Ending Jammu & Kashmir’s special status in the Indian Union, the BJP government extended all provisions of the Constitution to the State in one go, downsized the State into two Union Territories and allowed all citizens to buy property and vote in the State.
Leading the charge, Home Minister Amit Shah piloted two special resolutions and a Bill creating the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh through the Rajya Sabha on Monday. While the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature, the one in Ladakh will not.
The first resolution informed the House that the President had used his powers under Article 370 to fundamentally alter the provision, extending all Central laws, instruments and treaties to Kashmir. However, the drastically altered Article 370 will remain on the statute books.
The government’s surgical strike on the State’s autonomy came as telephone and Internet services in the Valley were suspended, former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti remained under arrest and thousands of additional Central security personnel were deployed in the area.
Mr. Shah said that if the Union Territory model worked well, the government would also consider giving Jammu and Kashmir the status of a State again and “no constitutional amendment would be required.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present during the proceedings.
Mr. Shah said the Resolution for Repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution of India “would pass every legal scrutiny” and he was aware that an “NGO brigade” supported by some parties would challenge it.
Slamming the Congress, Mr. Shah said, “It was your policy that has killed so many people, more than 41,000, since 1988. Why aren’t youth in Rajasthan, Gujarat or Odisha misguided? Because there is no Article 370 in these States.”
Dismissing concerns that there would be “bloodshed” in the Valley, Mr. Shah said this was a “new experiment” and everyone should support it. “Terrorism cannot end in the State till Article 370 or 35A continue. They are an obstacle to development. We want to embrace the Kashmiri youth. The move will bring development, tourism and industries to the State. These opportunities till now were controlled by only three families,” he said.
Governor Satya Pal Malik on Monday night reviewed the security situation with top officials in Jammu and emphasised the need for constant vigil to deal with any eventuality. The Army’s Northern Command chief Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh met the Governor and briefed him about the security situation.
Reacting to the developments, U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said, “We call on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the LoC.”
The provisions of Article 370 will cease to exist from the date the President of India issues a notification after the Lok Sabha passes the resolution on Tuesday.
He termed Article 370 discriminatory on the basis of gender, class, caste and place of origin, adding it was “temporary in the first place and it has to go in the larger interest of the people of the State.” He said that from 2004 to 2019, the Centre sent over ₹2,77,000 crore to the State, but it did not percolate to the masses.
“In 2011-12, Centre spent ₹3683 per person in rest of India and Rs 14,255 per person in J&K. In 2017-18 Centre spent ₹8,227 per person in rest of India whereas in J&K it spent ₹27,258 per person. Even then there was no development in the State because of corruption. 370 stopped anti corruption bodies to function in the State. A monopoly was there,” Mr. Shah said.
Congress leader and Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad described the move as murder of the Constitution and the democracy by the BJP-led government, stating that the accession of J&K to India had happened through Article 370. He said in the past 70 years, lakhs of people, many leaders and workers of the mainstream parties had made sacrifices, thousands of police and security personnel lost their lives in the State.
Responding to Mr. Azad, Mr. Shah said the State was assimilated into India through the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh on October 27, 1947, and Article 370 came later. He said the Congress government had also amended Article 370 through the same process in 1952 and 1962.
(With inputs from PTI)