Article 370 scrapping draws emotional response from people across the country
New Delhi/Jammu/Kolkata, Aug 5: "I am overwhelmed, emotional, jubilant," said an entrepreneur in Jammu, echoing views of large sections across the country who hailed the Modi Government's decision on Monday to revoke Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir as "bold" and "historic".
But there were also voices of caution and apprehension especially from the Kashmir Valley and the Northeast, where several states enjoy special provisions.
Amid speculation about some big decision on J-K after the central government deployed additional troops in the state and directed pilgrims and tourists to leave, many were glued to news channels on Monday morning when Home Minister Amit Shah stood up to speak in Rajya Sabha.
Within minutes of his announcement, celebrations erupted as people came out on streets, danced to the sounds of drumbeats, burst crackers and distributed sweets while raising slogans of 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'.
It was an emotional moment for many Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to flee the Valley due to militancy, as they hoped the decision would pave the way for return to their homeland with honour and dignity. "It should have been done long back.
It is favourable for the nation. We are one. We should be one. We should not divide ourselves," Pina Misri, president of Kashmir Sabha, told PTI in Kolkata.
Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora (GKPD), a body representing the community across the world, said the decision cements territorial, political and cultural unity of the Indian Union.
Despite precautionary restrictions imposed by the administration in Jammu, residents of many areas like Bohri, Muthi, New Plot and Trikuta Nagar came out of their homes, albeit in smaller groups, to express their happiness and expressed hope that the decision will deliver justice to the region, which has always complained of being discriminated against by the political setup.
Ankush Veshin, who runs a diagnostic centre in Talab Tilloo area said, "Hearing the announcement (by Shah in Rajya Sabha) gave me goosebumps... I am overwhelmed, emotional, jubilant."
Sushma Bhat Tiwari, who is from Kulgam district of Kashmir valley and works as a senior HR professional with a multinational company, said women like her who married non-residents will finally get their rights.
"I married a non-Kashmir several years ago and lost the right of being citizen of Jammu and Kashmir. My children were also denied right to property and citizenship due to this law. But we are happy that this has been done away with and justice done to women like me," she said. But many in Kashmir expressed apprehensions about a new cycle of violence in the Valley and claimed that it could lead to change in its Muslim-majority identity.
"We are shocked by the decision and it has left us disappointed because our sentiments were attached with this Article.... Its scrapping means that the state will lose its Muslim-majority character," said 50-year-old Farooq Ahmad Shah, a resident of Srinagar who was visiting Jammu.
He claimed that though the state's ruling parties rendered the Article a mere skeleton over the last 70 years in collusion with the different governments at the centre, its scrapping is bound to provoke the people to vent their anger. "How long they will keep us under house arrest?" asked Arshid Warsi, a man in his 20s from the Valley who was also visiting the city. Revoking Article 370 does not mean "we cannot express our resentment", he said.
For businessman Jaleel Ahmad Bhat, the uncertainty in the Valley meant closure of his establishment indefinitely and loss of bread and butter. "We don't know how the situation will develop after the curfew-like restrictions are withdrawn.
We feel we are heading for worst of times," he said. He expressed disappointment over snapping of phone and internet connectivity and said people in the Valley have totally been disconnected from the outside world.
Fayaz Ahmad Dar, who was returning from Delhi after shopping for his sister's wedding, said the developments in the Valley have left him heartbroken. "My younger sister is getting married on August 13 and we have made all necessary arrangements. I don't know whether the marriage will take place or not given the sudden developments over the past few weeks," he said.
Academicians and politicians in north-eastern states expressed apprehensions about the fate of the special provisions that protect the interests of their indigenous people.
Lallianchhunga, assistant professor of the political science department in the Mizoram University, alleged that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government had been violating the federal spirits of the Constitution and moving towards a "unitary government".
Riachho, a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, said the Centre did not honour the Instrument of Accession signed on October 26, 1947, by Hari Singh, the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir.
Mutsikhoyo Yhobu, a Naga leader associated with various tribal bodies and civil societies, said "We are apprehensive that the present BJP-led government at the Centre does not want to continue with the special provisions granted to any community or state in the country. The present government is more focused on creation of Uniform Civil Code."
Many like ex-serviceman Tara Chand Joshi from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, who have served in Kashmir, said it was a moment of pride for the soldiers. "Security forces face many challenges due to Pakistan's proxy war. I have seen how Pakistan-supported elements abuse Indian forces and create disturbance there. Now good days for Kashmir will come," Joshi said. He was among other jubilant locals who assembled at the Hanuman Chowk in the heart of the city.
A group of youths, who were visiting Jaisalamer from Uttar Pradesh, said the decision will help improve the situation in Jammu and kashmir. "There are many pro-Pakistani politicians in Kashmir and separatists who mislead and provoked kashmiri youths against india and make them stone-pelters.
"Their own children live and study abroad but they use local youths and create trouble. The government's decision will surely improve Kashmir's situation in the days to come," Gyan Kumar said. Another tourist Rupinder Singh said he was glad that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had delivered on his promise .
"It's a historic day today. I had voted for Modi and today I feel proud of having done so," he said.
Many religious leaders and seers pointed to the cultural links between Kashmir and rest of the country and said it was an opportunity to "reintegrate" "Kashmir is the seat of our civilisation for our Sanatana Dharma... Kashmir was culturally isolated... Now, we have a chance to re-integrate Kashmir, culturally with the Indian way of culture," C S Rangarajan, priest of the famous Lord Balaji temple at Chilkur in Ranga Reddy district of telangana said.
He recalled the links of saint Ramanuja and Adi Sankaracharya with Kashmir and said the state, now proposed to be bifurcated into two union territories, had remained culturally isolated.
Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati said: "I was waiting for this historic decision since a long time. Today, the dirty diplomacy of British Raj has been defeated." Prominent Telugu film-maker Tammareddy Bharadwaja said he was in favour of one law for the entire country and stressed on steps to uplift the lives of people.
Retired Director General, Income Tax (Investigation), B Murali Kumar said scrapping Article 370 would open up a range of new economic opportunities for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
"The young people in Kashmir valley can now expect new employment opportunities and the move will go a long way in ensuring that youth do not get diverted," he said.
S Vignesh, working in the aerospace sector, said it was a wrong move. "The special status was given then like some kind of privilege as in quota for their uplift. The government's move amounts to stirring up a hornet's nest," he said.
Some questioned the manner in which the Article was revoked. D M Diwakar, former Director of A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna, said: "As a matter of principle, I am in favour of scrapping of Article 370 but the manner in which it is being done by not taking the people of the state into confidence is absolutely not correct."
Former president of CII and chairman of Nicco Group Rajive Kaul said, "I am happy because Kashmir is now clearly and fully integrated part of our country, and any Indian, including me, ancestrally displaced and an adopted son of Bengal, can now go back and buy land there."