Demonstrating once again the Narendra Modi regime’s resolve and tact, Union Home Minister Amit Shah today placed a resolution in the form of a Bill in the Upper House of Parliament that had been awaited from — and expected of — a BJP government since the years when it began spreading electorally across India in the late 1980s. Along with the promise of a grand Ram temple to replace the Babri structure, the party vowed to abrogate Article 370 that had been pampering separatists of Kashmir for decades while anguishing the other States with a sense of deprivation. The annulment of this discriminatory, albeit temporary, provision of the Constitution, brought in by the nexus of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah, was long overdue from the political organisation founded by Syama Prasad Mookerjee who, many believe, was eliminated from the scene for his activism to integrate Kashmir fully with the Union of India. The existence of this Article, at the same time, did nothing to keep the Muslim section of the population of the Valley happy with their association with India. They participated — or stood as mute spectators — in the barbaric cleansing of Hindus (referred to also as pandits) from the region, perpetrating or conniving in atrocities like murder and rape. When the Hindu existence of Kashmir became a past, thanks to the genocide-driven exodus in the period 1989-92, the lovers of Pakistan bared their fangs, initiating a four-decade-long era of bloodshed. Those without the automatic rifles, grenades and rockets took recourse to stone-pelting, which even turned into a gainful vocation in the current decade. The time for negotiations, bargaining, platitudes for a vacuous Kashmiriyat and insaniyat of AB Vajpayee-fame was long gone. The levelling of the playfield of India for all Indians was waiting to happen in the hands of a strong, well-meaning government. Prime Minister Modi had already established that strength by way of mobilising a massive military force in Kashmir over the past week to pre-empt an eruption of terrorism when the morsel of the Abdullahs and the Muftis would be seized from their mouths. Now was left the nimble manoeuvring part.
The technicalities were well taken care of. The Modi government deserves plaudits on that count as well. The legal heads of the administration figured that, since the cessation of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, there was no authority left that could scrap a decision of the Union government. A presidential proclamation would suffice. That left the treasury benches with the question of support of a few partners in the NDA like the JD(U) and the entire opposition, given the government’s weaker strength in the Upper House. But as it had accomplished in the debate on the Bill to stop instant triple talaq, the Modi government made it embarrassing for many rival parties to resist the passage of the bill that also sought to make Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh two Union Territories. Ergo, staunch critics of the government like the TDP and AAP joined the league. The Congress stood isolated in the House today despite Ghulam Nabi Azad’s plea which, on failing, led to an unseemly sloganeering exercise by the MPs of the party. Undaunted by these desperate hoots, the home minister went on enlisting all the benefits the abrogation of Article 370 would bring to the State-turned-Union Territory, fo example of percolation of democracy in the society of Kashmir, restoration of rights of refugees of Partition, more effective fight against terrorism and corruption, more efficient economic development, reservation in educational institutions for the underprivileged sections, etc. The most crucial technicality that the government addressed was turning Article 35A irrelevant. If at all a glitch still remains, one hopes the Supreme Court will appreciate the mood of the nation if or when the fate of Kashmir reaches its doorsteps.
Throughout the tenure of Modi 1.0, the core supporters of the BJP would assure itself by assuming that their favourite leader was building a launchpad from which he would fire during his second term. To them, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act does not count. That was never a part of the Sangh ideology; it is at best a strategy to woo a section from a community of saffron-averse voters. Today’s Bill on Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is Modi’s first ideological step in the second term. The elan with which his government pulled off the passage of both the Bills, however, has raised the expectation (hope to many) that the burning issues bothering the Hindu population, like freeing temples of state control, are taken up at the earliest. Since the premier appears to understand the language of management well, he may be reminded that this is a demand far easier to fulfil than one of the pledged temple in Ayodhya. For, Christians and Muslims, whose churches and mosques respectively are not subjected to the rules of the state, will have nothing to complain if the temples are liberated. Finally, the concern remains the economy. Much less of an ideological issue, with a majority of the Indian ‘right wing’ blissfully unaware of the perils of socialism, this aspect is, unfortunately, expected to remain neglected unless the coffers run dry. But today is the day for congratulations alone. Well done, Modi! Kudos, Shah!