Earlier this week, News channels of the country had a whale of the time when Narendra Modi, during his rally in J&K ,stir the hornet’s nest by reminiscing one of the RSS’ prime agenda : Article 370.Eulogy as well as Hue & cry followed instantly and media was brimming with various discourses all over.
To understand the hubbub, one needs to dive straight into the time of conception of the Article, back to 1940s and 1950s.The characters and their designations for the show are as following:
- Sheikh Abdullah : Prime Minister of Kashmir in 1948
- Hari Singh : Maharaja of Kashmir
- Gopalaswami Ayyangar : Minister without portfolio in the first Union cabinet, a former diwan to Hari Singh.
Historically, Article 370 was the brainchild of the then PM of India, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. During those times, Kashmir was the locus of the tussle between India and Pakistan. Although Sardar Patel was on the job of unifying India but unification of J&K with the union was uncannily undertaken by Nehru. And as is a fact now, he did a shoddy job.
Nehru was taken for a ride by the Sheikh and he was able to convince him that due to factors like Occupation of one third of J&K by Pakistan, reference to the UN (again a Nehru folly) and plebiscite, Kashmir must be given a special status after accession to the Union of India. Nehru let the chips fall where they may and after finalising the text of the Article, he roped in Gopalaswami Ayyangar to get it passed in the Constituent Assembly discussions.
However, Ayyangar wasted his breathe and the draft of the article was quashed and torn into pieces by the Assembly and Nehru had to eat a humble pie. Patel was abysmally kept away from the matters of Kashmir during all this fiasco. But after this incident, Nehru swallowed his pride and rang up Patel to get it passed. Despite his own scepticism and misgivings and various others, Patel agreed to support and cut the Gordian knot.
What followed next what the stormiest uproar in the Assembly. However Patel managed to convince the members of Constituent Assembly and Congress Party Executive. He pitched in that because of the international complications, a provisional approach alone could be made, leaving the final settlement to be worked out according to the exigencies of the situation at a later date, mutual feelings and confidence would have been by then created. The inclusion of word ‘Temporary’ was finalised.
On 17 October 1949, the Indian Constituent Assembly adopted Article 370 of the Constitution. However Sheikh started mincing words and dilly-dallying accession of J&K to India. He was finding the inclusion of the word ‘Temporary and Transitional Provisions’ in the text unsettling. He suspected that his autonomous rule over J&K through Article 370 might be abrogated at a later date.
He wanted an ‘iron clad guarantees of autonomy’. Suspecting that the State’s autonomy would be lost, he advocated independence from India upon which the Union of India dismissed his government and put him under preventive detention.Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed was installed in power, who then got the accession formally ratified in 1954.
However Nehru did not let the idea of Article 370 slide into coffins. And the temporary provisions were never abrogated.1974 Indira-Sheikh accord after which Sheikh again came at the helm of J&K, further reinforced the rule of Article 370 in the state.
Sinister Provisions of Article 370 : This article specifies that except for Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Communications, (matters specified in the instrument of accession) the Indian Parliament needs the State Government's concurrence for applying all other laws. Thus the Central Government can make laws only with concurrence of the State government, practically giving it the Veto power. Article 352 and 360 for declaration of national and financial emergency respectively cannot be applied in Kashmir. While a citizen of India has only Indian citizenship, J&K citizens have two citizenships. Anti Defection Law is also not applicable to J&K. No outsider can buy property in J&K state. The beneficial laws such as Wealth Tax, Gift Tax & Urban Land Ceiling Act and intermarriage with other Indian nationals do not operate in J&K State. Even Article 356 under which President of India can impose his rule in any state cannot be enforced in J&K without consent of the Governor who himself is an appointee of the President. State of J&K can refuse building of any cantonment on any site or refuse to allot land for defence purposes.
Thus J&K continues to be run autonomously by the Separatists who do not want to let go their power. Article 370 should have been abrogated long ago. However petty politics and vested interests kept the matter in cold boxes. Why should a state of Indian Union have a special status ? It conveys a wrong signal not only to Kashmiris but also to the Pakistan and indeed the international community that J&K is still to become integral part of India.
It is a welcome move that Mr. Modi didn’t let the sleeping dogs lie and is exhuming the matter. In the greater good, we hope that Article 370 is soon repealed and J&K enjoys the rights of the free India.