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 a 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.
MM Ansari is a senior bureaucrat who has served as the Chief Information Commissioner. He was appointed as one of the three interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir by the Congress-led central government from 2010 to2011. The three-member panel of interlocutors submitted a report to the centre focusing on a “permanent political settlement of the Kashmir problem.” In a conversation with Amrita Singh, an editorial fellow at The Caravan, Ansari discussed his views on the government’s recent moves in Kashmir. “This is highly dictatorial,” he said. “The centre could have gone in the process of a consultation with all the stakeholders, which has not been done.”
As I understand, the whole process has been followed in a way to have full control in Jammu and Kashmir by bypassing all the democratic processes. This amounts to breach of trust between the leadership of the Jammu and Kashmir and the leadership of New Delhi. At the time of independence, Jammu and Kashmir was to go along with Pakistan because of its natural proximity, but the Kashmiris decided to stay with India on condition that they will be given special powers, that is greater autonomy, which is why it was agreed that the Indian state will have powers to intervene only in three areas—defence, communication and external affairs. Without taking the state leadership in confidence, or without following the proper procedure of discussing and taking a decision in the parliament, now they have full control, and they have made Jammu and Kashmir into a union territory. This amounts to following a very undemocratic process. Because whenever the states are reorganised, the parliament as well as the state assembly are taken in confidence.