The Bold Voice of J&K

Situation in J&K post abrogation of article-370-a perspective


Anjali Bhat

I am a Kashmiri Pandit born in Srinagar. I along with my family had to leave our home of generations, being forced out of it by the Pakistan backed insurgency that engulfed the valley in a viscous cycle of violence. It’s been more than 30 years since I was displaced from my home and forced to live a life of refugee in our own country. Though me and thousands of others like me who too were banished out of the comforts of their home have managed to make a life of our own in different parts of the country, yet the deep desire of visiting our home again has been ravaging our hearts since we were forced to leave. So, when on August 5, 2019, Union Home minister announced in parliament the abrogation of Article-370, the instant reaction was of a sense of relief. This sense emanated from the fact that the controversial article laid the foundation for deprivation and marginalization of certain sections of the society (including ours), while at the same time ensuring hegemony of a few dominant families in the state. Below, I enlist the reasons for my sense of relief when the abrogation of the controversial Article-370 was announced from the floor of the Indian parliament.
Dismantling Political Hegemony: It is a known fact that Article-370 had imposed severe restrictions on political aspirations of people. Article-370 laid ground for deep entrenchment of the political domination of a few political families, while at the same time heavily restricting the political aspirations of several young and dynamic leaders. It is no surprise, therefore, that no prominent young leader has been able to rise through the ranks of the political parties in the state.
Strengthening Grassroots Democracy: Article- 370 had restricted the process of devolution of powers to the local bodies. Even Panchayat leaders, I have spoken to, believe that before the abrogation of the Article-370, the devolution of powers to the Panchayats was only on paper. Local bodies didn’t receive any funds and were left to fend for themselves. They also maintain that despite several petitions and requests, minimal funds were released for the local bodies thus leaving them at the mercy of the authorities. Post-abrogation of Article-370, things have started changing for good. As per the directions of the Union Home Minister, the bureaucracy has intensified the process of devolution of maximum powers to the local bodies. According to latest regulations introduced for the seamless functioning of the Panchayats, the village Sarpanch will now head the Village level Biodiversity Committee along with all the Sarpanchs of J&K, thus making Sarpanchs responsible towards the State forest land falling in their villages. Effective changes have been implemented in the working structure of the Panchayati Raj Institutions which was not the case earlier. The departments and Officers are now accountable to Panchayats. The Sarpanchs now directly or indirectly releases the salary of various staff and workers working in the Panchayat, making the staff more accountable to him which was not the case earlier.
End of subjugation of marginalized sections of Society: The announcement of the Government of India of abrogating Article 370 of the Indian Constitution ushered in a new ray of hope for the refuges form West Pakistan. With the abrogation of Article 370, their long pending demand of being given the citizenship of Jammu and Kashmir was finally fulfilled. Also, the severe discrimination against the refuges of West Pakistan in the field of Jobs, employment, education, government schemes which was perpetuated by the Article-370 is now a thing of the past. With the abrogation of the controversial Article, these people can now avail the benefits of the Central reservation reserved for the people belonging to the Scheduled and other backward castes from which they had been deprived till now. In a similar case, Article 370 prevented the people from the Valmiki community of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir from being citizens of the state. Since, they were denied the Permanent resident certificates (PRC), they were severely discriminated in getting employment in state institutions or admission of their children’s in state run institutions.
Valmikis were brought to J&K by the government to quell a union protest and clean streets in 1957. Three generations later, they still do not have a Permanent Resident Certificate and are forced to work as Safai Karamcharis (sanitation workers). Despite living here for almost six decades, people of the Valmiki community continued to face severe discrimination and were denied even the basics citizenship rights. It was only after Government of India abrogated Article 370 on 5th August 2019, the people from Valmiki community realized their long standing dream of being a citizen of J&K. It broke the chains of bondages which had severely restricted their freedom and prevented them from dreaming. Success stories of the members of the Valmiki community is a practical example of how the abrogation of the article 370 has freed the people from the generational subjugation and provided them with an opportunity to live a life of dignity and self-respect.
Complete integration of region: Post Abrogation of Article-370 allowed the implementation of the Central laws in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Right To Education (RTE) is now applicable in the region thus allowing the children belonging to the deprived sections of the society to have access to high quality education free of cost. Reserve Bank of India now exercises complete control over the financial regulations of the banks in the state. This allows a greater degree of transparency and financial accountability of J&K. The jurisdiction of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India now extends to the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, thus making it accountable. Additionally, more than a dozen liberal laws passed by the Parliament of India years ago, can now be implemented in J&K. This allows a broad Women Empowerment: With the scrapping of the controversial Article-370, women would no longer be deprived of their property rights in J&K if they get married to a non-resident. Article 35A, which emanated from Article 370, prohibited them, till the abrogation of the article, to be property owners if they marry an outsider. Article 35A also empowered the J&K government to decide who could be a ‘permanent resident.’ Only a permanent resident could acquire land, get a government job, settle in the state, etc. Putting restrictions on the choices of the residents of a state is patently illiberal; and putting restrictions on the basis of gender is anti-women to boot. Article 35A and Article 370, thus, were blatantly against the ethos of our constitution and the principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity that it espouses. With the abrogation of the Articles-370 & 35-A, women in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) can now buy real estate and transfer property to children, even if they get married to a non-resident, as Article 35A has automatically become void with the scrapping of Article 370.
Economic Development: The heavily restrictive land laws had put a severe constraint on the free flow of investment from the rest of the country into Jammu and Kashmir. The region, thus, missed an opportunity to be a part of India’s growth story. With the implementation of the Central laws in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, following the abrogation of Article-370, more favorable conditions for the economic growth and prosperity of J&K have been created. Earlier, industrialists from outside the Valley were reluctant to invest here. Now industrialists, instead of getting land on lease, will have the privilege of owning property here. This may attract non-local industrialists to revive the sick units alongside starting fresh ones.
Drop in Youth Joining terrorism: As per the official statement, the number of Kashmiri youths joining terrorist ranks has dropped by more than 40 per cent since the revocation of Article 370. The number of youth who joined terrorism fell to 67 between January 1 and July 15 this year, compared to 105 a year ago, while terrorist related incidents declined to 120 from 188 during this period, as per the official data. On 5th August 2020, the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir completes one year since the abrogation of the Article-370. These have been numerous success stories where women and people belonging to the marginalized sections of the society have excelled and risen to fame by utilizing the opportunities available to them following the abrogation of Article-370. While the grit and hard work of these people has been on the major drivers of their success, it is also believed that the annulment of the Article-370 has also allowed them greater access to the opportunities and resources to excel in their fields.

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