Article370 of the Constitution of India is a solemn pledge India gave to the citizens of Kashmir State under a unique agreement on its accession to India. Mountbatten signed it, Nehru and Patel assented to it, Sheikh Abdullah agreed to it, the Constituent Assembly sealed it. The article is temporary and transitional in the sense that until a constituent Assenbly constituted under the wishes of the Kashmiri people decides to abrogate the provision, the Article would stay. The legality of this arrangement was tested in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, and was never challenged in the Supreme Court.
Under the UN Resolution 47 if 1949, which stated that “in order to ensure the impartiality of the plebiscite Pakistan withdraw all tribesmen and nationals who entered the region for the purpose of fighting and that India leave only the minimum number of troops needed to keep civil order,” India’s obligation to conduct a plebiscite in Kashmir has been thwarted by Pakistan by not withdrawing its troops from the POK. On the other hand, a plebiscite invoked by emotions and hatred would only cause death of thousands of Kashmiris and endanger the safety of Muslims in India.
31% Indians voted for BJP, not for gau-rakshaks and religious hooligans to force their ideology of hate on the Nation. If the government failed to prevent the exodus of Pandits,twenty years ago,this is not the time to take revenge – a Nation must not contemplate revenge against its own citizens. Real statesmanship would demand that administrative arrangements be made for the safe return of the unfortunate Pandits.
One must remember that the accession of Kashmir to India was provoked by an impatient Pakistan who got their just deserts in return. Kashmiris never questioned the provision, only opposed the government moves(often successful to slice away parts of the provision. Banning beef in Kasmir, where the majority are Muslims, amounted to belittling the provision using the brute force of Hindu chauvinists who got elected from Jammu. This, and the jingoist proclamations by BJP partymen virtually set fire to Kashmir, killing ninety young civilians and several army men. AFSPA is an insult to our democratic claims and injures the provisions of our constitution.
Let’s not imitate the hateful deeds of a theocratic Pakistan where the Jihadists have taken over the real authority under the leadership of its Military and theintelligence organizations where the Prime Minister is a Jo-Hokum figurehead. It is unfortunate that under such an arrangement, the good people of Pakistan find an impending war as a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. The threats to use nuclear arms belched out by generals from time to time, no doubt intended to dissuade the small bellicose section of Hindus in India, hardly makes them feel any better. The chances are that much of India will survive, wounded and radiated no doubt, but Pakistan would be sent back to the stone age that once George Bush threatened Musharraf with.
Special provisions are not new to our Constitution. Article 371-A provides unique powers to the government of Nagaland; the States of Gujarat and Maharashtra enjoy special powers. Decades after its voluntary accession to India, Individuals of Sikkim enjoy tax exemption not only from the income derived from the State, but also from dividend income received from anywhere. In all, eleven States enjoy (or suffer) special provisions. A duly elected State government of Delhi can be , and is being, thwarted by the central government in any and all of its attempts to improve the lives of its citizens
Article 370 does not belittle the prestige of the government. The far more autocratic government of China suffers two states under a Special Administrative Region agreement that has several provisios that challenge the fundamental policies of the central government. The UK could have done precious little if China scrapped the 50-year agreement with it. The US has special administrative provisions for Hawai, although a baby born in that state was eligible to become the President of the Country.
Trust me, Kashmiris are a great peaceloving people. Their trade and economy will flourish with India, and they know it. Put jingoists behind the bar, and eliminate the alien Jihadis who try to cross the border, but don’t kill the Kashmiri youth.
The world is watching. Keep this Country together.