Kashmir will see a new dawn. As the quote goes, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”, India on August 5 2019 witnessed such a day which rectified political blunder of decades.
What happened today in Parliament must have been backed by few years of strategy and research, and precised timing for implementaion of biggest decision taken by any political party since independence. Home Minister Amit Shah under Narendra Modi government pulled it off perfectly paving way for a new era in Kashmir. Narendra Modi government has time and again demonstrated his penchant for calibrated risk-taking.
The “special status” granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 has been scrapped. The order has been signed by President Ram Nath Kovind.
Shah also announced bifurcation of the state with Ladakh division to now become a Union Territory without a legislature, and Jammu and Kashmir to be one Union Territory with a legislature.
He said while it was a “long-standing” demand of the locals of Ladakh, the decision in Kashmir was taken keeping in view “prevailing security situation”.
“The Ladakh area is large but is sparsely populated with a very difficult terrain. This has been long-pending demand of the people of Ladakh to give it the status of Union Territory to enable them to realise their aspirations. The Union Territory of Ladakh will be without Legislature,” a statement by Shah read.
“People in Ladakh always wanted the region to be free from the dominance and discrimination of Kashmir, that is happening today,” BJP MP from Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal welcomed the move.
It is important to note here that the valley remained silent and there were no incidents of violence all through this period of chaos. The main reasons for this was the high level of secrecy that was maintained and the enhanced security in the valley. The whole operation was swiftly carried out by Prime Minister Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, NSA Ajit Doval, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Air Force Chief B S Dhanoa and Intelligence Bureau Chief Arvind Kumar. Government sources were tight lipped and the official words was that they were only catering to the security situation in the Kashmir valley. This is a classic Narendra Modi signature move. He believes in tough decision making. However, he is also good at is stemming the information flow. He has a knack of ensuring that everyone keeps guessing, when he goes about executing his work.
Article 370 has been a core issue for Bharatiya Janta Party since its inception. Stalwart leader Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookherjee paid with his life for demanding “One Nation, One Flag, One Constitution”.
Check Mate, The Shah style
Amit Shah as Union Home Minister proved his political acumen yet again. The abrogation of Article 370 had a long term planning and well thought strategy. Article 35 A was first diluted invoking the support for Dalit rights. It was the denial of rights to these marginalised sections that made the BJP raise the Article 35A issue in first place. Dalit rights was directly related to 35A, as state governments revoked the residency rights of the Valmik community — manual scavengers — if they chose social mobility through a different career. No national or regional party could oppose this move of BJP for fear of alienating the SC/ST vote. But this planned move gave a huge push to the dilution of Article 35A. Additionally, there was the question of women’s rights, given the BJP’s reformative Triple Talaq Bill, which would not apply to Kashmir and women’s inheritance disparity in Kashmir which had become the norm in the rest of India.
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Withdrawal of support from Mehbooba Mufti Government was important so that the power to give consent on legislative issues moves to the Governor. Presidential order to transfer power of assembly to Parliament was passed in 2018 using power of president under Article 356. In order to validate it further and remove objection from Supreme court, SC/ST amendment was passed using this power and as expected court did not say anything. Now because of validation given to SC/ST bill, the power of Governor becomes unquestioned . Using the precedent of 1952, the power of constituent assembly is transferred to State assembly. And with the move of BJP the power of state assembly were already with Governor since 2018 after coalition government collapsed.
It was in February 2019 when the BJP moved the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Bill, requiring Kashmir to provide 10% reservation for marginalised communities. The bill, obviously passed the Lok Sabha with ease, but again, it had a far sighted purpose. This was the provision that the Governor could act as the local Assembly if the state did not have a functioning Assembly. In effect, the Lok Sabha had legislatively validated Mohd. Maqbool Damnoo vs State Of Jammu And Kashmir (1972) and overridden SBI vs Santosh Gupta (2015) that had held the opposite position. What India did is entirely constitutional without breach of any domestic law, nor it violated any international treaty obligation.
The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) managed to gain support from most of its allies except Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar – led Janata Dal United (JDU). Non-aligned parties which extended their supports to the Centre in scrapping Article 370, include Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Apart from JDU, other parties which opposed the move to tamper with Article 370 and 35A are – Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, CPIM, National Conference, PDP and MDMK. The parties opposing the government totally failed to understand the mood of the nation, and will be facing poll debacle in coming elections. Though, some leaders of the Congress party opposed their official party stand and supported the move by government.
South Asia and The world
Abrogation of Article 370 has been perfectly timed when Pakistan is economically saddled to initiate any conflict with India as FATF breathes down its throat on terror funding. With scrapping of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir at this perfect moment, govt made Pakistani claim over Jammu & Kashmir redundant. The scrapping of Article 370 will invoke no real response from the international community, except some hyped rage in Pakistan and a cold condemnation by Turkey. Most of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) nations will remain silent on it further isolating Pakistan.
United States indeed need Pakistan for a safe withdrawal from Afghanistan but Pakistan can no longer leverage Kashmir card for re-negotiationg with United States as tagging Kashmir will not go well for either countries in present situation. America is more interested in getting Taliban deal with Pakistan than pushing India on Article 370. After President Trump’s goof up regarding Prime Minister Modi asking him to mediate and public denial by government of India, there must have been clear back door communication between India and United States, clearing the air and non negotiable stance of India on Kashmir. Most importantly, India is most important ally for United States in asia to keep in check the dragon.
Earlier in the day, Ministry of External Affairs briefed the envoys of the P5 nations – the US, the UK, China, France and Russia -about the Indian government’s decision to scrap Article 370 and bifurcate the state into two union territories.
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Most of the European countries will fall in line with United States and will not oppose GOI stand.
China will restrain reluctantly. China is in a bad situation in Hongkong itself and has been struggling with Trump’s trade war also so it will not take Kashmir issue further at UNSC. Moreover, China needs India as trading partner to make up for the losses at America’s hand. Similarly, Russia will also shrug off the issue as India’s internal matter.
However, the massive recent mandate that was given by the people of India to the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government will bolster the legitimacy of the decision. Foreign funded think tanks and NGO cables may try to create paranoia regarding the situatuon but diplomatically and internally India will very well manage any dissent.
Kashmir, a new dawn
The government’s decision in relation to Article 370 is a monumental decision towards national integration but the people of Jammu and Kashmir are the one who will benefit the most. More investment, more industry, more private educational institutions, more jobs and more revenue for Jammu and Kashmir will pave way for its growth and development.
While the Article 370 and Article 35A scrapping benefits the residents of Jammu and Kashmir the most, the Kashmir regional leaders feel that they will not be able to whip up the fake issue of ‘sentiment vs. benefit’ to the people. The shops of corrupt regional parties in Kashmir along with separatist brokers will be closed.
Another aspect of the changes being made in J&K, particularly in making it a Union territory, is that both law and order within the territory as well as the defence of India will be in Delhi’s hands, thereby making this a seamless activity and perhaps more effective. Hopefully, the level of cross-border infiltration and terrorism will come down as a result.
The State Administrative Council (SAC) which met under the chairmanship of Governor, Satya Pal Malik accorded sanction to the holding of JK Investor Summit, 2019 on October 12 to 14, 2019. The hosting of the JK Investor Summit will provide the State with an opportunity to showcase its strengths, strategies and potential. It will present immense opportunities to develop contacts between State and business community and between local and outside business community. For the State like J&K, the Investor Summit will provide an opportunity to allay fear and apprehensions from the minds of outside trade and business community.
Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh will undergo transformation shift. It is also very important for India to rebuild trust with Kashmiri people and help them join mainstream. The people of Kashmir had been compromised long due to Pak sponsered separatist leaders and corrupt political regional parties. It is time to bridge the gap and further strengthen our national integrity.
– Shaurya Ritwik is the Founding Editor of The Charticle. He is a serial entrepreneur who works as a Business and Editorial Consultant with emerging business ventures, various corporations, and media agencies. He also serves as a Board Member in committees of various social organisations and projects for social development and policy making. He tweets at @shauryaritwik