POLITY/ FEDERALISM/ GOVERNANCE
Topic: General Studies 2:
- Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
- Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions
Time to unlock: On a year after the removal of J&K’s statehood
Context: A year has passed since Jammu & Kashmir was stripped of its special status (Article 370) as well as Statehood.
Why was Constitutional Status of Jammu & Kashmir changed?
- Article 370 was a considered stumbling block in bringing Kashmir closer to the rest of India, a source of extremism and separatism in the Kashmir Valley, and an avenue for Pakistan to gain a foothold in the Valley.
- The reorganisation of the erstwhile J&K State (abrogating Article 370, Converting from State to Union Territory, making Ladakh as separate UT) was defended on the ground that it leads to greater integration of J&K with the rest of the country.
Issues that needs to be addressed
- Vacuum in Political Activity: Mainstream politics in J&K has become impossible with leaders in detention and those released reportedly undertaking to stay away from any public discussion on J&K’s future
- Against Transparency: Neither the J&K government nor the Centre has released a list or number of leaders who were detained last year
- Democratic Process Undermined: The legislative route that the Centre took (without consultation with State) and the communication restrictions on the population that followed, casts a shadow on India’s standing as a constitutional democracy
- Spirit on Indian Federalism Weakened: J&K’s special status within the Indian Union represented asymmetry, which is integral to the Indian federal experience. For ex: Several of North Eastern States enjoy varying degree of asymmetric Federalism
- Judicial Activism Lacking: The judiciary — the J&K High Court and Supreme Court — has not shown any urgency to settle the constitutional & legal questions raised by reorganisation of J&K
- Links to Chinese aggression: Some scholars have linked the continuing Chinese aggression in Ladakh to the change in J&K’s status
- India’s Global reputation in upholding Human Rights: At least two dozen politicians in J&K, including former CM Mehbooba Mufti, remain in detention, some not notified, which is against Democratic Credentials of India.
- Constitutional Change is not enough: The Kashmir conflict is a function of complex historical grievances, politico-ethnic demands, increasing religious radicalisation, and Pakistan’s interference in the Kashmir Valley. Any solution needs to be holistic
- Human Rights based Policy: Respect for human rights should be a key component of the Kashmir policy, as this and upholding national interest go hand in hand.
- Centre needs to start a conversation with the people of J&K: This can be achieved by release all political prisoners and holding elections with participation from all sections of society (including mainstream regional political parties)
Connecting the dots:
- State Reorganisation Act, 1956
- Article 371 of Indian Constitution