Surgical Strike to Abrogate Article 370
by Dr. R.K. Nimai
The move for removing Article 370 in amending the Constitution to do away with the special status of Jammu & Kashmir, by a Presidential order on 5th August, 2019 was a surgical strike. There was an inkling that something big is going to happen in J&K, especially with the cancellation of Amarnath Yatra, large scale movement of security forces to J&K, etc but it was believed that it is for the repeal of Art 35A. No one ever thought that Art 370 will be abrogated. The act was a masterstroke piloted by the NSA Doval and can be regarded as a Machiavellian act. Posting of BVR Subrahmanyam, a former cadre of Manipur Tripura later shifted to Chhattisgarh as Chief Secretary in June started the move. He had earlier worked in PMO and if I remember correctly did a stint with World Bank.
The formation of the government after a fractured mandate with the PDP, the fall of the government, imposition of President Rule and keeping the House in animated suspension, appointment of SP Malik as Governor after the state was under PR since June 2018, etc have indicated that the centre is going to do something big in J&K. But no one had foreseen that Art 370 will be revoked at such a short notice. There is no doubt that there is serious trouble in the state and the last few years had seen increased cross border terrorism including some very serious ones like in Uri, Pathankot, etc which perforce the centre to take a more serious step. The talks between US and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the likely withdrawal of US troop from that country forced India to adopt a more hard line view on the state. Status quo was not giving any result and a fresh initiative was to be taken and that fell on Art 370.
The Presidential notification dated 5th August entitled The Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order 2019 (CO No. 272) issued in exercise of the powers given under Clause (1) of Art 370 superseding the Presidential Order of 1954 abrogated Art 370 and as a consequence Art 35A also. We have not seen the last in this drama as the matter will be put on test before the Supreme Court as there are many grey areas, such as the power of the President under Clause (1) of Art 370 to amend the article itself while also amending Art 367, and whether the concurrence of the Governor during PR can be construed as concurrence by the Constituent Assembly (Legislative Assembly). These will have to be decided by the Supreme Court and despite the confidence of the centre on the legality of the CO, doubts still linger.
Due to ban on internet and gagging of the media, nothing much had been heard about the reaction in the Kashmir Valley. The Kashmiris would not take this act of the centre lying down. The Centre must have carried out a detailed analysis on the pros and cons of the initiative and must have been led to believe that it is a positive step for having a law uniformly all across the country. Part XXI is transitory provisions and can be abrogated but questions will be and is being asked about Article 371A to 371J. The present step may lead to more home grown terrorist fighting the Union, with both overt and covert support from Pakistan. Pakistan will always support terrorist from Kashmir with training, fund and equipment. Once US leave Afghanistan, Taliban and Al Qaeda or their stooges will also support the insurgent with more force. J&K will never be like Northeast where the two neighbours of Bangladesh and Myanmar have comparatively good relations with India now. The bifurcation of J&K into two Union Territories of J&K with a Legislative Assembly and Ladakh without a Legislative Assembly is like putting salt in the wound. Ladakh have been demanding the UT status for a long time but all Ladakh do not support it. Kargil area opposes such move. So a complete solution even in this region is not sure. Kargil which are mainly inhabited by Shai Muslims and the Leh region dominated by Buddhists can never see eye to eye and the acts of the Buddhist Myanmarese against the Muslim Rohingyas will always be fresh in their mind. J&K is the biggest loser, from being a full-fledged state it was pruned down and made into an UT with a legislative assembly. This is necessary that if a full-fledged state was continued, the Legislative Assembly will pass resolutions against the Act and can claim that the CO is not applicable in J&K. This is a big let down and when the Constitutional amendment for it was moved, even AAP which is demanding full-fledged statehood for NCR of Delhi voted in favour of the Bill which shows the double tongue of politicians. Now they have forfeited their right to demand full statehood.
Many people are talking about the return of the Kashmiri Pandits, who migrated in the nineties when the terrorist made serious threat on their life. However, it was not only the threat that moved them out from Kashmir valley but from strong encouragement from the then Governor Jagmohon, a BJP man, who believed that with the Pandits out, the army will have a free run to neutralise the terrorists; which unfortunately never came and the Pandits became an internally displaced group of people with many eking out a living in and around the national capital; though some were quite successful. The situation in the valley will be such that only a fool will return in such a highly charged atmosphere. Thus despite all the tamasha, for the Pandits, they will not get the share of the cake in the near future. The allegations of leaders in J&K being corrupt sound hollow in that they were partners in crime with work not executed and funds looted; they should have checked at that time. It is not confined to that state but is a national phenomenon.
What are the lessons for the north east? The present government is hell bent on fulfilling their manifesto and to bring in what they call Akhand Bharat and make India into a Hindu state; perhaps may be not legally but for all practical purposes. The abrogation of Art 370 and 35A will lead to allowing non residents to purchase land there that will lead to large scale migration once peace prevails, which will cause another round of conflict. This runs contra to the demand in NER to protect the indigenous people. The paramount object of the indigenous people of NER is their survival in their own land, but for the centre, they prefer to dominate them with mainland Indians so that any protest then is muted as we have seen in Tripura. CM of Manipur was one of the first to compliment on the steps taken by the Centre on J&K which indicate his lack of understanding the implications and the politics behind it. This further point to his lack of understanding of the complex issues prevailing in Manipur like ILP movement, ST demand, 6th Schedule demand, etc which unfortunately are the consequences of the takeover of Manipur by India in 1949.
The recent steps taken up by the Centre led many in the periphery to think that India never keeps their word. On any opportunity to their advantage, they can back stab you is a belief in these areas. Many of the states in the periphery was reluctant to join the Dominion of India but was forced to do so due to geopolitical consideration and none of the promises made then and even now were fulfilled. The SE Asian countries also do not have a good opinion which is also a fall out of history as many countries in that region believe that Indians are mercenary as they guarded many countries after WWII waiting for the former colonists to return and stake the claim of their former colony. This is despite the fact that many countries were demanding independence just after the war. The credibility of the words of the Indian leaders is lost. Many mainland Indians are crying hoarse about discrimination and pandering to the minorities but that such transitory provisions in the constitution was inserted due to peculiar reasons prevailing and most of the peripheral regions were averse to joining the Dominion of India and the latter have to cajole, threaten or even bribe native states to join them. Indira Gandhi started with the abolition of privy-purse and privileges and the final nail was put on the coffin by the present action. Yes these are transitory provisions and one day must have to go; but rather than through a unilateral move, it would have been better if bilateral steps was taken in a more democratic and inclusive approach so that misgivings is minimised.
In conclusion, it can be said that C.O. 272 was a brilliant step to abrogate Art 370 and by default Art 35A also, but we have not heard the last on this matter and the Supreme Court may be the final arbiter. This may be the start of an Akhand Bharat or be the first step towards balkanisation of the nation, especially with the series of step already taken which hurts the federal structure of the country. Such acts alienate people in the periphery more, who joined the Union in the belief that their interest will be protected after hearing the sweet words of the leaders then. Forcing down things in one’s throat in any case cannot last long and the country may be faced with a dilemma. India is already faced with economic issues, the industrial growth is stagnating, the value of rupee is sliding at above Rs 70/-, monsoon is very erratic causing drought and flood at the same time is different regions, etc and such act beside sidestepping from the economic downturn lead nearer to the Uniform Civil Code.
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