Article 370 discriminated against women, Dalits, tribals, labourers and refugees within the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the name of preserving the cultural identity of the state.
A year ago the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led government at the Centre took the landmark decision to abrogate Article 370. It had been noticed by many scholars and experts that Article 370 and 35A were presenting obstacles in integrating J&K with the rest of the nation. Political analysts looked at it as an ideological commitment of the BJP to fulfill the dream of their founding member Shyama Prasad Mukharjee who sacrificed his life while rising the slogan “Ek Desh Mein Do Vidhan, Do Pradhan Aur Do Nishan Nhi Chalega” (A single country cannot have two constitutions, two heads, and two national emblems).
Article 370 discriminated against women, Dalits, tribals, labourers and refugees within the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the name of preserving the cultural identity of the state. These people of J&K were deprived of basic rights such as Right to Education (2009), Right to Property, reservation to participate in the political process, and citizenship.
The state of J&K became part of India after Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with India on 26 October 1947. According to the census of India 2011, the state has a Muslim majority population with 68.31% followed by Hindu 28.44%, Sikh 1.87% and Buddhist and others 1.37%. Article 370 came into existence in 1949 as a temporary provision which gave special status to the state of J&K and due to this many central government laws remained non-functional in the state. The state has huge importance from cultural, tourism, historical and strategic point of view for India. It also has religious importance for Hindus as Vaishno Devi temple and Shri Amarnath Cave temple, along with other religious sites are situated there. The state of J&K shares borders with Pakistan and China and therefore, it becomes an important component from India’s strategic point of view.
On 5 August 2019, statutory resolutions were brought in Rajya Sabha by the Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah to abolish Article 370 from the Indian constitution. The resolutions which were presented in Parliament included the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 and the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019. On 7 August 2019, the President of India stamped the legality of the presented bills which gave a new political framework which made Jammu and Kashmir division and Ladakh was made two separate Union territories. It took Indian Parliament over seven decades to abolish the special status of Jammu and Kashmir which only benefited a few political families, politicians and separatists who use these laws as a tool to negotiate with the Indian government and political institutions, subsequently; these situations forced the nature of Indian federalism from cooperative to bargaining federalism. The J&K had reached new lows in corruption, oppression, exploitation and terrorism due to the special provision of Article 370 which had denied entry to many central organisations, agencies and laws to implicate their power in J&K.
Communities like Valmikis (SC), Bakarwal Muslims (ST), Women, Ladakhis (Buddhists) and West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) were continuously discriminated and oppressed by the political elites of J&K. There were several laws in the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution which excluded them from mainstream society on various grounds. The Valmiki community were not allowed to apply for jobs in J&K except cleaning position, the women of J&K would lose their right to property if they married anyone outside the state, the refugees of West Pakistan were not given right to vote in assembly election and could not apply for state government jobs, the Ladakh region remained neglected by the political leadership and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes were not given political reservation in the assembly.
The Article 370 was added as a temporary provision for the state of Jammu and Kashmir in Indian constitution in the year 1949. But once in place the political leaders of the time could not abolish it and the the discriminatory laws which alienated Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of India prevailed for over seven decades and the so-called champions of labour, women, Dalit and tribal rights remained silent of its discriminatory nature. The people of Ladakh also blamed the government of J&K for neglecting the demands of the region and the hegemony of Kashmir over rest of J&K finally came to an end by this historic decision of Central government.
Malevolent forces are still active within the state to destabilise it. The attacks on BJP leaders and workers rapidly increased in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370. Political instability prevails in the state and COVID-19 crisis has also delayed the normalcy process of the state. The impact of abrogation of Article 370 is now visible as 5,746 families received domicile certificate along with Rs 5 lakh aid each. Dalits are now eligible to apply for different government positions; political representation will be given to them in assembly segments as per their population in the state. Similarly no woman will now be deprived of her right to the property despite irrespective of her marital status.
There are different aspects to Central government's decision to abrogate Article 370. One was to deliver the long-pending poll promise and another was to liberate subaltern class from the shackles of Article 370 which had treated them as a second class citizen in India especially in the state of J&K. These communities feel liberated and empowered now. The government had taken pro-active action to address their grievances and issues as well as this move can also be seen from a national security perspective since the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh share borders with Pakistan in the west and with China in the east. Justice has finally been delivered to the marginalised communities of the state by the Central government by abrogating Article 370.
(Manish Barthwal is an Intern with Academics4Nation & Research Scholar at Centre for Diaspora studies in the Central University of Gujarat.)