Dr Sudesh Wasoori
Wellington, August 31, 2019
India’s independence in 1947 saw the Subcontinent divide along two major lines – most of the Northern parts of India (which was predominantly Muslim) formed the Nation of Pakistan under the leadership of Muhammed Ali Jinnah.
The rest of India (which was predominantly Hindu) became the Republic of India.
Editor’s Note: Millions of Muslims preferred to remain in India, just as thousands of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians continued to stay in Pakistan, exercising the choice given to them.
The exit of British governance also gave rise to the preference of the Princely States- to go with India or Pakistan or remain independent.
Liberation of Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) was one such Princely State situated in the Northern-most part of India and was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh.
Kashmir Valley in particular is known for its natural beauty. Its lush forests, which slope the hills, create breath-taking views of alpines and the mountains.
Inspite of the growing affluence of the Valley, political tensions led to a siege on Kashmir during the post-independence era.
On October 24, 1947, Pakistan attacked the State, which left no option for the Maharaja than to seek help from India. On the basis of receiving military assistance, two days later (October 26, 1947) the Maharaja acceded three ministries managed by the State – Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications. Soon after accession, Indian forces landed in Kashmir and liberated it from Pakistani invaders.
Inspite of the accession, the Indian government appeared to believe it was temporary in order to restore law and order to the Valley and that a Referendum will be held by the people of J & K to decide their future status.
Prelude to Article 370
It was in this political climate that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was formed, giving a special status to J & K to create its own Constitution, its own State Flag and the freedom to create its own administration of the State, to a certain extent.
The Article was drafted in late 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah, the appointed Prime Minister of J & K, the Maharaja and Independent India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. Home Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Dr B R Ambedkar (the principal author of the Indian Constitution) refused to be a part of it.
Mr Nehru stated that the Article was a temporary provision which may disappear at some stage in the future. The controversial circumstances surrounding its creation makes me wonder whether the Article was really a legitimate or a duly evoked instrument of Parliament in the first place.
The first order of the President of India, under Article 370, saw a proposal to extend further rights to J & K with subsequent rights that followed.
In 1952, the ‘Delhi Agreement’ was created. It was essentially an Agreement between J & K and India allowing the State to retain its sovereignty apart from the subjects acceded.
In 1954, the Constitution (Application to J & K) Order gave special rights and privileges to the permanent residents such as the right to vote and contest elections, purchase land and property, access to higher education and healthcare, government employment and citizenship. Several amendments to the Order ensued, extending more provisions of the Indian Constitution to the State, including the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the Election Commission and the Auditor General.
In 1965, the J & K Constitution was amended to change the title of Sadar-e-Riyasat to ‘Governor,’ and the title of Prime Minister to ‘Chief Minister.’
Over the years, the implications of Article 370 on both sides of the political spectrum (J & K State sovereignty, India and the outward impacts from Pakistan) caused political tensions, judicial challenges in the application and interpretation of it and economic impacts on both populations.
For example, citizens of India were not given citizenship rights in J & K and had no right of settlement in the State. They were not given rights to purchase property in the State, whereas citizens of J & K were given both ‘dual citizenship’ and property purchase rights.
If a woman of J & K citizenship married a person outside J & K, she automatically lost her property rights; she no longer had the right of property inheritance from her parents. This particular issue is being challenged in the courts with the case still pending.
Many have felt over the years that Article 370 became an instrument of exploitation in the hands of the political elites with other vested interests in both the State and Central government.
Terrorist attacks and Islamisation
Since 1989, the State was under constant terrorist attacks due to Pakistan’s challenge of the State’s accession to India as to its legitimacy since 1947.
The attacks forced all non-Muslims to leave the Valley, mostly the native Kashmiris (Brahmans), known as peace-loving intellectuals who suddenly became refugees in their own country.
The insurgency of Islamisation spread rapidly throughout the state leading it towards Nizam Mustafa (Islamic law) despite Indian government’s efforts to normalise the situation. Due to the constant interference from Pakistan and infiltrating terrorists into the Valley, anti-India sentiments grew rapidly.
One could rightly deduce that the war was not just over political ideologies but more so the fanatical fight to Islamise the State.
Being a native of Kashmir with an ‘insider’ view, I believe that the Indian Kashmir is much more prosperous in every aspect of life in comparison with the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK, the Jammu Kashmir area invaded by Pakistan in 1947).
On August 5, 2019, India’s President Ram Nath Kovind issued a Constitutional Order revoking the 1954 J & K Constitution and making all the provisions of the Indian Constitution applicable to the State.
Following the resolutions passed in both houses of Parliament, he issued a further Order on August 6, 2019 declaring all the clauses of Article 370 to be inoperative.
In addition, the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill’ was passed in both houses of Parliament which proposed to divide the State of J & K into two Union Territories, to be called Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
Almost all Indians welcomed the move and congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team for bringing an end to the historical harms caused through Articles 370 and 35A.
As with any significant Constitutional changes in nations and states, some of the populace are complaining that stakeholders were not consulted on such radical changes including the high number of military presence to the State before the abrogation of Article 370.
Some are even suggesting that it was an act of aggression against the people of the State, as warned by an ‘All Parties Meeting’ in Srinagar recently.
However, a majority of the people are relieved; given the historical injustices and harm suffered, they say that Article 370 should have been removed a long time ago.
I am relieved and encouraged that the world stands behind India’s courageous political actions in building a greater nation moving forward.
I sense some vindication against the actions that Pakistan attempted to involve the United Nations Security Council as a disappearing shadow of the past.
Editor’s Note: Many world leaders have told Mr Modi that the Kashmir issue is an internal matter of the Republic of India and that they recognise the Sovereignty of the Indian government and the Houses of Parliament and their right to take decisions in the interests of the country and its people.
I believe that the strong actions taken by Modi government will accelerate India’s development and make it a US$ 5 trillion economy in the next few years.
Dr Sudesh Wasoori migrated to New Zealand from Europe in 1997. With a doctorate in Engineering, his interests are varied. He was a member of the New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services and currently serves as a Trustee for the Wellington Indian Association and the Immigration Committee of the New Zealand Indian Central Association.