With the new government in place, the new round of debate was flared up by the comments of Minister of State of PMO Jitendra Singh who had stated that the Government is in the process of initiating discussions and deliberations with different sections in Kashmir on the issue of Article 370 and the need to abrogate it.
In a sharp response to this, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah made a controversial statement by tweeting, ‘"Mark my words and save this tweet - long after Modi Govt is a distant memory either J&K won't be part of India or Art 370 will still exist.".
Mark my words & save this tweet - long after Modi Govt is a distant memory either J&K won't be part of India or Art 370 will still exist 2/n— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) May 27, 2014
This evoked even more scathing criticism from RSS when its Spokesperson Ram Madhav tweeted in response, "J&K won't b part of India? Is Omar thinking its his parental estate? 370 or no 370 J&K has been n will always b an integral part of India."
J&K won't b part of India? Is Omar thinking its his parental estate? 370 or no 370 J&K has been n will always b an integral part of India.— Ram Madhav (@rammadhavrss) May 28, 2014
A deeper look at the issue of Article 370
In the hindsight, the important question is what is exactly Article 370 and how does it make the case of J&K different than that of the rest of the country? The genesis of the Article 370 is deeply connected with India's independence and accession of J&K into India.
During those days the ruler of J&K used to be Maharaja Hari Singh and his appointed Prime Minister was Sheikh Abdullah whose revulsion towards Hari Singh and his personal ambition to have absolute control over the affairs of J&K was never a secret.
Interestingly, even though in the first Government of Independent India, Sardar Patel was the States Minister, he was kept out of the loop by Nehru who along with Sheikh Abdullah was the key architect of the controversial article 370 whose finer points were drafted under their direction by Gopal Swamy Iyenger. Sardar Patel was so livid with the provisions of Article 370 that he had resigned on this issue.
How Article 370 inhibits India's control on J&K
In essence Article 370 means that barring issues of defense, communications and external affairs, on all other issues of governance and policy making, the Government of India would have to take concurrence from the J&K Assembly.
In other words J&K Government enjoys more autonomy than other states and over the last several decades, people of Kashmir valley have been made to believe by Kashmiri politicians and separatists that they are not integral part of India and that they have a distinct identity which is completely different from that of Indians and that the provision of Article 370 in the Indian constitution vindicates it.
Article 370 was always meant to be a temporary provision
Yet what the Abdullahs and other advocates of Article 370 always tried to hide was the fact that even the Constitution of India states it very clearly that Article 370 is a temporary provision which is incorporated in Part XXI of the Constitution under Temporary and Transitional Provision. This part has been completely forgotten by the Abdullahs and others who while enjoying all the benefits and grants from India have created nothing less than their own fiefdom in J&K.
Both Ambedkar and Sardar Patel were opposed to Article 370
In fact even those in Congress who advocate for maintaining the status quo and not to tamper with the provisions of Article 370 cannot deny the fact that Dr BR Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution as well as Sardar Patel were both against such a provision.
Yet Nehru went ahead with Article 370 to keep Sheikh Abdullah in good humour and created another permanent Achiles' heel for India just as by taking the Kashmir issue to UN, he made sure that India's chance to snatch back portions of Kashmir annexed by Pakistan is gone forever. Surprisingly, in spite of so much faith in his personal decision and trust on Sheikh Abdullah, by 1953, Nehru had Sheikh Abdullah arrested for sedition.
The Kashmiri Ploy- Use Indian money to survive and then claim to be not integral part of India
Therefore even while the separatists and the Abdullahs of National Conference keep harping on Article 370 and the so called limited power of Government of India over the affairs of J&K, can they explain as to why then J&K continue to enjoy the luxury of the highest percentage of central assistance that any state of India gets?
Fact of the matter is that no other state gets as much central fund for running administration as the state of J&K gets. Therefore if the Abdullahs and the separatists keep raising the issue of separate identity of Kashmir and that it is not an integral part of India, should they not then openly advocate that J&K should stop taking money from Central Government of India for running the state?
The reality is that if the Indian Government stops giving money to J&K, the entire J&K administrative machinery would collapse because the J&K Government does not even have enough money for pay its employees leave alone having money for developmental work and for running healthcare and education facilities of the state.
J&K is not about Kashmiris alone- It is also about people of Ladakh and Jammu as well
The other key issue is that of who all in J&K want Article 370 to continue? Has anybody ever asked the people of Ladakh, whose constituent populations are namely Buddhists and Shias, as to whether they support the separatist cause of the ethnic Kashmiri Muslims of the Kashmiri Valley? Has anybody ever asked the Hindu and the Sikh residents of the Jammu region as to what they want?
Has anybody ever asked the tribal Muslim populations of J&K such as the Gujjar and the Bakarwals as to whether they support the cause of Article 370? Fact of the matter is that almost all the above mentioned population constituents of J&K have never been part of the separatist cause which is an exclusivity of the ethnic Kashmiri Muslims only.
People of the Kashmir valley have completely hijacked the J&K issue, so much so that the voice of the Shias and Buddhists of Ladakh, Hindus and Sikhs of Jammu as well as Gujjars and Bakarwals has been completely sidelined. And yet, successive governments of India have always given more prominence to what the Pakistan backed and India bashing separatists in Srinagar has to say and have always ignored the sane voice of Ladakh and Jammu.
One cannot deny the incredible role of the Shias and Buddhists of Ladakh for their stellar role in the Kargil War. It was the Shia shepherds of Kargil who had informed the Indian Army about the infiltration by Pakistan Army and it was the soldiers of the Ladakh Scouts of Indian Army who were at the forefront of India's decisive response against Pakistan's nuisance in Kargil.
In fact Sheikh Abdullah knew it all too well that regions of Jammu and Ladakh might never support the separatist cause of Kashmir and would eventually might want to separate from J&K and become separate states or Union Territories (UT) of Union of India.
Therefore he intelligently made sure that Article 370 would prevent the Government of India from reorganising the borders of the state. This means that even if Jammu and Ladakh would want to be separate states or UTs of India like Telengana, Article 370 would prevent Government of India initiating the process.
The Fallacy of Self Rule
The concept of self rule that the separatists propagate to continue with Article 370 is a fallacy because it is a foregone conclusion that J&K as a state would be ruled by people of J&K only through democratically elected governments. It would not be the Tamils or Gujratis or Bengalis who would come to govern their state.
This apart, the discriminatory nature of Article 370, the manner in which it debars women of J&K from inheriting family property in the state, in case they marry beyond the state, are all too well known.
Likewise, Indians from rest of India are neither allowed to buy properties in J&K as well. Further, it is predominantly Article 370 which prevents major investments by Indian investors outside J&K, or foreign investors, into the state.
All these inhibit integration of J&K with rest of India and this benefits only those who have created their fiefdoms in the state and have complete monopoly on all business affairs.
In fact one of the biggest reasons for discontent and disenchantment among the youth of Kashmir is sheer high level of unemployment in the state and one of the biggest reasons for the same is the lack of employment opportunities which lack because investments cannot come to the state.
This is what Dr Ambedkar had to say on Article 370
Interestingly one should remind the advocates of article 370 as to what Dr BR Ambedkar had stated to Sheikh Abdullah on the issue of drafting of Article 370. He stated, as was narrated later by Balraj Madhok, ‘"You wish India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you foodgrains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India. But Government of India should have only limited powers and Indian people should have no rights in Kashmir. To give consent to this proposal, would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do it." India meanwhile continues to pay for Nehru's follies.
Kashmir Originated from Rishi Kashyap and not Abdullahs
Someone should ideally inform Omar Abdullah that Kashmir existed as part of India from the Vedic era and it was from Rishi Kashyap, one of the Saptarishis or seven sages, from whom Kashmir got its name. Thus Kashmir truly is not a real estate of the Abdullahs and neither its allegiance to India can be decided by them or the Pakistan backed separatists.
Thousands of Indians have given their lives for protecting the territorial integrity of India by making sure that terrorists and Pakistanis cannot take it over. Their sacrifice would truly make sense when J&K is integrated completely with rest of India by abrogation of Article 370.