From betrayal to lighting the powder keg and from reducing states to vassals and colonies to catastrophic consequences for the subcontinent. These were among the repercussions that Opposition parties red-flagged Monday after the Centre moved to scrap Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.
Targeting the BJP-led central government in both Houses of Parliament and outside, a stunned Opposition led by the Congress said the Centre had committed a “cardinal blunder” and a “fatal legal error”.
Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah, who was placed under arrest according to PTI, called the two decisions “unilateral and shocking” and said the state was prepared for the long and tough battle ahead and that the government’s proposal would be challenged.
Echoing him, another former CM, Mehbooba Mufti, also arrested Monday, termed the move illegal and unconstitutional and said “India has failed Kashmir in keeping its promises” and that the move will “have catastrophic consequences for the subcontinent”.
EXPRESS EDIT/OPINION | Edit: Rupture in history, stitching a future | PB Mehta writes: Blood and betrayal | Ram Madhav writes: Correcting a historic blunder | Manish Sabharwal writes: For Naya Kashmir | Imad Ul Riyaz writes: We are just at the beginning | C. Raja Mohan writes: Possibilities in the Northwest
But in Delhi, the Opposition stood badly divided with the AIADMK, BJD, AAP, BSP and YSRCP backing the government, as the Congress was hit by more desertions when party chief whip Bhubaneshwar Kalita resigned from Rajya Sabha. Another Congress Rajya Sabha MP, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, also national spokesperson, said that in “personal capacity” it was hard to oppose the Centre’s move while expressing concern over the security situation in Kashmir.
“Government of India (GOI)’s unilateral and shocking decisions today are a total betrayal of the trust that the people of Jammu & Kashmir had reposed in India when the state acceded to it in 1947. The decisions will have far-reaching and dangerous consequences. This is an aggression against people of the State as had been warned by an all-parties meeting in Srinagar yesterday,” said Abdullah.
Soon after, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said the government’s unilateral decision is illegal and unconstitutional. “Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy. The decision of J&K leadership to reject the two-nation theory in 1947 and align with India has backfired…It will have catastrophic consequences for the subcontinent. GOI’s intentions are clear. They want the territory of J&K by terrorising its people. India has failed Kashmir in keeping its promises,” she said on Twitter.
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A little after 12.30 pm, soon after the Bill to bifurcate J&K and the statutory resolution revoking Article 370 was introduced in Rajya Sabha by Home Minister Amit Shah, top Opposition leaders addressed a press conference outside Parliament. The Congress was supported by TMC, CPM, CPI, DMK, RJD and Samajwadi Party.
Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the BJP government, drunk with power and with an eye on votes, had in one stroke abolished Article 370 and Article 35 A. He called it a “black law” and argued that the BJP government has gone to the extent of ending the existence of J&K.
“I never thought that one day will come when my state which is India’s head…that head will be chopped off…It is not merely a head or a crown…It borders with Pakistan, China and PoK. We had to fight a war with China and three-four wars with Pakistan. While our Army protected our borders, the people of Jammu and Kashmir…J&K’s mainstream political parties stood with the Army and fought Pakistan and China,” said Azad.
“Our sources there, I have been a Chief Minister…in such border states…that too a state which shares a border with two countries…till the time the people are not with you…till the time the people don’t give you information, tell you about hideouts…you may keep fighting for 1,000 years…you will not reach anywhere,” he said.
Former Home Minister P Chidambaram said the revocation of Article 370 was the “worst day” in the country’s Constitutional history. “We anticipated they will embark upon a misadventure. But even in our wildest dreams, we did not think they will take such a catastrophic step. What have they done? They have not simply got rid of Article 370. They have dismembered the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” he told reporters.
“If this can be done to J&K, let me caution you, it can be done to every other state in India. All they have to do is dismiss the elected government, impose President’s Rule, dissolve the elected Assembly, Parliament takes the power of the state Assembly, the Government moves a resolution, the Parliament approves it and the state can be dismembered,” he said.
He accused the government of reducing states to “vassal” and “colonies”. “An overwhelming majority in J&K do not want secession; do not want to leave the Union of India…I believe that they want more autonomy…What are you doing by repealing Article 370? I fear…that you are pushing thousands and thousands of young men from this column to join the other column of a few hundreds,” he said.
MDMK leader Vaiko underscored in the RS that the Bill should be rejected lock stock and barrel, saying he feared that the scrapping of Article 370 would lead to Kashmir becoming like “Kosovo, South Sudan and East Timor”.
“Now J&K has been made a powder keg. I am really worried about the future. Today, on this particular Bill, I shed my tears of blood. I am not going to live for more than ten or fifteen years. But even after my demise, my grandchildren will not forget this day. This Bill should be thrown out. This Bill should be rejected lock, stock and barrel. But the main culprit is the Congress Party. I am opposing this Bill,” he said.
“…there are lakhs and lakhs of Muslim youths of Kashmir. Will you throw them out? Will you throw them out? No. No. Fire is burning. Fire is burning in the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people. For powder keg, one spark is enough. That spark is the Bill. I oppose the Bill. This is a day of shame, murder of democracy. Today, democracy has been murdered,” said Vaiko.