Article 370 is Dead

They are debating over a dead issue–Article 370. Goneis the legacy of Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru. The Article that has been a point of controversy in Indian politics ever since its inception is no longer a headache for the Delhi rulers–present and future. The so-called autonomy is now history. In truth the 1954 addition of Article 35A empowering State Law makers to grant special rights and privileges to permanent residents is the real bone of contention. While giving the verdict unanimously upholding the scrapping of Article 370, the top court didn’t dwell on the question of whether the bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir is permissible under Article 3 of the Constitution.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal who was a counsel for petitioners challenging the abrogation of the special status of J&K posted a cryptic message on his social media account. Mr Sibal, representing the petitioners argued that Article 370 had assumed permanence after dissolution of the Constituent Assembly of J&K, and therefore, the Parliament did not have the authority to declare itself as the legislature of J&K for the purpose of abrogating Article 370. How could it be a temporary measure when it was used 50 times in the last 70 years? The court didn’t discuss it.

The apex court, however, maintained that Article 370 was a temporary arrangement as J&K lost its internal sovereignty through the Instrument of accession of 1947. In reality the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] has legalised a de facto arrangement into a regular one. And the saffron brigade is hoping, not against hope to get enormous dividends in the coming Lok Sabha polls in 2024.

Quite expectedly, people in Jammu region celebrated the judgement but the mood in the valley of death was opposite as the people marked their disapproval through silence. It may be interpreted as a silent protest. As for mainstream parties of J&K they were totally disappointed and expressed their desire to continue struggle. These regional parliamentary outfits are more concerned about restoration of statehood and early elections. Without parliamentary privileges they are more like political orphans. They are not at all serious about limited autonomy.

Congress, the main opposition party in Parliament, is diabolical in its approach to the Kashmir question. The grand old party expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court’s reluctance to decide on the dismemberment of Jammu and Kashmir but they actually disagreed with the judgement on how Article 370 was abrogated. They are not against abrogation; they have raised the way it has been abrogated, implying that they were not consulted before abolition of the contentious Article. The party never intended to restore Article 370 to the Constitution. What they failed to do in 70 years, Modi did it within a few years earning ‘secret applause’ from some leading members of the party. Many young Congress leaders openly supported Modi’s move to integrate Kashmir fully with Indian union.

Unlike August 5, 2019, when the announcement of abrogation of Article 370 led to strikes and clampdowns that lasted for months in Kashmir, this time the people didn’t react in that way. They didn’t expect a favourable verdict either and life in the valley was business as usual. Union Home Minister’s insistence that abrogation of Article 370 has improved law and order situation as the militancy in Kashmir is on the decline is anything but baseless as the ground reality tells a different story. Martyrdom of Jawans is a regular phenomenon.

The Pandits of Kashmir never liked Article 370 though they are the major beneficiaries of permanent resident clause. They have cornered most government jobs because of their permanent status. If they are out of the valley today it is because they could not resist the communal militancy of the jihadists---ordinary Kashmiris don’t support the militants---despite the huge presence of Indian Security Forces.

Meanwhile, international reaction to the verdict was on expected lines as the General Secretariat of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation [OIC] criticised the judgement and India routinely rejected the OIC statement dubbing it foreign-inspired alluding to Pakistan. This OIC is more like a paper tiger today; with diverse elements having no unified agenda even to extend solidarity to the hapless Palestinians who are now facing the second catastrophe because of Israel’s relentless bombing campaign in Gaza.


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Vol 56, No. 27, Dec 31 2023 - Jan 6, 2024