Kashmir remains still an alpha bait
The moral and legal conundrum that is Article 370, which grants the state of Jammu and Kashmir special autonomous status, with the Union government having direct hold on only three matters: defence, foreign policy and communications, needs deliberation and out-of-the-box thinking. First of all, while the ‘sacrosanct’ nature of Article 370 must be questioned, what cannot be forgotten is the convoluted history behind the half-baked ascension that happened under Maharaja Hari Singh over a period of two years from September 1947 till June 1949, when leaders like Sheikh Abdullah, with his aides, formally joined the national Constituent assembly and began the process of drafting the unique and sensitive legal agreement. The formulation of the highly contentious and sensitive accord allowed J&K to carry on as an autonomous state under the Union of India, until Article 370 was abrogated by the orders of the President (of course after considerations with the Union government) and with consent of the state assembly. There are far too many legal and constitutional hurdles to tamper or tinker with Article 370, even though it is definitely not above legislative reconfiguration, indeed abolition after due preparation. And there lies the rub. Article 370 had six special provisions for J&K, and some of them, have over period of time, and since the imposition of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, have actually got diluted. Moreover, attempts to revisit the constitutional law (such as Beg-Parthasarthy Accord, 1975, or even former PM Manmohan Singh’s round table leading to Justice S Saghir Ahmed’s working report in 2010) have fast reached deadends.
Needless to say that Kashmir, typically, has been at the heart of India’s diplomatic and strategic problems with Pakistan, with the latter country still hell-bent on assuming a legitimate moral right over the region. While Kashmiris, including majority Muslims and (the persecuted) minority Pandits, have been at the receiving end of the Indo-Pak one-upmanship, with both Pakistan-instigated militancy and Indian armed forces imperiling lives of innocent civilians for over two decades now, cultural nationalism of any hue cannot be the fulcrum on which this heavy diplomatic burden must be lifted. Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that abolishing Article 370 has been a saffron agenda ever since Shyama Prsad Mookerjee, one of the chief protesters against granting of special status to the state of J&K, was arrested crossing the Kashmir border, and who died one month later in incarceration because of a medical complication. Because BJP has always advocated that Kashmir is an integral part of India, without soliciting the opinions and aspirations of the actual Kashmiris, the latest brouhaha doesn’t come as a surprise. As far as in December 1991, the current prime minister has been seen alongside a ferocious Murli Manohar Joshi, as the latter culminated his Ekta Yatra from Kanyakumari to Srinagar, even as the Valley fulminated and violent militancy soon spread like an incurable rash across the face of paradisiacal province. It is important that the political will of the people of Kashmir, no matter how split and incoherent, is taken into account while deciding the fate of Article 370 and the state.