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10 August, 2019 11:41:34 PM

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Modi’s surgical strike in Kashmir

As for the BJP, it fulfilled its long standing promise of ending Kashmir’s special status
Kumkum Chadha
Modi’s surgical strike in Kashmir

When former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted on Kashmir she did not know it would be her last. "Narendra Modi ji - Thank you Prime Minister.

Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime."She tweeted referring to the scrapping of Article 370, ending the special status to the Indian state of  Jammu and Kashmir.
Before the  day ended, Sushma Swaraj’s life did too. She had watched the Parliamentary debate on television the entire day as also the voting and actually saw history being made before she died, following a cardiac arrest, a few hours later in New Delhi.
History, it is true, was made on August 6, 2019 in India.
It was on this day that the Indian Parliament voted for and approved the nullification of Article 370, along with the division of the state into two Union territories – Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh.
With one single stroke, the Modi government ended the suspense that had been building for days after the Government issued a security order banning rallies; closed schools and suspended internet services. Pilgrims and tourists were ordered to cut short their visit and  leave the region and there was heavy security deployment. Clearly something was brewing but it was difficult to fathom what. As is typical of the Narendra Modi government a surprise was in store.

 But once  the cat was pulled out of the bag it became clear that surprise was a mild term to use: it was much bigger: much, much bigger because it surgically removed the wound festering for decades on the face of the Indian republic.

 As for the BJP, it fulfilled its long standing promise of ending Kashmir’s special status. This the government did revoking  some provisions of the Article 370. It also brought in a bill to split the state into two Union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. With this , the map of India was redrawn.

 Politically this means a consolidation of the pro-BJP Hindi vote not only in the state but also nationally because there was a heartburn at the way Kashmir was going and its special status making it a cut above the rest. Nationally it means Centre’s active role in governance, development and a possible end to militancy.  

 How much of this will happen remains to be seen but for the moment this is a gamble that seems to have paid off well for the ruling dispensation . On the face of it there is overwhelming support for the Government’s move across the nation despite a handful of parties including the Congress crying foul. But those are minor fissures in the larger picture which promises a win-winsituation for the BJP, issues of an adverse fall out notwithstanding.

 But first the implications of the move:

 To begin with,  geographically India now has 28 states instead of 29. J&K has been reorganised and is no longer a state and has been reduced to a Union Territory. The state has been split into two  Union territories, one with an Assembly and the other without: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh respectively. The Governor of Jammu and Kashmir will now be replaced by a Lieutenant Governor: a clear down-grade.

With this, the  special status enjoyed by the state under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution comes to an end. In other words, an elimination of the state of  Jammu and Kashmir's right to its own constitution and decision-making process for all matters except defense, communications and foreign affairs. The new status will also allow Indians from outside the region to permanently settle, buy land, hold local government jobs and secure educational scholarships.

Article 370 laid down that except for matters related to defence, foreign affairs, communications and issues specified in the Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir, Parliament needs the state government's ratification for all other laws. So far, residents of the state lived under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property and  fundamental rights. It also debared  Indian citizens from other states to purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.

It was in 1947 that  Sheikh Abdullah, who had by then been appointed prime minister of Jammu & Kashmir by Maharaja Hari Singh and Jawahar Lal Nehru drafted the provision pressing for an 'iron clad autonomy' for the state, something the  Centre did not comply with.

 Article 370 exempted the state from the Indian Constitution (except Article 1 and Article 370 itself) and permitted it  to draft its own Constitution. It restricted Parliament’s legislative powers in respect of J&K. For extending a central law on subjects included in the Instrument of Accession (IoA), mere “consultation” with the state government was needed. But for extending it to other matters, “concurrence” of the state government was mandatory.

  That this was a masterstroke by the Modi government is a given but more importantly the deftness and secrecy that came with it can well be compared to the demonetisation shocker announcement by Modi during his first tenure. While the fall out of the first has had many debates and volumes have been written on its failure, this time around the Modi government is being commended for its determination to carry forward measures that are part of its political agenda. The day Amit Shah chose the Home Ministry as his work space it was clear that major developments will be in the offing. Of course the constitutionality of the move is under a cloud and subject to judicial scrutiny but the backing of Parliament has given the government enough reason to sit smug and rewrite the fortunes of Kashmir and its people. Whether it will be gold or black remains to be seen but the government deserves praise for the swift operation as it does for the surgical cut than giving first aid so to say. Simply put this means that the government decided to strike and go for the kill rather than tread softly and do a piece-meal operation. It is as someone said a “jhatka “ and not a “halal operation”. In other words one stroke versus a slow and long drawn  operation.

 While this was on the government’s agenda is no secret given that it was part of the BJP’s election manifesto but whether the Government intended to strike when it did or would rather have waited for some more time is debatable. There is speculation that the trigger was Pakistan cosying up to the USA and its President Donald Trump offering to mediate on Kashmir.

 It may be recalled that President Trump had publicly stated that Prime Minister Modi had asked him to play mediator something that India denied. To say that India did it because of Trump would be an exaggeration but to say that Trump’s posturing  hastened what India had always intended to, fits in better.

 However the deed is done much to the relief of most Indians even those in the region of Jammu and Ladakh. It is the Valley that is hopping mad like Pakistan, which is on the offensive. The Government is watching every move and is determined to come down heavily on those fermenting trouble. It may not be  a smooth sail once the curfew is lifted and the leaders released but the Government is both determined and well prepared to get a grip on the situation were it to get out of hand both internally and internationally bringing alive its election slogan: “Modi hai to mumkin hai”(If there is Modi everything is possible).

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com)

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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