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Question

What are the various positions on the issue of regional autonomy for Kashmir? Which of these do you think are justifiable? Give reasons for your answer.

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Solution

Kashmir has always been a major chapter in India’s relations with Pakistan and also in terms of internal political dynamics. Being the disputed regions, Jammu and Kashmir have been accorded special statue under Article 370 of the Constitution. Article 370 was worked out in late 1947 between Sheikh Abdullah who had, by then, been appointed the prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir by the Maharaja and Nehru.

There are many provisions of the Indian Constitution that can only be applied provided they are ratified by Jammu and Kashmir's assembly. The state has its own constitution and its own law on citizenship. Article 370 has been the most debated and discussed issue in Indian politics.

a. Those who criticise it feel that special status to Kashmir acts as a hindrance in state’s full integration with the Indian union and consider it as the biggest impediment. This is so because the Central government can make laws only with concurrence of the State government, practically giving it the Veto power. Articles 352 and 360 for declaration of national and financial emergency, respectively cannot be applied in Kashmir. While a citizen of India has only Indian citizenship, the Jammu and Kashmir citizens have two citizenships. Anti-defection Law is not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. No outsider can buy property in Jammu and Kashmir.

b. While those who support, argue for greater autonomy than what is conferred under Article 370. They are those who argue for greater state autonomy as they believe that the autonomy conferred upon them by the special provision has not been practised completely.

c. Then there is a group of Kashmiris who argue that the matter of accession must be referred to them. The promise made for plebiscite has not been fulfilled yet.

d. The democratic principles have not been institutionalised in the state because of frequent breakdown of state’s machinery and imposition of President’s rule. Elections in the state have been characterised by rigging.

e. It may be argued that scrapping Article 370 would be a breach of trust and faith with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and also to the political leadership. It would rather be unrealistic as abrogation of Article 370 would open up the chapter of Kashmir’s accession with India.

h. It has been argued that special status rather acts as a bridge between the people of Kashmir and rest of the country; abrogation would be detrimental to the interests of Kashmir.

i. Again, it would be difficult to reach at a national consensus on abrogation as many parties like congress and CPI favour the retention of Article 370.

j. The pragmatic solution would be to make amendments to the constitution through which, gradually, the provisions of the Indian Constitution can be made applicable to the state. This has been done before, for instance under IV Amendment Act, 1963, of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, high court judges of the state can be transferred to another state.

k. Article 370 only grants a certain degree of autonomy to the state. As far is jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is concerned, it is applicable to the entire country including the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Any order or verdict passed by the Supreme Court is applicable in the state under Article 141.

l. Likewise, the emergency provisions of Articles 356 and 357 were extended to the state in 1964.
One may only look for pragmatic solution to the demand for greater autonomy. Scrapping Article 370 would not be a viable solution. It is important to look for a middle path with due consultation with the people of Kashmir.


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