bar of governance. The master stroke which is a game changer will predictably pave way for integration of the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir. Paying a befitting tribute to the founder of the Jan Sangh Dr Syama Prasad Mukherjee who sacrificed his life for the state, the duo has left no stone unturned to bring a semblance of normalcy to the state. Kashmir, home to the Sarada Peeth, the veritable seat of learning is integral to Indian identity. By demolishing the formidable constitutional obstacles, the leadership have resurrected the civilizational identity of India.
Though the instruments of accession have been the same for the princely states of India, a narrative was created whereby Article 370 was considered as inevitable link between the state and Union of India. By subsequently elevating the status of the article to a stature of indispensability the political leaders of J &K successfully made it a touchy issue. Any attempt to amend the article was interpreted as an assault on identity on Kashmir. To be political right, parties have refrained from amending Article 370 which is transitory and temporary.
Kashmir which shares boundaries with two enemy countries is strategically crucial for the sovereignty of India and any error in judgement or an oversight in assessing the security can have grievous consequences for the country. Being a Muslim majority state, political parties desisted from amending the article 370 which posed impediments in mainstreaming the state with the rest of the country. Neither successive leaderships nor political parties ever showed the guts to question the status quo which over past seven decades pushed J &K into a state of decadence. Instead of empowering the state, by restricting investments and stalling the percolation of developmental measures article 370 strangulated the economy. Even after seven decades of special status the state lagged in all developmental parameters and is currently the largest recipient of government’s aid.
Over the decades, political elites of the state stoking the fire of self-determination pocketed funds, deprived the government of much needed finances and allowed the insurrection to thrive. The agenda of abrogation of article 370 has been one of the core electoral promises of BJP. Having cogent plans for mainstreaming of Kashmir and bringing it on par with other states, BJP despite being labelled as opportunist joined hands with ideologically incompatible PDP to enter the realms of power in the state. While it ended on a bitter note as expected, the party hasn’t given up on its commitment of doing away with Article 370 and Article 35 A.
Just 75 days into the second term, Modi government which has absolute majority having successfully passed 28 bills and rejoicing the tag of exceptional productivity in the parliament has silently prepared ground for abrogation of article 370. It has made the right moves and made best out of Pakistan’s hubris which is riding on the wave of the diplomatic coup post Imran Khan’s visit to the US and Trump’s mendacious outbursts on Kashmir mediation. After bluffing President Trump of taking stringent action against terrorist outfits and the namesake arrest of terror master mind Hafiz Saeed, Pakistan earned back the military assistance worth $125 million from Trump who is obsessed with extrication of troops from Afghanistan. America which needs Pakistan’s help in bringing Taliban to table for peace negotiations have turned a blind eye to its terror activities.
Islamabad for the fear of FATF sanctions has temporarily shutdown terror camps in PoK region. But America’s military assistance has emboldened them. Back to their old tricks of trade, Pakistan reactivated its terror modules in PoK after Khan’s successful visit to the US on July 22nd. Since then relentless cross border firing and numerous cease violations became a norm. Exalted Pakistan began targeting civilians.
In the past two weeks, Indian security forces neutralised several terrorists including top JeM commander Munna Lahori and his associate who mastered minded car blasts. Keen on extracting revenge for his killing and with independence drawing closer, ISI has reportedly readied groups of suicidal attacks to carry out fidayeen attacks in the valley. Alerted by intelligence reports, India has revved up security. During their regular checks found Pakistani landmines and an American sniper along the Amarnath yatra trek. With immediate effect government cancelled yatra, stationed extra 28,000 troops in the valley and carried out two cross border raids 30km deep into PoK annihilating Neelum-Jhelum terror camps.
Contesting the grounds for deploying unusually higher number of troops, the Congress ecosystem and mainstream Kashmir political parties lashed out at government’s so-called fascist move. Undeterred by these anti-India rants, preparing ground for larger integration government introduced a Jammu Kashmir reservation (amendment) bill in the parliament and passed it in Lok Sabha on Friday. Panicked by quick paced events, Kashmiri politicians met on Saturday and upped tirade against government of India. As a final move, government in anticipation of domestic backlash kept prominent politicians Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah and Sajad Lone under house arrest.
With Parliament in session, the Cabinet Security met at 9:30am and made the final move towards integration of Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, Home Minister Amit Shah announced about Presidential Order for the abrogation of Article 370 in Rajya Sabha. Instinctively, government has adopted the same route of Presidential Order to nullify the 1954 order issued by then President Dr Rajendra Prasad. With this audacious decision, BJP struck at the roots of the very legal provisions that ignited terrorism, jihadism, separatism and augmented alienation in Kashmir valley. While celebrations erupted across the country welcoming government’s decision Congress led opposition parties condemned this move. Meanwhile while legal debates about the prospect of contesting this move through Supreme Court are contemplated. Enthused by the support from political parties (Shiv Sena, Akali Dal, AAP, TRS, YRCP, AIDMK, BJD and TDP) of diverse hue, government has put the bill for voting. At the time of writing, Rajya Sabha has passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill with a huge majority of 125 versus 61 votes. It zoomed through the Lok Sabha as well today.
Under the provisions of the bill, Jammu and Kashmir will be bifurcated into the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Jammu &Kashmir union territory with a legislative assembly will work along the lines of the article 239 followed in Puducherry and the Union Territory of Ladakh will be without legislature. The onerous task of law and order, land will be under the control of central government. Civilian administration and governance will be under the ambit of the elected representatives of J&K. With bifurcation now a done deal, delimitation of J&K is on cards. Delimitation commission will now redraw the constituency maps for assembly and parliamentary elections. This will ensure equitable representation from both Jammu and Kashmir regions. So far, Jammu despite being highly populated was poorly representation. This process will correct the historical aberration of under representation of Jammu region and long pending Ladakh’s request of delinking from J&K.
By abrogating article 370 Modi government has hit bulls’ eye. Firstly, the timing of the decision has been perfect. By toeing Pakistan’s line and effectively undermining the popular national sentiments, Congress has blown up its fortunes as a party which values national interests. The party which is now licking its electoral wounds and leadership crisis has eventually plotted its own decimation with its inimical approach towards J&K in the Parliament. Secondly, millions of Indians and especially Kashmiri Pandits have been waiting for this momentous occasion with bated breaths. By legally invalidating the two gruesome articles, BJP has earned the support of these people for a lifetime. Thirdly, geopolitically India is on a slippery slope. Trump with his untenable South Asia policy and incongruent approach of evacuating from Afghanistan has indirectly made Pakistan an indispensable actor in the peace process. GHQ Rawalpindi keen on grabbing this opportunity is planning to relocate the Afghan Taliban to Kashmir for carrying out their anti-India agenda. Unlike in the past, the central government which will have complete control over the internal and border security of the region. Through seamless coordination of various forces, India can effectively curb infiltration across the borders. Fourthly, till now Pakistan has been justifying intervention in Kashmir claiming to be a stakeholder in the disputed territory. By attributing the special status to Kashmir as incomplete accession, it has defended its position at various forums. Any attempt to further drag Kashmir at international forum will be deemed as interference in the internal affairs of India.
Fifthly, no sooner government introduced bill for J&K reorganisation, India briefed diplomatic envoys that proposals of bill are internal to India aimed at providing social justice, economic development and good governance. Any attempt by Pakistan to foment terror will be considered as an attempt to balkanise India. Sixthly, with law and order and security under the control of central Indian government, jihadi menace can be swiftly curbed. Seventhly, with special status gone, the sham self-determination propaganda of separatists will hardly receive any international support. For long, separatists denigrated India, insulted Indian symbols and stoked anti-Indian passions with free will. Hence forth any attempt to insinuate violence against state will be tantamount to treason. Further, farce claims of tukde-tukde gang of alleged state excesses will hold no water.
With indomitable will and unflinching commitment Modi and Shah laid a path for mainstreaming J &K. The road ahead is challenging and needless to say, might be replete with bloodshed. But a beginning has been made. Now it is time to assuage concerns of Kashmiris to bring them into the regular fold.