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12 Dec, 2023 12:33

Modi hails top court’s Kashmir ruling

The Indian prime minister lauded the decision to uphold the removal of special status for the troubled state
Modi hails top court’s Kashmir ruling

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has welcomed Monday’s ruling by the country’s Supreme Court, which upheld the government’s decision to revoke special status for Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state that borders Pakistan and China.

In an article published on Tuesday, Modi said the court had “upheld the sovereignty and integrity of India.” “The SC [Supreme Court] rightly observed that the decision taken on August 5, 2019, was done to enhance constitutional integration and not disintegration,” Modi wrote, referring to the government’s initial decision four years ago to revoke Article 370 of the constitution.

Under the key feature of Article 370, laws passed by the Indian parliament did not automatically apply to Jammu and Kashmir, with the local legislature having the right to approve them by passing parallel acts. This effectively granted a degree of autonomy to the former princely state, which had acceded to India in 1947.

In 2019, the Modi-led federal government revoked Kashmir’s special status and divided it into two federally administered union territories: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The move was opposed by many in Kashmir and in India in general. After hearing petitions challenging the move, a Supreme Court bench on Monday upheld the president’s right to revoke Article 370 in concurrence with the central government, without the prerequisite of the assembly’s ratification, as well as the government’s right to bifurcate the state.

The bench, however, instructed the government to restore Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood and hold assembly elections there before September 2024.

The court observed that Article 370 had been an “interim arrangement due to war conditions in the State,” referring to the troubled days of partition when the former British colony was divided into two countries – India and Pakistan – leading to millions of civilian deaths and displacement.

In his article, Modi blamed “centuries of colonization” for making India a “confused society of sorts.” Jammu and Kashmir was a “victim” of a mindset that allowed “duality,” the prime minister further claimed. “At the time of independence, we had a choice of making a fresh start for national integration. Instead, we decided to continue with the confused approach even if it meant ignoring the long-term national interests,” Modi wrote.

Describing Articles 370 and 35A, which provided special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, as “obstacles” for the country, Modi said that after seeing the wave of development across the region, “the people’s court has given a resounding thumbs up to Parliament’s decision.”

According to Modi, the special provisions had hindered the “rights and development” of the Kashmiri people and had impeded efforts to solve the region’s problems.

After the move by his government to abrogate Article 370, “development, democracy, and dignity have replaced disillusionment, disappointment and despondency,” the Indian leader argued.

“All central laws now apply without fear or favor,” he added. “Today, every child in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is born with a clean canvas, where he or she can paint a future full of vibrant aspirations.”

Speaking in parliament on Monday, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that Article 370 had given “impetus to separatism, which led to terrorism.”

Kashmir has notably seen decades of violence and terrorism as a major flashpoint for India and Pakistan.

The Congress, India’s main opposition party, said on Monday that it “respectfully” disagreed with the Supreme Court’s judgment. Article 370 “deserved to be honored” until it was amended in accordance with the constitution, Palaniappan Chidambaram, a senior party figure, stated at a press conference after the verdict.

As per Article 370(3), the recommendation of the state’s constituent assembly is required before the president modifies or makes a declaration that the article will become inoperative. The Congress, however, lauded the court’s observation favoring the restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.

Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of the state and National Conference (NC) party vice president, released a video statement in which he said he was “disappointed” but not “disheartened.”

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti, another former chief of the state who claimed she had been placed under house arrest ahead of the verdict, criticized the decision as “nothing less than a death sentence.”

Prominent Kashmiri politician and founder of the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), Ghulam Nabi Azad, said he had not expected the decision, as he had anticipated that the Supreme Court would “consider the sentiments of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

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