Indian government’s decision to repeal Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution, that grant a special status for the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories, will have far-reaching implications for not just the state but also the entire country. The prevailing atmosphere in the state, which sees all communications suspended, the imposition of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as a pre-emptive measure to disallow group gatherings and fomenting of potentially disruptive opinions, and the placing of the state’s top political leadership under house arrest, has understandably ratcheted up the tension in the country. But it’s important to call into play the fullest degree of restraint and calm in the present circumstances. It would serve the state and India poorly to exacerbate the present circumstances through volatile reactions and rhetoric that will only increase the vulnerability for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The truth is, the cessation of the special status granted to the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been a core goal of the BJP, even before it came to power in 2014. It was a move that was simply biding its time and the party’s absolute majority on which it rode back to power for a second term in May this year, only further firmed its resolve.
However, the question remains: Why did the BJP not consult the people of Jammu and Kashmir, as it promised in its 2014 election manifesto, and as also mandated by the provisions of the Article 370 itself regarding its abrogation? It is a point being raised by many legal and constitutional experts in India, and with good reason.
With this decision, the BJP has begun a protracted process ostensibly towards a win-win outcome for all but the political repercussions, and social, legal, constitutional and bilateral implications cannot be ignored. It is incumbent on the BJP to consider and deal with every one of these issues in the most measured and convincing manner to assuage the concerns of those who are on the side of the debate.
If the BJP truly believes revoking Article 370 will enhance overall unity and assimilation of all Indians, it needs to back its belief by bringing unequivocal hope, lasting peace and prosperity to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and ensure that the decades-long post-independence saga of violence, bloodshed and fading hopes of its people for a better tomorrow are a thing of the past.