Experts say debate on Article 370 should go beyond party lines
A seminar was held at the Constitution Club in New Delhi last evening on Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that supposedly confers special status on the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
It witnessed some incisive articulation on the sensitive subject.
It was also the first occasion when Jugal Kishore Sharma, recently elected Member of Parliament from the Jammu, addressed the audience on the subject in the national capital.
Jagdeep Dhankhar, former union minister and senior Supreme Court advocate and Nalin Kohli,a spokesperson of the BJP also expressed their views.
While highlighting the manner in which even a mention let alone a discussion on Article 370 has been suppressed over many decades, all speakers expressed happiness at the prospect of the subject coming under purview of an open debate.
They said that there was a need to address the subject beyond party lines and purely in the national interest.
Jugal Kishore gave an impassioned narration on the manner in which Article 370, instead of connecting Jammu and Kashmir to India is creating walls and barriers.
He reinforced his contention by explaining the manner in which the legislation has stalled development, negatively impacted important parameters like health and education and restricted political empowerment at the grass roots level of Sarpanches and Panches.
With his amplification he proved that Article 370 has been instrumental in restricting empowerment of the people and has denied to them the opportunity to stand on their own feet.
While stressing on the inherently temporary nature of the Article that Sheikh Abdullah tried his level best to remove, Dhankar narrated the historical manner in which the bill was passed in parliament as a temporary legislation.
He recalled Prime Minsiter Jawaharlal Nehru as going on record to say that the Article would wither away in time, which, sadly, has not happened.
The arguments put forth by the two main speakers and others who also made a contribution leave an impression that this legislation is causing political, social and economic damage to the people.
There are many benefits that people of India enjoy due to democratic practices and overall development that are denied to the people of Jammu and Kashmir due to Article 370.
A good example is that while Other Backward Classes in India get 27 percent reservation, in Jammu and Kashmir they have not been identified all because of Article 370. It is under protection of this act that the perfectly legitimate exercise of delimitations and restructuring of political constituencies has been deferred to 2026 by the state government. It is possible that by intensive discussion some practical middle path will be identified that benefits the region and the people.
It maybe recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his election campaign, addressed a rally at Jammu in December, 2013, in which he sought a debate on Article 370. The statement drew a stringent response from the Kashmir-based political parties.
Omar Abdulla, the Chief Minister of the state, led a vitriolic charge with a challenge to the then Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP to hold an open debate on the subject.
The debate did not come by and the matter rested in the fog of election campaigning.
The subject resurfaced after formation of the new government when Dr Jitendra Singh, member of parliament from Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir and Minister of State, Prime Minister's Office, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), during his interaction with the media on taking charge of DoPT reiterated the posture taken by his party leaders in Jammu and elicited an equally stringent response from various quarters.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, went hyper on his twitter handle and made a series of harsh remarks. A particularly offensive tweet sent out by him says, "Mark my words & save this tweet- long after Modi Govt is a distant memory J&K won't be part of India or art 370 will still exist."
Never known to be far behind in such matters, the PDP joined the fray by labelling the remark of Dr Jitendra Singh as "disruptive" and called upon the Prime Minister's Office to clarify the statement to "reassure the people of Jammu and Kashmir that no mischief is on the way."
The fact that seminars on the subject are being arranged across the country indicates the seriousness with which the proposal mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has found universal favour.
People now want more information and knowledge on the subject that has kept an entire region in isolation for decades since independence.
It is this context the seminar in New Delhi organised by an evolved organisation, "Meri Umeed" gains prominence.
(Posted on 28-06-2014)