Why is Jammu & Kashmir ‘special’?
Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. It is the northernmost state of our country, and though it’s governed by Indian Constitution, it has been given certain special privileges keeping in view of the state’s controversial history.
The Article 370 of the Constitution gave autonomous stature to the state of J&K. This means that though Kashmir is a part of India, the union government cannot change its boundaries.
In May 1954, Article 35A was introduced through a Presidential Order (Article 370 empowers the president to do so with the consent of the J&K state assembly), empowers J&K’s Legislative Assembly to define ‘permanent residents’ of the state and grant them rights and privileges in buying property and reserve employment with the state government.
There have been arguments against these two provisions now and then, especially people from the rest of the country who believe that Kashmiris should not be given special treatment.
The BJP in its election manifesto promised to scrap these two provisions. And now that they are in power in the Centre, clamouring against the privilege has been more vocal. But in view of the history and insurgency in the state, it would be difficult to do away with these laws.
A petition against the provisions is filed in the Supreme Court.
In October 1948, when Pakistan occupied a part of Kashmir (now called Pakistan occupied Kashmir or PoK), these provisions were made to safeguard the interests of the Kashmiri people.
Here are some more interesting facts about the state and its privileges.
1. The Article 370 of the Constitution doesn’t allow the Centre to reorganise J&K as it did with other states post Independence.
2. In 1949, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had directed Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah to consult Dr BR Ambedkar (then law minister) to prepare a draft of a suitable article to be included in the Constitution.
3. But Dr Ambedkar, the principal drafter of the Indian Constitution, refused to draft Article 370.
4. Article 370 was eventually drafted by Gopalaswami Ayyangar who was a minister in the first Union Cabinet of India. He was also a former Diwan to Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir.
5. To remove Article 35A, one just needs President’s signature, it’s constitutionally possible but politically seems an uphill task.
The Indian Constitution is divided into 22 parts, 12 schedules and has 448 articles.