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Abrogating Article 370, but at what cost?
The BJP stalwart, Lal Krishna Advani, in his blog, titled, 'The Journey Continues', has written an article, titled, 'Omar, do restrain yourself!', replying to remarks of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Chief Minister Omar Abdullah over the BJP's stand on Kashmir.

Mr. Advani writes that Jana Sangh; the earlier avatar of the BJP, had not even been born when in the Constituent Assembly, Article 370, which confers special status to J&K, was sought to be approved. He highlights the differences among the then members of the Congress Party over Article 370 and that the Party willy-nilly approved it. He also tries to portray Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah; the first Chief Minister of J&K and the grandfather of Mr. Abdullah, as fickle and vacillating. Earlier Mr. Abdullah reiterated that the Article 370 is the link between J&K state and India and therefore, cannot be repealed.

To be fair to Abdullah family, they are the most pro-India Muslims in the Valley among those who can matter. The fact is that there is no doubt that in order to continue as a ‘part’ of Indian Union, J&K needs to have a special status and therefore, there is nothing wrong in the continuation of Article 370; it’s a high consciousness era for people of J&K as well, particularly for the Valley Muslims.

For Indian government, dynamism is far better option than pale staticism: it needs to continuously and constantly churn the politics of the state with fresh practical political offers which can contain the alienation of the people of the Valley and can help resolve the dispute permanently. The Union government with the cooperation of state government needs to listen to people’s grievances and act accordingly to the extent it is possible within the flexibility offered by the Indian Constitution. 

The Muslims of the state, particularly those of the Valley, should not interpret the continuation of dispute as a national Hindu majority suppressing and persecuting a state Muslims majority because of the history of the subcontinent and because of Hindus’ minority status in the state. Hindus, particularly those of the North, can easily consider Valley Muslims as their brethrens, provided they abandon their pro-Pakistani stand and become, according to former, the ‘mainstreamers’. This is virtual impossibility. The fact is that neither side understands other ones.             

First of all peaceful repealing of Article 370 requires the concurrence of J&K Assembly over the matter, which the Indian Union government can never get under any circumstances. But since the continuation of special status of J&K requires Indian Parliament’s consent and constant approval, there is some possibility of Indian Parliament unilaterally abrogating the Article 370, should it decide so. But at what cost?

It risks not only alienating people of the Valley further but can also lead up to a constitutional crisis. The accession of J&K into the Indian Union could become questionable and the status may be put on suspension. Should the act of trying to repeal the Article 370 is repeated, the J&K Assembly can declare separation with Indian Union and it outreaching to Pakistan, prompting Union government to put the J&K Assembly on suspended animation or even dissolving it.

This would increase the dissent in the state uniting all people of the state increasing polarization, harm Abdullah family, give Pakistan a greater foothold in the dispute and unnecessarily internationalize the dispute further. It would be a foolish legislature act in totality and it is unlikely that two hypothetical successive BJP-led governing coalitions in New Delhi would try such a daring move.

Mr. Advani is totally correct when he writes that the Congress Party as a whole vehemently opposed granting special status to the J&K state but what if that was not granted to the state? Nationalism should not render people wandering in the imaginary land devoid of any reality: there was no accession possible without special status to J&K. Neither should it make people blind to history. The fact is that Indian Union had to incur some cost and that cost does not appear to be that huge.

The physical Indian possession of a part of J&K state does help cool down the temperature in the region and stabilize it and beyond, even if it means inducing some dissent in the Valley as a consequence. It also keeps pluralism alive because of demographic diversity of the state and they be governed in a secular manner. The special status cannot be reversed any time soon as the Indian Union cannot do away with the reservations and subsidies to various bona-fide classes all over India. Anyway, it can never be tried without the consent of the J&K legislature bodies.

The most important aspect of Indian administration in J&K is to open a dialogue with the people of Valley and with the other parts of the state. Genuine demands of the people of Jammu and Ladakh should also be listened to but they should be frankly told that taking decision about the division of a state is the prerogative of state assemblies all over India and the role of Indian government starts after the state Assembly has recommended the division. Sure, in case of dispute resolution reaching a desired end, all the legitimate demands of the people of Jammu and Ladakh should be met.

Indian authorities need to make sure that certain acts, like rape of women and extra-judicial killings, should not happen in the state even under trying and distressed conditions. Indian and state authorities need to see that duties of armed personnel are exchanged frequently and that only bright officers with huge potentials for promotion should be made in-charge of the operations; both in army and in police as well as in the civilian administration.

The authorities need to dwell at the benefits of staying with India to public and prove them with data. For that they need to make the state economically successful with high growth and diversified economy. People of state should try to learn all faculties; those that are possible, and should actualize their potential to the fullest. Economic success and clever diplomacy are the tools in the hands of Indian authorities to keep the flock together.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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Vibhav Kant Upadhyay
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