Dr Muhammad Khan
There was a time that people of Indian held Kashmir were against Article 370 of Indian Constitution, which was the only link between Indian Union and the State of Jammu and Kashmir and also gives a special status to this disputed state, whose decision was to be made in accordance with the UN resolutions, as per the free will of the people of State. Now there is a time that, people of IHK came out during the Assembly Elections to protect this article (Article 370).
In order to know, why there is change in the people’s perception about this article, it is essential to know the constituents of the article. Indeed, this article was incorporated into Indian Constitution, on the utmost demand of Sheikh Mohammad Abullah, who was then Prime Minister of IHK Kashmir and a very close friend of Indian Prime Minister Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. It was incorporated against the wishes of Nehru’s close friends particularly the most powerful man in Indian hierarchy, Mr Patel.
The salient of this article are; one, it is under Part XXI of the Indian constitution, which deals with special and temporary status. Two, it is a temporary provision which grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir. Three, only Jammu and Kashmir was accorded special status under this Article. Four, No integral Indian state was given such a status, which means, India had accepted that Kashmir is not integral part of Indian Union and this provision for the state is provisionaland temporary, until UN plebiscite is materialized. Five, it was agreed in the article that, the state of Jammu and Kashmir will have Sadr-e-Riyasat instead of governor and prime minister in place of chief minister and it was practiced too initially. Six, all matters of the state except defense, communication, foreign affairs and finance, were to be dealt by State, without even any interference from Indian Union. Seven, there were to be separate set of laws for the state including; “those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights”, viz-a-viz Indian integral states. Eight, Indian Government had no authority to declare emergency in state except foreign aggression.
Indeed, Sheikh Abdullah wanted, an iron clad autonomy’ for the state, but, it was maximum that he could persuade at that time. He had in his mind that, there would a day that, Kashmir will Not form part of India, but, Indian successive rulers played aggressively and cunningly. It started with the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who being a Kashmiri, had a special attachment with Kashmir. He was instrumental in organizing a fake elections in 1951, where 73 of the total 75 members of the State Assembly were elected unopposed, mainly through rejection of the nomination papers of the other contesting candidates of state.
Thereafter, Indian Union continued its interference in the affairs of state despite the fact that, it had no legal provisions for that. The successive Indian rulers followed the same policy with minor flexibility at time. Since taking over the power, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi made three visits of the Indian occupied State of Jammu and Kashmir. Fourth visit of Modi is planned for December, 2014 to campaign for his political party, BJP in Summer Capital of the state. In his first visit on July 4, 2014, Modi inaugurated a railway track at Katra in Jammu area of the state, establishing a direct railway link between Jammu and New Delhi. Katra is a small town in Jammu area of the state, used as the base camp of a Hindu Shrine; Vaishno Devi. This town remains overwhelmed by the Hindu pilgrimage, throughout the year. This railway link will enable Hindu pilgrimage from all over the India to visit the shrine with ease and through a better communication linkage. Later, he visited Srinagar under a protest and strike and chaired a security meeting.
During his visit of Ladakh region, on August 12, 2014, Modi addressed a gathering in Kargil, a Muslim majority bordering area, where Pakistani and Indian forces had a conflict in 1999. Later, he visited Leh, the capital of Ladakh, a Buddhist majority area. During this visit, Indian Prime Minister announced a package of Rs. 80 billions primarily for improvement and construction of infrastructure and better road connectivity. Indeed, Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP cum RSS has two objectives to attain in next two decades. First, the short-term and immediate gain in Kashmir is to win maximum seats in the ongoing IHK Legislative Assembly elections, which would give BJP a maneuvering space for a greater influencing in the formulation and modification of state’s policies towards New Delhi. The Second is bringing a gradual demographic change in all parts of the state, by inhabiting Hindu and other non-Muslim population in the garb of migrants, Modi, clearly spelt out in his Kargil speech, as his first assignment as Indian Premier. Modi Government has already initiated this game as ‘the Modi’s Kashmir Strategy?
During the ongoing State Assembly Elections, the people of IHK are voting to protect their identity as Kashmiri. They want to protect Article 370 just to maintain their separate status, which it grants them. The article is clarity in Indian Constitution that, Kashmir is not part of India and this temporary provision will allow continuation of their status as Kashmiri, not Indian. The turnout during the first phase was indeed a rejection of the Modi’s strategy that, Article 370 will be abolished and state will be integrated into Indian Union. In their entire history, Kashmiri never accepted the Indian rule over their state and are looking towards international community for the implementation of UN resolutions, which promised them their right of self-determination.