The J&K Conundrum

UT of J&K and Ladakh

Bifurcation of J&K

Article 370 and 35A have been abrogated. Let us understand the dynamics of new political and security dimensions of the historic decision. It would put an end to the money-making industry being run by a privileged few by looting the generous funds received from the Central government thus ensuring development and empowerment of the ordinary citizens.
With the passing of J&K Reorganisation Bill-2019, unified entity of J&K state as created by the Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh will become a part of history and two new political entities will emerge. A union territory (UT) of J&K with legislative powers and a UT of Ladakh without a legislature. While there are different models of UTs in India, UT of J&K will adopt Puducherry Model under Article 239A of the Constitution of India.

The separate Constitution of J&K promoted separatism rather than ensuring state’s full integration with the rest of India. The Constitution of India will be fully applicable without any exceptions in J&K. The separate state constitution will cease to be operative and with that the separate flag enjoying the same status as the National Flag. Only the National Flag will fly atop all government buildings and the government offices. Any disrespect to the national flag and national anthem would be a cognizable offence. Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) or the State Subject, which used to be the most prized possession of the state residents and most difficult to procure if one happened to be from any other community, will now become an ordinary document like many other documents. A big relief to the common man and particularly those who were denied the privileges enjoyed by the permanent residents of the state. There will be no gender discrimination. Tourism potential will be exploited to the full. Ranbir Penal Code will form part of the archives. In other words, the symbols of being different and special will cease to exist and from Kanyakumari to Kupwara and Lakshdweep to Ladakh India will be one and all will be Indians. 

Some are crying foul and trying to fuel communal passions to ensure the continuation of their hegemony, it would be suffice to say that the days of feudal attitude and open loot are over. The preamble to the Constitution of J&K did not refer the state as secular while the Constitution of India proclaims India as a secular nation.

What are the implications of reorganisation? UT of J&K will have a legislative assembly and no legislative council. It would have a council of ministers with 10 ministers (not exceeding 10% of total legislators) headed by a Chief Minister. Lt Governor will replace the Governor. The UT of Ladakh will continue to be governed by the two autonomous hill councils headed by the Lt Governor (LG). There will be common High Court for both the UTs. J&K UT will continue with JK Public Service Commission, Ladakh UT will be served by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). All major Central laws & Commissions will be applicable in both the UTs by deleting the term “excluding State of J&K” from the Acts governing them. Election Commission of India will henceforth conduct all the elections in J&K UT instead of the Chief Election Officer (CEO). All Indian citizens will be eligible to register themselves as voters as per the existing electoral laws as applicable in rest of the country. Local land laws have been retained.

The provision of Article 239A applicable to Puducherry will be applicable to new J&K UT. The legislative assembly will enjoy the power to legislate on all matters in the State List except “police” and “public order” and all matters in the Concurrent List. The J&K Police will be under the control of Home Ministry, as in the case of Delhi. However, in Puducherry law and order is a state subject. This is the main reason bothering the Kashmiri leaders who used to have full control over the police and used it to fulfil their agenda including soft approach towards separatists and terror sympathisers. J&K Bank will be under the full control of the Central Government and RBI. Bank which acted as a “Kamdhenu” for the local parties will no more be at their beck and call thus drying up a source of personal financing and conduit to terror financing. Centre will now have the power to also declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the two UTs.

The new assembly will have a term of 5 years like the rest of the country. It would have 107 members with 24 seats frozen for POJK. LG will have powers to nominate two female members as existing. The four existing members to Rajya Sabha will continue to be the sitting members from the current J&K. As far as Lok Sabha is concerned J&K UT will have 5 members while one will represent the Ladakh UT. Union Government has also proposed fresh delimitation of J&K Assembly. As far as MPs are concerned fresh delimitation is not permitted till the next census after 2026. An increase of 7 seats, 114 from 107 has been proposed and the delimitation will be based on 2011 census. The 2011 census is fraught with irregularities with the entire floating tribal population shown in Kashmir as well as a population of 2 lakh Kashmiri Pandits. Nonetheless, political reservation for the tribal is a welcome step.

Tourism will get a Boost!!

With this reorganisation, the people would expect good governance, of which they were deprived by the successive elected governments in the past, and end to rampant corruption. With direct monitoring by the Central government, the scope and pace of development will undergo a change and external investments will generate avenues for employment. Hopefully, the region will get better medical and health facilities and the need for its citizens and state of art super specialty hospitals will be functional here as well.

As far as the security environment is concerned, the new system will deal with anti-national, separatist and soft –separatist forces with an iron hand with policy of appeasement becoming a thing of the past. Pak sponsored terror will continue to be a cause of worry. It would not be easy for Pakistan to continue with its evil intent for very long. When lasting peace returns and situation becomes normal, there is a hope that the UT may once again get back the status of a state. 

The move has evoked little response from governments across the world except Pakistan. The response of USA and other P5 powers has been very positive. The noise being made by Pakistan is on the expected lines. Pakistan is worried about the next move of the Modi government which is likely to be its claim on POJK (which the Defence Minister, Mr Rajnath Singh has said, will be the only point of discussion henceforth). Pakistan’s criticism of bifurcation of J&K holds no water because of what it did in 1970 wherein it carved out a separate territory of “Northern Areas” from its occupied territory of J&K and made it a federally administered area. In 2009, it was renamed as Gilgit-Baltistan and is now planning to make it a province of Pakistan. Even Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) has maintained silence rather than supporting Pakistan. China, which lays claim to parts of Ladakh had tried to raise the issue at the UNSC but without any substance or support. 

UT of Ladakh

The detractors have been the ones, who have lost their “kingdom”; the likes of the Farookh, Omar, Mehbooba, the Hurriyat … the ones who would line their pockets of the dole that India pushed for peace in J&K.

And most importantly, the stature of India, across the globe would emerge as a decisive, determined, self sufficient country. This, coupled with the Chandrayaan II, would project India as a nation capable of holding its own, a nation you cannot mess with.

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