Abolition of Article370 – Secular or Communal?

| Harish Kulkarni

Abolition of Article 370 was a purely constitutional exercise executed by a democratically elected government following all the required laws and procedures established in our constitution.

(This is the first article in the series in the run-up to the 2nd anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh as Union Territories)

On the 5th August 2019, the Govt. of India revoked Article 370 (A special status given to the state of Jammu & Kashmir), through legislation passed in both the houses of parliament. The said article has been there in our constitution for decades and has faced fierce opposition to it all through these decades.

Dr Syamaprasad Mookerjee, the founding President of Jansangh (now BJP), was a prominent political leader who spearheaded the agitation against Article 370 demanding immediate abolition of it. After his mysterious death on the 23rd June 1953 in Srinagar jail (arrested for as a citizen of India entering the state of Jammu & Kashmir without permit…a kind of visa), the sentiment echoed across the nation that forced the Govt. of the day to dilute Article 370 to some extent.

But nonetheless, Article 370 continued till the 5th of August 2019, the day it was fully abolished. At the same time, some supported Article 370 with conviction and had their own constitutional and individual rights reasoning for it and those opposing it quoted the many problems faced by India in general and the state of Jammu & Kashmir in particular as a reason for opposition. These reasons included the threat of separatism, cross border terrorism, the radicalization of young minds etc.

But the sad & unfortunate (yes, some did deliberately) part is For and Against Article 370 opinions were narrated as Secular (All through this writing, I mean political secular) and Communal respectively. Those supporting Article 370 were called secular, respectful to minority sentiments ..especially of Muslim sentiments. And those against Article 370 were called communal & anti-Muslim. I strongly believe that this narrative of Secular vs Communal ran huge havoc in common discourse causing heavy damage to the polity of the nation dividing not just political parties & politicians, but even the common people.

Now let’s try and understand some perspectives of Article 370 before calling Abolition of Article 370 secular, communal or anti-Muslim:

• Was Article 370 given to a State or Muslims?

o If the article was for a state that had citizens of all religions (irrespective of their demography), How does its abolition become anti-Muslim or anti any religion if revoked from people belonging to a different religion?
o If anybody’s argument is that the Article was specifically given to Muslims, then the Secular value of the article itself must be questioned. Can fairly say that the article itself is non-secular. Then how does the abolition of what appears to be a non-secular article becomes communal or anti-Muslim?

I believe a large section of Indian Muslims and other minorities are as Indians as anyone else…and so they will not expect an article in our constitution specifically for their religion. In such a case How does the abolition of any article become communal or anti-Muslim?

And coming to Article 370 itself, it was discriminatory towards women (unlike men, women who married with the groom outside the state of Jammu & Kashmir would lose their rights on properties) & Dalits (Dalits who were residents in the state were deprived of the constitutional rights like reservation in assembly etc. due to Article 370). Abolition of Article 370 means ending the discrimination against women & Dalits. How does giving justice to women & Dalits become communal or anti-Muslim?

It’s every Indian citizen’s firm belief that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and time & again the same is echoed in our parliament through unanimous resolutions. Here, the word integral is not used just as an emotional outburst. Integral means integrated by law, integrated by common individual rights, integrated by the constitution, and integrated by people. And the special constitution of a state negates the very idea of “an integral part of India”. Only & only complete integration justifies the idea of an integral part of India. And the abolition of Article 370 integrates Jammu & Kashmir with India completely. Then, how upholding the idea of national integrity as resolved by our parliament can ever be communal or anti-Muslim?

Only & only complete integration justifies the idea of an integral part of India. And the abolition of Article 370 integrates Jammu & Kashmir with India completely. Then, how upholding the idea of national integrity as resolved by our parliament can ever be communal or anti-Muslim?

And the intent of the Govt. that revoked Article 370 has not been any secret. It’s been part of its manifesto for decades and on the floor of the parliament house former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee belonging to the same party then openly declared his party will revoke Article 370 whenever they get required numbers. In 2014 & in 2019, the particular party (BJP) won the consecutive biggest mandates in the last 3-4 decades with the intent of revoking Article 370 being intact in its manifesto and people being fully aware of this intent while exercising their voting rights.

So for all practical reasons, the abolition of Article 370 is a democratic will of the people. When we define democracy as by the people, for the people, and of the people…How on earth a democratic will of the people can ever be communal or anti any religion?

Article 35A (which stems from Article 370, having been introduced through a presidential order in 1954) was an article that empowered the Jammu & Kashmir state legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them. The state of Jammu & Kashmir defined these privileges to include the ability to purchase land and immovable property, ability to vote and contest elections, seeking government employment and availing other state benefits such as higher education and health care.

Article 35A Of the Constitution was in violation Of Universal Human Rights Of The West Pakistani Refugees & Their Descendants In J&K

Non-permanent residents of the state, even if Indian citizens, were not entitled to these ‘privileges’. If the abolition of Article 370 makes Article 35A null & void to provide any citizen of India the rights and privileges of equal legal & constitutional applicability as in other states of India, how is this communal? And what even being secular got to do with it? If anything, this is only about individual rights as defined in the constitution that we as a nation have adopted with a collective conscience.

The act of revoking Article 370 was neither Secular nor Communal. It was purely constitutional.

Yes, one can question the abolition of Article 370 on constitutional premise or on individual rights. If convinced so, any such citizen has all the right to approach the judiciary for justice. But there’s no ground whatsoever in calling Abolition of Article 370 communal, anti-Muslim or even in calling its existence secular.

With no IFs and BUTs, the act of revoking Article 370 was neither Secular nor Communal. It was purely constitutional. It was a constitutional exercise executed by a democratically elected government following all the required laws and procedures established in our constitution.

(Author is an IT professional and a Social Media Enthusiast who writes on current affairs. Views expressed are authors own and does not necessarily reflect that of SamvadaWorld)

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