The Indian constitution and Kashmir

 

Sir, – With reference to the editorial “Kashmir crisis – A dangerous provocation” (August 8th), it is apparent to us that the context and implications of revocation of article 370 of the Indian constitution have not been understood appropriately.

Revocation of article 370 was undertaken within the framework of the Indian constitution, with the primary objective to deliver good governance and promote socio-economic justice and development. The changes made in Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh will be of immense benefit to these regions. They will enable the people to access and enjoy the same rights, same privileges and same facilities as their fellow citizens in the rest of the country. These include progressive, egalitarian laws and provisions related to the right to education; access to the right to information; reservations in education and employment and other facilities for traditionally deprived communities; as well as justice for women by abolishing unequal practices, such as instant triple talaq [an Islamic form of divorce].

The changes can therefore hardly be classified as “deeply provocative”.

Nor has martial law been imposed in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, as suggested in your editorial. Elections are proposed to be held for the assembly seats as soon as the situation fully normalises, on the recommendation of the local administration. Besides, it is not just Hindus who would be able to buy property and get jobs there, but all Indian citizens, of all faiths, just as citizens hailing from the Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh regions currently have the opportunity to buy property and get jobs in any part of India. To appraise the situation from the prism of religion is highly unfair. Reasonable restrictions, which should not be termed as “brutal repression”, have been placed in the region to avoid any untoward incidents of violence, and thereby to prevent loss of life or property. It may be noted that these measures have not resulted in a single death of any individual or loss of property to date. Public order is integral to ensuring that democracy prospers. At the same time, we assure you that the restrictions are being gradually eased (and lifted from several areas of Kashmir) and will be fully removed as the situation normalises. The primary and middle schools have been opened and some flights have resumed operations.

We reject your contention that removal of article 370 will encourage “sectarian divisions” and “majority triumphalism”, or that it has “compromised inclusivity”. On the contrary, the move was approved in parliament keeping in mind the best interests of the people of the region, to promote cultural and ethnic inclusivity, rather than division and segregation. Your claim that the decision has been applauded by “Hindu militants” feeds into the religious narrative; rather, it has been welcomed by major parties and a vast cross-section of the Indian people, as well as the diaspora. Rather than destablising the region, the current measures are aimed at providing stability and prosperity. An alarmist approach to the situation is far from the ground reality. Article 370 was always meant to have temporary application, and not to be extended in perpetuity.

Article 370 of the Indian constitution is a matter that relates solely to the citizens of India. No external party was involved in its drafting and subsequent inclusion into the constitution of India. It was adopted through the Constituent Assembly on November 26th, 1949. Any change or modification thus remains the sole prerogative of the Republic of India. This was not done “summarily”, but rather as a well thought-out measure, keeping the interests of the people in mind. The Government of India provided detailed justifications to the parliament on August 5th, 2019, for revoking article 370. These include: (i) the right to education enacted by the parliament in August 2009 for all children between the ages of six to 14 to have free and compulsory education, could not be extended to Jammu & Kashmir; (ii) the right of every Indian citizen to inherit property was taken away from women belonging to Jammu & Kashmir who married men from other part of India; (iii) economically disadvantaged sections in Jammu & Kashmir could not benefit from any of the mandatory affirmative action programmes and measures legislated by the government over the past decades. Social justice was thus denied to significant parts of the population living in Jammu & Kashmir, including the tribal population; (iv) citizens from other parts of India were not permitted to invest in Jammu & Kashmir, thus limiting avenues of job creation and development (a major investment conference is now planned for October 2019 to attract top Indian investors); and the 73rd and 74th amendments of the constitution relating to grassroots elections in villages and municipal councils mandating at least 33 per cent representation for women, could not be extended to Jammu & Kashmir.

It is a well-established fact that in the absence of opportunities for economic advancement and well-being, the youth from Jammu & Kashmir were being misled onto the path of extremism. Others took advantage of the situation created by article 370 to sponsor cross-border terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. Clearly, there are vested interests in its continuation.

While dealing with the subject, we also deem it necessary to point out the factual position that demographic, legislative and structural changes have been carried out since 1948 in the Pakistan-occupied part of Kashmir, which have not been commented upon.

India has well-recognised national, regional and global aspirations. With aspirations, come responsibilities. India is fully committed to fulfilling all its responsibilities towards good governance, socioeconomic development, peace and stability. We stand ready to continue our efforts towards peaceful resolution of all issues in an atmosphere free of terror and violence. – Yours, etc,

SOMNATH CHATTERJEE,

Counsellor,

Embassy of India,

Rathmines, Dublin 6.