New Delhi: The central government on Monday revoked Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and proposed the state be broken down into two Union Territories – the Jammu and Kashmir division (with a legislature) and Ladakh.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah met a long-held promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party Monday when he moved a resolution in the Rajya Sabha that Article 370, which allowed Jammu and Kashmir its own Constitution, will no longer be applicable.
“The President on the recommendation of Parliament is pleased to declare as from 5th of August 2019, all clauses of the said Article 370 shall cease to be operative... ," the resolution stated.
Shah also moved a bill proposing bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir division and Ladakh.
Shah, who introduced the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, said the Union Territory in Ladakh will have no legislature like Chandigarh. The other Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature like Delhi and Puducherry.
The announcement, capping days of uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir, led to an uproar in the House and outside too. India had failed Kashmir in keeping its promises, PDP chief and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufi said. She said the government's unilateral decision “to scrap Article 370” is illegal and unconstitutional. It will make India an occupational force in Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba said on Twitter. “It will have catastrophic consequences for the subcontinent. GOI’s intentions are clear. They want the territory of J&K by terrorising its people. India has failed Kashmir in keeping its promises,” Mehbooba, who is under house arrest in Srinagar, said on Twitter. “Not sure how long I'll be able to communicate. Is this the India we acceded to?” she asked.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah echoed her outrage, also labelling the government's move “unilateral”. “Government of India (GOI)'s unilateral and shocking decisions today are a total betrayal of the trust that the people of Jammu & Kashmir had reposed in India when the state acceded to it in 1947. The decisions will have far-reaching and dangerous consequences. This is an aggression against people of the state as had been warned by an all-parties meeting in Srinagar yesterday,” he said.
The government, he said in a statement, had resorted to “deceit and stealth” to lay the ground for these disastrous decisions. “Those of us who gave democratic voice to the people of Jammu & Kashmir, are incarcerated as lakhs of armed security personnel have been put on the ground... A long and tough battle lies ahead. We are ready for that,” he said.
The mood was triumphant in the BJP quarters. The government's move on Article 370, said senior party leader Arun Jaitley, is a monumental decision towards national integration. His party colleague Ram Madhav also hailed the decision. “What a glorious day. Finally the martyrdom of thousands starting with Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee for complete integration of J&K into Indian Union is being honoured and the seven decade old demand of the entire nation being realised in front of our eyes; in our lifetime. Ever imagined?” he tweeted moments after Shah's announcement. Party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said the move had opened the path of growth and development for Jammu and Kashmir.
Other Opposition leaders like the Congress, TMC and DMK squat on the floor of the House. One PDP member tore his clothes and along with another tore copies of the Constitution, prompting Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to order that they be physically removed.
Shah, who received a standing ovation from his party colleagues when he entered the House minutes before proceedings in the Rajya Sabha commenced, termed the move “historical”, saying Article 370 has not allowed integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the country.
When the House met, Naidu said he had used his discretionary powers to waive the requirement of the government to give advance notice and circulate a bill as the issue was of urgent national importance.
Leader of the Opposition and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the entire Kashmir Valley was under curfew and three former chief ministers of the state and political leaders have been placed under house arrest. He wanted the situation to be discussed first but Naidu allowed Shah to move the resolution. Shah moved the resolution to abolish Article 370 as well as the state reorganisation bill along with listed bills to extend reservation for economically weaker sections in educational institutions and government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir.
The reorganisation bill provides for formation of union territory of Ladakh without legislature and a separate one for Jammu and Kashmir with legislature.
While Naidu said only the bill for providing reservation was being moved now and the other would be done after it was circulated to members, the House in a voice vote approved the introduction. Later, Naidu allowed Shah to re-introduce the resolution and the reorganisation bill, saying copies have now been circulated to members. But it was not put to vote and it was not immediately clear if the voice vote taken earlier was for all bills and resolution or only for the bill for reservation. Shah had moved the resolution and the bills together. But the introduction was opposed by Congress, TMC and DMK members who along with leaders in the House rushed into the well.
Azad said the opposition was not against the reservation bill but wanted the Kashmir situation to be discussed first. While the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said the government was "rectifying" the historical blunder of imposing Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said there were enough empirical evidence and precedence where the governments have in past circulated and got approved bills on the same day. Shah said the reservation bill would help provide economically weaker sections 10 per cent reservation in educational institutions and government jobs. This reservation will be besides existing reservation for SC, ST and OBC.
Noting that in past 38 times bills have been circulated and passed on the same day, he said this will be “null and void” after the resolution for abolition of Article 370 is approved.
Vaiko said the government was killing democracy. “Emergency days have come back,” he said. “There is no emergency, only urgency,” Naidu remarked.
Azad said Article 370 was integral to Jammu and Kashmir joining India and added that lakhs of security personnel and civilians have lost their lives in the state during 70 years. “I strongly condemn the act of two or three members of Parliament (to tear copies of Constitution), none were from our party. We stand by the Constitution of India,” he said.
He, however, said the BJP has murdered democracy. Shah retorted that people of Jammu and Kashmir were living in poverty and corruption because of Article 370. Three families have looted the state for years, he said adding Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India on October 27, 1947 but Article 370 came in 1949. “It is not true that Jammu and Kashmir joined India because of Article 370,” he said.
Article 370 was always temporary and past governments did not remove it because of lack of political will and vote bank politics, he said. Shah in his resolution said, “...the President, on the recommendation of Parliament, is pleased to declare that, as from 5th of August, 2019, all clauses of the said article 370 shall cease to be operative except clause (1) thereof.” “All provisions of this Constitution, as amended from time to time, without any modifications or exceptions, shall apply to the State of Jammu and Kashmir,” it read. Article 370 of the Constitution granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir whereby provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K. As per this article, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, Parliament needs the state government's concurrence for applying all other laws. It was introduced in the Constitution on October 17, 1949.