In a historic decision, the Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, announced in the Rajya Sabha that the government of India had repealed Article 370. The article granted special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. After its repeal, the state stands split into two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu/Kashmir.
His announcement was followed by debates and massive protests in the house.
The prominent political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, namely Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, Sajjad Lone, were placed under house arrest. Communication services have been suspended in the region, and public gatherings are banned.
For years, Article 370 has failed to prove useful for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, this article had only given ample space to separatists’ views, insurgency, and mobilising public opinion against the Indian Security forces, thereby disintegrating the integrity and unity of the nation. The article did not in any way help the people of Jammu and Kashmir to bridge gaps, but only widened and deepened them, ultimately leaving them alienated. Therefore, the abrogation of this article is a crucial step for the maintenance of the inclusiveness of India.
The Article 370 is defined under Part XXI of the Indian Constitution. It gave autonomous status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and a few other states. It deals with temporary, transient, and special provisions.
This article restricts the Indian Parliament from forming laws for the state; it is only allowed to preside over subjects like Defence, External Affairs, Finance, and Communication.
Laws can be passed “only” after consultation with the state government.
The citizenship laws and fundamental rights are also different from the rest of the country, inhibiting the ability of non-residents of the region to buy property or land there. Also, the central government cannot impose a financial emergency in this state.
In the years following independence in 1947, this article was to be removed. But due to administrative lacunae and war like situations between India and Pakistan, the repeal of Article 370 was neglected.
Temporary, Transitional, and Special Provisions
Under part XXI of the Constitution, the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir was temporary and did not intend to be permanent.
Under Article 370, the Jammu and Kashmir State was allowed to have a separate Constitution and flag that defies the spirit of “one nation, one Constitution.” The state assemblies could adopt central laws but would not bound to them. Except for matters such as ‘Defense,’ ‘External Affairs,’ and ‘Communications,’ the Indian Parliament had no jurisdiction on extending its legislations to the border state without the concurrence of Jammu and Kashmir.
Even Pandit Nehru, the former Prime Minister of India, had pointed out in Parliament on November 27, 1963 that “Article 370 is part of certain transitional, provisional arrangements. It is not a permanent part of the Constitution. It is a part as long as it remains so.”
Impact on Jammu and Kashmir’s Economy
Article 370 was killing the spirit of a sovereign Indian nation, thereby causing serious wounds to the economy and development of the region.
The central key laws and schemes which were formed for the benefit of Indians could not be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir.
Only the residents of Jammu and Kashmir were allowed to buy property and invest there, thereby hindering job opportunities and investment.
Even if the government tried to build up national institutions for excellence such as the Indian Institute of Management, the professors wouldn’t want to settle there as they would find difficulty in seeking homes, and their children would struggle with school admissions.
According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s (CMIE), monthly time-series data on unemployment, Jammu & Kashmir had the highest monthly average unemployment rate of 15 percent between January 2016 and July 2019 among all the states, which is more than the national average unemployment rate of 6.4 percent.
Most of the manufacturing activity had remained restricted to the state’s inherent capacities in agriculture and handicrafts.
Children of women marrying outside the region were denied property rights.
Separatist’s views and the blooming terrorism in the region were harming the security agendas of the nation. Because of this article, it was not possible for private industries to buy land and invest in Jammu and Kashmir, which lead to unemployment. This allured the frustrated and unemployed youth for the demand for separation of Jammu and Kashmir from India. The separatists took advantage of it and brainwashed the youth, throwing them into terrorism.
Reservation laws applicable to the entire country were not applicable in this region, leading to discrimination and lack of opportunities for the downtrodden.
The implementation of central laws in the area will open up new vistas for the people’s welfare. It will act as a leveler without discriminating on the grounds of sex, religion, and race. The government intends to safeguard the cultural identity and rights of different communities in the region.
The abrogation of citizenship laws opens up opportunities for investments, thereby increasing employment opportunities in the sectors of hospitality, tourism, infrastructure, education, and health.
Central laws, including the Prevention of Corruption Act, Land Acquisition Act, Right to Education, the National Commission for Minorities Act, etc., will be applicable to the region.
Therefore, the abrogation of the article indeed is the right step for a unified India.