On August 6, 2019, both Houses of Parliament of India passed resolutions to do away with a temporary provision of the Indian Constitution - Article 370, along with Article 35A, pertaining to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). J&K is to also be re-organized into two Union Territories - of Ladakh and of J&K. For any country in the world, making any change in its constitution is the sole prerogative of its parliament and its people, and a completely internal matter. This is also the case here.
The state of J & K acceded to the Union of India on October 27, 1947, when its ruler signed an Instrument of Accession, identical to the ones signed by more than 560 princely states which also acceded to India. J&K’s accession to India was absolute and final. However, since the state was witnessing external aggression at the time of its accession, in the Constitution of India adopted in November 1949, a purely temporary provision was kept in the form of Article 370 for smooth synchronization of its governance with the rest of India. It essentially pertained to how legislation passed by Parliament of India would apply to J&K. While a gradual integration process ensued, such as application of the jurisdiction of Chief Election Commissioner, jurisdiction of Comptroller and Auditor General and High Court and introduction of All India Administrative Services, but this process was deliberately slowed down by vested interests, denying development to J&K residents. Benefits of landmark, progressive legislations passed by Indian Parliament were available to rest of India, but not to the people of J&K. These include the universal right to education for children, mandatory affirmative action for education and jobs for disadvantaged sections, delegation of financial powers and mandatory 33 % reservation for women in local bodies, and Right to Information.
Some local laws enacted in the state were patently discriminatory. Women of J&K lost right to property if they married outside the state. Citizens from rest of India were not permitted to invest in the state well known for its scenic beauty and immense tourism potential.
As a result, investment and growth in the State was discouraged, vested interests emerged that gobbled up significant finances allocated to the state. Lack of opportunities for youth made them restless, easy to be influenced by extremist ideologies and cross-border terror. J&K fell behind India’s mainstream.
The recent changes are purely in the nature of administrative re-organization for bringing in development, transparency and good governance. There are no implications whatsoever vis-a-vis India’s external borders, status of Line of Control etc. Changes in Indian constitution have been rightly recognized by the international community as purely India’s internal matter. Some temporary restrictions were necessitated to ensure safety and to prevent loss of life as passions may be easy to be incited in the heat of moment by forces inimical to India. These are gradually but surely being eased and the state is returning to normalcy.
Not a single casualty has taken place since. All essential provisions, food stuff, health services are available normally. Most schools have re-opened, land-line communications restored. J&K will have its own legislature, and people would be able to elect their own representatives as soon as situation normalizes. As part of commitment to deepen democracy in the state and make it truly representational, elections to Block Development Councils will be held soon.
Kashmir is famous for its delicious apples, which are now ripe for harvesting. It is being ensured that the harvest reaches the market. Just like their farmer-producers and consumers all over India and the world, we are hopeful that all people of Kashmir would be able to enjoy the fruits of development like rest of India.
*The writer, HE Prashant Agrawal, is the High Commissioner of India to Namibia
2019-09-03 07:26:24 1 months ago