Apparently taking que from Israeli policy to implant Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government Monday (August 5) revoked the special status of Jammu Kashmir under articles 35A and 370 of the constitution which forbid Indians from outside the region from buying land or permanently settling in the Muslim-majority territory.By repealing Article 370 of the constitution, people from the rest of India will now have the right to acquire property in Kashmir and settle there permanently.
Article 35A of India’s constitution permits the Kashmir legislature to define permanent residents of the region. The Article forbids Indians from outside the state from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs or winning education scholarships in the region.
The article also bars female residents of Kashmir from property rights in the event that they marry a person from outside the state. The provision also extends to such women’s children.
Kashmiris as well as critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government see the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.
Article 370 had also limited the power of the Indian parliament to impose laws in the state, apart from matters of defense, foreign affairs and communications.
Home Minister Amit Shah also moved a bill in parliament to bifurcate the state into two union territories – Jammu Kashmir as one and Himalayan Ladakh region as the other – directly ruled by New Delhi.
The constitutional provisions revoked on Monday were introduced decades ago and included reserved government jobs and college placements for residents, in an effort to keep the state from being overrun by people from the rest of India.
Amit Shah said Article 370 was used as “vote bank politics” and the earlier governments lacked the political will to revoke it. “But the Modi government has the political will and we are not bothered about vote bank politics,” Shah said.
It’s the beginning of disintegration of India, says Chidambaram
Senior Congress leader and ex Indian Home Minister P. Chidamabaram, said the Govt move of scrapping Article 370 was “the beginning of the disintegration of India if the current Govt continues to be in charge.”
Monday was the worst day in the constitutional history and “the idea of India as a union of States is in grave danger,” he was quoted by The Hindu as saying.
“What they have done is a constitutional monstrosity. People of India, people of every State must wake up to the grave danger that was set as an example today by these completely unconstitutional and illegal resolutions. I want to warn every party, every State, every citizen of India that the idea of India as a union of States is in grave danger,” he said at a press conference.
“They can dismember every State and break it up. This is the beginning of disintegration of India. I am sorry to use such strong words but this is the worst day in the constitutional history of India,” he stated.
He accused the Govt of “dismembering” J&K, and claimed that every State in the country could be similarly dismembered.
“All that they have to do is to dismiss the elected Govt, impose President’s rule, dissolve the elected Assemblies, Parliament takes the power of the State Assembly, Govt moves a resolution and Parliament approves it and the State can be broken up,” said he, who is also a noted constitutional lawyer.
“What have they done. They dismembered the State of J&K by mischievously interpreting both Article 3 and Article 370 of the Constitution. If this can be done in J&K, then let me caution you that it can be done to every other State,” he noted.
“Every State can be broken up into two or 3 or more Union Territories by mischievously misinterpreting Article 3 and Article 370 and they won’t stop at that,” he added.
Interestingly Jammu and Kashmir is not the only territory that enjoyed special status under Indian constitution. Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Hyderabad-Karnataka, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Sikkim also enjoy special powers.
Punjab Chief Minister describes the move totally unconstitutional and undemocratic
No effort was made to evolve a consensus on this vital matter of national security and concern, said Captain Amarinder, asserting that given the sensitivity of the Kashmir issue, any decision should have been taken after following due process of democratic and legal norms.
Terming it as “totally unconstitutional”, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh Monday flayed the Centre on the manner in which it imposed its decision on Jammu and Kashmir, saying that the democratic fabric of the nation had been ripped apart with this unprecedented “violation” of the Constitutional norms.
“It is a dark day for the Indian democracy,” said Captain Amarinder, adding that the Constitution of India had been rewritten without following any legal provisions.
“Such a historic decision should not have been taken and pushed through in this arbitrary manner,” he said. This will set a bad precedent as it would mean that the Centre could reorganize any state in the country by simply imposing President’s rule, the Chief Minister was quoted by the Indian Express as saying.
Left Parties to Hold Country-Wide Protests on August 7 Against Dismantling of J&K
Condemning scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution and dismantling the state of J&K amid massive troop build-up and a clampdown by central forces in the state, the Communist Party of India and other Left parties have called for a nationwide protest day on Aug 7, Newsclick reported.
“This is the biggest attack on national unity and the concept of India as a Union of States,” said a statement by CPI(M) politburo.”
It is universally acknowledged that the unity of India lies in its diversity. BJP-RSS rulers cannot tolerate any diversity and the federal principle. They are treating J&K as occupied territory. Trampling on the Constitution, they are converting Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh as two centrally-ruled Union Territories.
This is the biggest attack on national unity and the concept of India as a Union of States,” the party said.
The politburo noted that in the run-up to “these authoritarian measures”, tens of thousands of troops were deployed in the state, leaders of major political parties were detained and movement of public prohibited.
Revoking Article 370 continues Modi’s Hindu nationalist project
According to Alex Ward of Vox Media, India’s government is controlled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Hindu nationalists believe their faith and culture should be integral to the country’s policies and foreseeable future. About 80 percent of Indians follow the polytheistic religion, though of course not all have joined the political movement. The remaining 20 percent are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and many others.
Modi, as the head of the party, is India’s prime minister. He has long been a Hindu nationalist and spent much of his first five-year term in power pushing policies favorable to that cause. Many have also faulted him for doing little to stop increasing violence against non-Hindus, especially Muslims, in India since he took control of the government.
Between May 2015 and December 2018, at least 44 people — 36 of them Muslims — were killed in 12 Indian states, according to Human Rights Watch. In the same period, about 280 people sustained injuries in more than 100 such incidents in 20 states. Despite Modi’s unwillingness to address the uptick in violence, his party won India’s national election this May in a landslide, giving him a greater mandate to pursue his agenda over a second five-year term, Alex Ward argued.
Michael Kugelman, an India expert at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, was quoted by Alex Ward as saying:“The repeal of Article 370 is a big manifestation of Hindu nationalism, as it represents an effort to bring India’s only Muslim-majority region into the union of India so that the nation’s Hindu majority can invest, acquire land there, and so on.”
And experts say Modi’s government is likely to keep making risky moves like this because of the prime minister’s newfound strong support. “It gives little reason to hold back on carrying out the policies — including those rife with risk — that it had previously not carried out,” says Kugelman.
The worry is that any escalation might push India and Pakistan over the edge and start a conventional war that could grow into a full-on nuclear one. The chances of that happening are still very low, but reactions from some Pakistani leaders don’t inspire much confidence, according to Alex Ward.
India’s risky Kashmir power grab, explained
Under the title “India’s risky Kashmir power grab, explained,” Alex Ward wrote: India’s government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has made a controversial move to usurp power from the nation’s only Muslim-majority state, potentially igniting unrest in one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear flashpoints.
More broadly, though, India unilaterally pushed to change Kashmir’s status without Pakistan’s buy-in. The worry now is that widespread unrest will spike in the region. Indian forces already heavily patrol Kashmir, but it has sent thousands of extra troops there in anticipation of violence, as well as closed schools, evacuated tourists, cut off internet connectivity, and put some of the area’s political leaders under house arrest. In effect, the area is on lockdown.
Which means one of the most fraught disputes in the world could become even more contentious very soon.
Even if tensions calm down in the days ahead, Modi still has little incentive to back off and curb his party’s ambitions. If anything, he will likely make many more controversial choices over the next five-year period, many of which may also impact Pakistan. That means it’s only more likely that the problems in Kashmir — and the broader India-Pakistan relationship — will continue to worsen, Alex Ward concluded.