New Delhi: In a move that will reverberate for a long time and has got rid of the albatross around India’s neck, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday announced the scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The special status was key to Kashmir’s accession to India in 1947.
The State will also be bifurcated into two Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir with an Assembly and Ladakh without one. What does this entail? To begin with, people from other states can now buy land in Jammu and Kashmir.
This, in theory at least, opens up potential opportunities for development-led economic growth in the region. But the far-reaching decision may also alter the demographic profile of the state.
Likewise, earlier, the Centre had to seek the State legislature's approval for introducing any policies. The state could also take a call on all matters, barring defence, communications and foreign affairs. Those special powers are gone.
Earlier, residents of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed dual citizenship, which they would lose only if they married people from other states. There will be no dual citizenship from now. Likewise, there will be no separate flag for Jammu and Kashmir; rather, it will gaze at the national Tricolour.
Again, Article 360, which allows the Centre to declare financial emergency in any state, will now apply to Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, the move had to be necessitated by "war or an external act of aggression".
Likewise, there can be reservation for minorities in the state. The Right to Information Act was also not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. That, too, has changed.
Article 370 was the root of terror in Jammu and Kashmir. It is time for it to go...if it doesn't go now, we can't remove terrorism from Jammu and Kashmir," Shah said in the Rajya Sabha, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present for the voting.
The resolution on the abrogation of Article 370 was passed by a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha, but the opposition pressed for division on the Bill for bifurcation of the state and the Bill was passed by 125 to 61 votes.
During the debate, the Congress had argued that the move was "murder of democracy". The Home Minister said the "obstacle of Article 370" had to be removed to embrace the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and integrate the region with the rest of India and develop it.
"It needed strong political will to end Article 370, to rise above vote-bank politics. Narendra Modi had the will to do it," he said to loud desk-thumping from the government benches.
"Jammu and Kashmir is the mukut-mani (jewel in the crown) of India. Give us five years, we will make it the country's most developed state," Shah said, assuring transformation of the state under BJP rule.
Earlier, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress, said Jammu and Kashmir was being "broken into pieces" and the people of the state were not with the Centre.
"We went from Prime Minister to Chief Minister, now we're at Lieutenant Governor. You've made the Governor a clerk. You've made Jammu and Kashmir a non-entity. Bring this to your state and see what happens," he told Shah. Azad also warned the government: "Don't be intoxicated with power."
Shah old Parliament that the move on Article 370 would come into force "at once" through a decree signed by President Ram Nath Kovind. In his 40-minute reply to a day-long debate after nearly two hours of Opposition protest,
Shah attributed poverty and backwardness in the region to Article 370 and pointed out how most of the money going into the state was lost in corruption, noting that Rs 27,388 per head was spent in the state in 2017-18, as against Rs 8,227 per head in rest of the country.
He narrated how the government's policies for development were hindered because of Article 370. He pointed out how women's reservation in Panchayat and Municipals brought during Rajiv Gandhi regime could not be implemented in J&K because of this provision.
Shah talked of unlimited possibilities of tourism in the state with big companies venturing to open hotels in the Valley that will give boost to employment by way of jobs, taxis and as tourist guides.
He narrated how today a Kashmiri hardly gets Rs 3,000 per acre if he wants to sell his land as there are no buyers, at least not from outside the state, as against the reigning prices in the rest of the country of Rs 10 lakh per acre.
MEHBOOBA, OMAR ARRESTED: Former chief minister and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti was arrested moments after Rajya Sabha passed the bill to bifurcate the state.
Minutes after she was arrested, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah was also taken into custody. Jammu and Kashmir People's Conference leaders Sajjad Lone and Imran Ansari have also been arrested. Mufti has been taken to Hari Niwas - a VVIP state guest house. The reason for her arrest was not immediately known.
INFO BLACKOUT IN KASHMIR: A curfew and a total communication blackout are in place in Kashmir. With a communication shutdown in place, the majority of the Kashmiris were still unaware of the decision about their state.
But once the news breaks, the big worry is that street protests could erupt in the Valley triggering a fresh wave of unrest. How the government is going to deal with the aftermath is the main question, now.
DELIMITATION, NEXT: A commission for delimitation of constituencies is likely to be set up. The commission will redraw the maps of assembly and parliamentary constituencies of J&K, which will be converted into a Union Territory once the Presidential Order to this effect gets approval of Parliament.
Kashmir Valley has 46 (more than 50 per cent) assembly and three (half of) parliamentary constituencies allocated to Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu has 37 assembly and two Lok Sabha seats.
There have been complaints - particularly from people living in Jammu region - that though smaller in size and dense in population, Kashmir Valley has enjoyed overwhelming presence in the state assembly and undue share in the Lok Sabha.
INTERNAL MATTER, P-5 TOLD: India has conveyed to foreign envoys, including five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P-5), that the decisions are an "internal" matter aimed at providing good governance and economic development of the state.
Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party sprang a surprise and supported the scrapping of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K.
Another unexpected supporter was Arvind Kejriwal, he reasoned the move would bring "peace and development" in the State.
YSR Congress said had Jawahar Lal Nehru entrusted the task to Sardar Patel, no one would have been discussing this issue.
Biju Janata Dal said J&K has become an integral part of India. "We are a regional party. But for us, the nation comes first.’’
The Telugu Desam Party, the estranged NDA ally, also supported the BJP, with Chandrababu Naidu saying he will pray for the peace and prosperity of the people of J&K.
AIADMK welcomed the resolutions. "There is nothing to worry," a spokesperson said. "Amma [AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa] was for this," he added.
The Shiv Sena celebrated by distributing Kaju katli.
A known detractor, Raj Thackeray also welcomed the move. After a long time, the Central government took an exceptional decision, he tweeted.
Congress described it as a "catastrophic step", said it marks a "black day" in the constitutional history of India.
Mehbooba Mufti’s People's Democratic Party said India has failed Kashmir in keeping its promises. Party MPs tore copies of the Constitution in the House.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah dubbed the government's move as unilateral and shocking; said it was a total "betrayal of trust."
Janata Dal (United), despite being an NDA ally, said that it will not support the government's Kashmir move.
DMK strongly condemned Centre's move saying it was a "murder of democracy".
Rashtriya Janata Dal said the (abolition of) Article 370 was not possible to execute. Today, we have opened the gates for Kashmir to turn into Palestine in five years, a spokesperson said.
CPI said it was "regressive" while CPI (M) termed it as an "attack" on the Constitution.
Trinamool Congress attacked the "procedural hara-kiri."
Nationalist Congress Party, too, criticised the "method" adopted by the Central government to push through its decisions.