“The Constitution of India does not say that whatever the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir would ask for–India would give. That is not the provision. The provision is—agreement, consent”.
– Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Lok Sabha Debates, August 7, 1952
The constitutional anomalies created and manipulated over seven decades in the name of Article 370 in Jammu-Kashmir have finally ended with the Supreme Court validating the abrogation of the provision. While delivering the historic judgement on all the petitions questioning the abrogation of the discriminatory article with arguments related to the temporary or permanent nature of Article 370, validity of amendments, applicability of the entire Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir, and the legality of the abrogation of Article 370, the Apex Court has unanimously validated the proclamations under Article 356, exercised by the President. Though it was a foregone conclusion on August 5, 2019, that Article 370 and Article 35A are things of the past, this validation is critical for setting the history and constitutional discourse right.
The accession of the Jammu-Kashmir princely state in the Union of Bharat was completed and final on October 26, 1947, with the signing of the instrument of accession by Maharaja Hari Singh. Like all other States, it was a constitutional process of integration which was halted due to the intrusion from Pakistan’s side and subsequent war. The insertion of an extraordinary temporary provision of Article 370 and delaying accession for handing over the reins to Sheikh Abdullah, both blunders initiated by Jawaharlal Nehru, created a strange situation in a democracy. A country governed by the same Constitution had two Constitutions, two Prime Ministers and two flags. National institutions, from Parliament to the Controller and Auditor General, had a limited role in the State. There was no Panchayat-level administration in the State. Scheduled Tribes were denied political representation, and Scheduled Castes from other States did not have equal opportunities. West Pakistan refugees, Gorkhas, women, etc, faced different levels of discrimination in the name of special status to ‘Kashmir’. It was a systematic murder of democracy, manipulating the temporary and transitional cause as a ‘permanent’
When nationalist forces of Jammu-Kashmir and the rest of Bharat consistently opposed and fought against such undemocratic provisions, Abdullah and his prodigies used this to incur constitutional fraud to nurture separatist tendencies with a blatant Islamist agenda. Kashmiri language and traditions were suppressed, and the people of Jammu and Ladakh were denied their Fundamental Rights. Mis-governance and corrupt regimes alienated the people. Infiltration from the Pakistan side continued, but free entry from the Bharatiya side was restricted. All this brought the disastrous phase of terrorism and violence, resulting in another expulsion of Hindus and Sikhs from the Valley. The Union Government brought in necessary amendments to nullify the ill effects of the temporary provisions in 2019. The Constitution and Parliamentary sovereignty became applicable to Jammu-Kashmir in a true sense.
The Supreme Court, in its detailed verdict, accepted that the accession was complete and that Jammu-Kashmir had no internal sovereignty, which was a significant victory for the nationalists who fought and sacrificed for the seven decades after Independence. Article 370 was never permanent, and using the ‘Constituent Assembly’ clause to blackmail with separatist rhetoric was a manipulation. There was a consistent and continuous struggle against these malicious intentions. ‘Kashmir’, an integral part of Bharat, was always an emotional call by political dispensations in Delhi while we are ‘special’ and, therefore, ‘separate’ was the positioning of the ‘Kashmiri’ leadership. To provide intellectual support to the sentiments of integration, nationalist organisations started celebrating Accession Day. On the occasion, experts explained legal and historical facts about Articles 370 and 35A to the common masses. The Presidential orders of August 2019 were the culmination of that process. The ratification by the Apex Court has put a full stop to the misinformation and misrepresentation of the Constitutional provisions in political and intellectual circles.
The decision has ensured the Constitutional integration of Jammu-Kashmir which Babasaheb Ambedkar had envisaged, and Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee fought for. Now, this ratification will pave the way for regaining the actual paradise status for Jammu-Kashmir, where Shaivaite intellectual tradition can thrive, Sharada Peeth will regain its glory and democratic participation of all, including the people living in exile and refugee camps, is ensured.