Defying the shouts of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP has ensured that August 5, 2019, will be ‘remembered’ as a new ‘independence day’ for India, as at long last the archaic and discriminatory Article 370 – granting special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir – was repealed through a government order. With the repeal of Article 370, Article 35A, the act which forbids non-Kashmiris from owning or buying property in Jammu and Kashmir, now also stands repealed.
Such a move must be celebrated as it ensures that at long last Kashmiris can join the rest of India in enjoying the fruits of globalisation as MNCs can now move in to provide much needed investment and jobs in the state. On the personal front, Kashmiri women too have reason to rejoice as the Act – which in a misguided attempt to keep Kashmir, Kashmiri – indulged in gender discrimination by forbidding them to inherit property in the state if they married a non-Kashmiri. The empowerment of women which has been at the crux of the Modi government’s reforms – as was seen in the passing of the Triple Talaq Bill last week – is something to be lauded.
There are those who argue that Article 370 is necessary as it was the basis on which Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to join the union of India in 1947. Such an argument fails to mention that this article was considered a ‘temporary provision’ and the state was eventually meant to be integrated into the rest of India, a wish that now seems to have been fulfilled by Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
The other point of objection is that the only way to repeal Article 370 would be by the President through a notification but not without the concurrence of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. What one needs to remember here is that the Constituent Assembly of the state disbanded in 1956, almost all of its members are presumably dead, and most importantly, before dissolution, neither did the Constituent Assembly recommend abolishing Article 370, nor did they advocate for it to be permanent.
In such a scenario it is incumbent for the Centre to act as it sees fit and given the worsening law and order situation in the state, as seen by the Pulwama attack, it is only reasonable for the Centre to exercise more power over Jammu and Kashmir through making it a Union Territory and ensuring the laws of India prevail over it.
Coming to Article 35A, the repeal of this Act will be a welcome relief to communities such as the Valmikis (Dalits) who despite living in the state for decades were unable to obtain PRC – Permanent Residence Certificates which is crucial to obtaining government jobs, state benefits, voting rights, participating in Panchayat and assembly elections among other rights. The discrimination faced by the Valmikis and other communities such as the Gorkhas and West Paskistan refugees for over six decades will now end by this measure. This is something that needs to be celebrated as today every community can now truly say they enjoy equal rights under the Indian Constitution.
Jammu and Kashmir has done phenomenally well when it comes to the economy. A growth rate of nearly 7 per cent last year, a greater number of schools per household, and improvement in health and connectivity is something that not just Kashmiris but all of India must take pride in. But the state must not forget the Centre’s role in this.
Studies show that from 2000-2016 10 per cent of all Central funds were spent on a state which has barely 1 per cent of the population of India. With this in mind, it is but natural to want the state’s economy – which will now be opened up to MNCs to further growth and development – to not just benefit people from the state but Indians all across the country. In this regard, Article 370 and Article 35A were an impediment but now it seems that will no longer be the case.