There is much need for debate on the merits and demerits of Article 370, granting separate status to Jammu and Kashmir, instead of its legal and constitutional validity, asserted former union minister Chaman Lal Gupta while commenting on the controversy over the various aspects of this provision.
He said, "The Article has been there in the statute book for over six decades, but the ground reality is that it has proved detrimental as far as interests of people of the state and other countrymen are concerned."
"It provided unbridled powers to the ruling class, who have been playing foul with rights of the people, so much so the elections were not fair and many people saw the ballot paper only in 1972, when the jurisdiction of the Election Commission was extended to J&K," he alleged.
"The players of this foul, including the founders of Article 370, like Sheikh Abdullah, themselves confessed to this, but only when they were out of power. The extent of misuse of the separate status was such that it was only in 2002 that the state government was changed through ballot and confidence in democratic process was restored," he alleged.
"In the absence of the provisions of the Indian Constitution, the basic democratic rights of the people, panchayats, local bodies and even other basic democratic structures like cooperatives have been made institutions of mockery," he added.
Gupta said J&K belonged to all people of India, as the Indian Army came to the region only after signing the Instrument of Accession. "Since then, thousands of jawans from various parts of the country have been coming here and sacrificing their lives to defend the integrity of India," he added.
"The Parliament, being supreme, can amend or enact laws, except Articles 1 and 3. During the past six decades, there have about 100 amendments. It is ridiculous to say that Article 370 cannot be altered," Gupta said.
Adding that the "controversial measure had encouraged separatism and secessionism", he said, "It has harmed the national interest. Hence, the issue should be debated in a democratic way by discarding the narrow outlook."