Current Affairs

Enough Was Enough, Article 370 Gone

New Era in J & K region

Yatindra Bhatnagar

Enough was, finally declared, enough. The spectacle of continued dynastic rule from Sheikh Abdullah to Farooq Abdullah to Omar Abdullah, and later separatist control, regular infiltration of armed terrorists, ongoing corruption and constant terror acts finally ended in Jammu & Kashmir, on August 5.  

This was overdue. The blunder of the first Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and continued mistakes of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi have now been corrected.

It’s a historic event of gigantic proportion. The BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed the statesmanship and determination to make India one united country. The decision to start a new era of speedy development for the region’s common people long denied the fruits of real freedom under the farce of Special Status. Article 370 had only benefitted a few families and hindered development and much-needed emotional integration with the rest of India and to bring the state at par with the other states.   

One of the most ridiculous effects of this ‘special status’ was that the Central Government could not buy a plot of land to open a post office in one of the cities of J & K in the name of the President of India as is the custom, because the President of India was not a permanent resident and not a Kashmiri as ruled by the local authority. How bizarre!  

By this bold step, India's Northern Himalayan state of Jammu & Kashmir was stripped of its Special Status and was divided into two parts, as Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, and made into Union Territories, for now.

The state was brought under the Central government’s control to free it from Pakistani-encouraged "terrorism and separatism", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said three days after the historic decision was announced to the cheers of an overwhelmingly vast majority of India.

Only hard core separatists and the Congress among the major political parties denounced the Modi government’s announcements though some of its own leaders hailed the decision and said the step is in India’s interests. One of the top parliamentary leaders of Congress, Bhubaneswar Kalita, resigned from Congress to protest the party's stand on Article 370, and interestingly, joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Kalita was a member of Rajya Sabha and the chief whip of the Congress in Parliament.
Pakistan was shocked and hastily reacted by stopping train connections and border trade with India and expelling the Indian envoy. However, the anticipated support from ‘all weather’ friend China, or the United Nations to which Pakistan complained, did not yield any assurance.  Pakistan’s complaint was rebuffed by the UN and China said this matter should be decided mutually under the UN charter.
In his first comments on the constitutional bombshell announced while Kashmir was under a military lockdown, Modi highlighted security as one of the top reasons for the "historic decision".

"Friends, I have full belief that we will be able to free Jammu and Kashmir from terrorism and separatism under this (new) system," Modi said.

"I have full faith that the people of Jammu and Kashmir, after defeating separatism, will move forward with new hopes and aspirations."

Modi said nuclear rival Pakistan used Kashmir's special status "as a weapon against the country to inflame the passions of some people" against the Indian state.

In a swift action the government got the new laws passed in both the Houses of Parliament with overwhelming majority. The President quickly gave his assent to bifurcate the state into two.

The actual bifurcation and re-organization will take place on October 31, the birthday of the first Deputy Prime Minister of India, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel who consolidated and united India after the British left over 550 princely states with all powers to function independently, or merge with India or Pakistan. Only the matter of Jammu & Kashmir was taken over by Nehru and made into a complex issue still partly under Pakistan’s control and disturbed to become a hotbed of terrorism, cross border infiltration and internal subversion spearheaded by separatist groups.

Anti-national activities were indulged by leaders of the ruling party – known first as the Muslim Conference but afterwards Abdullah changed the name into National Conference to give it a ‘secular, non-Muslim’ face. That remained a farce as he encouraged Muslims to settle in overwhelmingly Buddhist-Hindu regions of Jammu and Ladakh. The largest part of the state in land area, Ladakh, was totally neglected despite Article 370. 

No wonder, the elected Member of Parliament from Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, poured his heart out in Parliament welcoming the abrogation of Article 370 said: “for 71 years Ladakh was not embraced, it was thrown in one corner. Our identity, our language, our political aspiration, our development all got lost because of  Article 370. “

[This reminded me of the situation of East Pakistan – now free Bangladesh – that was neglected and ignored, exploited and denigrated, tortured and suppressed by the rulers dominated by West Pakistanis.]

Kashmir Valley is only 15% of the total area, Jammu 25.9% but Ladakh has 58.90% land area of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Valley population is, of course, largest at 54.93%, whereas Ladakh has only 2.8%; the rest 42.89%  is in Jammu.

Sheikh Abdullah’s activities were increasingly anti-national and with his travel to Pakistan and hobnobbing there and essentially agreeing with the Pakistani views resulted in his arrest and detention. He was even toying with the idea to make Jammu & Kashmir an independent country with himself as its President.

Pakistan’s military dictator/President and self-styled Field Marshal Ayub Khan encouraged him in his dream (fully confident that once it’s done and India was out of the picture, it would be easy to grab the state – a Pakistani dream since the Partition of India.) It was well known that Nehru was persuaded to take action against Abdullah on the insistence of an ardent nationalist Muslim minister in the Nehru cabinet, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai.

[In Pakistan at the time Sheikh Abdullah was welcomed and feted with open arms. Many eminent poets wrote poems about the Sheikh to praise him to skies and bolster his ego. Among them were Hafeez Jullundhary/Jalandhary, Josh and Faiz Ahmad Faiz.]

The subsequent period of Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad was comparatively clean, orderly and pro-India. During Bakhshi’s regime, with an efficient Chief Secretary Sushital Bannerjee, Pakistan’s flags had disappeared. But later Indira Gandhi plotted to remove Bakshi and then things got more murky.  Sheikh had been imprisoned for a number of years but following an agreement with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi he was re-instated as Chief Minister – the title meanwhile was changed to Chief Minister from Vazir-e-Azam (Prime Minister) along with Governor in place of Sadr-e-Riyasat.

The hidden Islam in the Sheikh’s character started showing soon and he began Islamization of the state by also changing 2500 village names and gave them Muslim names. There were other steps also of ethnic cleansing and killings and torture, and also advocating Sharia law while hardline Islamic parties began asserting and prevailing.  

In the decades after Nehru the ruling Congress party tolerated separatist groups, and even allowed them to function with full freedom inside and outside Kashmir, and to hobnob with Pakistan. So much so that regularly throwing stones of the Police and troops was tolerated in Kashmir and the separatist groups blasted harsh measures to stop this kind of attacks were blasted. The condition had deteriorated to such an extent that it was difficult to hoist the National Flag on special days.

During Rajiv Gandhi’s prime minister ship of India, the situation in Kashmir Valley deteriorated and more than half a million Hindus were forced to leave and become refugees in their own state and their own country. There were hundreds of cases of abduction of Hindu girls/women, killing and grabbing of the Hindu properties.

Things did not improve much during Farooq and his son Omar’s regime. Separatists became bold and even the later coalition with BJP and Mehbooba Mufti’s short lived government could not do much.

Now the latest decision to change the entire scene will take care of the internal disruption, insecurity and with strong army presence deter infiltration and terrorists. The security forces in adequate strength will do their duty more efficiently and without stone-pelting and disruption.   

With Article 370 the state leaders, starting from Sheikh Abdullah, behaved as they were supreme rulers and not bound by any Indian laws. So much so that Sheikh Abdullah, then designated as Vazier-e-Azam (not Chief Minister) would not admit he was an Indian citizen, though traveling on Indian passport and enjoying everything as citizen of India.

I am a witness to his ‘kingly- attitude and utterances. At the press conferences he usually addressed while in India, one of the first questions we, the press men, asked him was his nationality. His answer was always that he was a Kashmiri. He would never admit that he was an Indian. That way he perpetuated the myth that Kashmir and India were separate and not one nation.

During the subsequent governments Pakistani flags would be seen at some places and Indian flags were not.

In the early days of Sheikh Abdullah’s rule he had kind of made Jammu & Kashmir a sovereign country to which non-Kashmiri Indians could not travel without a special permit (like a passport/visa). The founder/leader of the opposition party, Bharatiya Jana Sangh – the predecessor of the present ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, opposed to the Article 370, decided to defy the new rule. He traveled and entered the area of Jammu & Kashmir, was arrested and put in prison where he died on June 23, 1953, under mysterious circumstances.

No investigations were done by Kashmir administration or the government of India.

Mookerjee was strongly opposed to Article 370 as he regarded it as a threat to the unity of the country and fought against it inside and outside the Parliament. This was one of the goals of his part to end it. With the repeal of 370, on August 5, this year, his dream was fulfilled.

Maybe now Modi government should order an inquiry, though belated.

[Similarly, no proper inquiry into the death of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was made. He had died in Tashkent (the then USSR) when he went to attend a meeting, arranged by the Russian Prime Minister Kosygin with Pakistan’s strongman General Ayub Khan after the 1965 war.

Even then it was a Congress party government and the Nehruites were in control. Indira Gandhi emerged as Prime Minister after Shastriji died. One can put two and two together and realize that there could be some mystery in that death.]

Agencies add:

Prime Minister Modi, in his speech, said the special status had "not given anything other than terrorism, separatism, nepotism and big corruption".

But with Kashmir now fully part of the Indian union, the region would enjoy more jobs, and end to corruption and red-tape, he said, adding key infrastructure projects would be expedited.

Modi said he respected opposition politicians and prominent Kashmiris who had opposed the government's strong-arm tactics.

"We are working to answer their points but I request them to act to keep India's interests and help Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh," he said.

"I want to assure my Jammu and Kashmir colleagues that slowly things will become normal and their problems will reduce."

Ahead of the announcement, tens of thousands of Indian troops imposed a lockdown in Kashmir.

Internet and telephone connections in Kashmir have been cut as part of the lockdown, and hundreds of people have reportedly been detained.

Ten most important points PM raised in his address to the nation: 

·     "We have taken this decision as a family (on the abrogation of Article 370). A new era has begun in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Article 370 was a hurdle for development of Kashmir. The rights of all denizens of India are equal, and their responsibilities are equal too. The harm Article 370 did to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh was never discussed. Article 370 and Article 35A gave only separatism, nepotism and corruption to the people of Jammu and Kashmir."

·     "In the last 3 decades, almost 42,000 innocent people lost their lives. This figure would bring tears to anyone's eyes. The rights enjoyed by the daughters of other regions were not enjoyed by the daughters of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

·     "During elections, SC, ST and individuals from other backward communities in other regions would enjoy special benefits  but the same did not happen in Jammu and Kashmir. The financial benefits for central government employees, including security forces, like LTC, HRA and more will be provided to those posted in Jammu and Kashmir."

·     "The vacant posts in Jammu and Kashmir will be filled. This will benefit the youth of Jammu and Kashmir. Local youth will receive employment. State companies as well as private companies will be encouraged to create jobs for the local youths in the state," he said.

·     "After revoking Article 370, the central government has decided to put J&K under the governance of the central government. This decision has been taken after careful consideration," he added.

·     "J&K will not remain an UT forever. You will get the opportunity to elect your representatives soon. I want to tell the people of Jammu and Kashmir that your representatives will come from among you."

·     "Panchayats are doing a good job in J&K. Due to elected panch and pradhan, development projects have been implemented speedily in J&K. I am sure that after the revocation of Article 370, the representatives of the Panchayats here will do stellar work."

·     "J&K and Ladakh have the potential to become the biggest tourist destination in the world. The reforms required for this are being done. I urge the Hindi, Telugu and Tamil film industry to come to J&K for shooting their projects. Sport training, scientific education will help the youth of J&K to showcase their talent across the world."

·     "Several herbal and organic products are scattered across J&K and Ladakh. If they are identified and marketed in the global market, then it will greatly benefit the people and farmers of these regions. I urge the enterprises from all over India to come forward for this."

·     "I urge the people of J&K and Ladakh to show their capability to the world. I assure the people of J&K that things will return to normalcy. I congratulate the people on the occasion of Eid. The government is trying to ensure that the people of J&K face no difficulties in celebrating Eid."