They have done it. In the end, more surprising than the actual abolition of Article 370 was the fact that how easy it was to do it. For decades, even if a government had the requisite will to do so, it would plead the constitutional roadblocks preventing its abrogation.
But the Modi-2.0 seems to be doing it without much resistance from Parliament or outside, belying the popular belief that the special status to Jammu and Kashmir was near–permanent, and impossible to scrap. Where there is a will, there is a way, they say.
Only the Dabang Modi Sarkar could have pulled off this constitutional sleight of hand to remove this millstone around the neck of the Indian Union.
Perpetrating mayhem in the idyllic Kashmir Valley with the ultimate objective of snatching it for Pakistan received much help from the special status of J and K.
It tied the hands of the Indian State, preventing it from fully integrating Kashmir with the rest of the country. Removing Article 370 has no bearing whatsoever on the status of Muslims in Kashmir or elsewhere.
For decades, a false narrative was fuelled by Pakistan and its agents in the Valley that scrapping Article 370 was a Muslim question and it would tantamount to an attack on the secularist character of the Republic. Far more Muslims live in India outside of Kashmir, and without the protective shield of a special provision in the Constitution.
Article 370 was a concession hurriedly made by a panicky Centre to a separatist-at-heart Sheikh Abdullah and his ilk in the mistaken hope that after a lapse of time it could be abolished.
The procedure of abolition was so arduous that it could never be contemplated without the route the Modi-Shah duo adopted. On Monday they surprised friend and foe alike with the rather smooth passage of the amendment bills in the Rajya Sabha (and their near-certain passage in Lok Sabha on Tuesday).
Mind boggles at the thought that what was universally considered inconceivable for ages, what was thought to be out of reach even of the Modi Sarkar, was accomplished so easily through some constitutional short-cuts taken in the larger interest of a fuller integration of Kashmir with the country.
Property rights, land rights, marital rights, and others are set to change both for the people of Kashmir and for Indians after the quashing of this constitutional eyesore.
It was an article of faith for the Jana Sangh from its inception and ever since has found a most prominent mention in all its manifestoes. No party has championed its removal as fiercely and determinedly as has the Jana Sangh-BJP.
In the absence of the J and K Assembly, Parliament exercising its powers requested the President to scrap the special provisions which gave the Union a role only over matters concerning Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications.
President Ramnath Kovind issued the relevant notification early on Monday. This was followed by Shah’s coup in the Rajya Sabha, which sought not only to abolish Article 370 but to reorganise the State into two distinct Union Territories.
Ladakh and Kargil will be one UT but without an assembly. Jammu and Kashmir too will be a UT but with an assembly. Effectively, the Centre would henceforth control Jammu and Kashmir until the challenge of jihadi terrorism is fully extinguished.
Shah in the Rajya Sabha promised to turn around Kashmir in the next five years. Meticulous, multi-faceted preparations preceded the historic move.
Tens of thousands of additional troops were moved into the Valley, all domestic and foreign tourists were asked to leave the State at short notice, Amarnath Yatra was curtailed mid-way, local politicians such as the Abdullahs and the Mufits and Sajad Lone, etc., were placed under house arrest. Curfew was clamped as a precautionary measure, etc.
Separatists can now be trusted to make noise as can be Pakistan. Extensive patrolling on the line of control is meant to take care of further jihadi intrusions in the wake of the death of Article 370.
Pakistan will hope that once the Taliban are soon in control of Afghanistan, the redundant jihadis can be made to focus on Kashmir. But the Indian State may have already fortified itself against such a distinct possibility.
More than Pakistan and its agents in the Valley, how ordinary Kashmiris react to the epochal Modi-Shah feat will be important. Going by what Shah said in the Rajya Sabha,
it would seem that people in J and K can expect reservations in government jobs and educational institutions, implementation of the right to education, extension of the Prime Minister’s medical insurance cover, and a host of other benefits which hitherto were denied to them due to Article 370.
Though most laws were extended to J and K, yet the special status was a mental block which tended to keep Indians and Kashmiris separate. The feeling of separateness was fuelled further by a couple of political dynasties in Kashmir which had between them monopolized control of the State through a rigged electoral process.
Hopefully, the ensuring delimitation exercise will restore the balance between Jammu and Kashmir and it will find due reflection in the proposed Assembly.
Of course, it is not going to be smooth sailing. But, then, righting the wrongs of the past has never been easy. Anti-Indian forces would do their best to undo what Shah achieved in Parliament. Challenges would be mounted on various platforms.
Judicial, political and even jihadi fronts would be activated to void the abolition. Given the thoroughness with which the Government cleared the main hurdle in Parliament, it is unlikely that it has not anticipated the problems that lie ahead and the roadblocks vested interests will create.
But, as we said, at the outset, if the spirit is, to borrow a popular tagline of the recent BJP campaign, Modi Hai To Mumkin Hai.
Indians will exult that what was considered impossible was made possible by Modi. We commend the action. But will counsel utmost humility and caution in handling the fall-out.