Govt bites the bullet, scraps J&K special status

A CRPF man stand guard during restrictions at Raghunath Bazar in Jammu on Monday. Restrictions and night curfews were imposed in several districts as the Valley remained on edge. PTI

The BJP-led NDA government on Monday revoked the controversial Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, as the week-long drama involving massive troop build-up, government orders and tourist exodus in the restive state culminated with the dramatic announcement.  

Taking a huge step towards realising one of the cherished goals of the party, the government brought out a special presidential order to immediately do away with the special powers of the J&K assembly, which had decision-making rights on all matters except defence, foreign affairs and communication.

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In addition, the government presented a bill in the Rajya Sabha — which was opposed by the Congress but later passed with a margin of 125-61 — to divide the state into two Union Territories. 

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While Jammu and Kashmir would be a UT with a legislative assembly, the Buddhist-dominated Ladakh would be a UT without an assembly.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the government’s move will “end the bloodshed in Jammu and Kashmir”.

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“Between 1989 and 2018, 41,849 people were killed in the state. They wouldn’t have lost their lives if Article 370 wasn’t there. Who would take the responsibility of their lives,” Shah  asked, while responding to a day-long debate on the issue that split the political class in the middle.

Justifying the move, Shah said Article 370 “prevented democracy to percolate” in the state and led “corruption to flourish” and “poverty to remain in villages”.

“It is against women, Dalit (Scheduled Caste) and adivasi (tribes). It is also the fountainhead of terrorism. It is time for Article 370 to go to make the Valley free from terrorism,” he said.

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Shah said a lot of misleading propaganda was being circulated on Article 370 for the benefit of three families that controlled almost every business in the Valley. While Shah didn’t identify the families, he stressed that for years, Article 370 prevented anti-corruption agencies from functioning in the
Valley.

“Give us five years, we will turn Kashmir into one of the most developed States. Why do you (the critics) want to keep them poor,” Shah questioned.

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“Currently, the land price is too low to sell to others as there is no demand from outside the state. No one wants to set up a hospital or in a private-public mode because of the ownership issue. You want them to continue living in 18th century, but people in Kashmir have the right to live in 21st century? Those who provoke the youths to close down schools and colleges have kids studying in London and the US.” 

Congress leader P Chidambaram termed the government's decision a "constitutional monstrosity".

“If this can be done to Jammu and Kashmir let me caution you that this can be done to every other state in India. All that they have to do is dismiss the elected government, impose President’s rule, dissolve the elected assembly, Parliament takes the power of the state assembly. The government moves a resolution, Parliament approves it and the state can be dismembered,” he said.

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