With Articles 370 and 35A having been consigned to ignominious flames and becoming a part of a forgettable history, it is time to understand and rejoice over the new dynamics of the political and security dimensions of the historic decision by the NDA Government under the visionary statesmanship of PM Modi and the astute leadership of Home Minister Amit Shah.
The disastrous effects of Articles 370 and 35A, which were the root cause of a blatant regional discrimination and Valledy-based Kashmiri domination need not be repeated since enough has already been written about it and is adequately highlighted by various speakers during the debate in Rajya Sabha. But being a victim of these articles, one can now hold his head high and claim to be equal among equals. It would also put an end to the money-making industry run by a few privileged dynastic families that had been looting the generous funds of the Central Government which were meant for development and empowerment of ordinary poor Kashmiris.
With the passing of J&K Reorganisation Bill-2019 by the Rajya Sabha, which could have proved a big hurdle but for the deft management of the opposition parties by the Think Tank of BJP, it would now be placed before the Lok Sabha today. With the brute majority enjoyed by the government in the lower house its passage, subsequent presidential consent and it becoming an Act, is a mere matter of time. With all this, the unified entity of Jammu & Kashmir state as created by the Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh will also become a part of history and two new political entities will emerge - a union territory (UT) of J&K with legislative powers and a UT of Ladakh without a legislature.
While there are different models of UTs in India, UT of J&K will adopt the Puducherry Model under Article 239A of the Constitution of India. The historical blunder of having a separate Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir which promoted separatism rather than the state’s full integration with the rest of India has been undone with the scrapping of Article 370. The Constitution of India will be fully applicable without any exceptions in Jammu & Kashmir. The separate state constitution will cease to be operative and with that the separate flag enjoying the same status as the National Flag. Only the National Flag will fly atop all government buildings and the government offices. Any disrespect to the national flag and national anthem would be a cognizable offence. Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) or the State Subject, which used to be the most prized possession of the state residents and most difficult to procure if one happened to be from the minority communities, will now become an ordinary document like many other documents. A big relief to the common man and particularly to those who were deprived of even their fundamental rights and privileges enjoyed by the permanent residents of the state. There will be no gender discrimination. Tourism potential will be exploited to the full. Ranbir Penal Code will form part of the archives, though my emotional attachment with it will remain forever being a direct descendant of the legal luminary who drafted it. In other words, the symbols of being different and special will cease to exist and from Kanyakumari to Kupwara and Lakshadweep to Ladakh India will be one and all will be Indians. What an exhilarating feeling?
To all those who are crying foul and trying to incite communal passions in order to ensure the continuation of their hegemony, it would be suffice to say that the days of their feudal attitude and open loot are over. Sooner they learn to accept the new reality and decide to live with it better it would be for them and those who have been brainwashed by them. To the proponents of a new narrative that India’s credibility as a secular state and where Muslims are safe is at stake, it would be suffice to know that the region will become truly secular now because the preamble to the Constitution of J&K did not refer the state as secular while the Constitution of India proclaims India as a secular nation. As far as Muslims are concerned, a larger population of the Muslims reside in the rest of the country and their population has grown from 9.8 % to 14.23% (as per census 2011) with almost 24% decadal growth rate in the last two censuses. Muslims form the second largest population in India and are the safest, much safer than the so-called Muslim countries. Here Sunnis, Shias, Ahmediyas, Bohras and different sects live in peace, harmony and co-exist which no Muslim country can boast of.
To all those who are crying foul and trying to incite communal passions in order to ensure the continuation of their hegemony, it would be suffice to say that the days of their feudal attitude and open loot are over
What are the implications of reorganisation? UT of J&K will have a legislative assembly and no legislative council. It would have a council of ministers with ten ministers (not exceeding 10% of total legislators) headed by a Chief Minister. Lt Governor will replace the Governor. The UT of Ladakh will continue to be governed by the two autonomous hill councils headed by the Lt Governor (LG). There will be common High Court for both the UTs. J&K UT will continue with JK Public Service Commission, Ladakh UT will be served by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). All major Central laws & Commissions will be applicable in both the UTs by deleting the term “excluding State of J&K” from the Acts governing them. Election Commission of India will henceforth conduct all the elections in J&K UT instead of the Chief Election Officer (CEO). All Indian citizens will be eligible to register themselves as voters as per the existing electoral laws as applicable in the rest of the country. Local land laws have been retained.
The provision of Article 239A applicable to Puducherry will be applicable to new J&K UT. The legislative assembly will enjoy the power to legislate on all matters in the State List except “police” and “public order” and all matters in the Concurrent List. The J&K Police will be under the control of Home Ministry, as in the case of Delhi. However, in Puducherry law and order is a state subject. This is the main reason that is bothering the Kashmiri leaders who used to have full control over the police and used it to fulfil their agenda including soft approach towards separatists and terror sympathisers including the Over Ground Workers (OGWs). J&K Bank will be under the full control of the Central Government and RBI. Bank which acted as a “Kamdhenu” for the local parties will no more be at their beck and call thus drying up a source of personal financing and conduit to terror financing. No doubt that these leaders are mourning the demise of the so-called special status. Centre will now have the power to also declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the two UTs.
All the bills passed by the Assembly will be sent to the LG for his consent. LG can give his assent, withhold it or send the bill for consideration of the President. However, the Parliament will retain the primacy in that if there is any inconsistency, Law by Parliament will prevail over any law passed by the new Assembly.
The new assembly will have a term of 5 years like the rest of the country. It would have 107 members with 24 seats frozen for POJK. LG will have powers to nominate two female members as existing. The four existing members to Rajya Sabha will continue to be the sitting members from the current J&K. As far as Lok Sabha is concerned J&K UT will have 5 members while one will represent the Ladakh UT. Union Government has also proposed fresh delimitation of J&K Assembly. As far as MPs are concerned fresh delimitation is not permitted till the next census after 2026. An increase of 7 seats, 114 from 107 has been proposed and the delimitation will be based on 2011 census. The 2011 census is fraught with irregularities with the entire floating tribal population shown in Kashmir as well as a population of 2 lakh Kashmiri Pandits. Nonetheless, political reservation for the tribal is a welcome step.
With this reorganisation, the people would expect good governance, of which they were deprived by the successive elected governments in the past, and end to rampant corruption. The ongoing war against corruption unleashed by the outgoing Governor must not only continue but be put on fast track. With direct monitoring by the Central government, the scope and pace of development will undergo a metamorphic change and external investments will generate avenues for employment. Hopefully, the region will get better medical and health facilities and the need for its citizens to rush to neighbouring states will cease and state of art super-speciality hospitals will be functional here as well.
As far as the security environment is concerned, the new system will deal with anti-national, separatist and soft –separatist forces with an iron hand with policy of appeasement becoming a thing of the past. Pak sponsored terror will continue to be a cause of worry. But with power being withdrawn from those who had vested interest in terrorism to fester and flourish, it would not be easy for Pakistan to continue with its evil intent for very long. When lasting peace returns and situation becomes normal, there is a hope that the UT may once again get back the status of a state.
The move has evoked little response from governments across the world except for Pakistan. The response of USA and other P5 powers has been very positive. The noise being made by Pakistan is on the expected lines and doesn’t matter much. Pakistan is worried about the next move of the Modi government which is likely to be its claim on POJK. Pakistan’s criticism of bifurcation of J&K holds no water because of what it did in 1970 wherein it carved out a separate territory of “Northern Areas” from its occupied territory of J&K and made it a federally administered area. In 2009, it was renamed as Gilgit-Baltistan and is now planning to make it a province of Pakistan. Even the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) has maintained silence rather than supporting Pakistan. China, which lays claim to parts of Ladakh, has also maintained a studied silence. MEA under the dynamic minister, has played its role well.
The master surgeons have done the surgery. It was done with precision and perfection expected of master surgeons. Recovery and recuperation take time after major surgery. Hope this period is not unduly long and the promised elections are held soon. “Acche Din” (good days) have arrived for the vast majority and those
destined to sulk will also one day realize their folly and join the march towards modernisation, development
(The writer is a Jammu-based political commentator,
columnist, security and strategic analyst)