NCHRO Joins Nationwide Protest Against Scrapping of Article 370 and Kashmir Bifurcation.
05 Aug 2019
Protests erupted across the country against the Narendra Modi government unconstitutional move to strip Jammu and Kashmir and revoke its special constitutional status dating back nearly 70 years by scrapping part of Article 370 of the Constitution. NCHRO Joins Nationwide Protest with Thousands of people who have descended on different parts of the country. The protesters in Jantar Mantar included senior Left leaders like CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Prakash Karat, CPI general secretary D Raja, CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, Brinda Karat, Hanaan Mullah, Atul Anjan, Memona Mullah, Debabrata Biswas, Kshiti Goswami among others.
The special provisions guaranteed by the Indian Constitution to the state of Jammu & Kashmir were the result of the princely state signing the Instrument of Accession to the Indian Union. The Modi government has completely negated the assurance made by the Indian government to the people of Jammu & Kashmir. This is an assault on federalism, a fundamental feature of the Indian Constitution. Unity does not mean territory alone, it involves unity of the people also, To strengthen unity have to win the trust of the people. The Indian union was formed on the basis of the unity of our people recognizing the immense diversities that exist, which is the legacy of our freedom struggle. The strengthening of the bonds of the people of Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of India can only be through the process of political dialogue with all stakeholders. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s brute show of strength in Parliament, and the misleading manner in which the power of the legislative assembly was arrogated to the Parliament to decide on the special status of the state, ensured the final passage of the Bill in two days, followed by the quick assent of the President of India. Unless challenged and overturned in the court of law, this monumental blunder will affect the existence of diverse ethnicities in different regions of the state, which constitutes its strength. carving out a political structure that recognizes its multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural polity is the need of the hour.
In the process of scrapping Article 370 of the Constitution through a Presidential order supported by a resolution in Parliament, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supporters regurgitated a slew of myths, half-truths and sleights of hand that have been part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) propaganda for decades. The Instrument of Accession (IOA) was signed by Raja Hari Singh, then ruler of J&K on October 26, 1947. The IOA itself said that Parliament could only legislate on defence, external affairs, communications and some ancillary subjects in respect of J&K. In order to preserve the spirit of IOA and reassure the Kashmiri ruler, Article 370 was moved in India’s Constituent Assembly in May 1949 and passed in October 1949 to become part of the Indian Constitution. In 1950, 1952 and 1954 Presidential Orders to settle various issues were passed.
The Kashmiri people joined India because they thought their Kashmiri identity was important and they felt that their Kashmiri autonomy as Kashmiris will be safer with secular India rather than Pakistan and Article 370 was that promise to them. The decision was taken in absence of an elected legislative assembly in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Two of the former state chief ministers have been in detention while a third, who is currently an MP from the state, is under house arrest. Hundreds of others, including activists, business leaders and professors, have also been detained and are being held in makeshift prisons. The police and civil administration will answer only to the Centre, removing the political interface that acted as both a buffer and, if only in theory, a check on unbridled power. How Parliament was kept out of the loop by the government in making the decision to abrogate Article 370. The Parliament is becoming redundant. This is not the Parliament visualised by Dr Ambedkar. If getting rid of the page [Article 370] of India’s constitution, every other page is in danger as well.
Immediately after Article 370 in the Constitution is Article 371 in which various sub-articles exist giving similar special status to various regions/states based on the ethnic histories and cultures of the areas. These include: 371A for Nagaland; 371B for Assam; 371C for Manipur; 371D and E for Andhra Pradesh; 371F for Sikkim; 371G for Mizoram; 371H for Arunachal Pradesh; and 371I for Goa. Among the main provisions (except for Goa and Andhra Pradesh) are included provisions for land ownership, Governor’s role, etc. In other states too, there are laws preventing non-domiciliary persons from owning land like Himachal Pradesh (under its own HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972). So, it is not as if J&K had something unique. It is notable that most states having such special laws that preserve local customs and culture or prevent land alienation have a special history and demographic composition (for example, tribal population) which calls for sensitive handling and assurances about rights. The same was the case with J&K.
By abrogating Article 370, weakened our position and telling the world that we don’t give a fig for democracy. There is no significant history of Jammu and Kashmir rejecting important, progressive and forward looking legislation passed in Parliament — under the special status it had under Article 370. They are mainly asking for freedom from repression and if the Centre had given reasonable concessions, then this could have been resolved. An insurgency has been taking place in Kashmir for 30 years, now a “dictatorial order” from Delhi has pushed people who never supported separatism into a corner. To win the trust of an alienated population kept in the dark needs openness to all voices, including those of dissent. Security cannot be an alibi to muffle these voices. The run-up to these authoritarian measures has seen tens of thousands of troops being deployed in the state, detention of leaders of major political parties and restricting the movement of the public that itself shows that the Modi government is imposing its diktats without the consent of the people. Which means one of the most fraught disputes in the world could become even more contentious.
Similar protests were being held in other parts of the country.
The decision to eliminate the state of Jammu & Kashmir by legislative decree was made in absolute secrecy, and will be executed in absolute darkness. What is shocking is not only the action taken but also how it was done covertly. Not only the people of Kashmir, but the rest of the country were also not taken into confidence. The problem is the persistent inability to live up to our own moral promise. What is likely to happen in Kashmir in years to come depends on what actions the Centre is presently taking in ghost-like Kashmir right now, hidden from everybody’s gaze behind a film of curfew, barricades and unprecedented militarisation. Reckless killing fields followed by some years of fatigue? The usual fare of arrests, pellets and bullets..? When people feel unheard, insecure and not valued, fear and hatred can grow, while democracy is weakened. Democracy does not mean imposing unilateral majoritarianism but respecting and protecting the rights of all. But this is an era of majoritarianism that erases differences, dissent and the rights of minorities. Totalitarian measures have become the defining feature of the State, replacing the carefully constructed federal asymmetry and multicultural democracy. The real challenge is whether we have the vision and capacity to brought back different societies and cultures towards unity in diversity.