Brig (Veteran) Anil Gupta
05 August 2019 will be remembered as a watershed date in the post-merger history of Jammu & Kashmir. On this day the government in New Delhi led by Narendra Modi set at rest all speculations and allegations of BJP using the abrogation of Article 370 as a mere election-winning gimmick. The country’s Home Minister, Amit Shah, announced in the upper house of the nation’s Parliament an epoch-making historical decision of the government to not only abrogate the divisive Article 370 but also discriminatory Article 35 A of the Constitution of India. In addition, The Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 was passed by the Parliament enacting the division of the state of J&K into two Union Territories to be called Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh.
These two J&K specific articles were included in the newly written Constitution due to the pressure exerted by a Kashmiri leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who enjoyed full confidence of Jawahar Lal Nehru, a tall leader of the Congress and country’s prime minister.
Maharaja’s decision to merge with India was taken in the best interest of his subjects since he realised that their future would be safeguarded in a secular and democratic India. But Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who was a firm believer of “exclusivity” harboured a different ambition. He was waiting for an opportune moment to overthrow the Dogra ruler and perpetuate his own Abdullah dynasty in the State. In order to strengthen the hold of his party and usher a dynastic regime he convinced Nehru to accord a special status to J&K by inclusion of Article 370 in the Constitution which limited the applicability of the national constitution to only the three subjects. It also allowed drafting of a separate constitution for the State by the State Constituent Assembly. Later he also managed separate flag and complete autonomy in the internal administration of the State. Article 35 A was included subsequently allowing state’s residents to live under a separate set of laws, related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to the residents of other Indian states.
The opposition to Sheikh was spearheaded in Ladakh by KushakBakula and in Jammu by Pt Prem Nath Dogra’s Praja Parishad Party. Parishad launched an agitation in1949 which was brutally supressed by Sheikh Abdullah with the support of Nehru by dubbing it “communal.” Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, founder President of Jan Sangh was strongly opposed to Article 370, seeing it as a threat to national unity. He fought against it inside and outside the parliament. He termed the arrangements under the article as ‘Balkanization of India’ and the ‘three-nation theory’ of Sheikh Abdullah. Dr Mookerjee ultimately sacrificed his life for the cause when he died under mysterious circumstances while under detention in Srinagar on the orders of the Sheikh.
Both the impugned articles were responsible for promoting separatism, communalism and terrorism in the state. All Kashmir centric parties promoted separatism despite swearing loyalty to the Constitution of India. Once known as “heaven on earth”, the state was relegated to hell by the inept and self-seeking Kashmiri leadership which wanted the pot of militancy to continue to simmer.
With 370 rendered ineffective, 35A consigned to the flames and a separate constitution for the state becoming part of history, the majority citizens of Jammu & Kashmir felt positivity and freshness in the air as they were for the first time breathing freely as part of India of their dreams.
The happiest lot was the so-called “unseen orphans of partition” or more popularly known as the West Pakistan refugees. It was a dream come true for hapless West Pakistan refugees, Gurkhas and Valmikis who number almost three to four lakh and had lived a life of humiliation and inequality for generations. They became free citizens of free India literally after 72 years of independence.
The people of Jammu and Ladakh heaved a sigh of relief from the Kashmiri hegemony and dreamt of an honourable life as equal citizens. All provisions of the Indian Constitution were made applicable to J&K.
37 central laws became applicable to the UT J&K which included laws like the Prevention of Corruption Act, The Goods and Services Tax Act, The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. These would help in eradicating corruption from the UT. The repealing of Ranbir Penal Code and Ranbir Criminal Procedure ensured applicability of uniform law throughout the country with applicability of Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure. An empowered Anti-Corruption Bureau is functional as well as the UT is now under the ambit of CVC and CIC. It also has an independent bench of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).
The much wanted issue of unemployment is under active consideration of the government. For the first time a separate amount has been allocated in the budget for employment generation. The process has been set in motion through announcement of recruitment for about 10000 jobs under the accelerated recruitment process.
The Domicile rules have been framed and all government jobs including gazetted have been reserved for the domicile only. The IB residents have been provided reservation at par with the residents of LoC.
The biggest beneficiary of the 05 August decision has been the law and order in the state. The Hurriyat has become a non-entity. The octogenarian separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Gilani has left the Hurriyat. Anti-India political voices have vanished like the Hawala money. Terrorism is on the decline with the security forces going all out to eliminate terrorism and the terror support network. There is no stone pelting on the security forces nor the flags of ISIS or Pakistan are being freely flown.
The world has accepted the events in Kashmir post 05 August as the nation’s internal matter. Now, the National Flag flies proudly on all government buildings and everywhere in the UT.
The much needed development has suffered a setback despite adequate budgetary support due to the onset of corona pandemic. Nonetheless, the administration undertook the restoration of infrastructure projects which had been languishing for three to four decades. 593 projects costing Rs. 1313.24 crore pertain only to road and bridges. 111 projects costing 2221.74 crore had been completed till February this year. The process of black-topping all roads in the state has begun with 100 crore being sanctioned as first instalment. The government had planned to complete about 2000 vital projects by March 2021 but have been hampered due to Corona.
Jammu has emerged as higher education hub and the work on AIIMS has commenced. New Medical and Engineering Colleges have become functional. The connectivity has improved due to construction of bridges.
The present administration has brought in many reforms to make the administration transparent and accountable. Financial measures to streamline and boost the state’s economy have also been introduced. The digitalisation of land records and e-stamping are path breaking decisions.
The ball has been set rolling and it is for the different players now to derive benefit from the changed healthy environment. With opportunities galore, it is for the people to grab them.
Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Kutch to Katra, India is one now.
(Author is a political commentator, columnist and strategic analyst. Mail- email@example.com)