Article 370 revoked in J&K: A look back at its history and what now
The government revoked on Monday the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and took steps to change how the region will be governed, a decision that has ramifications for the state’s people, the country’s politics and relationship with Pakistan.
Till now, J&K had a unique position among Indian states – it had its own Constitution and only a handful of laws that apply to other states were valid. The legal provision that gave it this unique position was Article 370 of the Constitution, which the government effectively abolished by changing some of its aspect and cancelling out some others through an order.
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“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... ,” said a resolution moved by home minister Amit Shah.
The announcement came after days of uncertainty in the state, where the annual Amarnath Yatra that draws tens of thousands of pilgrims was abruptly called off last week while a large number of soldiers were moved. The government had also imposed a security lockdown and cut all telecommunications in the early hours of Monday.
The decision drew angry reactions from many political parties, who said it amounted to going back on a promise that was made during the time when India got independence from the British. Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said the decision reflected a desire of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government to change the demography of Kashmir, where Muslims make up a majority.
Her regional rival, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the move was “unilateral and shocking”, and a total “betrayal of trust” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in parliament said the government had “wiped out Jammu and Kashmir’s identity”.
Some politicians, however, especially those from the BJP and their allies welcomed the decision.
To understand the angry reactions, it is important to look at how the special status came into being. During Independence and the partition of India and Pakistan, princely states – or regions that were ruled by a local leader in alliance with the British Raj – went through a process of integrating with either of the two countries.
The then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Raja Hari Singh, decided to go with India by signing the Instrument of Accession treaty. But, unlike most other states, the treaty set a crucial pre-condition: the local government of Jammu and Kashmir will make laws on all aspects of the state except three -- foreign relations, defence and communications.
Thus, Article 370 was incorporated when India adopted its Constitution. Subsequently, it became the basis for several privileges that were announced for people of J&K, such as restricting people from outside of the state to buy property or claim right to employment.
All of these privileges will now be at par with UTs. The Centre moved a draft law for parliament’s approval to turn J&K into one UT and Ladakh as another.
For J&K, the government has proposed an assembly, which means the region will have a chief minister – but many of its crucial powers, such as those relating to police and land – will be controlled by the federal government, similar to what happens in the national capital of New Delhi.
Pakistan, which claims the Kashmir region as its own, called the move illegal and said it will take “all possible steps” to counter it – the steps were not spelled out.