The Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Jammu and Kashmir has come ahead of his August 15 Independence Day speech at the Red Fort, where he spells out his vision for the nation. While many Indians welcomed the move and lauded Modi’s government for its decisiveness, others criticised India for what they said were heavy-handed and even unconstitutional tactics. It is a bold step that the BJP government has taken.
In his speech, Modi has suggested that Jammu and Kashmir could eventually regain the status of a state, but Ladakh would remain a union territory. He respected political critics and asked them to act in the larger interests of the nation instead of blindly opposing the government’s actions. He also assured the people of the region that the situation will normalise soon, and hinted at the possibility of Jammu and Kashmir regaining statehood under more conducive conditions. The scrapping of Article 370 is the beginning of a new era. BJP has long vowed to revoke the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir which they at last did. The party’s 2019 election manifesto said it was “discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Kashmir”, adding that it was an “obstacle in the development of the state.” With this decision, a “new era” will begin in Jammu and Kashmir as all the obstacles for the development of Kashmir has now been lifted. It is true that successive governments at the Centre diluted Article 370 to such an extent that it ceased to have any practical meaning. But still, it was that thin string which held Kashmir within the Union of India.
PM Modi has very nicely painted a picture of exports from the area taking off and quoted that “The colour of saffron or the taste of coffee from Jammu and Kashmir, be it the sweetness of the apple or the succulence of the apricot, be it Kashmiri shawls… they need to be spread worldwide.” Article 370 guaranteed the Muslim-majority region greater autonomy than any other Indian state, as well as special privileges in education, jobs and property ownership. The government’s plan to rope in big investors into the state involving people in the development process will come out with a new Kashmir and joy for the people. The move also energised the party’s base, which celebrated it as further proof of Modi’s muscular nationalism. Some analysts described as a bold political move the swift, assured manner in which the BJP rolled back a 70-year-old deal between Delhi and India’s most volatile region. There are many benefits and the effects of abrogation of Article 370 are that:
- Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir’s area, name, and boundary couldn’t be altered, which are now changed.
- The Central government now needs no approval from the Jammu and Kashmir government to implement any laws, foreign affairs changes, and communications.
- Kashmiri status will remain for a woman if she marries a man from any other parts of India.
- No more separate flag in Jammu and Kashmir.
- The residents India can now buy property in Jammu and Kashmir and can enjoy the citizenship.
- People enjoying two types of citizenship. One is Indian citizenship and another is Kashmiri citizenship. That provision is now gone and
- Now any Indian citizen can apply for jobs in the state government.
There is no doubt that Modi government will reach out to Kashmir by strengthening grass-roots democracy, holding immediate elections and reverting to full Statehood status after normalcy returns.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)