One of the ugly distortions within the modern-day nation state of Bharat has finally been set right today. Article 370 – the Constitutional provision which accorded special status to the state of J&K and allowed it to maintain a separate Constitution, penal code and flag – has been effectively repealed today via a Presidential Order.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah today moved the Rajya Sabha, where he announced the Government’s decision to scrap Article 370 & also that J&K state will now be bifurcated into two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir, which will have a legislature, and Ladakh, which will be without a legislature.
The newly passed Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 2019 supersedes the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954 and states that all the provisions of the Constitution of India shall apply to the State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). J&K state has now been placed on par with other states of the country.
Thus, this new order has also done away with Article 35A, the discriminatory provision which enabled the J&K State Assembly to define ‘permanent residents’ and to give them special rights and privileges, thereby denying fundamental as well as legal rights to women & 3 communities residing in the state of Jammu & Kashmir – Valmiki community, West Pakistani Refugees and Gorkhas.
As HM Amit Shah explained in Rajya Sabha, ““Under Article 370 there is a provision that the President may by public notification declare that this article shall cease to be operative… from such date as he may specify… Because there is President’s rule, all decisions of the Assembly will be taken by the House and we can pass the order with majority.”
As Radha Rajan explains in her detailed examination of Article 370, “The princely state of Jammu & Kashmir was Nehru’s personal fiefdom and Patel was kept away by a determined Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah from dealing with that state.”
Article 370 was drafted in Part XXI of Bharat’s Constitution: Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions. In 1949, PM Jawaharlal Nehru had directed Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah to consult Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (then law minister) to prepare the draft of a suitable article to be included in the Constitution. But Dr. Ambedkar, the principal drafter of Bharat’s Constitution, had refused to draft Article 370 and it was eventually drafted by Gopalaswami Ayyangar.
So it is no surprise that the Congress party has reacted to this development with doomsday pronouncements. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad was at his rhetorical best, “Today the BJP has murdered the Constitution as well as democracy by scrapping Article 370. The very Article that gave special status to J&K and linked it to the country has today been done away with mercilessly.”
It will be interesting to see how the Nehruvian ideologues in this country’s establishment react to this move by the NDA Government in the coming days. They will not give up without a fight and will try to turn this into a protracted legal battle. And the Islamist foot soldiers in Kashmir will do their utmost to ensure the dire projections by left-liberals that ‘Kashmir will burn if Article 370 is touched’ comes true.
Abrogation of Article 370 is a welcome, long overdue move by the Modi Government. Next on the Government’s legislative reform agenda should be upgrading legal status of Hindus of Bharat to that of minorities, by amending Articles 26 to 30 of the Constitution.
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