Post Mortem

New Delhi vs J&K: India’s federalism under test

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/16/2019 12:09:58 PM IST

 Those in favor of nullification of Article 370 of the Constitution jubilate over it, because 72 years of history has been rewritten and therefore justice is being done.   Further, they argue that Article 370 has been the stumbling block for the full integration of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian Union. At the same there are those against doing away Article 370 contend that national integration could not be furthered by unilaterally and arbitrarily, without consulting the people of Kashmir.  However, those in favor of getting rid of Article 370 view that it was born out of a political machination, but was never meant to be a permanent provision—President may, by public notification, declare that this Article shall cease to be operative … Provided that the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State shall be necessary.” 

Though the Constituent Assembly was disbanded in 1956, prior to the dissolution, the Constituent Assembly neither recommended the abrogation of Article 370 nor did it advocate for it to be made a permanent feature of the Constitution. Every crisis presents an opportunity.  Those in favor of this move say that changing times need radical decision and so need to go beyond Nehru-Gandhi legacy. Others point out to the ways in which the nullification of Article 370 was brought about in dubious manner. And so, it deserves careful assessment. The integration of J&K with the rest of India has three dimensions: administrative, economic and socio-psychological. Would nullifying 370 deepen integration or distancing on these counts? 

First and the foremost factor is that nullification of the Article 370 has relegated J&K from Statehood to Union Territory, meaning direct rule from New Delhi. In such a context, the two regions will be integrated with the central government and by extension, presumably with rest of India. Second, it is assumed that GOI’s removal of 370 and 35A on land ownership and domicile will encourage greater integration. This would lead to the entry of corporate companies and big businesses which would usher ‘employment potential’ and ‘modernization’ leading to ‘development’ wherein infrastructures such as high-speed auto-bans, airports, hotels and communication technologies automatically leading to growth in tourism industry bringing in more growth, development and prosperity for all. This needs heavily fortified corridors as forts.

J&K has limited natural resources. Opening up the whole region would lead to unlimited exploitation of natural resources for maximizing profits. Over and above, those residents who have been there surviving with limited resources due to the onslaught of the big business be isolated leading to militancy and terrorism. Already the Government sources keep saying that terrorism is on the rise in Kashmir and it is at this juncture, would abolition of 370 would reduce terror attacks or escalate?  Further, the intent and purpose for which Article 370 was abolished failed to realize those instead in its place just the opposites occurred; then those who considered the move only as a political spin-off would become true. More significantly, opening J&K for the purchase of land and free-movement of people in line with Government’s integration gels with BJP-RSS’s long-time vision of Hindu-majoritarian settlements in Kashmir. Building Hindu majoritarian locales in Kashmir is bound to drastically change the socio-economic, politico-religio-cultural landscapes in the coming years. 

A key and unique element which would be unique and distinct that arises out of in dismantling of 370 is going to attract skilled migrants and their families. This was observed at the time of partition where people thronged to Delhi and now this is the first one since then which will reek of internal colonialism. 

It is somewhat like that of the State of Israel that deliberately allows and promotes internal settlement of Jews amidst the Palestinian settlements. Third, by nullifying 370, it assumes that integration would automatically bring in the Kashmiris with the rest of Indian society particularly socially and psychologically which seem to have been taken for granted.  Article 370 was a promise to the people of Kashmir that it would retain its distinctiveness as part of secular national life fabric. After the nullification of 370, under the Hindu majoritarian regime proved the very fact that India continues to pose and thus presents not certainly concerns ‘friendly-mode’, but depicts ‘hostile picture’ of its notion of India against the Muslims. 

Apart from all these, the abrogation of Article 370 has exposed the ambiguities that were present in India’s federal system. Asymmetric arrangements have been negotiated and dealt with in such rudimentary ways. Kashmir’s autonomous stature the oldest one ripped open and thus removed by popular mandate at the pan-India level. BJP at the Centre has altered the trajectory by abrogating Article 370 and bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir and thus created two Union Territories by demonstrating that inherent flexibility could be maneuvered in the federal order to centralize power in order to reshaping the size, power and status—from State to Union Territory of a Constituent Unit of the Indian Union—the only Unit with a Muslim majority population. One could predict that in due course of time Kashmir’s demography would certainly change.

The constitutionality of the abrogation of Article 370 is under question as the Government went all out for passing legislation though aware of the face and its consequences for the fabric of federalism—the elected assembly of J&K not presents which exposes the fragility of India’s asymmetric federal system hangs on. Asymmetric Constitutional provisions are a common feature of federalism in diverse societies such as Nagas and Mizos (Article 371) recognizing multiple modes belonging with the Union.  For example, Union Minister of Home Amit Shah said that those who oppose nullification of Article 370 are anti-Dalit, anti-tribal and anti-women. 

In an asymmetric society which is basically hierarchical and differentials with a schema of top=down status is given as part of the extension of rights. So, the decision to transform the J & K State into Union Territories and at the same time dismantling Article 370 is presumed as a  radical departure designated as radical’ and ‘historic’, and yet, no one knows the impending consequences that Kashmir is going to offer which certainly and presumably would have wider implications for India’s federalism. Indian Constitution is combined with unitary and federal features that need careful readings, applications and scrutiny. But, the current dispensation invokes everything that suits its political interests, envisaged project and vision all in the name of—‘one nation’, ‘one flag, and one constitution. 

Dr. John Mohan Razu

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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