Muslims of Rajouri celebrating abrogation of Article 370
The historic amendment in Article 370 and the subsequent declaration of the State as two UTs has ushered in a dawn of hope for thousands of most backward and oppressed people of J&K
Deepak Zazia, Srinagar
Deafening the slogans of “Madray Batan, Hindustan Zindabad!” repeatedly rent the air as Muslims in large number with national flags in their hand were celebrating abrogation of Article 370 in Rajouri—once a hotbed of Pakistan sponsored terrorism. Like the plains of Jammu province, inhabitants of the Muslim dominated mountainous regions of Jammu & Kashmir, namely Poonch, Rajouri, Reasi, Doda, Kishtwar, Udhampur, Kupwara, Bandipora, Gurez, Baramulla, etc, were elated over the historic decision of BJP-led NDA Government to scrap discriminatory Article 370 and brought the residents of J&K with the mainstream of Indian Union.
Interestingly authorities have imposed some restrictions in Rajouri but braving all odds a large number of Muslim brethren came on streets of this border town to celebrate abrogation of Article 370.
“Article 370 was the biggest stumbling block in the socio-economic growth and development of J&K in general and mountainous regions, in particular,” says elected Panchayat member Mohammad Sagir, who is among a large number of Muslims celebrating abrogation of the Article. Sagir is of the opinion that this Article was responsible for separatism in J&K and backwardness of this border state. Calling it a momentous landmark in the history of J&K, he lavished all praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for the passage of legislation which ensures abrogation of the so-called ‘special status’ of J&K under Article 370.
Member of the Legislative Council and local leader Vibodh Gupta while addressing the Muslims celebrating abrogation said, “I am overwhelmed and emotional watching Hindu-Muslims dancing on nationalist beats which is a tight slap on those who are running false and fake agenda on J&K.”
Notwithstanding malicious campaign being launched by some biased intellectuals of the country against abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into two Union Territories (UTs), residents of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are elated over this landmark decision of the Union Government.
From Lakhanpur to Leh celebrations are going unabated, barring some sections of vested interests, who have shamelessly abused the so-called special status for years. The common man is joyous because it will usher in new era of growth and development in every nook and corner of J&K.
Views of Chaman Lal Gupta, who had participated in Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Pandit Prem Nath Dogra’s ‘Ek Vidhan, Ek Pardhan Ek Nishan Movement’. Voicing his joy over the scrapping of Article-370 from the Constitution, former Union Minister, Prof Chaman Lal Gupta said, “This is the real tribute to great leader Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee who had laid down his life under mysterious circumstances in the State. Prof. Gupta also remembered legendary visionary Pt. Prem Nath Dogra and thousands of other colleagues who had suffered horrible cruelties in their long struggle to get the walls demolished between this State and rest of India during all these decades and the creation of freedom for a few families of the Valley.
“This is also the time to remember the martyrdom of 16 youths at various places of the State who were shot dead just for hoisting of the National Tricolour, and also the over month-long hunger strike by several students opposing the National Conference flag in the premises of Prince of Wales College (Now GGM Science College), Jammu instead of Tricolour in January, 1952,” he recalled.
He observed that it was an irony that this obnoxious provision remained in the statute book for seven decades despite its induction as temporary. He, however, emphasised that care should be taken that Jammu gets its due share as the people of this region had been maltreated. Showering all praise for Narendra Modi-led dispensation, Prof. Gupta said this bold step would go a long way in the annals of history. This article was not only ill-conceived but against the basic principles of the Constitution itself, which offer equal rights to all people of the country.
Hoping to get political reservations and other benefits
Muslim Gujjars and Bakerwals of J&K, who were bearing the brunt of Article 370, are now hoping to get political reservations and other benefits which their counterparts are getting in other parts of the country. Classified as Scheduled Tribe (STs), Gujjars and Bakewals are not getting any political reservation due to Article 370, and after its abrogation, they are entitled to get a political reservation in J&K. “This historic step of the BJP government at the Centre will empower politically marginalised Gujjars and Bakerwals of J&K”, hopes Engineer Ghulam Ali Khatana, a prominent Gujjar leader of the State. He regretted that exploiting their sentiments successive governments at the Centre and State have done nothing for nomadic communities of J&K.
“We have been liberated from the clutches of slavery after decades of servitude. The shackles have been shattered and we are now feeling happy to breathe in the new refreshed air,” says Haroon Choudhary.
“Abrogation of this Article will ensure extension of political reservation of STs in J&K”, Haroon said and hoped that over a dozen seats would be reserved for STs in the State. He said that earlier, forest right act was enforced in the whole of India except J&K due to 370, but now everything will be fine.
“We have been duped in the past by three families namely Abdullahs, Muftis and Nehrus for their own benefits,” he said adding that Gujjars and Bakerwals were thankful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for the bold move that has opened floodgates for development and progress for the community.
“Till now NC, Congress, PDP only used the community for their voting rights but never really gave any thought for their development or giving them their due rights,” he said.
J&K is the only States in northwest India having a share of nearly 15 per cent population of STs. As per 2011 census total population of STs in J&K counted 14.9 lakh among them 13.2 lakh are Muslim, 1.0 lakh are Buddhist and about 67 thousand Hindu.
Apart from Gujjars and Bakerwals, West Pakistan Refugees, the majority of them are Dalits and OBCs, are the biggest beneficiaries of this decision of the Union Government. Article 370 was the biggest hurdle in restoring citizenship rights to these refugees who have living in J&K since 1947.
Victims of 1947 holocaust, hundreds of Hindus and Sikhs from Sialkot crossed over to J&K and took shelter as Jammu place was nearer. Since then, these refugees have struggled for a dignified settled life.
Abrogation of Article 370 has rekindled a ray of hope. “Now our coming generations will live a dignified life,” says Labha Ram Gandhi, president of West Pakistani Refugees Action Committee.
Suffixed with the title of ‘Gair Bashinda’ (non-resident), these families could not own property, get government employment or even a ration card. All thanks to Articles 370 and 35A.
“Four generations have been denied basic rights. We are citizens of India but without rights which every ‘state subject’ of J&K enjoys,” says Gandhi.
“Earlier, we were residents of India but not of Jammu and Kashmir. With the scrapping of both statutory provisions, we will automatically become the residents of Jammu and Kashmir too,” he said.
After 72 years of India’s Independence, he said the West Pakistan refugees got natural justice. “We can proudly say now—we have got freedom from slavery,” an elated Labha Ram, 57, whose parents migrated during the Partition, said.
The population of the West Pakistan Refugees is nearly 1.5 lakh, settled only in the Jammu region in the erstwhile state.
Hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his bold, historic decision, the refugees say the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A would certainly end decades-old discrimination against them by entitling them to get full citizenship rights.
In 2017, West Pakistan refugees had challenged Article 35A, which was added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order of 1954, in the Supreme Court. He said that the West Pakistan refugees have been seeking conferment of basic natural and human rights.