THAT Union Minister of Home Affairs Mr. Amit Shah took stock of the overall situation in Jammu and Kashmir and in a parallel move Army chief General Bipin Rawat reviewed the security scenario there shows that the Centre is contemplating some serious measures to rectify the ills dogging the State. Indications also are available that the Centre may start reconsidering continuance of Article 370 of the Constitution granting a Special Status to Kashmir.
It appears that the time has come for a possible removal of the controversial provision in the context of Jammu and Kashmir. If that is done, stage will be set to take care of a lot of ticklish issues hampering the real progress of the State for the past 70-plus years. Most importantly, the process of genuine integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India would get started in a more open manner. That, in turn, will set in motion the process of political course-correction as well. Of course, removal of the Article 370 cannot be done tomorrow morning.
The whole process will take time from both the angles -- constitutional as well as political. Some vested interests and national political parties will kick up a lot of dust on the issue. Yet, in the larger interest of the country, at some or the other moment, the process will have to be commenced. And for that initiative, this is the right moment -- so that in the coming years, the action in this regard could be culminated. The introduction of Article 370 of the Constitution of India in Jammu and Kashmir was done under extraordinary conditions. The powers that be in those days could have avoided that arrangement by adopting a little patience and a stronger ideological commitment to the principle of national integration. At some point, for reasons not very properly explained to the nation then or afterwards, the people in power fell prey to the temptation of creating some extraordinary arrangement. Subsequent events have proved that it was a mistake which should be corrected at some point in time or the other.
Once the Special Status is withdrawn, Jammu and Kashmir would be in a better position to integrate itself with the rest of the nation. A lot of constitutional bars would be withdrawn and the people from other parts of the country would be able to interact with the people in Jammu and Kashmir freely, which is not possible at this stage with Art. 370 in place. Hence the case against it. Hence the plea for its removal at the earliest. Separatist politics has been Kashmir’s biggest problem. Right from the beginning as the country gained Independence and subsequently integrated Kashmir with the Union through the Instrument of Accession that Maharaja Hari Singh, then the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, signed at a very crucial moment. However, some political elements kept resorting to separatist politics right from the beginning, and made insistent demands for special arrangements on all fronts. Their effort was to ensure that Kashmir stayed parked in a special niche, unlike other parts of the country.
The demand for a plebiscite also has been part of the separatist politics, something India can never grant. All along, Pakistan has tried to remain in contention somehow in Kashmir, having usurped part of the State through an unlawful occupation. And quite a few Kashmiri political elements almost act in tandem with Pakistan. That challenge can be countered successfully only if the hurdle of Art. 370 is withdrawn. Fortunately, the Modi Government is well disposed to the idea of withdrawing Art. 370. It must set in motion a careful process towards removal of the Special Status to Kashmir in due course of time. That will be in the best interest of the nation as a whole, of which Kashmir is an integral part. Removing Special Status would mean helping a seamless integration of Kashmir with India.