In a momentous decision to confine Article 370 of the Constitution to the dustbin of history and rewrite the political landscape of the country, the BJP-led NDA government Monday revoked the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir and secured Rajya Sabha’s approval for a Bill to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature similar to Puducherry, and Ladakh without one like Chandigarh.
The Bill was passed with a two-thirds majority of the members present in Rajya Sabha. In Lok Sabha, the statutory resolution scrapping the special status was passed by a voice vote in the evening. The bifurcation Bill will be taken up in Lok Sabha Tuesday. With special provisions gone, Indian laws will now apply to the newly created Union Territories.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who tabled the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 and the statutory resolution in Rajya Sabha around 11 am after the Union Cabinet met at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence at 9.30 am to give the go-ahead, said: “Article 370 was a temporary provision… how long can a temporary provision be allowed to continue… After abrogation of Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir will truly become an integral part of India.”
Saying Article 370 was at the root of terrorism, Shah told the House that full state status will be restored to Jammu and Kashmir at an appropriate time when normalcy returns.
In a bid to assuage fears of violence, Shah told the House: “Kuchh nahin hoga (nothing will happen)” and the region will not be allowed to turn into another Kosovo. “It was heaven on earth and will remain so… Give us five years, and we will make Jammu and Kashmir the most developed state in the country… I want to tell the youth of Kashmir Valley that have faith in Narendra Modi government. Nothing negative will happen. All these (Opposition) people are telling you lies for their own politics. Don’t listen to them,” he said.
The decision of the government to do away with the special status to J&K and bifurcate the state into two UTs took the nation by surprise, and came after the state was placed under a lockdown with security forces imposing prohibitory orders, and communication lines being downed.
Rajya Sabha saw uproarious scenes in the morning with the Opposition protesting the announcement by Shah but many in the Opposition ranks backed the government decision.
By evening, the Bill had cleared Rajya Sabha — 125 votes in favour, 61 opposed and one abstention. Opposition BSP, BJD, AIADMK and YSR-Congress voted in favour of the Bill. NDA partner JD(U) staged a walkout as did the TMC which, earlier in the day, opposed abrogation of Article 370. The TMC walked out before Shah began his reply to the debate.
Two PDP members were evicted after one of them tore a copy of the Constitution, and the other his shirt.
While the resolution was passed by voice vote, the Opposition BSP, BJD, AIADMK, TDP, AAP and YSRCP voted in favour of the Bill and the NCP said it abstained.
At 6.51 pm, as the Bill was passed, Prime Minister Modi turned towards Shah and patted him on the back. He then moved towards the Opposition benches, and shook hands with BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, and walked up to Congress’s Anand Sharma.
The first statutory resolution to knock down J&K’s special privileges stated: “That this House recommends the following public notification to be issued by the President of India under Article 370 (3): ‘In exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (3) of Article 370 read with clause (1) of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, the President, on the recommendation of the Parliament, is pleased to declare that, as from 5th of August, 2019, all clauses of the said Article 370 shall cease to be operative except clause (1).”
Article 370 will survive on paper but will now read “All provisions of this Constitution, as amended from time to time, without any modifications or exceptions, shall apply to the State of Jammu and Kashmir notwithstanding anything contrary contained in Article 152 or Article 308 or any other article of this Constitution or any other provision of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir or any law, document, judgement, ordinance, order, bye-law, rule, regulation, notification, custom or usage having the force of law in the territory of India, or any other instrument, treaty or agreement as envisaged under Article 363 or otherwise’.”
The second resolution regarding the Bill said the President has referred the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019 to the House “under the proviso to Article 3 of the Constitution of India for its views as this House is vested with the powers of the State Legislature of Jammu and Kashmir, as per proclamation of the President of India dated 19th December, 2018.”
Shah tabled the Bill and the statutory resolutions after President Ram Nath Kovind signed the official notification, The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 2019, superseding the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954 under which the Constitution was applied only selectively to the state.
“All the provisions of the Constitution, as amended from time to time, shall apply in relation to the state of Jammu and Kashmir…” the notification said. The government has added in Article 367 of the Constitution a clause 4 which makes four changes. The order said references to Sadar-i-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir shall be construed as references to the Governor of J&K. Similarly, references to the Government of J&K shall be construed as references to the Governor of J&K acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
With Opposition members arguing that the Bill to bifurcate J&K was not even circulated, Shah had to introduce the Bill and statutory resolutions again. Shah also introduced the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 providing for 10 per cent reservation for SC, ST and OBCs in J&K.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said lakhs of civilians and scores of security personnel had made supreme sacrifices to keep J&K with India. He condemned the tearing of the Constitution, but said the BJP has “murdered the same Constitution and democracy…The Article 370 through which we had given Jammu and Kashmir to India… today the Modi government has torn it to pieces.”
Hitting back, Shah said the Bill he has tabled is historic. “Because of Article 370, people of Kashmir are living in poverty. They don’t get the benefit of reservation… Corruption is rampant. Three families have looted Jammu and Kashmir all these years. The Leader of the Opposition has said Article 370 attached J&K to India. That is not true. Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession on October 27, 1947. And Article 370 came into existence in 1949, two years later. It is not true that Article 370 attached J&K to India.”
He said Article 370 was always considered temporary because it had to go one day. “But no one had the political will… then there was vote bank politics… they wanted to make a vote bank out of it. We don’t want to make a vote bank and neither do we lack political will,” he said.
Reading out provisions of Article 370 (3), the Home Minister said there are provisions within that state that Article 370 shall cease to be operative or can be amended and the President has the right to issue such a notification or constitutional order. “We are adopting the same path as adopted by the Congress in 1952 and 1962 by amending the provisions of Article 370 the same way through a notification,” he told the House.