August 25, 2019

Govt Action in J&K Ominous for Indian Republic

J S Majumdar

WITH unprecedented speed – between August 5 and August 9 – the BJP government at the Centre amended the Constitution, dissolved and dismantled the State of Jammu and Kashmir and brought its entire geographical territory and 1.25 crore population under its direct control.

As a first step, on August 5, bypassing Parliament and the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the Union Ministry of Law and Justice issued a Government’s order -- The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019 - making “all the provisions of the Constitution, as amended from time to time, shall apply in relation to the State of Jammu & Kashmir etc.”, thereby, ending the special provision under Article 370.

Not stopping there, the Modi government took the second step on the same day. A 55-page Bill was placed and passed by both Houses of Parliament in just two days. The President gave his assent on August 9 and, on the same day, gazette notification on The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 was issued dissolving the State of Jammu & Kashmir, dividing it into two separate entities, and bringing both under the direct control of the Central government as Union Territories (UTs). This action of the government is not just ending the so-called discriminatory special status of Jammu and Kashmir, but it is also discriminatory and punitive itself as it dismantled and downgraded a State, for the first time since India became a republic.

In the meantime, the entire Kashmir Valley remains under lockdown -- commerce, business, educational institutions closed; all movement on roads blocked; telecommunications snapped; civil liberties curbed; state leaders of opposition national and regional parties put under house arrest. Leaders of national political parties, the general secretaries of CPI(M) and CPI, were detained at Srinagar airport. A situation, worse than the Emergency, prevails.

The arrested political leaders of Jammu & Kashmir include CPI(M)’s central committee member and four-time MLA Md. Yusuf Tarigami, who is politically a forefront fighter against the terrorists and separatists and became the target of attack by the terrorists killing six members of his family. His official residence in Srinagar was attacked twice. Twelve members of the CPI(M) in Jammu & Kashmir were killed by the terrorists. Yet, the Modi government has kept Tarigami and others under house arrest in the name of controlling terrorism in Kashmir!

This is how the Centre brought the State of Jammu and Kashmir into ‘One Nation with One Constitution’ as proclaimed by the Prime Minister in his Independence Day speech this year from the ramparts of the Red Fort in line with the statement of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, issued earlier on August 6, saying, “The intention of the makers of the Constitution was to apply it to all states equally which has been fulfilled by the Union government.” Public discourse and media hype revolved round the removal of special status of J&K, the Prime Minister’s claims of ‘One Nation’ and RSS chief saying ‘all states’ are equal including J&K. These are just the opposite of what actually happened in those five fateful days in early August. Dissolving and dismantling of the State of Jammu & Kashmir through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 is the biggest assault on the federal Republic of India.

Part I of the Constitution begins with “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. There is a defined division of powers between the ‘Union’ and ‘States’. The UTs (some even with legislatures) are directly administered by the Union government and are devoid of power of the States.

Schedule I of the Constitution gives the ‘List of the States’ each with defined territories, 15TH being the State of Jammu & Kashmir with some more autonomous power than other States, who themselves also having autonomous power as per List II and shared power with the Centre as per List III in the Constitution. The Modi government, not only removed the special status of J&K state, but also, through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, ceased all powers of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, dismantled it and brought the entire territories and its people directly under Union government’s administration without any say of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. These are against the basic features of the democratic federal Republic of India and ominous for the people of other states. It is a step towards the ‘one India’ envisaged by the RSS.

Since the formation of the Indian Republic, several states were created as per the will of the people mainly through re-organisation Acts of several existing states latest being the State of Telangana as the 29THState. However, for the first time since the formation of the Republic of India, a State has been dissolved, dismantled and removed from the ‘List of States’. Total number of States has been brought down to 28 in the Constitution of India. 

Another aspect is an attempt to rewrite the history of Jammu & Kashmir, in which the present Union Home Minister Amit Shah is play-acting as the ‘second’ Vallabhbhai Patel, whose statute has been unveiled as the ‘Symbol of Unity’.

Looking through the RSS prism, the present dispensation at the Centre has misread the history of Jammu & Kashmir with that of the then State of Hyderabad. The then Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel initiated “police action” against the State of Hyderabad in 1948 forcing the Nizam to sign the ‘Instrument of Accession’ with the Indian Dominion in the background of the Telangana peasant armed uprising, reflecting the will of the people, against the atrocities committed by the Nizam’s private armed force – the hated ‘Razakars’.

In contrast, it was Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of Jammu & Kashmir, who initially wanted to remain independent, but forced by circumstances, invited Indian Army to save Srinagar from Pakistani invaders and, as against that, signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ at the behest of Sheikh Abdullah who was leading the heroic Kashmiri people’s resistance against the Pakistani invaders. Certain special status associated with the ‘Instrument of Accession’ was inserted later in the Constitution as Article 370.

Present ‘action’ against the State of Jammu & Kashmir initiated by Home Minister Amit Shah is directed against the whole of the people of Jammu & Kashmir and their successive political leadership who resisted the Pakistan invaders, backed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ with India, faced attacks of the local and Pakistan-sponsored terrorists, participated in the democratic electoral process, giving a strong ground for India to reject the UN’s resolution on plebiscite.

The ‘Instrument of Accession’ was for the entire state of the then State of Jammu & Kashmir, including the Pakistan-occupied areas. Total rejection of the ‘Instrument of Accession’ of the then Jammu & Kashmir and dissolution and dismantling the State of Jammu & Kashmir reopens the old wounds and old disputes and denies any solution between two neighbours through bilateral discussion as per the Shimla Agreement. Amit Shah’s action has alienated the people of J&K further and opened the ground for new internal and external disputes.

Another aspect is PM Modi’s Jammu & Kashmir ‘development programme’, which is a neoliberal assault on the people of Jammu & Kashmir after removal of the protective cover inviting the domestic and foreign corporate neoliberals to its land and natural resources. There is a scramble among Modi’s crony corporates to ‘develop’ Jammu & Kashmir and several of them announced participation. Adani remains in the forefront to grab the entire erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir in his own ‘developmental programme’ by announcing appointment of a ‘task force’. There will be none to question them in the absence of any democratic forum and people remaining periodically locked in and locked out under the “security vigilance”.