What is Article 370?- By Adi Mahima Nambiar

ARTICLE 370

Introduction 

Pre-Independence, the scenario in India was that there were a large number of princely states ruled by the then rulers in association with the British. At the time of independence these princely states were allowed to be ruled through the then rulers and enjoy independent status.

The first Home Minister of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel strictly asked the then rulers of these princely states to join the mainstream India. All others expect a few decided to join the Federation of the Indian states but few others like the rulers of Hyderabad, Junagadh, Goa and Kashmir wished not to join the mainstream Indian territory but to remain separate, later on Hyderabad and Junagadh were forced to join the Indian federation and Goa also followed. both this princely state was forced to join the federation under the leadership of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel whereas Kashmir was exclusively handled by Jawaharlal Nehru.

The scenario of Kashmir was that it was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh then and the majority of population was Muslims who came for trade and business from other Muslim dominated parts of the now established Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. Pakistan a newly formed country took this opportunity to send their tribes men and army also in form of his tribe men to create unrest in the Kashmir valley forcing Maharaja Hari Singh to establish the contact with Nehru to help him to rule the princely state. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru asked him to join India in return for the military help to drive out the tribe men and Pakistani military. Thus, Kashmir the princely state joined India.

The Indian Military was sent to Kashmir and they were successful in driving out the Pakistani military but no one knows what prompted Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru the then Prime Minister to abandon the mission half way and go to United Nations Security Council (UNSC) when it was entirely an internal matter of India. Not only this, he gave a part of the Kashmir to Pakistan and was instrumental in creating a Pak occupied Kashmir (POK) having a separate Prime Minister which was always questioned. Later the government headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru introduced Article 370 giving the J&K Assembly powers to make law on all matters except   defence, foreign affairs and communications.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were always against this arrangement and criticised Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru the then Prime Minister of India. Mr Syama Prasad Mukherjee who spearheaded an agitation was arrested upon entering Kashmir on 11 May 1953. He and two of his companions were arrested and first taken to central Jail of Srinagar and later were transferred to a cottage outside the city. Mukherjee’s condition started deteriorating and he started feeling pain in the back and had high temperature. On 22nd June, he felt pain in the heart region, started perspiring and started feeling like he was fainting. Later he was shifted to a hospital and provisionally diagnosed with a heart attack. He died a day later under mysterious circumstances

In 1999, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister of India, he opined that the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir must be removed. But he could not make any further move because he was heading a coalition government which had parties having different ideologies who could prevent any resolution from being passed which could also bring down his government.

Mr Vajpayee was not ready to risk the life of his government because previously his 13-day old government failed to prove majority in Lok Sabha for one vote and had to walk out. In 2004 election and then in 2009 election the Manmohan Singh government did nothing to correct this anomaly created by Nehru and Congress government at the centre. 

In 2014, when Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi became the Prime Minister of India with absolute majority on behalf of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the issue of Article 370 again got heated up but then they could not do much head way has it required lot of preparations and technical issues need to be addressed.

Jammu and Kashmir consist of three regions Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Jammu was more or less a Hindu majority region but the number of assembly seats compared to Kashmir was less whereas the situation in Ladakh was also the same. If one takes the total number of seats of both Jammu and Ladakh then also the number of seats in Kashmir was higher. 

History of J&K Assembly

During the last election held in December 2014 the total number of seats to which the election was held was 87 while 2 members were nominated.

The first legislator of princely state of Jammu and Kashmir established by the Government of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1934 was known as Praja Saba. It had 33 elected seats, 30 nominated members and 12 ex-official members.

In 1947, the Maharaja Hari Singh ceded powers to a popular government headed by Shaikh Abdullah after the accession of princely state Jammu and Kashmir.

In 1951, election for a constituent assembly was held in which National conference headed by Shaikh Abdullah won all 75 seats. A new constitution was adopted by constituent assembly which established a by-cameral legislation.

Composition

Initially the legislative assembly had 100 members and was later increased to 111 by the then Constitution by Jammu and Kashmir (20th Amendment) Act of 1988 of these 24 seats are designated for the territorial constituencies of the states that went into Pakistani control in 1947. These seats remain officially vacant as per section 48 of the then State Constitution. These seats are not taken in account for reckoning the total membership of the assembly, especially for deciding Coram and voting majorities for legislation and government formation.

Accordingly, the breakup of no of seats in the different regions of the states are as follows Kashmir valley 46 seats, Jammu 37 seats Ladakh 4 seats.

Two women may be nominated as members by the governor of Jammu and Kashmir if he is of opinion that women are not adequately represented.

Tenure and functions

Members of the legislative Assembly were elected for a six years term up to 2019, and five years term. Thereafter, the seats are filled by direct election.  

Looking into the composition of assembly every one could make it that unless all the Muslim legislators come together and support a resolution for the accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India Jammu & Kashmir cannot become exclusively a part of India without any strings attached, which was not at all possible.

In 2014, election was held in Jammu and Kashmir and two political parties the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) headed by Mehabooba Mufti Mohammed Sayyed and Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) formed a coalition government in the state. A lot of developments took place but certain elements of PDP were unhappy of this tie up. Under the strict observation and watchful eyes of central government and that of state BJP leader’s, member of Peoples Democratic Party could not divert or misuse any funds provided to J&K which created rift between the state government, central government and the BJP ministers in the Mehabooba cabinet.

Since independence the central government had given lot of money to the state government but none of the ministers nor the concerned departments utilised the money for the progress and development of Jammu and Kashmir. Sensing this legal obligations and obstructions the Bharathiya Janata Party (BPJ) which was a partner in the government of Membooba Mufthi withdraw the support to the government. The central government headed by Shri Narendra Modi came to the conclusion that since independent and accession of Jammu and Kashmir whatever funds given to the development of the three regions namely Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh were eaten by the three families of the rulers who by turn by turn ruled the state. The three families who ruled the state since independence and accession are the Farooq Abdullah and son Omar Abdullah on the one hand Mufthi Mohammed Sayyed and Daughter Membooba Mufthi on the other hand while the Congress whenever they were in coalition expected favours and commission through proxies.

Looking into this developments Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) in its manifesto during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections had included that if they come into power, they will scrap Article 370 as well has 35A and nullify the injustice done to Kashmiri pandits

Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus

The Kashmiri Pandits had been a favoured section of the population of the valley during Dogra rule (1846–1947). 20 per cent of them left the valley as a consequence of the 1950 land reforms, and by 1981 the Pandit population amounted to 5 per cent of the total. They began to leave in much greater numbers in the 1990s during the eruption of militancy, following persecution and threats by radical Islamists and militants. The events of 19 January 1990 were particularly vicious. On that day, mosques issued declarations that the Kashmiri Pandits were Kafirs and that the males had to leave Kashmir, convert to Islam or be killed. Those who chose to the first of these were told to leave their women behind. The Kashmiri Muslims were instructed to identify Pandit homes so they could be systematically targeted for conversion or killing. 

In 2014, Lok Sabha elections Bharathiya Janata party (BJP) came into power and Mr Narendra Damodardas Modi became the Prime Minister of India. The BJP was in minority in the Rajya Sabha. It required them to win most of the state assembly elections held thereafter. So that as and when the present Rajya Sabha members retire BJP win all the seats in the ensuing elections. The Prime Minister also went abroad met world leaders discussed with them the Pakistan sponsored terrorism and made it a point to raise the issue at every forum.  It was the deep planning made since BJP came to power at the centre and in majority of states were elections were held thereafter that they could abrogate Article 370. The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) president Mr. Amit Shah tried hard and succeeded in passing Article 370 both in Lok Sabha and in Rajya Sabha with clear strategy they also got support of Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and other likeminded parties and Independents.  It was the terrific speech of Ladakh (BJP) MP Jamyang Tsering that changed the scenario against the opposition benches particularly the Congress and National Conference while passing the abrogation of Article 370. This particular speech of Ladakh’s BJP MP was aired again and again by various Television channels and social media making him a hero overnight. 

In the second stint in the first hundred days the BJP was able to abrogate Article   and scrap Article 35A which Congress could not do in 70 years and even when they had absolute majority in both the houses of Parliament. 

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