On 5 August, the union home minister Amit Shah announced in the Rajya Sabha that the Bharatiya Janata Party government had effectively nullified Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Shah tabled two bills in the upper house that necessitated revoking the special status guaranteed to the state. In addition to the bills—the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 and the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2019—Shah also brandished a presidential order, dated the same day, which extended all the provisions of the Constitution to the state, defanging Article 370. Both bills passed in the house.
Following Independence, Article 370 had formalised the terms of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to the Indian union—as stipulated in the Instrument of Accession. Among other things, Article 370 mandated that barring certain subjects—such as defence and foreign policy—the central government was required to seek the concurrence of the Jammu and Kashmir government before it could legislate in the state.
Yet, as the state has been under President’s Rule since December 2018, the centre circumvented this requirement—the presidential order allowed the governor to assent in lieu of the state legislature. Through the reorganisation bill, the government split the state into two union territories—Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. That the centre acted in the absence of a state government and through an executive order also raised questions about the constitutional validity of its decisions.
On 6 August, Arshu John, an assistant editor at The Caravan, spoke to AS Dulat, the former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing about the likely fallout in Jammu and Kashmir and the political context of the BJP’s decision. Dulat, who also served as a special director of the Intelligence Bureau, said that while he did not anticipate any upsurge in resistance on the ground, he did fear a rise in terror activity.
Arshu John: Could you comment on the effective nullification of Article 370 and the proposed bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir?
AS Dulat: It’s a sad and unfortunate thing because I do not think it was necessary. I was told that even the home minister Amit Shah said in parliament that this erosion [of Article 370] was already taking place; we are only completing the process. He is right there, that erosion was taking place. I have said it many times that 370 is nothing, it’s only a fig leaf. So, why do you want to remove that fig leaf? Why would you want to rub the Kashmiri nose further into the ground? Let it be, 370 is nothing.