The parliament of India on 6th August put its stamp of approval on bills abrogating article 370 and downgrading the state of Jammu and Kashmir to two union territories. When the representatives of the people of India were deciding the fate of the state, the people of J&K were forced into collective house arrests. Armed forces imposed curfew like restrictions on movement, all means of communications were blacked out, hundreds of politicians and party activists, including former chief ministers of the state were behind bars. It is clear that the Modi government lacked the courage to face the reaction of the people of the state to its actions, and hid behind bayonets of the Indian army and a legal scam in parliament. With these steps the Republic of India has grievously damaged the civil political bridge between it and the people of Kashmir.
Actions of the Modi government are a fraud not only on the people of J&K, but also on Indian constitution and democracy. Article 370 was a result of careful negotiations within the constituent assembly between stalwarts like Ambedkar, Patel and Nehru and representatives of J&K.No one can deny that it was stamped by the requirements of the time. Its spirit has been repeatedly violated by all governments of India, and it had become more of an empty shell. However, constitutional morality demands that an agreement that has been entered by two parties be amended or abrogated only by mutual consent. What Modi govt has done is nothing short of legalised bullying. Furthermore, it has indulged in a legal trickery. What the constitution expressly prohibits it from doing, it has done through back-door. Article 370, as drafted in the constituent assembly, is a fairly fool-proof document. It can be amended only by the concurrence of the constituent assembly of the J&K, a body which has ceased to exist. It is a legal question whether the next best option, an elected legislative assembly of the state can concur with its amendment. Modi government dissolved the elected assembly of the state last year, and has not allowed a new assembly to be elected. It has usurped the rights of the people of the state, unilaterally given to itself the right to abrogate article 370, and done what the constitution does not permit it to do.
Constitution of India is driven by an inclusive spirit that accepts the diversity of India, and refrains from imposing a forced homogeneity on Indians. Its various schedules allow for specific political and administrative provisions for different conditions in different parts of the country. Besides Kashmir, many such provisions are in place in the North-East of the country. Such provisions allow autonomous political development in such regions, and make their association with India voluntary to an extent, rather than forced.The Hindutva ideology of RSS followed by the Modi governmentis diametrically opposed to the idea of nationhood in the constitution. It wants India to be a Hindu rashtra, privileging one religious community over all others. The primary aim of the RSS and the Modi government is to solidify a majoritarian politics among Hindus around an aggressive and violent nationalism. Demonisation of Muslims is an integral component of this majoritarianism. Devaluation of the only Muslim majority state in the country is part of this politics.
It is extremely worrying that significant sections of Indians are falling for the majoritarian bait. While the people of J&K, whose political fate has been decided by the Modi government, are locked under curfew and Indian forces are using pellet bullets against Kashmiris who are coming out in opposition to government’s move, many people in the rest of India are approving government’s action in the name of their country. They have forsaken their political wisdom. They are not asking a simple question. Do they want their country of 1.3 billion to be one which uses more than one third of its armed forces against eight million inhabitants of a small valley, whose population is less than one percent of Indians, actually less half of the city state of Delhi. As for the anti-India insurgency, all indicators prove that the level of violence as shown in the number Indian soldiers and unarmed civilians killed has increased manifold under the Modi government. Ordinary people everywhere want peace with dignity. Against this basic instinct of ordinary people, organisations like the RSS and parties like the BJP thrive in an environment of violence and hatred. It is in their interest to keep the cycle of violence in Kashmir going.
Actions of Modi government on article 370 have also exposed the bankruptcy of almost all Indian political parties. Their opportunistic politics is driven only by the logic of power, and they cannot see that majoritarian bullying, through which strong oppress the weak, is not democracy. Most regional parties have not even responded to the blatant attack of the Modi government on the constitutional federalism in the country by unilaterally breaking a state and turning it into centrally administered territories.
People’s Alliance for Democracy demands that
1. The government of India immediately take back recent changes in the status of J&K. If it wishes to abrogate 370 it should do so only through a dialogue with the people of the state, or their elected representatives.
2. All restrictions on the daily lives of the people of J&K be revoked immediately, political leaders and activistsin the state be released at once, and people be allowed to express their reactions to the government move freely.
PADS appeals to the people of India to not fall for the ruse of majoritarian nationalism. Their democratic rights will be respected only in a country which is inclusive and does not reduce parts of its population to prisoners of its nationhood.
Battini Rao, Convenor, People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) email@example.com