Indian Supreme Court endorses Modi's decision to end special status of Occupied Kashmir
Says Article 370 was a temporary arrangement
NEW DELHI (Web Desk/Dunya News) – The Indian Supreme Court on Monday declared that Article 370 of the Constitution was a temporary provision (arrangement) and the decision to end the special status of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir was constitutional.
In its judgment, which was reserved in September, the top court said the Occupied Kashmir was an integral part of India, which had not attained internal sovereignty after joining the Union (India).
According to the verdict, the court says it did not find that the president’s power to abrogate Article 370 is mala fide and the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly was not a permanent body.
Moreover, the holding that the president has no power to abrogate Article 370, would mean freezing of integration process, says the Indian Supreme Court.
It held that Jammu and Kashmir became an integral part of India as evident from Articles 1 and 370 of the Constitution of India. Article 370 was introduced to serve the transitional purpose, an interim arrangement till the Constituent Assembly to take a decision on legislative competence of Parliament, the Indian top court declared.
The challengers had maintained that only the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly could decide on the special status of the scenic mountain region, and contested whether parliament had the power to revoke it.
GO FOR TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION, HOLD ELECTIONS
However, the Indian Supreme Court in a way admitted the atrocities committed against the Kashmiris, saying the government should constitute a truth and reconciliation commission, like the one in post-apartheid South Africa, to record the human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir by both state and non-state actors.
At the same time, the Indian top court also directed the country’s election commission to hold elections in the region by Sept 30, 2024.
BIG BOOST TO MODI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP government had revoked Article 370, which had guaranteed significant autonomy to the region, in August 2019, according to the promises he made with its supporters, as the party seeks get rid of the secular nature of the Indian state.
As a result, the state of more than 12 million people was also split into two federally-administered union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh – with effect from October 31, 2019.
The unanimous order by a panel of five judges came in response to more than a dozen petitions challenging the revocation and a subsequent decision to split the region into two federally administered territories.
It sets the stage for elections in the region, which was more closely integrated with India after the government's contentious move, taken in line with a key longstanding promise of Modi's BJP.
In fact, the decision is a shot in the arm for the government ahead of general elections due by May next year.
JAMMU AND KASHMIR – A SHORT GUIDE
Here are some facts about the region.
After the Partition in 1947, Kashmir was expected to go to Pakistan, as other Muslim majority regions did. Its Hindu ruler wanted to stay independent but, faced with an invasion by Muslim tribesmen from Pakistan, acceded to India in October 1947 in return for help against the invaders.
This provision of the Indian constitution which provided for Jammu and Kashmir's autonomy was drafted in 1947 by the then prime minister of the state, Sheikh Abdullah, and accepted by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It was, though, only classified as a temporary provision and in October 1949 was included in the Indian constitution by the constituent assembly.
This was added to the constitution in 1954 under Article 370, and empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state parliament to provide special rights and privileges to permanent residents of the state. It will die with the repeal of 370, which means that outsiders will likely be allowed to buy property in the region and state residents will likely lose their control of state government jobs and college places.
The dispute over the former princely state sparked the first two of three wars between India and Pakistan after independence 1947. They fought the second in 1965, and a third, largely over what become Bangladesh, in 1971.
A UN-monitored ceasefire line agreed in 1972, called the Line of Control (LOC), splits Kashmir into two areas – one administered by India, one by Pakistan. Their armies have for decades faced off over the LOC. In 1999, the two were involved in a battle along the LOC that some analysts called an undeclared war. Their forces exchanged regular gunfire over the LOC until a truce in late 2003, which has largely held since.
Many Muslims in Occupied Kashmir have long resented what they see as heavy-handed New Delhi rule. In 1989, an insurgency by Muslim separatists began. Some fought to join Pakistan, some called for independence for Kashmir. India responded by pouring troops into the region. India also accused Pakistan of backing the separatists, in particular by arming and training fighters in its part of Kashmir and sending them into Indian Kashmir. Pakistan denies that, saying it only offers political support to the Kashmiri people.
Governed as the northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir. It has two capitals, Jammu in winter (November-April), Srinagar in summer (May-October).
New Delhi claims the whole of Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India.
Consists of the smaller Azad Kashmir (“Free Kashmir”) and the Northern Areas, which also formed part of the state before independence. Pakistan says a UN-mandated referendum should take place to settle the dispute over the region, expecting that the majority of Kashmiris would opt to join Pakistan.
Parts of Kashmir are strikingly beautiful with forest-clad mountains, rivers running through lush valleys and lakes ringed by willow trees. The western Himalayan region is bounded by Pakistan to the west, Afghanistan to the northwest, China to the northeast, and India to the south.
POPULATION AND AREA
Ten million in Occupied Kashmir and more than three million in Azad Kashmir. About 70 per cent are Muslims and the rest Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. With an area of 222,236 square km (85,783 sq miles), it is slightly bigger than the U.S. state of Utah and almost as big as Britain.
About 80 per cent agriculture-based. Crops include rice, maize, apples and saffron. The area is also known for handicrafts such as carpets, woodcarving, woolens and silk. Tourism, once flourishing, has been badly hit by the conflict.
It’s a developing story. Details to follow