- – By Priyanuj Sharma
Two years ago, on 5th August, 2019, India bid farewell to Articles 370 and 35 (A), marking the beginning of a new era in Jammu and Kashmir. With the abrogation of the two Articles, J&K became fully integrated with the other states and union territories of the nation. Prior to that Article 370 of the Indian constitution gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir conferring power to have a separate constitution, a state flag and autonomy over the internal administration of the state. This article, along with Article 35 (A), defined that the Jammu and Kashmir state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to resident of other Indian states. Articles 370 and 35 (A) created an unnatural and unhealthy divide in the nation.
Article 370 was incorporated in the Indian Constitution as a “Temporary measure”. The provisions of Article 370 were not a part of the Standard “Instrument of Accession Agreement” signed in 1947 by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir as well as by rulers of more than 500 other princely states. Article 370 was strictly a temporary article in the Indian Constitution and its elimination under procedures specified by the Indian Constitution was fully justified. Similarly, Article 35 (A) defining the residents of Jammu and Kashmir and their rights was incorporated in the Indian Constitution in 1954 under the provisions of Article 370 by a Presidential decree, four years after the Indian Constitution came into force in 1950.
The “historical wrong” was corrected on 5 August 2019, when the Parliament of India voted in favour of a resolution tabled by Home Minister Amit Shah to revoke the special status, or autonomy, granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir. Later the state of Jammu and Kashmir was reconstituted into two union territories, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, with effect from 31 October 2019.
Through there were some initial apprehensions among people after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 (A), two years down the line the benefits of the historic decision are visible to everyone. After the constitutional changes and reorganisation of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, the union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh have been fully integrated into the mainstream of the nation. The most welcome change was that it paved the way for “national unity”. After the abrogation of the two Articles, the Kashmir Valley as well as Jammu have remained largely peaceful. All the rights enshrined in the Constitution of India and benefits of all the central laws that were being enjoyed by other citizens of the country are now available to the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The change has brought about socio-economic development in the region. Empowerment of people, removal of unjust Laws, bringing in equity and fairness to those discriminated since ages who are now getting their due along with comprehensive development are few of the important changes that are ushering the region towards the path of peace and progress. With the conduct of elections of Panchayati Raj Institutions such as Panches and Sarpanches, Block Development Councils and District Development Councils, the 3-tier system of grassroot level democracy was established in Jammu and Kashmir. The polls were held peacefully, and people got a taste of participative democracy. The road ahead is filled with hope and optimism.