Over some time now, many non-Kashmiri friends have been approaching me while wondering why the abrogation of article 370 has caused so much pain, anguish and consternation in the valley , where it is being seen as a great betrayal of the aspirations of the people of Kashmir by India. Their serious reservations on how Kashmiris have reacted to it are based on the ‘apparently convincing’ plea that “non Kashmiris should have the same right to buy land and property and compete for jobs in Kashmir as much as Kashmiris enjoy these rights both in Kashmir and elsewhere in mainland India”.
That surely sounds reasonable and no one in their fit frame of mind should have issues with that line of thinking which, at least in theory, comes across as inclusive in character and spirit and ought to be looked upon as such. But it misses out on one vital and important aspect of the said article, which warrants some clarification.
To begin, it is not intended to advocate the continuation of article 370 on the grounds of development in the J&K state, which the said article had surely helped ensure despite repeated acts of its erosion by various governments at the Centre through their minions in the state government. That the article indeed had spurred development in the erstwhile state is borne out by certain important development indices where the J&K state would figure ahead of many other states in the Indian union including Gujarat, UP and Bihar.
Contrast this with the total absence of development coupled with a complete loss of business activity, especially in the valley following the abrogation of article 370. That should serve to lay bare the evil designs who had conceived of this monumental fraud being committed upon the people of Kashmir. Nor is its retention in the Indian Constitution being justified because many North Eastern states also enjoy the privilege of a special status by virtue of the provisions of similar constitutional safeguards granted to them under various avatars of article 370. However, in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the story is altogether different and one shall have to probe a little deeper.
The inclusion of article 370 into the Indian Constitution was contemplated and enshrined as an inviolable act in the book, in exchange of the Kashmiri leadership having opted for India, even as the Partition formula had clearly stipulated Pakistan as the ‘most natural option’ for Kashmir to accede to. That indelible piece of Kashmir’s history, obliges the Indian law makers to understand that the abrogation of article 370, simply cannot be contemplated in the absence of its reference to the people of Jammu and Kashmir regarding the advisability or otherwise of its retention in the Constitution. The failure to do so while forcing its hand in doing what it had done on August 5th, 2019, constitutes a brazen violation of the Constitution, and so should have attracted the harshest provisions as specified in the book against those who had broken the oath of safeguarding the Constitution of India. Adjudication by an independent judiciary would have surely rendered the move infructuous.
It strains commonsense, why those who had subverted the Constitution on August 5th, 2019, had not taken on board the natural fallout of this act of hamhandedness committed on that day that Jammu and Kashmir would cease to remain part of India post August 5th, 2019, not only technically, but also legally and constitutionally. As such, the only way out in which article 370 could be dispensed with, would have been by its reference to the people of J&K either through a referendum or at least through the due process of law in the state legislature.
Finally, let it be borne in mind by one and all, that the disputed nature of the Kashmir issue cannot be wished away by such acts of perfidy and mischief as were employed in repealing the article and in a manner that was manifestly adhoc, illegal and unconstitutional. Despite the recent enactment of such anti-people laws as the New Domicile Law, the New Housing Policy or the Buildings Act as has been done in the erstwhile state to engineer a demographic shift in the valley, the undeniable fact remains that “The disputed nature of Kashmir shall remain and shall continue to fester to the detriment of all those involved with Kashmir directly or indirectly.”
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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