J&K: Scrapping Article 370 was easy, but bifurcation will be tougher

The ease with which Article 370 has been scrapped has been the biggest surprise

Amit Shah Parliament AP Home Minister Amit Shah greets onlookers as he arrives at the Parliament | AP

It was incredibly easy—no two-thirds majority in the Indian Parliament was needed; no consent of the ''elected” legislature of Jammu and Kashmir was asked for. In one go, the Narendra Modi government scrapped Article 370, which had accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and also bifurcated the state.

Now, there will be a truncated Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir with an Assembly, and a Union territory of Ladakh with no legislature.

Scrapping Article 370, which had been considered by successive governments and political observers, has been the easier job among the two. It needed only a signature by the president. The bifurcation, on the other hand, needs a bill to be passed by Parliament. In a dramatic announcement in the Rajya Sabha, Home Minister Amit Shah announced these and introduced the bill for bifurcation.

The ease with which Article 370 has been scrapped has been the biggest surprise. But the fact that the provision for doing so was there in the article itself meant that it could be scrapped easily.

First of all, Article 370 itself says that the provisions under it were temporary. Clause 3 of the article, or Article 370(3), reads:

Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this article, the president may, by public notification, declare that this article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications and from such date as he may specify:

Provided that the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State referred to in clause (2) shall be necessary before the president issues such a notification.”

It may be argued that the second part of the clause was not met—that the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly had not recommended scrapping of Article 370. But the fact is that there is no Assembly currently, and therefore the powers of the legislature are wielded by the governor of Jammu and Kashmir. The governor's recommendation is good enough.

With Article 370 standing scrapped, it would now mean that the territory of Jammu and Kashmir would be at par with any other state in India where any citizen of India can travel to, purchase property and settle in.

Article 19—which guarantees every citizen to, among other things, “move freely throughout the territory of India; [and] to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India...”—shall be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir too.

The bifurcation is going to be a little tougher. "The Ladakh division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir has a large area but is sparsely populated with very difficult terrain,” said Amit Shah in a statement in the houses of Parliament. “There has been a long-pending demand of the people of Ladakh to give it the status of a Union territory to enable them to realise their aspirations... Further, keeping in view the prevailing internal security situation, fuelled by cross-border terrorism in the existing State of Jammu and Kashmir, a separate Union Territory for Jammu and Kashmir is being created. The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be with legislature.”

Clearly, the Modi government has been making its moves deftly to implement one of the the BJP's longest-standing political objectives, one which dates back to Syama Prasad Mukherjee's political theses.

Well before the surprise move in Parliament, more than 25,000 troops had been inducted in the Kashmir valley to take care of any protest. The Amarnath Yatra has been virtually called off, and all pilgrims and tourists asked to return home. In Delhi, all BJP MPs had been made to stay back during the weekend. A two-day training session was conducted on Saturday and Sunday, and all party MPs had been asked to compulsorily attend. This ensured that, on Monday morning, virtually everyone from the ruling side was present in Parliament.