The smooth passage of the bill repealing Article 370 and 35A in both the houses of Parliament marks an important watershed in the country’s evolution.
The move was well-planned and executed. A few thousand troops were sent to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in advance. Tourists, including Amarnath yatris and students from outside the state, were evacuated. Political leaders, including former chief ministers and suspected trouble makers, were kept in detention. Communication, including social media, was suspended and curfew imposed. In tackling such a game-changer, a kid-glove approach won’t do.
Perfect floor management of Parliament
The NDA commanded a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, but not in the Rajya Sabha. When the bill was introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha, floor management appeared phenomenally perfect. Close to 60 of the MPs either absented themselves or walked out. When the opposition pressed for a division 125 voted in favour and 61 against. The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha. A few of the Congress MPs absented or voted for the Bill. Opposition parties including the Samajwadi Party, BSP, TDP and the NCP as also senior Congress leaders including Janardhan Dwivedi, the Congress whip Bhubaneshwar Kalita and Jyotiraditya Scindia favoured the Bill.
The passage was smoother in the Lok Sabha where the NDA has a comfortable majority. The President gave his assent in quick time. Astute floor management ensured facile passage, like the passage of Triple Talaq Bill that remained in limbo for long. In his address to the nation, Prime Minister Modi explained the one nation, one constitution principle and the integration of J&K into the national mainstream.
J&K is divided into two Union Territories; one comprising Jammu and Kashmir regions and the other, the Ladakh region. The Jammu and Ladakh regions which suffered neglect in the composite state readily welcomed the new status. The goodwill created by Narendra Modi among nations across the globe, including USA, Russia, Japan, European countries and even China and numerous other nations in Africa, Latin America, South-East Asia and elsewhere has been a big help.
Excepting the Congress, TMC, the DMK, the communists and the usual and virulent anti-Congress sections including in the media, there have been wide welcome for this audacious act.
For 72 years Kashmir has been kept on the boil. Insurgency, aided by cross-border terrorism, kept the state on tenterhooks. Precious human lives, estimated around 45,000, have been lost. With widespread unrest and terrorist attacks added with the restrictions on the acquisition of property, investments dried up. There has been no productive activity contributing to jobs and economic growth. Education opportunities were again poor due to the same reasons. There is a feeling of alienation. A lot of Hindus, Buddhists and the weaker sections of Dalits continued to be neglected.
For seven decades, Jammu and Kashmir suffered neglect, alienation, and insurgency. There is now the hope for the end of terrorism and integration with the mainland. There are welcome signs of industry promising investments and jobs.
J&K’s potential to regain its fame as a tourist paradise should be tapped.