With the Valley in a state of lockdown from Sunday midnight, Union Home Minister Amit Shah Monday informed Parliament the Centre’s decision to do away with special status conferred to the state of Jammu-Kashmir. Notwithstanding Opposition in Raja Sabha, the BJP, in a single stroke, has realised its longstanding demand, and a key election promise, to revoke the special provisions accorded to the state.
The scrapping of the special status would mean that the Centre doesn’t need to consult the state legislature before enacting laws applicable to the Valley, non-Kashmiri residents will be allowed to buy property, Kashmir will no longer have a separate Constitution, among other things.
Shah also tabled a Bill in Rajya Sabha that seeks to split the state into two Union Terrorities: Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir. Calling Article 370 a temporary provision, Shah said J&K will “truly become an integral part of India” after its “abrogation”. Shah told the House that Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood will be restored at an appropriate time when normalcy returns.
Rajya Sabha passes bill to divide J&K into two Union Territories
The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 that seeks to divide the state into two union territories of Ladakh and Jammu Kashmir, with 125 MPs voting in favour and 61 against it.
Apart from this, the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (2nd Amendment) Bill was also passed in the Upper House of Parliament. Besides, the Rajya Sabha also approved the resolution to scrap the special status provided to the state under Article 370. Both will now come up in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
Key takeaways of J&K Reorganisation Bill
The Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir will have a Lieutenant Governor and the maximum strength of its Assembly will be of 107 seats which will be further enhanced to 114 after a delimitation exercise, according to a Bill.
With the passage of the bill, the existing legislative council in Jammu and Kashmir stands abolished. Every member of the assembly thereof ceases to be such member and all bills pending in the Legislative Council shall lapse, the bill states. The Presidential Order has now extended all the provisions of the Indian Constitution to Jammu & Kashmir.
There shall be a council of ministers in the Union Territory of J&K, the Bill said, consisting of not more than ten per cent of the total number of members in the Legislative Assembly, with the Chief Minister at the head “to aid and advise” the Lieutenant Governor.
Critics BSP, AAP, TDP support bill in Parliament, JD(U) opposes
The government also received support in the Parliament from unlikely quarters, with staunch critics like Mayawati’s BSP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) backing the bill. Apart from BSP and AAP, fence-sitters like Naveen Patnaik’s BJD, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP, Bodoland People’s Front (BDF), TRS and TDP also supported the J&K Reorganisation Bill, which provides for the formation of the Union Territory of Ladakh without legislature and a separate one for Jammu and Kashmir with the legislature.
NDA allies Shiv Sena, AIADMK and SAD also backed the government move amid a massive uproar by the Opposition. However, NDA’s ally JD(U), however, chose to stage a walkout as soon as Home Minister Amit Shah moved the resolution on Article 370 and the bifurcation bill.
Special status in other states
Apart from Jammu & Kashmir, the special provisions under Article 370 are also accorded in the northeast, which aims at preserving their tribal culture. Article 371A states that no act of Parliament shall apply to the state of Nagaland in respect of the religious or social practices of the Nagas, its customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law and ownership and transfer of land and its resources.
Article 371-G, which deals with special provisions with respect to Mizoram, has similar nature. Article 371B deals with the special provision with respect to the state of Assam. The main objective of inserting Article 371B was to facilitate the creation of the sub-state ‘Meghalaya’. Article 371C deal with special provisions with respect to Manipur which became a state in 1972. Articles 371F, 371H talk about special provisions with respect to states of Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
Meanwhile, Special provisions with respect to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa are dealt with in Articles 371D and 371E, 371J, 371I respectively.
Article 370 has not been scrapped but Kashmir’s special status has gone
The Presidential Order signed by the President has not scrapped Article 370. But invoking this very article special status of Jammu & Kashmir has been withdrawn. Thus Article 370 is very much on the statute book.
Since Presidential Order of August 5 has extended all the provisions of the Constitution to Kashmir, Fundamental rights chapter has now been extended and therefore discriminatory provisions of Article 35-A have now become unconstitutional. President also may withdraw Article 35-A.
How the drama in Kashmir unfolded
The drama started unfolding from the last week of July when the Centre deployed about 10,000 central forces personnel in Kashmir, saying it was to strengthen counter-insurgency operations and law and order duties. The panic escalated when the Jammu & Kashmir administration, in an advisory issued on Friday, cancelled the Amarnath Yatra and asked the pilgrims to return immediately citing terror threats.
Rumours flew as many pointed to the intelligence inputs about threats of militant attack for the series of developments in Kashmir, while others speculated that some big announcements over Articles 35A and 370 were being planned. Tourists, Amarnath Yatra pilgrims and out-station students of NIT started leaving the Kashmir Valley on Saturday.
With heightening tensions, the regional leaders, in an all-party meeting, unanimously resolved to fight any attempt to abrogate the constitutional provisions that grant the state the special status or any move to trifurcate the state.
However, soon after this meet, authorities stepped up the security at sensitive areas in the Valley, suspending mobile internet, broadband and cable connections and putting prominent leaders like Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah under house arrest. Section 144 of CrPC Act was imposed from 6 am on Sunday. Hours after the Rajya Sabha passed the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehboob Mufti were arrested.
How politicians, actors, sportspersons reacted to J&K move
Public personalities from diverse fields like politics, sports and entertainment expressed their opinions on the change of status quo in Jammu and Kashmir. Both Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who are presently under arrest in Srinagar, sharply condemned the Modi government’s decision.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan termed the Indian government’s move “illegal”, saying it will “further deteriorate” relations between the two nuclear-capable nations. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for correcting a “historical wrong”.
Director Ekta Kapoor said the Union government’s decision was radical but need of the hour, while she hoped for the safety of the Kashmiris. Vivek Oberoi termed it as the greatest homage to all those brave Army personnel martyred for the dream of a ‘United India’.
Actor Richa Chadha tweeted that “whatever happens in politics, let there be no bloodshed, let sense prevail. We’re one, all Indians. We are a peaceful people. We believe in compassion, not coercion…”
“Here’s to more inclusiveness. May there be peace and love. #Article370,” tweeted former cricketer Mohammad Kaif while Suresh Raina stated, “Here’s to more inclusiveness. May there be peace and love. #Article370”. Anjum Chopra hailed the move as a ‘good and bold move’. “Loss of lives and uncertainty in the valley has to be addressed someday,” she added.