Event ReportsPublished on Jul 05, 2014
Article 370 is a burden on the people of Jammu and Kashmir which has been misused by successive State governments to stall the delivery of several public welfare initiatives of the Central Government, according to dean of Jammu Central University.
Article 370 a burden on Jammu and Kashmir people
Known academic and dean of the School for Security Studies, Central University, Jammu, Dr Gopalji Malviya, has said that Article 370 is a burden on the people of Jammu and Kashmir which has been misused by successive State governments to stall the delivery of several public welfare initiatives of the Central Government.

Initiating a discussion on "Jammu & Kashmir: Evolving Scenarios" at the Chennai Chapter of Observer Research Foundation on July 5, 2014, Dr Malviya, a former Head of the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, the University of Madras, noted that addressing the issue of Jammu & Kashmir involved a lot of wading through micro-details in various ethnic and cultural scenarios apart from border and security issues.

"The 'Jammu and Kashmir issue' can never be settled in my lifetime or that of my grand-children or great grand-children," remarked Dr Malviya, pointing out that the Article 370 of the nation's Constitution was incorporated at the behest of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, as if it were an after-thought. The record of the Constituent Assembly proceedings showed that Article 370 was not in keeping with the advice of the late V P Menon, the then Secretary, Ministry of States, and others.

Dr Malviya was generous in his critiquing of Article 370, stating that it had created a sense of "false prestige" in the minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. He noted that the Article was a burden on the people of Jammu and Kashmir and that it was up to the people to free themselves from its tight-hold. He pointed out that successive State Governments have used/misused the Article to stall the welfare initiatives of the Central Government in the State.

According to Dr Malviya, the constant efforts by the State Government to negate the influence of the Central Government have been at the centre of the problem. With the result, several initiatives such as Sarvashiksha Abhyan have not been implemented properly in the State as a result of this constitutional provision. Be it Kendriya Vidyalaya, or allocation of land for undertaking development projects, including a modern airport in Jammu, for instance, were victims of the 'protectionism' that the State Government has derived from Article 370.

All this has been happening at a time when the State is caught in the throes of rampant poverty and corruption. The developmental machinery has ground to a halt in most sectors, owing to constant one-upmanship between the people of Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley to have 'one of everything for their own', not to mention the continuing unrest along the borders with both Pakistan and China. Dr Malviya said that there were villages in the State that have had no electricity or protected water supply, or mobile telephony. He attributed problems such as this to the aforesaid reasons and causes. In this context, he pointed to the existence of Ladakh, the third region in the troubled State, which has problems of its own.

In this context, the speaker said that the Centre's pampering of the State in the form of additional/special subsidies has also influenced the attitude of the locals. They are thus hesitant to give up the special status provided by the Article 370. This has affected the wealth-generating potential of the State, not to mention the fact that the living-standard of the people has remained low for several decades.

In spite of several commissions looking into the issue of Article 370 -- its abrogation or revamp -- no clear solution could be reached. He also felt that owing to the sensitive nature of the issue, no government at the Centre has ever taken a clear stand on revamping the provisions of the article 370 or its abrogation. Either way, whenever the issue is flagged the situation would escalate to a further complication, and is dropped.

Infighting among the ethnics

Dr Malviya pointed out that no other State in the country had two ethnically-different regions linked to by language as 'Jammu and Kashmir'. He noted that when it came to the State of J&K, there are not just two but three regions that are involved -Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. According to him, there is always a feeling of mistrust among the people of the three different regions. Hence the burden of satisfying all three regions equally has always been the primary concern of policy-planners.

The speaker noted that within each of these regions, there were dozens of militant outfits with varying ideologies, ranging from pro-India to pro-Pakistan to 'separate Kashmir', which in turn has complicated the "peace process". Dr. Malviya steered clear of all points that related to internationalising the Kashmir issue.

According to Dr Gopalji Malviya, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has created a lot of complications for the Defence forces stationed in the State. The negative propaganda has rendered the image of the armed forces in poor light among the locals. This has put the security of their personnel and installations at risk. Regular instances of stone-pelting at armed forces' personnel have created quite a nuisance but without being able to initiate any action to stop them. People are being paid to indulge in stone-pelting, he said.

To add to the miseries of these personnel, due to the negligence of the State Government, there are no standard amenities such as schools. This is mainly because the State Government often cites powers under Article 370 and refuses to allocate the required land and extend other facilities that counterparts do elsewhere in the country.

The State's political class has come to believe that it is in such matters that they needed to assert their 'special status' under Article 370. Power outages are a constant cause of inconvenience. The people most affected by this are the wives and children of the armed forces personnel, not to leave out the local populace, many of whom do not even know what they have been missing compared to brethren in other parts of the country, Dr Malviya said.

Dr Malviya suggested that an amicable solution could be found only if the attitudes and mindsets of the people changed. In the interim, he suggested that if the administration of the State was trifurcated and if each of the three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh were administered separately, the problems could be mitigated to an extent. He concluded the discussion by talking about the US stand on the 'Kashmir issue' and how the Americans played games out there. The discussion was chaired by Rear-Admiral (Retd) Mohan Raman.

(This report is prepared by Gururag Kalanidhi, B.Tech Chemical Engineering, St Joseph's College of Engineering, Chennai)

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