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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 22 New Delhi May 18, 2019

BJP’s War against Kashmir and the Kashmiris

Sunday 19 May 2019, by Arup Kumar Sen

A casual glance at the reports of human rights organisations testifies gross human rights violations in the Kashmir Valley after the enactment of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990. The recent unusual order of the Governor, made effective from April 7, 2019, has banned movement of civilian traffic on the 270 km Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla highway twice a week from dawn to dusk, in order to facilitate the movement of security personnel. This ban has already had disastrous effects on the economy of Kashmir and everyday life of the people living in the State. The attacks on the Kashmiris in different parts of India in the wake of the Pulwama blast is also fresh in our memory,

In its election manifesto, Sankalp Patra: Lok Sabha 2019, the BJP has declared legal war against Kashmir and its people. It is promised in the manifesto that the BJP is “committed to the abrogation of Article 370 and annulment of Article 35 A†. It should be mentioned in this connection that Article 35A confers upon the Government of Jammu and Kashmir the power to define permanent residents and give them certain special rights and privileges in the State. On the other hand, “an overall reading of the Instrument of Accession and Article 370 establishes that the formerly princely state of J&K ceded the power to legislate to the Union of India only in respect of three subjects—defence, external affairs and communication—subject to consultation of the State Government. In other matters, however, the concurrence of the State Government is required.†(See The Wire, April 13, 2019)

The eminent jurist, A.G. Noorani, has recently reminded us of the historical context of Article 370 and Article 35A: “Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy is guaranteed by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Its people’s ancient rights are guaranteed by Article 35A, which is part of the Delhi Agreement between two governments, of India and of Jammu and Kashmir, concluded 65 years ago...Article 35A is embedded in Kashmir’s history and psyche. Talk of repeal poses an existential threat.†(Frontline, March 29, 2019)

Now let us judge what effect was given to Article 370 in the Kashmir Valley. To put it in the words of a keen observer of developments in Kashmir, Amitabh Mattoo:

One of the biggest myths is the belief that the “autonomy†as envisaged in the Constituent Assembly is intact. A series of Presidential Orders has eroded Article 370 substantially...In fact today the autonomy enjoyed by the State is a shadow of its former self... (See The Hindu, December 6, 2013)

The increasing interventions of armed forces in the everyday life of the people, under Governor’s rule, have put the very existence of Kashmiris at stake. If the BJP comes to power and gives farewell to Article 370 and Article 35A, one can guess what will be the fate of the Kashmiris as a community.

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