Post Mortem

Kashmiris did not see it coming

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/16/2019 12:37:14 PM IST

 The writing was clearly visible on the wall and yet the Kashmiri people failed to read it. In less than 48 hours after Narendra Modi was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India for the first time on May 26 of 2014, Jitender Singh Rana, a junior Minister in the new PMO, made a remark that a debate would soon start on Article 370 of the Constitution to determine the ‘special status’ of Jammu & Kashmir, and that the process of repealing Article 370 had begun. The remark made just a day after the swearing in naturally sparked a controversy and it should have sent the alarm bells ringing loud and clear to the Kashmiri people. Afterall, the abrogation of Article 370  has been a long standing demand of the BJP and the Sang parivar. For the BJP and the Sang parivar, the opposition to ‘special status’ is the key for the main reason that ideologically, articles giving special status contradicts their conception of the nation that is ethnic and unitary – that it comes directly in the way of bringing about the uniform civil code.

As is the wont of many conventional North-East political party leaders to squabble over power and positions – even breaking existing age old political institutions – and in the process, failing to see the bigger picture, likewise, political leaders of Kashmir too miserably failed to read the writing on the wall that had appeared so early in the day of Narendra Modi’s regime. Instead, unwittingly, because of their squabbling, Kashmiri leaders themselves paved the way clean for the BJP and the Sang parivar to conveniently take away everything that J&K had. Its own constitution, flag, exceptional legislative authority, everything gone. And adding salt to injury, even bifurcated and downgraded to the status of a Union Territory. What is even more astounding is the fact that even Kashmiri civil society leaders and organizations became complacent and was only immersed into playing petty party politics and one-upmanship with their anti-India rhetoric   that they failed to see and read what was clearly coming, until it was too late.

Jammu & Kashmir is the only former princely state that negotiated its accession to the Indian Union. The accession to the Union was done only after Sheikh Abdullah was appointed by Maharaja Hari Singh as the prime minister of an interim government and three of his colleagues joined the Indian Constituent Assembly as members to negotiate the terms and conditions of J&K’s joining the Union. These terms were then agreed upon after five months of hectic parleys and the personal intervention of Sardar Patel and they were made part of the Indian constitution with the incorporation of Article 370. It was agreed that neither side could unilaterally alter, amend or expand the powers. Any attempt by the President of India to bring about changes in the state to make other laws of the Union applicable to J&K had to have the consent and concurrence of the state constituent assembly. Abrogating Article 370 is therefore against the very essence of the historic work done and achieved by Sardar Patel for integration of India. 

The J&K constituent assembly from 1951 to 1956 debated and discussed all the provisions of the separation of powers of the State and the Union and after incorporating them in the State constitution, it got dissolved.

Since the constituent assembly of J&K is no longer there, the state legislature became its rightful heir and, therefore, expansion of the Union’s power can happen only with the consent and concurrence of the state assembly. This was clearly stated by the Supreme Court during Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership. This is the same as Article 371(A) which states that no Act or Law passed by the Union parliament affecting certain prescribed provisions shall have legal force in Nagaland unless specifically applied to it by a majority vote of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly.

Kashmiris have only themselves to blame. They brought it all upon themselves. A strong state assembly of likeminded Kashmiri legislatures was the only impenetrable shield which the people had inorder to protect Article 370 and 35A against any decree of the Union parliament. This was forfeited in the last assembly election with a fractured mandate which allowed the BJP to not only participate as a major stakeholder in the government but also to become the kingmaker, and to ultimately pull the rug from under Mehbooba Mufti’s feet and impose its own Governor’s rule. This paved the way clean for the BJP to bypass the legislature and conveniently enabling the President to declare abrogation of all provisions of Article 370.

It is not even three months since the formation of the new Union government and Article 370 along with 35A is already gone. The BJP did not at all care to consider that if Article 370 is removed or abrogated, J&K becomes independent of the Indian Union. That Article 370 forms the sole bridge between J & K and the Indian Union just as much as Article 371(A) is the string that binds Nagaland with the Union. Maybe there will be no more of abrogating articles in the foreseeable future, but the intent of the BJP and the Sang parivar is clear. It is the ideological mooring of the Sang parivar that is making the calling. It is the spirit of Golwalkar who was opposed to even the idea of Indian federalism that is calling the shots.

Nagas have to be aware and prepared. Nagas cannot afford to remain complacent. The BJP and the Sangh parivar may not find it timely to open another front in the North-East by touching 371(A) this time round. But come 2024 and, thereafter, the Nagas could very well find ourselves in the shoe of the Kashmiris today. Eastern Nagaland declared a Union Territory without a legislature, the rest of NagaIand, a Union Territory with a legislature, and Article 371(A) abrogated. The writing this time too is on the wall very early in Narendra Modi second term as Prime Minister just as it was for the Kashmiris on May 27 of 2014. It certainly does make sense to learn from others mistake than our own. 

Benito Z. Swu

 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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