In a landmark and bold move, the Narendra Modi government today announced its decision to remove Article 370, which provides special status to Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, Home Minister Amit Shah also introduced a bill bifurcating the State of Jammu of Kashmir into Union Territory of Ladakh and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
This has sent a clear message to everyone that each and every millimetre from Kashmir to Kanyakumari is equal and there is no place for separatism in the name of religion or language. As per the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, introduced by Shah in Parliament, the UT in Ladakh will have no legislature like Chandigarh while the other UT of Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature like Delhi and Puducherry.
The Ladakh Division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir has a large area but is sparsely populated with very difficult terrain. There has been a long-pending demand of the people of Ladakh to give it the status of a Union Territory to enable them to realise their aspirations.
The government has fulfilled it now. 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 for Jammu and Kashmir is being created. “The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be with legislature,” said a statement from Amit Shah.
Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament, first in the Rajya Sabha and later in the Lok Sabha, came after meetings of the Union Cabinet and the government’s top-decision making body on security matters, the Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Article 370 of the Constitution grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, while Article 35A empowers the State Legislature to define the State’s ‘permanent residents’ and their special rights and privileges.
Article 35A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, gives special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. Among other things, it disallows people from outside the State from buying or owning immovable property there, settle permanently, or avail themselves of State-sponsored scholarship schemes. It also forbids the J-K government from hiring people, who are non-permanent residents.
In one stroke, the Modi-government has attempted to rectify the historical blunders done in the past. Let’s hope J&K will henceforth live up to its sobriquet ‘Beautiful Kashmir’.