Well before Narendra Damodardas Modi took an oath as the 15th Prime Minister of India, he sought debate “whether Article 370 has benefitted Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) or not". It was December 2013, and Modi was speaking at “Lalkar rally” in Jammu. Four months after, the debate on the law which is the only constitutional link between India and the J&K is back.
The only minister from J&K in Modi’s cabinet, Dr Rana Jitendra Singh has now created the first controversy for Modi government—that too, by touching the ‘raw nerve’ of Article 370. And thus, a fresh spat on what many call, “the only constitutional basis for J&K’s accession to India”, has been set off.
Dr Singh, an old RSS worker and a Diabetic specialist from Jammu managed to create controversy at that time when Modi-Sharif talks went quite peaceful, much to the disbelief of some political pundits. By terming Article 370 more like a psychological barrier, Dr Singh quipped: “The process of repealing Article 370 has started.” He didn’t stop there: “We are speaking to stakeholders.” And then, he spoke something which many believe is quite thought-provoking: “The BJP has won more than half of the seats from Jammu and Kashmir, so will you interpret it as an endorsement of the BJP’s stand.”
No sooner he said it, the reactions poured in plethora—especially the young Kashmiris started discussing and debating the Article 370 that guarantees a special category status for Jammu and Kashmir. “I guess, Dr Singh needs to trace the basis of J&K’s relation with India,” says Jabeen Akhtar, 25, a young lawyer from Srinagar. “You see, to repeal the Article: one needs concurrence of the constituent assembly of J&K which ended in 1956. So I think, he needs to consult some law books before talking about something which needs two thirds of majority to amend the constitution of India.” But legal aspects apart, many youngsters are openly clearing their stand on the legal binding of state with India.
Iram Ali, 22, a PG student in Political Science from South Kashmir’s Anantnag believes that nothing has been left in Article 370 to repeal about. “Look, I believe it is more of a political gimmick than something serious political happening,” says Ali, beaming thoughtful facial expressions. “I mean, India is already controlling everything in state—when as per the same law, they should have only controlled: Defence, Currency and External Affairs. So, the very debate ends there only—as, it is the coercion which governs the state at the moment rather any law!”
But apart from what Ali is terming “coercion in force”—many youth especially from Jammu province believes that Article 370 is a roadblock from J&K’s complete integration with India. “Well, let me tell you,” says Amit Raina, 28, a migrant Kashmiri pandit living in Jammu, “this legal binding [Article 370] is a big glitch in state’s growth engine. I mean, no outsider can purchase any land here—so, how come we expect that private sector of the state would become at par with other states of India when we have such inhibitory laws at place.”
But in the mountains of Kashmir Valley, more voices are echoing against the repealing of Article 370 than favouring it.
“I believe Dr Singh was in slumber when he remarked about the repealing of Article 370,” says Irtif Qazi, a PG student of Kashmir University. “You know, no changes in Article 370 are possible without the consent of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. So lets us shrug off the issue; the revocation of Article 370 is not possible.”
Earlier, BJP in its election manifesto had reiterated its stand on Article 370, saying it would discuss with all stakeholders for abrogation of this article, besides ensuring the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood.
“Listen up,” says Abid Hussain, 21, a law student from Srinagar, “the fact of the matter is: Modi led NDA Government has neither constitutional authority nor does BJP have the parliamentary mandate to repeal Article 370. So chill, it is mere rhetoric on part of Dr Singh.”
One of the prominent reactions from the youngsters from the state, especially from Kashmir is: Article 370 is no issue for them. Then, what is it? “Of course, it is right to self determination which Nehruvian India promised us—but we have been denying the same since 1947,” says Gowher Hamid, 26, a newly appointed government teacher from North Kashmir’s Baramulla. “Let Indian Government led by Narendra Modi deliver that promise—which has been bone of contention between India and Pakistan since the great partition of Indian Sub-Continent.”
Also read: What Kashmir youth thinks about Article 370?