Explained: Special Status of Jammu and Kashmir

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Kashmir issue has established itself as one of the most controversial topics in Indian politics. Any discussion on this issue arouses strong emotions. The pivotal point of this controversy is the special status accorded to the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). This post is an attempt to clear the air around this status and the implications of tampering with it.   

What exactly is the special status?

The special status of J&K revolves around two articles of the constitution of India. Articles 35A and 370. The latter gives the state an autonomous status. It includes permit to draft its own constitution and puts restrictions on the power of Parliament to make laws regarding J&K.

Article 35A stems from article 370 and has outgrown it in terms of being controversial. Article 35A empowers the J&K legislature to define the state’s permanent residents and their special rights and privileges. It is because of this article that people from the rest of India are not allowed to buy property in J&K.

Why was special status given to J&K?

The Kashmir conundrum dates back to 1947, when India sought independence from British rule ensuing a three-way probable settlement for princely states. More than 600 princely states had two options at its disposal, either to from an independent country, or to join dominion of India or Pakistan.

The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir Raja Hari Singh thought of opting for the latter, however, his hopes of remaining independent was dashed in Oct. 1947, as he was compelled to take recourse of Indian Army to counter the attack lead by POK’s (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) forces backed by Pakistan Army. On 26th Oct. 1947 Instrument of Accession was signed by Hari Singh on consideration of promises made by the then Prime Minister (Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru), ceding Kashmir to India.

After the intervention of UN (United Nations) the war between the two countries ceased. And a plebiscite was to followed once the situation got under control, be that as it may, referendum was never held and in utter haste the incumbent government of the day, officially incorporated J&K into the Union of India in 1957. And article 370 was incorporated in Indian Constitution to gratify the main features of Instrument of Accession. The features are: –

  • The State shall have complete autonomy to draft its own Constitution.
  • Laws on Union and concurrent list shall be formulated with formal assent of the State.
  • Matters related to Defence, Communication, Foreign relations and finance shall fall under the jurisdiction of Constitution of India.

Perhaps, it will not be incorrect to say that J&K was granted special status in order to satiate the provisions of Instrument of Accession.

 Is the status permanent or temporary?

Initially, the Instrument of Accession was envisaged to be a temporary arrangement. Nonetheless, later in 1957 it went on to define special status enumerated under article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Henceforth, it can be inferred that though Instrument of Accession was supposed to be a make shift solution, be that as it may, it moulded per se into the nuances of article 370 perhaps rendering perpetuity.

Moreover, clause 7 of Instrument of Accession bears testimony to the above statement, it reads that “Nothing in the instrument shall be deemed to commit me in any way to acceptance of any future Constitution of India or to fetter my discretion to enter into arrangements with government of India under any such future constitution”.

What can be the repercussions on withdrawal of status?

As far as the relation of Union of India and J&K is concerned the situation shall revert back to before the instrument of accession was signed. Article 370 is an attempt by yesteryear government to bridge the gap between the Union of India and J&K. The repercussions of withdrawal of status can be horrendous as such action perhaps can be anticipated by people as an attempt by the Union government to dishonour the Instrument of Accession.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, the special status granted to J&K enumerated under article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a manifestation of Instrument of Accession. Perhaps, the government agreed to the conditions laid down in Instrument of Accession because India was confident of winning the plebiscite, since one of the most influential Kashmiri mass leader, Sheikh Abdullah was firmly on its side. Unfortunately, or fortunately plebiscite was never held and the incumbent government at that time in haste incorporated article 370 which was inferred as an attempt by India to bridge the gap.

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