(Photo Credit: CNS Kashmir)
The Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that pertains to the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir has yet again become the hot topic of discussion these days- all thanks to Narendra Modi. The newly elected Prime Minister of India had called for a debate on article 370 during his party's (Bharatiya Janta Party- BJP) campaign in Jammu. And of course, since Modi won the elections with such a clear mandate, it is expected that he'll get done whatever he actually wants done. There should be nothing stopping him, no coalition government to throw obstacles his way, just a strong party presence to pave the way. So naturally, Article 370 is the talk of the town, or rather, of the entire country and abroad too (otherwise, we wouldn't be talking about it, right?). All leading Indian dailies and sites are re-visiting history, recapping the events leading up to its formulation and arguing for and against it. We bring you a short and concise story from a few recent articles, starting with a brief history of Kashmir.
The Story of Kashmir
As the different princely states of India (565, it's said) integrated to form the Republic of India after India gained it's freedom from the British rule in August 1947, Kashmir became an issue of controversy. Kashmir was a majority Muslim state and so, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, expected Kashmir to become a part of Pakistan. However, Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, wanted an independent state. Pakistan planned a tribal invasion of Kashmir in order to force it to become a part of Pakistan. In the early hours of October 24, 1947, when the invasion began, the Maharaja appealed to India for help, giving his nod for Kashmir’s accession to India. And so, on Oct 26th 1947, the Maharaja signed the 'Instrument of Accession' by which he agreed to complete accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India. India provided protection to the Maharaja and the state. Fighting between Indian troops, and the tribesmen and Pakistani troops continued for more than a year after the accession, in what is generally known as the first India-Pakistan war. Finally, a United Nations (UN) ceasefire ended the war, with India getting control of two third of Kashmir and Pakistan walking away with one-third of the state.
The Story of Article 370
The Key Players In The Formulation Of Article 370-
Jawaharlal Nehru- India's first Prime Minister, leader of the Indian National Congress (INC).
Maharaja Hari Singh- The ruler of Jammu & Kashmir, the great grandson of Maharaja Gulab Singh who was the ruler of Jammu and had bought Kashmir from the British after they acquired Kashmir in 1846 making it a princely state.
Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel- India's Home Minister under Nehru, popularly known as the Iron Man of India. He was the man responsible for merging the various princely states into a unified Indian union.
Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah- Leader of the Kashmiris, he led the state in 1948, 1975, and 1977. He is known as 'Lion of Kashmir'. He strongly opposed the idea of Kashmir joining the Muslim Pakistan. He is largely responsible for winning Kashmir a semi-autonomous status within independent India. Many believed that Abdullah’s ultimate aim was independence for Kashmir, and so he was imprisoned several times, from 1953 to 1964 and again from 1965 to 1968 for separatist behaviour. His son, Farooq Abdullah and grand son, Omar Abdullah have led the state as Chief Ministers also.
Gopalaswamy Ayyangar- An IAS officer who had served as the Prime Minister of Kashmir for six years with Maharaja Hari Singh before India's independence. He was brought in by Nehru as a minister without portfolio to help him deal with Kashmir portfolio and plead the case of Article 370 in the Constituent Assembly.
V Shankar- An IAS officer who was the personal secretary to Patel.
Birth Of Article 370
Now that we know the key players in the formulation of Article 370, known as article 306(A) during it's drafting life period, lets briefly summarize it's eventual birth as per the article by Major Gen Sheru Tapliyal in the Indian Defense Review. A recent article in the Hindu, although with opposing view, also agrees with this story.The accession of Kashmir to India by the Maharaja was unconditional, barring protection from Pakistan. It was Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, whose dream it was to someday see Kashmir as an independent state, who shrewdly (it is said) influenced Nehru to afford it a special status. Together they drafted the article. Patel was against the whole idea, was kept out of the initial draft. Ayyangar's role was to propose and to get the draft passed in the Constituent Assembly discussions. The Constituent Assembly and also the Congress Party Executive rejected the proposal.
Nehru, who was abroad at the time, then turned to Patel to get Article 370 approved. From that point on wards, through the arguments, the discussions, and the amendments, he was totally and completely involved and responsible for getting the article approved and hence for the birth of article 370. This, despite the fact that he was totally averse to the whole idea and is even said to have told V Shankar, “Jawaharlal Royega” (Jawarlal will cry, implying, regret this).
So What Is Article 370?
Article 370 became a part of the Indian Constitution in 1949. It came into being in an attempt to appease Kashmir, giving it an semi-autonomous status. Although the original intention was the diminution of its provisions, the article continues to provide special status to J&K state earning itself the reputation of keeping Kashmir from being integrated to the Indian Union.
Why is Article 370 detrimental to the full integration of J&K state into Indian Union?
According to the same article in Indian Defense Review, the following provisions in the article are impediments to full integration of the state to the Indian union-
The Central Govt can make laws only with concurrence of the State govt, practically giving it the Veto power.
Article 352 and 360 for declaration of national and financial emergency respectively cannot be applied in Kashmir. Even Article 356 under which President of India can impose his rule in any state cannot be enforced in J&K without consent of the Governor who himself is an appointee of the President.
While a citizen of India has only Indian citizenship, J&K citizens have two citizenships.
Anti Defection Law is not applicable to J&K.
No outsider can buy property in J&K state.
The beneficial laws such as Wealth Tax, Gift Tax & Urban Land Ceiling Act and intermarriage with other Indian nationals do not operate in J&K State.
State of J&K can refuse building of any cantonment on any site or refuse to allot land for defense purposes.
Those Who Support It......
Not everyone believes that Article 370 has strengthened separatist tendencies with respect to J&K. In over sixty years since India's Independence, no political party has ever taken a firm stance of doing away with Article 370. In fact, according to an article in The Hindu, at the opposition conclave in Srinagar in 1982, the leaders of all national parties had upheld the article declaring that the “special constitutional status of J&K under Article 370 should be preserved and protected in letter and spirit.” The author of the article, Amitabh Mattoo, writes that Article 370 is synonymous with decentralization and devolution of power, phrases that have been on the charter of virtually every political party in India. Amitabh Matto also believes that a series of Presidential Orders has eroded Article 370 substantially from its original form, even making most Union laws applicable to the State. But even he agrees that differences from many other States still exits relating to permanent residents and their rights; the non-applicability of Emergency provisions on the grounds of “internal disturbance” without the concurrence of the State; and the name and boundaries of the State, which cannot be altered without the consent of its legislature.
Let's Say It- Enough Already, Be Done With It
Since Article 370 virtually prohibits others from India to buy land and set up businesses in Kashmir, the article proves to be a major stumbling block for the establishment of various national and international corporations there. The popular belief is that this leads to lack of varied employment opportunities for the youth of Kashmir. One of the repercussions is possibly the involvement of these youths in terrorist activities. The situation has been ripe for terrorist organizations from across the border to influence these youths to train them in terrorism......
So finally after 67 years, when a leader stands up and opens debate to revoke Article 370, it is no surprise that it generates excitement and emotional outpourings of both pros and cons of keeping or revoking it. We say, be done with it. The entire country needs to be 'farmed' to make pro-business 'fertile' grounds. No exceptions, no obstructions, and certainly no excuses! India, Pakistan and the world needs to move past the Kashmir issues. The issue is history, worth only for school textbooks now. It's high time the part of Kashmir in India is well blended into India in every possible respect, just like any other state. And although, Pakistan is in no way connected with article 370 (it's entirely all of India's doing), while we are on the topic of Kashmir, we might as well say that it's high time Pakistan starts to focus it's time, energy and resources towards uplifting it's people and bettering it's economy. It's high time Pakistan stops using terrorism as a military strategy. It's high time this be settled for good, perhaps accept the status quo and let's all move forward. It's high time India and Pakistan co-exist peacefully, much like America and it's neighbors.
Perhaps a day will come when Pakistan becomes India's Mexico, or maybe India's Canada. Of course, it can even dream bigger- make India it's Canada or go so far ahead that India is it's Mexico in comparison (no disrespect intended to Mexico).
(There are innumerable articles on the Kashmir issue and Article 370, I picked the above mentioned ones because the story told therein is the story that my parents and grand parents told us about the situation. However, I wanted to tell the story to the readers with the benefit of links with more details.)