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Article 370: National debate a must
On 26 October 1947 when erstwhile Maharaja of J&K State, Hari Singh, decided to accede to India, the Pakistani Tribal force led by the Pakistani Army Officers had already reached Baramula a town just 20 kms away from the J&K State Capital Srinagar. This accession was unconditional and the very next day units of Indian army were landing at Srinagar airfield which itself had come under enemy fire.

Had then Indian Prime Minster Jawahar Lal Nehru not gone to United Nations with this problem against the advise of the Army which had already wrested three fourth of J&K State from Pakistanis and was planning a final push, there would have been no Kashmir problem and no Article 370 which gives this state a separate identity from rest of the India.

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This Sunday on 01 DEC 2013, two rallies took place in the state of J&K. The first was in Jammu where Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP Narendra Modi was addressing a jam packed stadium in his Lalkar rally. Here Modi was emphasising the fact that India from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari is one. In the rally the environment was highly charged, reverberating with the calls of Jai Bharat Mata and Jai Bharat. Indian national flag was flying high.

At about the same time the separatist Kashmiri leader Geelani, who is reportedly on the payroll of ISI, was holding his rally in Kulgam in Kashmir Valley where Pakistani flag was flying and people were shouting Pakistan Zindabad slogans. The contrast could not have been more specific. The big question is why are we tolerating this if we say Kashmir is part of India?

For the last 66 years we have been pumping tax payers’ money into Kashmir Valley and tolerating all sorts of misdemeanours from people residing in the valley in the name of winning hearts and minds of people there. We did not lift a finger even when Kashmiri Pandits numbering four lakh plus were coerced out of the Valley. We do not even want to take any lesson from China who also has the same type of problem in Xinxiang province of theirs where the local Uyghur Muslims want independence from China.

Whatever China may be doing for winning hearts and minds of people there, the basic thrust of its policy in dealing with this problem is to bring in mainland Han Chinese to reside in Xinjiang and change the demography of this province. We in India however have scored a self goal, by bringing in Article 370 for J&K State. It is this mistake of ours which has been the main reason why Kashmiris have not accepted identity with the rest of India and are now demanding a separate country.

Article 370 lays down that J&K State will have its own Constitution. We keep on claiming that J&K State is part and parcel of India but the fact remains that any Bill passed by our Parliament does not automatically apply to J&K State. Only after the J&K Assembly passes the same bill or modifies it to suit its requirement it becomes law in J&K. People from other parts of India cannot study in J&K State educational institutes or apply for jobs in J&K State. No body from outside the state can buy land in J&K State.

With these provisions in place, for a land locked border state like J&K, which business house will risk entering this state for setting up major plants? Without major investments from private sector what opportunities do the educated youth of Kashmir have in job finding within Kashmir? As for them finding jobs in rest of India, again the same problem of lack of reciprocity comes in. Why should rest of India share the limited job opportunities in the country with Kashmir if it is not reciprocated? Truth is that Article 370 in real sense shackles the people of J&K to mediocrity.

Another issue related to Article 370 is the fate of people residing in Jammu and Ladakh region of J&K who are totally diverse in ethnicity to valley people and with each other. While Valley residents benefit from Article 370 the suffers are the people of Ladakh and Jammu. In Valley, due to large scale tourism, people there still have a profession which they can follow but same cannot be said about Jammu and Ladakh region.

A debate on the issue will bring out what people of Jammu and Ladakh feel about the Article 370. If they do not want the Article 370 to be applicable to them then they can be made separate autonomous regions while Article 370 may continue to be applicable only in the Valley. The debate will bring out all these points in public domain after which a suitable action may be taken. It needs to be emphasised here that even Pandit Nehru had visualised that this Article 370 is not something which will be a permanent affair.

After this issue of Article 370 was raised by Narendra Modi recently, the political parties of the valley are up in arms. Omar Abdulla the CM of J&K State is saying that even Indian Parliament cannot change the current status and the Article 370 bridges the gap between the Indian State and the State of J&K. These political parties must understand that nothing can stand against the will of the people. If USSR can break, Berlin wall can go, the two Germanys could unite then contents of Article 370 can also be changed or altogether removed.

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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