Article 370

Jammu & Kashmir : Article 370 & 35A revoked

The Indian government has finally abolished decades-old law that gave a measure of self-government to the disputed Muslim-majority region on 5th Aug’19. The Modi government along with Home Minister Amit Shah revoked two vital constitutional provisions, i.e. Article 370 and Article 35(A) which gave the state of Jammu & Kashmir a host of exclusive rights. Amit Shah told parliament that the President had signed a declaration eliminating Article 370 of the constitution, removing the significant autonomy Kashmir had enjoyed for seven decades. Few provisions of Article 370 have been weakened. In contrary, the Article 35A till now had remained unchanged.

The move came along with escalating tension in the state for more than seven million people. It infuriated rival Pakistan where the government, in a midnight leap, had put the top political leadership under custody and limited their group. It also poised telecom & internet services in the state.

With the condition now on a knife’s edge, here is what the crucial decision would mean for the agitated state and for India in general.

India revokes disputed Kashmir’s special status with a flash judgmentThe Government, led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also moved a bill recommending the Jammu and Kashmir state be partitioned into two “union territories” by New Delhi. The Jammu and Kashmir union territory will embrace the Hindu-majority Jammu region along with a legislative assembly. The Buddhist-majority Ladakh region, majorly populated with Shia Muslims, will also be a union territory, but it will not have an assembly.

Article 370 means

 Under this article, the centre needs the state government’s agreement to pertain laws — except in defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications. It means the residents live under a separate set of rules, including those related to citizenship, ownership of land property, fundamental rights, as in contrast to other Indians. As a consequence of this stipulation, Indian citizens from other states cannot acquire land or property in Jammu & & Kashmir. 

Under Article 370, the Centre has no power to affirm financial emergency under Article 360 in the state. It can invoke a crisis in the state only in case of war or external aggression. Article 370 — which comes under Part XXI of the Constitution, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions” — grants a special autonomous status to J&K state. Constitutional provisions that apply to other Indian states do not apply to J&K.

The provision was outlined in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah, then prime minister of J&K appointed by Maharaja Hari Singh and Jawaharlal Nehru. Abdullah had disagreed that Article 370 should not be placed under temporary provisions; he instead wanted ‘iron-clad autonomy’ for the state. The centre, however, didn’t endow his wish.

Article 35(A) means

 Article 35A grants the state legislature to classify the Jammu and Kashmir’s, permanent residents. The article had been included via the Constitution (Application to J&K) Order, 1954. The then President Dr Rajendra Prasad issued it under Article 370 on PM Nehru’s advice.

The State’s Constitution, at the time of its agreement in 1956, defined a permanent resident as somebody who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been a occupant for ten years, and has lawfully acquired rigid property. It means that no outsider can now possess land property in J&K or get a state job.

The article is also called as the Permanent Residents Law. Among other things, it denies the state’s female residents of property rights if/when they marry an ‘outsider’. The provision also widened to children born of any such women.

 Why are they being abolished?

The ruling BJP and its right-wing allies have challenged Article 35A which it calls inequitable, through a series of appeals. A senior BJP leader intimated that the government was proposing to form exclusive Hindu settlements in the area. Prime Minister Modi led his BJP to a massive win in May on the back of a disruptive campaign that apparently targeted Muslims, vowing to eliminate Article 370 and its 35A provision. 

“This is a straightforward pandering to the Hindu-majority electorate in India,” said Ajay Shukla, a defence analyst in New Delhi. “There is a political polarization here with the ruling party trying to pander to its Hindu vote bank and to anything it sees as anti-Muslim,” he told Al Jazeera. “For the government, it is a step that it had pledged and now delivered on.”

What does this mean?

With Indian-administered Kashmir’s special status revoked, people from the rest of India would have the right to attain property in Jammu and Kashmir and settle there permanently. Kashmiris frightened the move would lead to a demographic conversion of the region from majority-Muslim to majority-Hindu. “The Government have not just smacked down the provision of 370, but they have taken apart the future of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed in the Indian constitution,” said Shukla.  “It now consists of union territories which are centrally governed – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. This is a kind of a essential new provision, which many people are saying will require a constitutional changes.”

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