A debate on merits, and demerits of Article 370 needs to be generated at different levels, among people and the politicians. Those who find this provision allegedly beneficial, should point out whom it benefits and how
Sant Kumar Sharma
The session of Legislative Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) was adjourned by the Speaker, Kavinder Gupta, sine die on February 8, 2017. It happens. Nothing so unusual about that?
As per the calendar issued by the Assembly Secretariat, the session was scheduled for some more days. It was adjourned ahead of schedule as there were repeated disruptions.
What was the trigger for adjournment sine die and repeated disruptions? Well, the good old contentious Article 370.
The coalition partners in the State Government, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP, were on different pages regarding the Article as they always have been, and this was pointed out by none other than Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh.
He said the Opposition National Conference (NC) and the Congress had no “issues” and harped on Article 370 apparently to create a rift between the Kashmir Valley based PDP and the BJP. Singh was categorical in his remarks that the PDP and the BJP had “different
The two parties, the PDP and the BJP, came together
following the 2014 Legislative Assembly elections on the basis of “Agenda of Alliance”. This Agenda was meant to provide a framework “for governance” and did not mean the two parties became one, he pointed out.
Dr Nirmal Singh’s comments were meant to send a signal that there was no threat to the State Government headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Simultaneously, it was also meant to send signal to the Congress and the NC that these parties could not “destabilise the coalition government”.
At one time, a section of the press reported out the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had expressed a desire to “tender her resignation”. This alleged move proved to be a gross exaggeration. A senior BJP leader mocked at this and termed it as the NC and the Congress attempt to “fish in troubled waters but their tragedy was that there were no troubled waters”.
There were certain remarks made regarding Article 370 by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on February 6. On February 7, BJP MLA from Kathua, Rajiv Jasrotia, took exception to them. He also requested the Speaker to “expunge these remarks”.
It is not very clear as to what triggered the heated exchanges between the Opposition and Treasury benches. At one time, things threatened to go out of hand as the Forest Minister, Lal Singh, and an NC legislator, Akbar Lone nearly clashed.
There are certain points which need to be asked as “informed debate” on Article 370 is not taking place anywhere, even in the legislature of J&K.
Ironically, the debate regarding this “Temporary Article” generated a lot of heat. But there was no light this time too, as had happened so often in the past.
Rajiv Jasrotia recalled how this provision had been staunchly opposed by late Syama Prasad Mukherjee.
Going a step further, Jasrotia declared that scrapping of Article 370 was always a very important part of the BJP ideology. These ideological moorings of the party could not be compromised under any circumstances, he said. This “Temporary provision” needs to be scrapped at the earliest. The question that needs to be asked is ‘Whom does this provision benefit in J&K?’
A debate on merits and demerits of Article 370 needs to be generated at different levels, among people and the
politicians. Those who find this provision allegedly beneficial should point out whom it benefits and how. Does it benefit the people of the State of J&K and brings them extraordinary benefits at different levels and in
A couple of the harmful effects of Article 370 on the people of the state can be pointed out here. May be, they will help generate an “informed debate” on this deleterious provision.
Presently, J&K is the only state in the country where three-tier Panchayats do not exist. The Panchayat elections were last held in the State for halqa panchayats (lowest level or first tier) in 2011 and completed their lacklustre tenure in 2016.
No elections were held for panchayats at the block and
Due to lack of holding of Panchayat elections, the State was deprived of massive amount of funds by the
Centre. The Central provisions regarding Panchayats are such as the money can be given only if the three-tier Panchayats are constituted.
In J&K, this did not happen as Article 370 acts as an effective barrier against grassroots empowerment at the level of Panchayats. Similar is the fate of civic bodies in urban areas as they too have completed their terms and do not exist today in February 2017.
How do ordinary people of the State thus gain?
At another level, the Right to Education (RTE) was passed for the entire Nation, barring J&K, some years ago. Massive funds are given by the Centre under this law to the states. Article 370 stands in the way of
extension of the RTE to J&K. This deprives people of the state of funds which, the Centre, would otherwise be bound to give under RTE. These funds could have given considerable fillip to the educational infrastructure.
These are just two of the examples of how Article 370 deprives the people of J&K. Similar harms are caused to Scheduled Tribes (STs) who do not have a single reserved seat in J&K. On all-India level, these people are given political representation, through
reservation of constituencies for them but not so in J&K. May be the time has come to debate at all levels how Article 370 affects J&K.
(The writer is a J&K based senior journalist)