Union Home Minister Amit Shah today informed the Parliament about the government’s decision to take down the Article 370 of the constitution.
Article 370 of the constitution grants special autonomous powers and status to Jammu & Kashmir. The article which is almost 70 years old has now been scraped by the Modi Government amid wide uproar in Rajya Sabha.
Along with the revocation of the Article 370, Amit Shah also announced the new status of J&K and Ladakh. Ladakh will be a Union Territory without legislature will Jammu & Kashmir will take the status of a Union Territory with legislature.
Government had predicted and anticipated wide-scale protest and disruption of life in Kashmir Valley. In lieu of this, government had imposed Section 144 of CrPC in certain parts of Jammu & Kashmir and Srinagar.
Complete ban on holding public meetings and rallies has been imposed. Internet and other telecom services have been suspended. Officials have been provided with satellite phones.
Prominent leaders like Mehbooba Mufti and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah have been placed under house arrest and restrictions have been imposed on their movement.
Why is scraping of Article 370 a big deal and what its repercussions are going to be? To understand this, we need to take a glance at the history and origin of this article.
How did Article 370 originate?
Article 370 was added under Part XXI of the Constitution of India which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions”. This article grants autonomous powers and special status to J&K.
After the accession of J&K, Sheikh Abdullah, the leader of National Conference took the reins from Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Dogra. The accession of the said state was solely on a few issues which were defence, communications, finance and foreign affairs.
After the independence, other Princely States unlike J&K decided to agree on the common constitution for all the states. They set up their own constituent assemblies over the time.
In case of Jammu and Kashmir, Article 370 came into effect. Under this article, it was stated that except for the issues of finance, defence, communications and foreign affairs, State must concur with the Parliament for making laws on all other matters. It meant that until now, the residents of Jammu and Kashmir lived under a different set of laws from the rest of the Union. Matters like citizenship, ownership of property and other fundamental rights were left to be decided and to be handled by the state government of Jammu and Kashmir with Union Government having no say in them.
Till 1965, the Jammu and Kashmir state had a Sadr-e-Riyasat in place of Governor and a prime minister who was appointed and worked in the capacity of Chief Minister.
In 1974, an accord between J&K leader Sheikh Abdullah and the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi was made. According to this Indira-Sheikh Accord – “The State of Jammu and Kashmir which is a constituent unit of the Union of India, shall, in its relation with the Union, continue to be governed by Article 370 of the Constitution of India”.
Sheikh Abdullah never wanted to keep the provisions of Article 370 under temporary provisions of the Constitution. He wanted a complete autonomy for the State of Jammu and Kashmir. This was never agreed upon by the Union government.
As a result of the provisions of Article 370, citizens of India belonging to other states could not buy property in Jammu and Kashmir. The article also deprived Kashmiri women of their Permanent Residents’ status if they married any outsider or any non-permanent resident.
All of this have been left to moot now as J&K Reorganization Bill has been passed in Rajya Sabha. Under the bill, Jammu and Kashmir state will be bifurcated into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir division and Ladakh. J&K will have a legislature like Delhi and Puducherry while Ladakh will not have any legislative assembly. It will be similar to what we currently have in Chandigarh.
With Article 370 being rendered toothless by today’s resolution, Article 35A will also cease to exist. Under Article 35A, the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir held complete autonomous powers in deciding the ‘permanent residents’ of the state. It also gave those subjects special powers in buying or owning property in the state, scholarships and other aid as provided by State Government and access to other provisions. Article 35A also imposed several restrictions on the ‘non-permanent residents’ of the state.
The bill faced tremendous opposition in the house. Lawmakers from Congress, Kapil Sibbal and P Chidambaram said that history will never forgive this government for scraping Article 370.
Members of Congress, TMC and DMK squat on the floor of the house to show their opposition. One of the PDP member tore his clothes down while another of its member went on to tore the constitution. It was after this act that Amit Shah requested the Chairman to get those two member physically removed from the house.
RSS congratulated BJP on the revocation of Article 370. AIADMK, Shiv Sena and APP also supported the government’s decision to scrap Article 370. Amit Shah blamed the dynastic politics of Jammu and Kashmir which hindered the progress of its subjects. He also went on add the revocation of Article 370 will play a key role in kick-starting the development of the people of Kashmir.
Ghulam Nabi Azad condemned the act of tearing down of the constitution by the PDP members in the house. He however said that BJP has murdered the constitution. He also went on to ask Amit Shah that why the status of J&K is being reduced to that of a Union Territory. He also said that during the bifurcation of Andhra, all the stakeholders were involved.
Ram Madhav tweeted and old photo of the PM Narendra Modi and wrote “Promise Fulfilled”.
Former Union minister Arun Jaitely and Sushma Swaraj also congratulated the Prime Minster on this historical day. Prime Minister also congratulated Amit Shah after the bill was passed in the Upper House.