In a hurried move the Modi Government today scrapped Article 370 and giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir and reduced it to a Union Territory with the result that law and order will remain with the Centre. The State’s Governor now will be designated as Lt.-Governor.
At the same time Ladakh has been detached from J &K and made a separate Union Territory with an administrator. Article 370 have been scrapped and so also the special constitution for Jammu and Kashmir. The Opposition has called it a midnight coup that sabotages the Constitution of India.
In preparation for these announcements, the Amar Nath Yatra to the Ice Lingam was cancelled and a few thousand pilgrims were airlifted from the route of Lord Shiva’s annual encounter with his devotes. At the same time, 25,000 para military personnel have been deployed all over Kashmir to ensure security and more are being rushed.
A Gazette of India Notification on Monday, August 5, announcing the historic changes has been issued and the Union Home Minister, Mr. Amit Shah presented a resolution in the Rajya Sabha informing the House about these developments and explained to the House why these changes were needed. After huge protests and a ruckus the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for a short while. The Gazette Notification, issued around midday, has been enforced instantly, with no questions asked. The Bill on Kashmir will be discussed in both Houses of Parliament at an appropriate time, but the NDA, with its brute majority should be able to have it approved without fuss in Lok Sabha.
Earlier, the Chairman of the House, Mr.Venkaiah Naidu, said that with special powers he was waiving the rule to circulate a Bill among members before it was presented to the House, but right away the Union Home Minister was moving a resolution on the subject.
The Modi agenda on Kashmir has been in the works for some weeks, but no one in the country had an inkling that far-reaching decisions had been taken on Kashmir and the nation would be presented with a fait accompli and discussion in the Houses of Parliament would happen afterwards from Monday onwards. Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the Opposition, was asked to make his statement on the subject to express his criticism of the big changes.
A Bill to empower to define permanent residents of Kashmir and possibly include those who are denied the rights of Kashmiris as citizens and those with a long near permanent stay, but not born in Kashmir could be allowed to buy properties and enjoy the same rights as the ordinary Kashmiris. Jammu and Kashmir’s special status is now history.
The Prime Minister has called a meeting of the National Democratic Alliance members of Parliament on August and will address the nation the same day to explain the significance of his government’s drastic and game-changing moves. Opposition amendments to the Bill on Jammu and Kashmir will be allowed to be discussed in the House, according to Vice-President, who is the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
An member speaking in the House said later that what had been on Monday had not been done for 60 years. He recalled that when the Congress was in power, it used to take decisions and push it through Parliament on several issues of the moment. He cited a few examples. He said that these decisions upheld India’s unity and sovereignty. Mr. Modi had integrated Jammu and Kashmir with India.
Meanwhile 100,000 Muslims from western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have come by buses and trucks to Talkatora Gardens and adjoining it and nearly blocking many roads as a show of strength by Muslim Ekta (Unity) Show of Strength.
Meanwhile, the Delimitation Commission report on carving out new constituencies or redrawing most of all 542 Lok Sabha and State Assemblies’ constituencies may be done in five years and increase the seats in the House of the People to 600 seats. It may be implemented for the 1924 elections.
How would about 60 more members in the House be accommodated? Will the Speaker’s podium be shifted back and take over her present office and she might move into a brand new office re-arranged into what may be now the Secretary-General’s office, who might similarly move ahead.
If, as a consequence of this exercise of delimitation of constituencies, Rajya Sabha seats get increased from 250 to 280, will the Chairman’s podium and his Secretary-General’s office be similarly pushed backward to accommodate more MPs’ benches and the front row all around the two Houses and add seats to other rows? Would even the officials’ gallery and the VIPs’ Gallery to the right and left of the presiding officers’ podiums move backwards?
The legislative agenda of the Modi Government in the first session of the new Lok Sabha is booming, with support of non-aligned regional parties like the Biju Janata Dal, who used to claim to be keeping equal distance from the Congress and the BJP. It is not so any more for some other parties as well.
A Congress MP, Mr. Pradeep Bhattacharya, said, “The hurry with which they are being passed, is not in anybody’s interest; the kind of scanning required is not being allowed”. Another MP desired reference of Bills to select committees, which have yet to be constituted.
Important Legislation calling for breakup of Jammu & Kashmir state was introduced at 11 a.m and only one and half hour was provided for the members to move amendments to the bill.
Not only rushed the bill through Rajya Sabha but also adopt undemocratic method to do so.
Lalit Sethi is a Journalist of long standing and a commentator on Political and Social Issues.