India is celebrating the second anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 today (5 August 2021). On this day in 2019, the Government of India, in one fell swoop, invalidated the separate status, or autonomy, granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir and liberated the state from decades-long Nehruvian blunder.
Besides the abrogation of Article 370, the Modi government also created two new Union Territories by bifurcating the state of Jammu and Kashmir:- Jammu and Kashmir (with Legislature) and Ladakh (without Legislature).
With Article 370’s abolition, Article 35A was also made null and void. Article 370 had been enabling legislation allowing the existence of Article 35A and bolstering its effectiveness.
For years now, Article 370 and Article 35A held the erstwhile state from achieving its true potential. The statehood provided enough incentives for the local politicians to continue to deprive the population of growth and development, making it one of the lowest contributors to the country’s GDP.
However, things began to improve following the annulment of Article 370 and the formation of two new union territories. On the second anniversary of the seminal move that paved the way for greater integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian union, here’s a look at the radical changes the decision brought in its wake.
Steep decline in Terrorism
Terrorism was one of the greatest banes afflicting the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistani terrorists, with the help of radical Kashmiris and separatist politicians, intruded into Jammu and Kashmir, and from there to the rest of the country to carry out their nefarious activities. But after the abrogation of Article 370, there has been a marked decline in the number of terror-related incidents in the newly carved union territories.
The central government in March 2021 said in the parliament that the terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir had reduced significantly in 2020 as compared to 2019. The Ministry of Home Affairs in April 2021 said there had been 60 per cent fewer terror incidents post abrogation of Article 370.
The sharp plunge in terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir can also be attributed to the arrest of separatists and pro-Pakistan leaders in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370. Some of these politicians were known for bankrolling terrorism and the radicalisation of youth in Kashmir. It was no surprise then that after the detention of usual suspects, there were hardly any incidents of anti-India protests and stone-pelting reported in the valley.
Simultaneously, the NIA crackdown into the terror funding cases also served a death knell for terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Though terror incidents continue to take place in the valley, their frequency and intensity have taken a veritable hit after the double whammy of the NIA probe and the detention of separatist leaders and other politicians.
The investigation carried out by the premier agency brought to light the unholy nexus that existed between the local political parties and Pakistani terrorists. It showed how politicians who were pontificating on upholding India’s constitution, in reality, studiously worked to undermine it. In its charge sheet in the terror funding case, NIA said PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti’s close aide Waheed Ur Rehman Para ran a stone-pelting racket in Kashmir and arranged weapons for terrorists.
The arrest of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir that funded and inflamed chaos in the former state resulted in fewer people turning to terrorism. A report published in July 2020, 11 months after the revocation of Article 370, said Kashmiri youths joining terror ranks reduced by more than 40 per cent. The number is expected to be even higher for this year as the Centre focused its efforts on enabling growth and development to the state.
Local Jammu and Kashmir politicians lose their political capital
The Muftis, the Abdullahs, the Hurriyat leaders and other separatists once held sway in Jammu and Kashmir’s fractious politics. They derived political mileage out of keeping the state perpetually on tenterhooks. They allowed Jammu and Kashmir to continue to remain a festering issue so that their political interests were served.
But the abrogation of Article 370 threw spanner in the works for these leaders who had come to consider Jammu and Kashmir as their personal fiefdom. Shortly after Article 370 was repealed, these political leaders were arrested and kept under detention, lest they stir up public opinion against the move.
Months later, they were released from detention but not before being plunged into the abyss of political oblivion. The residents of the former state realised the benefits of having Centre’s oversight as against being governed by cynical state leaders. With the marked reduction in terror incidents, protests and instances of stone-pelting, the politics of hate that had hitherto come to symbolise J&K’s politics had no takers whatsoever.
Fearing that their depleting political capital will be eroded permanently, disparate local politicians, in a desperate move, joined hands to forge an unlikely coalition called People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), popularly known as the Gupkar alliance. The alliance saw coming together of ideological opponents such as PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference’s Omar Abdullah. In December last year, District Development Council elections took place. Out of 280 seats in contention, the Gupkar alliance managed to bag 110 seats and could get control of only 5 of the 20 district councils. The results were a stark indicator of the deteriorating political clout of the former leaders.
Growth and development
To bolster economic growth and development, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has so far signed more than 168 MoUs worth Rs 13,600 crores for investments. Additionally, 6,000 acres of government land has been acquired for setting up industries in the state.
Earlier, some constraints discouraged industrialists and large organisations from investing in Jammu and Kashmir. But after the abolition of Article 370, all the obstacles that came into the path of development were removed as the government placed its focus on providing an impetus to business and the economy. The J&K Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation has been set up to provide financial support to various projects that were commissioned years ago but were yet to be completed.
In adherence with PM Modi’s infrastructure development vision, several new projects were approved and bottlenecks that marred the completion of existing projects were removed. The outlay under the Prime Minister’s Development Programme increased from 27 per cent to 54 per cent. The swift pace at which the projects are being completed can be gauged from the completion of the Rambagh flyover in Srinagar, which was pending for over five years.
Rapid road construction has been one of the hallmarks of the Modi government. In Jammu and Kashmir, road infrastructure development is of critical importance, owing to its strategic location—nestled between two perpetually hostile neighbours—Pakistan on the west and China on the east.
The Centre has hit the ground running on a plethora of road construction projects, including the Jammu-Akhnoor Road, Chenani-Sudhmahadev Road and many others. More than 30 per cent of the Jammu Ring Road has been completed. Projects worth Rs 5,979 crores have been sanctioned, and 506 projects have already been completed.
In addition to this, hydro projects that were in a state of abeyance for more than 5 decades such as Ujh and Shahpur Kandi have been expedited. Emphasis has been placed on the development of 14 sectors for investments, which includes tourism, hydropower, electricity, education, health.
In a bid to bring about ease of doing business, more than 130 administrative reforms have been undertaken by the central government. The education sector was another focus area for the administration. 7 new medical colleges have been initiated, 4 of which have already started functioning. The medical seats have also increased from 500 to 955 in colleges, and 25,000 seats have been added in regular degree colleges.
The world’s highest railway bridge over river Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir was completed in April this year. It is expected to connect the Valley with the rest of India by train for the first time by 2022. The bridge, which has a central span of 467 metres, is built at a height of 359 metres from the bed level.
Domicile rule and Central laws now extend to Jammu and Kashmir
Article 370 ensured that excluding Articles 1 and 370, no other provision of the Indian Constitution applied to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir unless specifically made applicable by a constitutional order issued with the concurrence of the state government. Laws such as the Right to Education, Prevention of Child Marriage, Untouchability Act and many others could be not be applied to Jammu and Kashmir because of the existence of Article 370.
But after its abrogation, all the central laws have been extended to Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. A new Domicile rule was implemented, which allowed all those persons and their children who have resided in the former state for 15 years or studied here for seven years and completed their 10th or 12th examination in an educational institution in the J&K to apply for domicile.
Marginalised Hindu communities that were earlier denied citizenship, perhaps because the Kashmiri leadership feared “demographic shift” in the Muslim-dominated state, were among those granted domicile status. The Scheduled Caste Valmiki community; refugees from West Pakistan, several of whom are members of Scheduled Castes; and Gorkhas, brought by the Dogra kings to serve the princely state’s army, were few of the many communities that benefitted from the new domicile law.
In March 2021, the Centre cited J&K govt information to assert that a total of 35,44,938 applications for the issue of Domicile Certificate were received till December 31, 2020, out of which 32,31,353 applicants were issued Domicile Certificates.
Property rights of women restored, their non-resident spouses made eligible for domicile
Women have been amongst the most disadvantaged sections of the former state. Not only were they constitutionally denied rights, but their existing rights were also gradually eroded. Women who married men from outside Jammu and Kashmir were deprived of property rights. But that changed, after the abrogation of Article 370.
Women in Jammu and Kashmir are now able to buy real estate and transfer property to children, even if they get married to a non-resident. Furthermore, another provision was recently added to the domicile laws, wherein the spouse/husband of a native woman, who is a domicile holder in the UT, was made eligible to get a domicile status. Earlier, the spouses of J&K women from outside the Union Territory were ineligible for applying for a domicile certificate.
Rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits
The central government is taking every possible step to right the historical wrong of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus. As a part of its initiative to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, the Centre announced special jobs for the community members under the PM package.
In March 2021, the central government announced that a total of 3,800 migrant candidates have returned to Kashmir for taking up the jobs that have been provided to them under the rehabilitation package, out of which 520 had returned after the abrogation of Article 370.
The Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor’s administration is expediting work on 6,000 transit accommodations in Kashmir and registering Kashmiri Pandits in an attempt to provide a stimulus to the migrant community’s return to the Valley from different parts of the country.
Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha recently chaired a meeting of the Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (DMRR&R) Department on Saturday, directing the officials “to take proactive steps to facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits community”.
Job reservation for locals in Jammu and Kashmir
The month after the Modi government at the Centre announced the abrogation of Article 370, revoking the special status accorded to the erstwhile state, the government in April 2020 issued a key order announcing that all government jobs in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be reserved for domiciles.
Provisions in Article 370 and Article 35A provided the J&K Legislature the powers to decide “permanent residents”, and ensured job reservation for its residents. For decades, marginalised communities such as Valmikis were denied domicile and thereby reservations in government sectors.
After years of neglect, Ladakh gets its due recognition
For decades, Ladakh endured the ignominy of being neglected and ignored by the political leadership in Jammu and Kashmir. As Kashmir took the center stage, Ladakh continued to live under J&K’s shadow, despite being significantly larger in size than the former.
However, that markedly changed with the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent bifurcation of the former state into two Union Territories. A Union Territory status for Ladakh had been a long-standing demand by the residents. That demand was fulfilled on 5 August 2019.
Since then, the Union Territory has seen rapid development, with new tunnels and roads being carved out in the toughest terrains of the Himalayan region, Saudi Gazette reported. The standoff with China in Eastern Ladakh has also contributed to the government’s efforts to rapidly building critical infrastructure.
Construction projects of roads and tunnels have gained momentum. So has the efforts to improve the telephone and fiber internet connectivity of border villages. Key development projects, including the Alusteng-Drass-Kargil–Leh transmission system, has been kick-started by the central government. The move has helped Ladakh to be connected to the national grid, allowing an uninterrupted reliable, quality power supply to the region.
Rs 60 billion has been earmarked for the development of Ladakh for the fiscal year 2020-21. Projects worth Rs 214 billion have been transferred to the Union Territory of Ladakh.
Plans are underway to scale a 23,000 MW grid connecting the mega solar project in Ladakh with a 7,500 MW package forming the first part of a larger project.
On the lines of reservations announced in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh too formulated rules under which jobs have been reserved exclusively for locals. Ladakh also recently got its first central university and a Centre on Buddhist studies helping over 10,000 Ladakhi students.
The administration of Ladakh has made “Culture Tourism” one of its key development plans that includes homestay at monasteries along with eco-tourism and ecological activities like bird watching, wildlife safaris.
Overall tourist arrival in Ladakh in 2020 was significantly lower than in 2019 but that was because of coronavirus induced lockdowns in the country. Defence minister Rajnath Singh has assured that Siachen Glacier will be thrown open for tourism, along with opening up of some more border villages for tourists, construction of strategic roads, development of border villages, and movements of Nomads for grazing in the areas located close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, the Saudi Gazette said.
Furthermore, a hill station, more mesmerising than the world-famous Davos in Switzerland, is being planned in the picturesque landscape between the 18-km stretch of Zojila tunnel in Ladakh and Z-Morh tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir.