Article 370? Re-evaluation Necessary?
Intro: Because the law is an impediment for social and economic integration of Kashmir, not only with the rest of India, but with the world, as Modi government comes to power, the debate on Article 370 starts once again?
Frustrated by the recent electoral defeat resulting in total rout of National Conference(NC)- Congress coalition in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is attempting to make a mountain of molehill. Twisting the statement of minister of state (MoS) Prime Minister’s (PMO) office Jitendra Singh urging a debate on controversial Article 370 of Indian Constitution, Omar once again issued a provocative statement in an attempt to revive his political fortunes in ensuing state Assembly election, scheduled to be held by the end of the year. The CM said the move to re-open the issue of Article 370 would amount to re-opening the issue of the state”s accession with the union.
Omar sparked a row by saying on Twitter that “Either Article 370 will exist, or J&K won”t be a part of India”.
Replying to Omar, Rahul Pandita Associate Editor, the Hindu & the Author of Our Moon Has Blood Clots tweeted, “Mark my words, and archive this tweet: long after Kashmiris say “Abdullah who?” Kashmir will still be a part of India.
Jitendra Singh on May 27 declared that the new government has started the process for repealing Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian republic, saying it will take a “structured view” on the contentious issue.
He further added that BJP has been pushing for scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution, which grants special status to J&K but in its election manifesto the party talked about discussing the issue of abrogation with all stakeholders. On this Abdullah reacted very sharply asserting that either Article 370 will stay or Kashmir would cease to be a part of the country.
RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav aptly accused Omar Abdullah of making a mountain out of a molehill and building up unnecessary controversy over the recent comment by Jitendra Singh. He tweeted while giving a krara thapad to Omar that he might have thought the state was his “parental estate”. “J&K won”t be part of India? Is Omar thinking it”s his parental estate? 370 or no 370 J&K has been and will always b an integral part of India,”
The net effect is that the debate on Article 370 is back with a bang. Whether anybody likes or dislikes it; is in favour or against it; no one is in a position to ignore this debate on 370 anymore.
For the first time the discussion is moving towards a middle ground. Its utility, advantages to the people of J&K, opinion of the people of rest of the country and above all its nature, need and circumstances in which it was added to the constitution is being debated publicly.
One thing we need to understand very clearly is that the debate is going to be passionate and heated; but will certainly result in something positive. For no individual, group or society can remain in permanent mode of frenzy. Emotions will calm down and reason will prevail.
But, first we need to recall some well-known facts.
What is Article 370 and why has there been such a fuss on both sides of the divide?
Like every time, the root cause of this evil lies squarely in the hands of India’s First prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, he along with Shiekh Abdullah then PM of the Maharaja of J&K created this fine concept of a state within a state, whereby Abdullah’s massive ego would be intact and he would be an quasi-independent PM of a separate state. So he got his wishes and with that Nehru in one master stroke created a Chimera that present day Indians and the republic continues to endure.
Article 370 allows J&K to have their own national flag, their own constitution, their own laws, and everything except defence and foreign affairs. It also bars other Indians from buying property, land or right to settle in the J &K. Evidently there is a huge population of refugees from Pakistan who have remained stateless in this part of Indian soil that’s Kashmir.
An absolutely erroneous impression is being created by melodramatic assertion implying that Article is a bridge between India and J&K and, in case article 370 is abrogated J&K no more remains part of India.
It is far from truth and nothing of the sort will happen. In case 370 is abrogated or modified, Article 1 of Indian Constitution still stays and J&K Constitution too firmly lays down in Section-3 that J&K is and shall remain integral part of India. Hence in absence of Article 370, Article 1 of Indian Constitution and Section-3 of J&K Constitution ensures the state to remain an integral part of Indian union. So such fears are unfounded.
There is merit in the argument that rich people will rush to the state particularly it’s temperate climatic zones and may wreak havoc to sensitive ecology. With the traumatizing experience in Uttrakhand last year these apprehensions get compounded.
I have two things to say in this regard:
a) Permanent Residence certificate (commonly known as state subjects) not Article 370 is the reason for restricted inflow of non-permanent residents to the state.
b) With all these so called restrictions in place, the situation is no better. Local residents have inflicted irreparable damage to the state ecology.
More than 30,000 trees were cut to construct a totally unviable Mughal Road, simply to satisfy ego of some and evil designs of other section of population. Similarly the wetlands of the Kashmir Valley are rapidly shrinking due to the massive siltation and encroachments. Experts say that the continuous fall of water levels in wetlands will turn it into marsh and kill all the flora and fauna.
Area of Wular lake stands reduced from 157.74 sq.km to 58.71 sq.km, between (1911-2008). In case of Hokarsar wetland, the encroachments have reduced the wetland area from original 1300 ha to 900 ha.
According to Larwance the area of the Anchar Lake in 1893-1894 was 19.54 Km2. It has now been reduced hardly to 6.8 km2 of which 3.6 Km2 is marsh.
‘Dal’ lake is now being called ‘Dull’ lake and according to the statistics the lake has been reduced to 1/3rd of its original size over past 50 years.
“Agriculture land in Ganderbal district is shrinking due to its conversion for construction purposes. In 2012 total paddy land in the district was 9091 hectares and astonishingly this year land under paddy is only 8400 hectares,” said an official of Agriculture Department wishing not to be named.
He added that within a span of 12 months 691 hectares of paddy land has been converted for construction purposes, which is an alarming trend and if the conversion continues at this pace in near future there will no agriculture land left.”
So article 370 or no article 370- the farms, wetlands and forest land continues to shrink.
Disadvantages of continuing with present system are too many. Firstly it is discriminatory not only to permanent resident girls who marry no-permanent boys but also to those non-permanent girls who marry permanent resident boys of the state.
While permanent resident girls marrying non-permanent boys are debarred from transferring their property in the state to their children or legal heirs. The non-permanent girls marrying permanent resident boys are disqualified from permanent resident-ship if in case of death of their hubby, divorce or separation on any count they chose to go to their original place. The law is also unclear about adopted non-permanent children.
Another major disadvantage is that even after six decades of independence state government is the only employer in the state of J&K. Non-governmental employers form almost negligible part of workforce absorption. Government efforts to convince unemployed youth not to look for government jobs is not bearing required results only because of absence of strong and viable private sector that could not develop because of Article 370 and PRC system.
It is time for all concerned people to come together to address the issue in a manner that prevents greedy people from turning the paradise into a concrete jungle, and ensure an end to the gross discrimination and lack of transparent and accountable governance.
Ajey Bharti?(The author is the organising secretary of Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch)?