Dare them to do it!

Eminent economist and intellectual Haseeb A Drabu responds to the Article 370 controversy that a junior minister in Narendra Modi’s council stirred on the first day in office

Haseeb A Drabu

Article 370, as it is today, is best described by Jinnah’s phrase for Pakistan: “maimed, mutilated and moth-eaten”

How I wish, any one of our regional political parties has the courage of conviction to respond to BJP’s customary threat of abrogating Article 370 by saying, “Please, go right ahead”.

It is time to call their bluff!

Let them do it.

The “bridge” and “tunnel” analogies are misleading. In hundreds of places, there are provisions in the Constitution of India which takes away the force of its application to J&K. Even if Article 370 is removed, these remain. For instance, Article 308 and Article 152 also make special references to J&K. What about those?

They will not only have a Constitutional nightmare on their hand but in the process, some myths which have been propagated to the great detriment of the Kashmiris will be exposed!

If nothing else, it will reveal to the people of Kashmir that their “perceived saviour”, the famous “dafaa 370” is nothing but a facade. And defending it, in its present form, is a farce.

A threat is issued. Security is given. A charged environment is ensured. And the basic issue is hijacked. This has been happening for many decades now.

The BJP has, like in the past had reiterated their commitment in their Election Manifesto of 2014 to abrogate Article 370. This time around, however, in a nuancing of their hardline position, the manifesto promises to “discuss this with all stakeholders”.

Yet, in its first day in office, in what seems like a well-orchestrated plan, a minister who hails from J&K, shoots his mouth off to suggest that the process for abrogation has started. Notwithstanding the fact that he hurriedly withdrew it, the regional mainstream parties are all up in arms shouting and screaming that they will not let it happen.

In a few days, it will all be forgotten till the next time around.

It is interesting to see that despite their diametrically opposite views, both the right-wing national parties and the middle of the road regional parties, use Article 370 exactly the same way: to rally people around it.

As it transpires, it would seem that Article 370 is a very convenient ploy for everyone; for the BJP to demolish it, for the Congress to hold it, for the NC to resurrect it for the PDP to defend it.

What is worse is that the Congress and the National Conference are the main culprits who have engineered and overseen the erosion of Article 370.

Having mobilized people outside the state and got a majority, the next step for the BJP is to mobilize people inside the state. In the Lok Sabha elections, they swept the non-valley part of the state. Now they need to hold on to those gains and what better way to do it than invoke the abrogation of Article 370. The intent is to polarize  Jammu and Ladakh.

On the obverse, the National Conference, which has all but given up the Jammu and Ladakh regions is all fire and brimstone to protect and regain its valley turf which it has lost to a resurgent PDP.

The current controversy is also a deliberate reasoned play not only to check the threshold level of resistance within the state. A trial balloon of sorts!

As such, Article 370 which used to be a Constitutional provision according to special status to J&K has over the years become a rallying point for the upcoming elections.

Most of the people who are crying themselves hoarse over the abrogation know two things quite well; first that it can’t be done. Second, more important, that Article 370, as it stands today, is nothing more than a shadow and a husk. (See my column in Greater Kashmir, What is there to abrogate”, March 10, 2014).

In its original form, out of the 22 Parts of the Indian Constitution, only ten parts were applicable. These Parts were: V, XI, XII, XV, XVI, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXI, and XXII applicable to J&K. Even these were modifications in some provisions.

In its pristine form, Article 370, Indian Parliament’s power to legislate was restricted to three items; now out of the total of 97 entries in the Union list, 94 have been applied! The three entries that do not apply relate to the court of wards for the estates of Rulers of India states, the jurisdiction of CBI and preventive detention connected with defence matters. All three relate not to people but protection to erstwhile and current rulers.

Out of the total of 12 schedules where none was applicable, 9 have been applied including 2 being extended this year with the extension of the 73rd and74th Amendment relating to Panchyats and Municipalities. This was done by Omar Abdullah who is up in arms against BJP’s abrogation threat.

As such, there is very little honesty in his defiance and threats. These are nothing more than the issue to rake up to gain lost grounds. It will not help. Not anymore. I hope.


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