Daring Resolve Taken By Centre On Jammu And Kashmir

It is not Sanjeev Sirohi or my best friend Sageer Khan or any of my other friends or any layman who has termed Centre’s latest decisions on Jammu and Kashmir as a daring resolve. It is senior Congress leader and former Union Law Minister who is also one of the eminent, senior lawyer of the Supreme Court – Ashwani Kumar who has called the move on Jammu and Kashmir by Centre as “a daring resolve in line with the mood of the nation”. How can anyone ignore when such an eminent senior lawyer of Supreme Court and former Union Law Minister who hails not from ruling party BJP or its ally party but from the main opposition party which is the Congress says so openly with full confidence? It is reliably learnt from many news channels that even another eminent and most experienced senior lawyer of Supreme Court who has also served earlier as Additional Solicitor General and is also a senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi has also expressed his support to this bold decision taken by Centre!

To be sure, Ashwani Kumar further reiterated that, “The J&K gamble by the Central government has received popular national support and seems to be consistent with the national mood although history and future alone can attest to its wisdom.” He also clarified that he can’t work by diktat! Very rightly so!

There are a galaxy of other senior and eminent Congress leaders who too have hailed this daring resolve of Centre in taking steps to ensure the full integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India by virtually eliminating all the key provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution and abolishing most controversial Article 35A! I support the move on Jammu and Kashmir & Ladakh and its full integration into Union of India. There is no valid reason to oppose what Centre has done which according to me was the crying need of the hour!

No doubt, even though Congress is fulminating against revocation of Article 370 and Article 35A yet it is most heartening to note that many prominent faces of Congress party including Janardhan Dwivedi, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Deepender Hooda, Jiten Prasad, Salman Khurshid, Milind Deora among many others have expressed their solidarity with this latest move by Centre! Senior and eminent Congress leader Janardhan Dwivedi minced no words in saying that a historic blunder has been remedied today after the scrapping of Articles 35A and 370! Jyotiraditya Scindia said that he supported the Narendra Modi government’s proposed move to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. He tweeted minutes before the Lok Sabha voted on the resolution that, “I support the move on Jammu and Kashmir & Ladakh and its full integration into union of India. Would have been better if constitutional process had been followed. No questions could have been raised then. Nevertheless, this is in our country’s interest and I support this.”

As things stand, Congress senior leader Janardhan Dwivedi said happily that, “It is a very old issue. After Independence, many freedom fighters did not want Article 370 to remain. I had my political training under Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, who was against this Article. Personally, this is an issue of a matter of satisfaction for the nation. This historical mistake that happened at the time of independence has been rectified today, even though late, and is welcomed.” Mumbai Congress Chief – Milind Deora said that it was “very unfortunate” that Article 370 was being converted into a “liberal vs conservative debate”. He said in a tweet that, “Parties should put aside ideological fixations & debate what’s best for India’s sovereignty and federalism, peace in J&K, jobs for Kashmiri youth and justice for Kashmiri Pandits.”

Not stopping here, another Congress leader Deepender Hooda who is a three-time MP from Haryana’s Rohtak constituency said that, “I’ve always maintained that Article 370 should be scrapped. It is irrelevant and has no place in the 21st century. Abrogation of this article is in the interest of national integrity and the people of J&K which is an integral part of India. Senior Congress leader Anil Shastri also openly came out in support of Centre’s move and said that the the people are totally with the government on this issue! There can be no denying it! Kuldeep Bishnoi who is a special invitee to the Congress Working Committee also welcomed the removal of Article 370 calling it a “good decision”. He said that, “When this Article was implemented, then Nehru called it temporary. My personal view is that it is a welcome step. This amendment will be successful only when we are able to convince Kashmiris that they are a part of Akhand Bharat.” Former Union Minister RPN Singh too has backed Centre’s daring move!

Above all, even the Congress’s chief whip in the Rajya Sabha – Bhubaneshwar Kalita strongly protested against his party’s stand and said emotionally while quitting his membership in Rajya Sabha after the party asked him to issue a whip to all members for opposing the bill that, “I was asked by the party to issue a whip but this is against the mood of the nation. The party as it is on its way towards destruction and I can’t be a contributor to it.” Even Congress MLA from Rae Bareli Aditi Singh said on Twitter that, “United we stand! Jai Hind. #Article 370”. She termed it a historic decision and urged people not to politicize it. When someone reminded that she was a Congress leader, she boldly retorted that, “Main ek Hindustani hoon (I am an Indian).” Absolutely right!

Interestingly enough, even veteran Congress leader Karan Singh who is son of J&K’s last ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh who signed the Instrument of Accession in 1947 and who was a Union Minister in the Indira Gandhi Cabinet in 1967, has been a member of CWC and worked with four generations of the Nehru-Gandhi family took a divergent stand from that of his party and said that he did not agree with a “blanket condemnation” of the government’s decision and said that it has “several positive points”. He welcomed the government’s decision to make Ladakh a Union Territory and reminded that, “In fact, I had suggested this as far back as 1965, when I was still Sadr-i-Riyasat of J&K, when I had publicly proposed reorganisation of the state.” He said that he hoped the hill councils of Leh and Kargil would “continue to function, so that in the absence of the Legislature, the grassroots opinion of the people of Ladakh are duly represented.” He minced no words to reiterate his support to scrap Article 35A and the government’s plan to initiate an exercise to redraw the contours of the Assembly constituencies. He said that, “The gender discrimination in Article 35A needed to be addressed as also the long-awaited and enfranchisement of lakhs of West Pakistan’s refugees and reservations for Scheduled Tribes which will be welcomed. There will also be a fresh delimitation which, for the first time, will ensure a division of political power between the Jammu and Kashmir regions.”

Be it noted, Union Home Minister Amit Shah who tabled the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 and the statutory resolutions in Rajya Sabha around 11 am after the Union cabinet met at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence at 9.30 am to grant the go-ahead said that, “Article 370 was a temporary provision…how long can a temporary provision be allowed to continue…After abrogation of Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir will truly become an integral part of India.” Saying Article 370 was at the root of terrorism, Amit Shah told the House that full state status will be restored to Jammu and Kashmir at an appropriate time when normalcy returns. He rightly said that the decision to do away with the special status of J&K and to bifurcate the state into two UTs was in the supreme national interest! No denying it!

Honestly speaking, PM Narendra Modi very rightly summed up by saying that, “Nobody could pinpoint what benefit these Articles had brought to the people. These Articles only gave terrorism, dynasty politics and widespread corruption to J&K.” He also rightly said that, “Who voted in Parliament or who did not, who supported the Bill or who did not; we must move beyond all this and work together for the people of Jammu and Kashmir-Ladakh.” He also clarified that the new UT arrangement for J&K would be required for some time “but not indefinitely”. He indicated that the arrangement could change if development works happen at a quicker pace than he has envisioned.

What’s more, even Ahmad Al Banna who is the UAE’s ambassador to India was outspoken in observing that, “The reorganization of states is not a unique incident in history of independent India and it was mainly aimed at reducing regional disparity…It is an internal matter as stipulated by the Indian Constitution.” China and US have also advised Pakistan to come to terms with what has happened and not to overreact or do anything that spark more tension in the entire region! Very rightly so! Even Russia has backed India and termed it as internal matter with India having right to amend its Constitution!

Why is it that so many opposition parties like AAP, BJD, BSP, TDP, AIADMK, YSR-Congress and many others extended their unstinted support to Centre? It is because this most historic decision reflected the true sentiments of every Indian! This alone explains that why so many top leaders of Congress party also which opposed this landmark decision came out in open support of it! Why even JD(U) which initially walked out in protest has now endorsed Centre’s move to scrap Article 370? It is because many senior party leaders came out in full support of Centre’s bold move! There were rumblings of discontent even within TMC led by Mamata Banerjee and many leaders openly voiced their unstinted support for Centre’s bold move!

More importantly, another eminent and very senior Supreme Court lawyer who is also the former Attorney General of India Soli J Sorabjee too has clarified that, “The opposition has condemned the legislation as murder of democracy and betrayal of the people of J&K. In my opinion the charge is exaggerated and not tenable. The J&K Reorganization Bill and the resolutions moved by Amit Shah have been passed by both the Houses. The result is that Jammu and Kashmir now has no special status and all laws applicable to people of India including fundamental rights guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution shall be available to people of J&K. In short, J&K is now constitutionally recognized as an integral part of India.” He also sought to make it clear that, “The other favourable points are that people from other states can buy land in Kashmir which they could not do before. RTI which was not applicable before cannot now be denied. There will be no separate flag for J&K, but only one flag, the Indian tricolor.” If this is not a daring move, then what else can it be? Can anyone please tell me?

Truth be told, the first statutory resolution stated: “That this House recommends the following public notification to be issued by the President of India under Article 370(3): ‘In exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (3) of Article 370 read with clause (1) of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, the President, on the recommendation of the Parliament, is pleased to declare that, as from 5th of August, 2019, all clauses of the said Article 370 shall cease to be operative except clause (1).”

To put things in perspective, Article 370 will survive on paper but will now read “All provisions of this Constitution, as amended from time to time, without any modifications or exceptions, shall apply to the State of Jammu and Kashmir notwithstanding anything contrary contained in Article 152 or Article 308 or any other article of this Constitution or any other provision of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir or any law, document, judgement, ordinance, order, bye-law, rule, regulation, notification, custom or usage having force of law in the territory of India, or any other instrument, treaty or agreement as envisaged under Article 363 or otherwise.”

Going forward, the second resolution pertaining to the Bill said that the President has referred the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 to the House “under the proviso to Article 3 of the Constituion of India for its views as this House is vested with the powers of the State Legislature of Jammu and Kashmir, as per proclamation of the President of India dated 19th December, 2018.” Amit Shah who is Union Home Minister tabled the Bill and the statutory resolutions after Ram Nath Kovind signed the official notification, The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 2019, superseding the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954 under which the Constitution was applied only selectively to the State. The notification said that, “All the provisions of the Constitution, as amended from time to time, shall apply in relation to the state of Jammu and Kashmir…”

It would be pertinent to mention here that the government has added in Article 367 of the Constitution a clause 4 which makes four changes. The order said references to Sadar-i-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir shall be construed as references to the Governor of J&K. Similarly, references to the Government of J&K shall be construed as reference to the Governor of J&K acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers. With Opposition members expressing their dismay that the Bill to bifurcate was not even circulated, Shah introduced the Bill and statutory resolutions again promptly. Shah also introduced the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 providing for 10 percent reservation for SC, ST and OBCs in J&K which now after being passed and having received President’s assent have become a law.

In essence, this daring resolve which many term as biggest surgical strike since independence will ensure that Jammu and Kashmir will have no separate flag or Constitution. The tenure of Assembly will be for 5 years and not for 6 years. Article 356 under which President’s rule can be imposed in any state will become applicable to J&K as well. Now people from other states would be free to buy land and properties and settle down wherever they want! Those who don’t hail from J&K can now be employed in any state government job. There can now be quota for minorities like in other states. Those lakhs of people who had come from Pakistan and settled down in Jammu and who earlier could not vote in elections can now vote and also apply for any government job which they like unlike earlier when they were wrongly forbidden! RTI Act will also be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir thus empowering people in the real sense!

Now coming to its legality, many eminent lawyers have concurred with Harish Salve according to whom “Article 370 confers powers on the President to issue orders with the concurrence of the state government where the subject matter is not covered by the Instrument of Accession. Here the President has obtained the concurrence of the government of J&K. So, the order is valid.” Supreme Court Judge NV Ramana rightly refused to entertain a plea of urgent hearing by senior Supreme Court lawyer ML Sharma who said that Pakistan would move the United Nations against the Presidential order and said that, “If they go to the United Nations, can the UN stay the constitutional amendment of the Union of India?” Who is UN to meddle in the internal affairs of India? Just no one! Has UN done anything to compel Pakistan to vacate LoC and China to also vacate the territory of PoK illegally ceded by Pakistan to China? It has just been a mute spectator all these years! So how can it interfere in India’s internal matters?

In summary, it may well be said that this daring move will help the Kashmiri Pandits and other Hindus and Sikhs to return to the Kashmir Valley and settle down there and once again lead a normal life! Many benefits accruing from it have already been pointed exhaustively! Now Jammu and Kashmir women are free to marry a men of their choice residing in any part of India without losing their rights in any manner!

It may well be said that Kanwal Sibal who is India’s former Foreign Secretary rightly sums up by saying that, “India has succeeded in outflanking Pakistan. There is now no scope to discuss the issue of Kashmir with Islamabad in any “comprehensive dialogue”. All in all the Modi government has taken a risky but much needed step in the long term interest of the country and deserves applause for this.” Can any sane person question this? Certainly not!

It is now that India can confidently say that, “Jammu and Kashmir which is now a Union Territory along with Ladakh who also has been made a separate Union Territory are an integral part of India in the real sense.” What Sardar Patel was not allowed to do in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh what he did to other 562 princely states has now been done by the incumbent government in Centre led by Narendra Modi as Prime Minister and Amit Shah as Home Minister! Those who criticize the government’s move must remember that the governments in the past had affected 44-45 amendments to this article beginning with replacing Maharaja with Sadr-e-Riyasat in 1952. On all such occasions we find that the same Presidential Order route was adopted and this time also the same has been done!

Yes, what is extraordinary this time is that Pakistan which was gaining because of the wrong effects of Article 35A and Article 370 will now stop gaining and this alone explains that why it is so frustrated that it approached the UN Security Council which refused to meddle in between and same is the case with US and China who too advised Pakistan to behave cautiously with India! Yet Pakistan has resorted to heavy firing along border which India is responding effectively and has decided to recall its ambassador and also send India’s ambassador back to India because it is Pakistan which was directly gaining by the operation of Article 35A and Article 370 which is indisputable as is evident from Pakistan’s belligerent approach also! But now Pakistan must reconcile with the ground reality and accept that Jammu and Kashmir will henceforth be always treated as an integral part of India in the real sense! Thanks to the daring resolve by Centre to proceed ahead for integrating Jammu and Kashmir along with Ladakh with India even though many questioned its utility and some criticized it most bitterly! We must also accept that whenever something great happens, it is initially criticized as done by JD(U) initially by staging a walkout and then accepting it after seeing the groundswell of public support it received from the people cutting across party lines, religion lines, caste lines and community lines! No denying it!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

s/o Col BPS Sirohi,

A 82, Defence Enclave,

Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,

Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.