Article 370 Revoked: J&K Leaders Detained, PM Modi Praises Amit Shah

The debate on two resolutions scrapping Jammu and Kashmir's special status and making it a union territory are currently under discussion in parliament.

New Delhi: After a hectic day in parliament with Union home minister Amit Shah pushing four bills on Jammu and Kashmir, including reading down Article 370 of the constitution, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti was taken into custody and shifted to Hari Niwas guest house.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah has also reportedly been detained. Both leaders, along with a few other mainstream leaders, had been put under house arrest last night.

Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference leaders Sajjad Lone and Imran Ansari have also been arrested, officials said.

While news of the arrests was coming in, Shah took to Twitter in the evening to congratulate the “entire nation” for the decision. “This historic decision will usher in a new dawn of peace and development in J&K and Ladakh region,” he wrote.

Shah accurately highlighted the “monumental injustices” of the past and presented the government’s vision for the people of Jammu and Kashmir in Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted late Monday evening.

On Monday, Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed in Rajya Sabha. This Bill is to implement 10% Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill was also passed in the Rajya Sabha in the evening and will be brought to Lok Sabha tomorrow. Under it, the Centre’s plan envisions two separate lieutenant governors, one for Ladakh and one for J&K.

“The union territory of Ladakh will be without legislature. Further, keeping in view the prevailing internal security situation fuelled by cross-border terrorism in the existing state of Jammu and Kashmir, a separate union territory of Jammu and Kashmir is being created. The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be with legislature,” Shah said.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on Monday evening, Union home minister Amit Shah said “removing Article 370 is the only way forward for India. Both Article 370 and Article 35A, he said, have done “great damage” to Kashmir. Article 370, Shah said, was anti-woman and hindered development in the state. Poverty in the state, the home minister added, was also because of Article 370.

“Big companies, hotels wants to go to the area. Youth will get jobs, become guides. But changes cannot be made owing to Article 370,” Shah said.

The home minister further said that to uproot militancy, it was imperative to remove the “obstacle” of Article 370. Addressing concerns about bifurcating the state into two union territories, Shah said that J&K could be made a state again “as soon as normalcy returns”.

Shah had earlier in the day announced several cabinet decisions and proposed resolutions affecting the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian constitution. Revoking Article 370, which grants the state special status, has been a longstanding promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Shah first proposed a resolution which read down Article 370’s provisions. It recommends that the president issues an order deleting all the clauses of Article 370, and brings J&K in line with the rest of India instead of being granted special status.

While the debate continued in parliament, 8,000 CRPF personnel were reportedly airlifted to Kashmir. This is in addition to the high military and paramilitary presence already put in place on Sunday. The Indian Army and Air Force are on high alert, ANI reported.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued an order to chief secretaries and director generals of police across the country and the Delhi police commissioner, saying that security agencies may be put on maximum alert soon. According to ANI, the MHA asked agencies to take “special care to ensure the safety and security of residents of Jammu & Kashmir, especially the students in various parts of the country”.

National security advisor Ajit Doval and the home secretary are reportedly making their way to Kashmir.

Nationalist Congress Party, meanwhile, decided to abstain from voting on the matter.

Congress P. Chidambaram weighed in on the issue on Monday afternoon, saying: “One of the honourable members has said you have corrected an injustice. History will prove you to be wrong and future generations will realise what a grave mistake this house is making today.” He further requested the Centre not to dismember Jammu and Kashmir, saying it would be a “monumental blunder” and a “cardinal sin”.

Ghulam Nabi Azad of Congress said the NDA government had put an end to all the integration [of people of J&K with the rest of the country] that had been taking place in the past 30-35 years.

In a setback for Congress, Rajya Sabha MP and chief whip Bhubaneshwar Kalita resigned from the membership of the House on Monday opposing the party’s stand on the reading down of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu announced in the House that he has accepted Kalita’s resignation.

In parliament on Monday morning, opposition leaders tried to make their voices heard as speaker M. Venkaiah Naidu called upon home minister Amit Shah to table the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 “and other related laws” in the Rajya Sabha.

The J&K reservation Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha on July 1, will allow 10% reservation for economically weaker sections in educational institutions and public employment in the state.

When Shah began speaking in parliament, he said that he was introducing four Bills on Jammu and Kashmir. The first announcement was that the cabinet thinks that Article 370 of the constitution – which grants special status to the state – should be scrapped. The law, he argued, had allowed “three families to loot J&K for decades”.

Shah’s announcement was met with loud protests from opposition leaders in the House.

The government has been careful not to scrap or even amend Article 370 – in any case, the power for that vests only with parliament and with the now defunct constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, it has made use of the existing power of the president – acting on the advice of the state government – to decide which part of the constitution would apply to the state by saying, through the order, that henceforth the entire constitution would be applicable. What is not clear, legally, is the government’s ability to use a presidential order to add a clause to Article 367 of the constitution. That addition redefines the reference to the constituent assembly of J&K in Article 370 as its state legislature.

The Bahujan Samaj Party will support all of the the government’s resolutions, party MP Satish Chandra Mishra said. The Biju Janata Dal, which claims to follow an equidistant policy with respect to both the national parties, also supports the government resolutions. Prasanna Acharya, BJD MP, said that since “Bharat Mata is supreme for us, we support the resolution”. He also said that no one bothered about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits all this while, and his party is happy that all Kashmiris will get their due following the resolution. The YSR Congress Party and Telangana Rashtra Samithi also supported the resolution, as did the AIADMK, Aam Aadmi Party, Asom Gana Parishad and Bodoland People’s Front.

Other opposition leaders, however, held that the Centre was acting “surreptitiously”.

“If there was anything permanent it was Article 1 of the constitution, what was temporary was Article 370,” said Bhupendra Yadav, a BJP Rajya Sabha MP and national general secretary of the party. He added that Sikkim was integrated into India in 1974 and the parliament passed the resolution in only one day. So why is the government being targeted on the J&K resolution, he asked.

Yadav forgot to mention that it was Article 370 which made Article 1 of the constitution applicable to J&K to the list of states in Schedule 1. Article 370 (1(c)) says: “The provisions of article 1 and of this article shall apply in relation to that State”, i.e. Jammu and Kashmir.

Faizan Mustafa has explained in the Indian Express why it is not correct to call Article 370 “temporary”:

It is the first article of Part XXI of the Constitution. The heading of this part is ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’. Article 370 could be interpreted as temporary in the sense that the J&K Constituent Assembly had a right to modify/delete/retain it; it decided to retain it. Another interpretation was that accession was temporary until a plebiscite. The Union government, in a written reply in Parliament last year, said there is no proposal to remove Article 370. Delhi High Court in Kumari Vijayalaksmi (2017) too rejected a petition that said Article 370 is temporary and its continuation is a fraud on the Constitution. The Supreme Court in April 2018 said that despite the headnote using the word “temporary’, Article 370 is not temporary. In Sampat Prakash (1969) the SC refused to accept Article 370 as temporary. A five-judge Bench said “Article 370 has never ceased to be operative”. Thus, it is a permanent provision. …Article 370 is not an issue of integration but of autonomy. Those who advocate its deletion are more concerned with uniformity rather than integration.

“Since J&K is under president’s rule currently, the Centre and parliament reserves the right to bring all these resolutions,” the home minister said. “Congress party has amended [Article] 370 twice in 1952 and 1964 through this route.” Shah was responding to Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, who asked the government to clarify what powers it had to bring these executive orders as the power to do this rests with the J&K assembly.

President Ram Nath Kovind has issued a presidential order on Jammu and Kashmir, exercising his power under Clause 1 of Article 370. This presidential order has done away sections under Article 35A, which gives the state’s government the power to define permanent residents and give them special rights and privileges with regard to employment, acquiring immovable property, scholarships and other forms of aid in the state.

Responding to the morning’s proceedings, former J&K chief minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti said this was the “darkest day in Indian democracy”.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also said that the decision was a “total betrayal of the trust of people of J&K” and will have “dire consequences”, NDTV reported.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the BJP has “murdered” the constitution and India’s democracy. The Janata Dal (United), a BJP ally, also said it did not want Article 370 revoked and did not support the government. JD(U) MPs walked out of the house to express their dissent.

Left parties called for a protest in New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against the government decision.

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, meanwhile, said this was a “glorious day”.

The Pakistan government has condemned the resolutions. “No unilateral step by the Government of India can change this disputed status [of Jammu and Kashmir], as enshrined in the United Nations Security Council resolutions,” it said in a statement. “Nor will this ever be acceptable to the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan. As the party to this international dispute, Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps.”

When Amit Shah was entering parliament, AFP journalist Prakash Singh took a zoomed in photograph of a document he was carrying. It said Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be addressing the nation on August 7. It also said, “All party meeting to be announced, government prepared for possibility of violent disobedience in sections of uniformed personnels and enhanced security measures in states like UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala.”

Hours of dread

Amid reports of cellular, internet, landline and cable TV services being snapped in many parts of the state and political leaders being placed under house arrest, dread had settled over Jammu and Kashmir.

The Union cabinet met at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence on Monday morning. The cabinet normally meets every Wednesday, and the reasons behind convening a meeting on Monday was not disclosed by the government before parliament. Home minister Amit Shah will reportedly be making an announcement in the Rajya Sabha at 11 am and in the Lok Sabha at 12 pm.

At the same time as the cabinet meeting, opposition leaders met in the parliament complex to discuss the situation.

Sources confirmed to the Indian Express that former state chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah have been placed under house arrest. PTI reported that Congress leader Usman Majid and CPI(M) MLA M.Y. Tarigami also claims to have been arrested around midnight.

Curfew in Kashmir. Image: PTI

Authorities clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in Srinagar, which prohibits the assembly of more than four people at a time. “There shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions (in Srinagar district) shall remain closed,” PTI quoted an official order as saying. “Identity cards of essential services officials will be treated as movement passes wherever required.”

The authorities have also imposed night curfew in Kishtwar, Rajouri districts and Banihal area of Ramban district, PTI reported. Authorities in Jammu have also reportedly imposed restrictions under Section 144 of the CrPC in the district and banned all types of congregation.

As per the order, there will be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed.

Just an hour before the curfew was imposed, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said that he has been informed that he and several mainstream leaders were going to be “detained” and that an “unofficial curfew” was about to begin.

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti also tweeted about the curfew. “Hearing reports about internet being snapped soon including cellular coverage. Curfew passes being issued too. God knows what awaits us tomorrow. It’s going to be a long night,” she said.

ANI confirmed internet services have been been partially shut down in the state.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted in response to Omar Abdullah’s post, saying that parliament is still in session an that “our voices will not be stilled”.

Union home minister Amit Shah held a meeting with top security officials, including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and home secretary Rajiv Gauba on Sunday, PTI reported.

The state has been on edge for the past two weeks with additional paramilitary forces being deployed several thousand at a time. Additional paramilitary forces, which arrived in Kashmir in the past few days, have been deployed across the city and in other vulnerable areas of the Valley, officials reportedly said. Several checkpoints and barricades have been set up.

Barricades have been erected on many arterial roads, including the entry and exit points to Srinagar. Riot control vehicles have also been kept on standby in some areas where apprehension of law and order disturbances is more, officials added.

The Amarnath Yatra was also brought to an abrupt halt on Friday after the state government asked all pilgrims and tourists to leave the Valley in the wake of intelligence inputs of ‘specific terror threats’ to the pilgrimage.

Also read: Amidst Kashmir Panic, Political Parties Want Centre to Break the Silence

The state is currently under President’s rule.

The developments in the state have launched much speculation about plans to modify the special status granted to the state under the constitution, strike down Article 35A or tinker with Article 370.

Just on Sunday, Yoga guru Ramdev demanded the withdrawal of Article 370, saying there should be “one constitution, one rule in the country”. He underlined his confidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah would scrap the provision.

Also read: Why Article 35A Matters

“I assure you that there is no plan at any level to abrogate Article 35A this time. All what you are hearing are rumours being spread by some people with vested interests,” J&K governor Satya Pal Malik told reporters on July 31.

The Anantnag district administration, in view of “panic stocking”, ordered all fuel station dealers not to sell petrol or diesel without permission from the district magistrate or an authorised officer.

Various educational institutions in Kashmir Valley also directed their students to vacate hostels.

The authorities in Jammu and Udhampur district ordered closure of schools and colleges as precautionary measures. The University of Jammu will remain closed on Monday and all scheduled examinations have been postponed.