On Thursday, National Conference patron and former Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah said that the people of Kashmir would secede from the Indian Union if Article 370 were to be abrogated. The Constitutional device supposed to be defining Jammu and Kashmir’s relationship with the Union has been discussed extensively over the past few years, but Kashmiris have remained totally indifferent. This lack of concern in Kashmir, barring some feeble voices here and there, is bound to have come as a shocker for New Delhi.
The Article has not served any purpose. All draconian laws framed by the Indian Parliament were extended to this `special’ state over the past five decades. Dr Farooq Abdullah, who now talks of secession if Article 370 is abrogated, was the first person to apply the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) to Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, the legislation was applied to the state when it was still an ordinance. A few years earlier, his brother-in-law, the late Ghulam Muhammad Shah, had extended the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) to the state to crush dissent.
People cannot survive on hollow slogans. The days when people would shed tears over Article 370 are gone. Even today, they want to preserve their identity, but instead of relying on the hollow Article, which successive governments have allowed to be eroded, they have other options to look at for achieving this. Omar Abdullah remained silent when the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) replaced the state flag with its own. He reacted by saying that even a municipality uses its own flag at times. The Chief Minister perhaps does not know that the state flag is the last vestige of Article 370 and if its desecration is allowed in order to keep New Delhi in good humour, how can Jammu and Kashmir’s special status (if any is still left) be preserved. Last year, BJP legislators desecrated the state flag on the floor of the house, and the government remained silent. Not even a statement condemning he act was issued.
Dr Abdullah has once again tried to impose himself on the people by issuing his ‘secession’ statement. For his information, he cannot take a decision on secession. This is what the Kashmir dispute is all about. The final decision on this has to be taken by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Dr Abdullah knows that Kashmir has more reasons to seek secession than the threatened abrogation of Article 370.