Future generation of India will remember August 5, 2019 as a milestone in Indian history. Article 370 of the Indian Constitution giving special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been revoked. It spells dooms day for the separatists in the Kashmir valley. The state has been bifurcated into two Union Territories- Jammu & Kashmir with a legislature and Ladakh without a legislature.
Contrary to the general opinion that the step taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to end the special status of the state was done in hurry, the government decision was well planned and executed after five years of the Centre’s study of the situation in the state. I am not privy to any information in this regard but as a political commentator I have my own views on how things might have taken shape to culminate in the decision to do away with Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
I briefly recall some important points that led to this long awaited corrective decision. In run up to general elections to Lok Sabha in 2014, the Election Manifesto of the BJP had mentioned that the Party was committed to revoke the special status of Jammu & Kashmir as guaranteed under Article 370 of the Constitution. At the same time the manifesto also mentioned that this step would be taken after due consultations with all the stake holders in the state.
The Modi Government came to power in May 2014. After six months elections were held for the state assembly of Jammu & Kashmir in November 2014. The mandate was fractured. In good faith the BJP extended support to the People’s Democratic Party to head a coalition government. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was alive then. He became the chief minister and there was a deputy chief minister of the BJP. Mufti Mohmmad Syed died in January 2016. His daughter Mehbooba Mufti was initially reluctant to succeed her father as chief minister. It was nothing but posturing to score points from the supporting partner the BJP. After three months she became chief minister of the state with the help of the BJP.
The central leadership of the BJP was hoping that she will help restore peace in the valley and go for the Modi Government’s pledge of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’. But inwardly she was working to encourage the separatists in the valley. Her sympathy for the Hurriyat leaders and other Pro-Pakistan elements were not hidden. She was seen sympathising and supporting the stone pelters who interfered with the security forces including the Indian Army during encounter with terrorists.
The turning point in the state was elimination of local grown terrorist Buhran Wani by the security forces in July 2016. Mehbooba Mufti took a stand that not openly supported Wani but held him as a ‘hero’ of Kashmir’s freedom struggle in a way she fomented the trouble in the valley. There was sudden increase in the incidents of violence involving Pakistani and local terrorists who were being supported by Mehbooba.
It was at that point that the Centre came to the conclusion that the regional political parties in the state including the PDP and National Conference will not stop from supporting the separatists in the valley hoping to get ‘azadi’ or autonomy. The NC and the PDP leaders along with the Hurriyat Conference stalwarts were regularly getting support from Pakistan and its ISI agency.
When elections were announced in 2019, the BJP manifesto reiterated its resolve to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution and end the special status of Jammu & Kashmir. But in the manifesto it deleted the lines that talked of holding consultations with all the stake holders in the state.
The Modi government came to power for the second term in May this year. And it struck at the root of all evils by ending the special status of Jammu & Kashmir. What Next. As things will unfold in the coming days the next step that the Centre is going to take is to ensure normalcy in the valley after revocation of Article 370. Already there is adequate mobilisation of security forces in the valley to meet any eventuality.
By and large the people of the state including those in the valley would realise sooner than later that the government decision to create Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh was a good step for them. It will help rapid economic growth of the Union Territories and bring prosperity to the people.
But the leaders of political parties particularly the PDP, the National Conference and the Congress are in a state of ‘shock’. For they have lost their political clout and importance in the affairs of the state. The Hurriyat Conference leaders appear to be in moribund condition. We have to wait and see the reaction of Hurriyat leaders like Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik who were taking dictates of Pakistan.
The coming days may witness some protests in the valley. But it is to be seen what the political leaders do next. Listening to the debate in the Rajya Sabha on August 5 where I was present it was clear from the speeches of Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal that they may knock at the door of the Supreme Court by challenging the validity of the Presidential notification of August 5 revoking Article 370. The legal challenge will also come from the PDP and National Conference. Whatever legal understanding I have the Supreme Court is unlikely to give any stay order or restore the status quo in the state till the pendency of the petitions that are yet to be filed. The legal battle may be a long drawn affair.
I conclude this piece of writing on lighter note by quoting some jokes posted in the social media that was sent to me. One joke doing the round is about Article 35A of the Constitution that stands scrapped. Someone wrote that if anyone has to buy a house boat in Kashmir will the bank loan come under ‘housing loan’ or ‘motor vehicle loan’. Another joke says Dal Lake will be the most favoured place to offer ‘Arghya’ during the Chhat Puja.
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