Rajat Sharma

How Modi rewrote the history and geography of Jammu & Kashmir

akb0806 Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday took a historic decision by taking several vital steps together – a Presidential order repealing the previous 1954 President’s order incorporating Article 35A, a Presidential order rendering all provisions of Article 370 except one ineffective, a Reorganisation Bill for bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir into two entities, one J&K and the other Ladakh, and giving them the status of Union Territories, the former with an assembly, and the latter, without any assembly.

Within hours of the Union Cabinet approving these measures, Home Minister Amit Shah piloted these legislative measures in Rajya Sabha, which after extensive debate, passed them by two-thirds majority. The special status granted to J&K under Article 370 by the Nehru government thus stands null and void.

The consequences of these historic measures will give all Indian nationals the right to purchase property in J&K, right to apply for government jobs in Jammu & Kashmir, industries can now be set up in Kashmir without any hindrance, and all laws applicable to the rest of India can now be enforced in J&K.

The people of Jammu & Kashmir will get all the benefits under Right to Information, Right to Food, Right to Education, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Panchayati Raj Act, which they had been hitherto denied because of Article 370.

The moment these legislative measures get passed on Tuesday in Lok Sabha, where the NDA commands overwhelming majority, Jammu & Kashmir will cease to have a separate Constitution and a separate Flag. Like all other states of India, Jammu & Kashmir will become a part of the Indian Union. Home Minister Amit Shah, while replying to the debate, assured that the status of J&K as a union territory could later be changed into full statehood, once normalcy returns.

With this, a historic blunder committed seven decades ago during Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure, has now been set right, largely due to the political acumen and decisive vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his astute Home Minister Amit Shah.

The most heartening part of Monday’s debate was that regional parties like AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, YSR Congress, Telugu Desam Party, Aam Aadmi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party supported the measures to revoke provisions of Article 370 and Art 35A.

The historic move finally buried the ghosts of fear that were being raised by leader like Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar, and Mehbooba Mufti that it may lead to untold consequences in the Valley. Mehbooba Mufti had once threatened that if Art. 370 was revoked, there would not be a single soul to hold the tricolour aloft in the Valley. Farooq Abdullah had recently bragged that nobody, not even Modi, can ever revoke Art. 370. All these bombasts have now been put to rest with a single stroke.

Much meticulous planning had gone into preparing the ground for revoking J&K’s special status. Prime Minister Modi had been working on this for several years, and it was Amit Shah who put in his best efforts to plug all possible loopholes, arranged two-thirds majority support in the Upper House, sent troops into the Valley, and with a single ‘surgical strike’, the dream of “a single flag, a single constitution” was fulfilled within hours.

It was a dream for which men of the stature of Late Syama Prasad Mookerjee had given their supreme sacrifice. A dream for which leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L. K. Advani and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, spent the most part of their political life, fighting for a cause.

The story starts from 26th October 1947, when the then Maharaja Hari SIngh of J&K, signed the Instrument of Accession, when Pakistani tribal invaders almost reached the Srinagar valley, and the maharaja had to flee. Two years later, on 17th October, 1949, Article 306 was inserted into the Indian Constitution, which later on, in 1952, became Article 370 giving special status to J&K. It was a “temporary, transitional and special” provision that gave the state of J&K a separate flag and a separate constitution.

For seventy years, no political party or leader had the courage to revoke Article 370 because of vote bank considerations and the fear that it could cause unrest in the Valley, but simultaneously, this was the very Article that was, over the years, sowing the seeds of separatism in the Valley. Article 370 clearly stipulated that most of the provisions of the Indian Constitution, and all legislations passed by our Parliament, shall not be applicable to the state of J&K. Clearly, it was a major aberration, that struck at the very roots of a strong and unified India.

Because of Article 370 that provided for a separate flag, burning of our national tricolour in the Valley was not considered a criminal offence till now. No more. Not only disrespect to national flag, any form of disrespect to our national symbols shall now be treated as a criminal offence. There shall be no “dual citizenship”. The common people of J&K shall have no special privileges and rights, and they shall enjoy all the rights and privileges that are provided to Indian nationals.

You cannot imagine the measure of indignities suffered by refugees who had crossed over to J&K after 1947 Partition. These displaced people were denied government jobs, their children were denied scholarships, they were denied voting rights, they were not considered as “state subjects” of J&K because of the infamous Article 35A that gave rights to only “permament residents”. In 1957, nearly 600 Dalit families began residing in J&K. They were denied government jobs, and were considered only for the menial job of a “safai karmachari”. Over the years, their offsprings became doctors and engineers, and worked in other parts of India, but if they wanted to opt for a job n the state of J&K, the only job that was allowed for them was that of “a safai karmachari”. Such was the indignities heaped on common people due to Article 370 and Article 35A that gave special status to J&K.

And who benefited the most? It was Amit Shah, who told the Rajya Sabha on Monday, that “only three big political families” benefited the most because of the special status to J&K.

A new chapter has now opened in the history of Jammu & Kashmir. With its integration with India, the people of this region can now breathe freely and enjoy all the benefits that are given to all Indian citizens, irrespective of caste and religion. The new era will surely prevent the youths of the Valley from being misguided by radical ‘jihadi’ groups and open up avenues of progress for them throughout this vast Indian subcontinent. There shall be no more discrimination on grounds of “permanent subjects” and “outsiders”. Simultaneously, the peaceful people of Ladakh will surely glow in prosperity, free from decades of neglect and discrimination.

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