State BJP leaders have said that Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir, has to go. Although this was in the BJP’s manifesto in the recent parliamentary polls, it has violated the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s policy on Kashmir. The NDA’s common minimum programme formulated in 1996 under Vajpayee and published on June 5 that year, says that ‘respecting Article 370 of the Constitution, as well as wishes of the people, the problems of Jammu and Kashmir may be resolved through giving the people of the State the maximum degree of autonomy.”
This was repeated by Narender Modi at his Lalkar Rally in Jammu during campaigning. But in its manifesto this season, released just on the eve of polls, the BJP talked of abrogating Article 370.
While the commoner in the Valley was totally indifferent to the `serious’ issue for obvious reasons, the political quarters had ridiculed the clause According to them, Article 370 cannot be abrogated. This is exactly what former Indian Law minister and BJP leader Ram Jethmalani had made clear two times. In 2010, Jethmalani said: “It is stated in the Constitution that Article 370 can neither be amended nor removed without the approval of the Constituent Assembly. Since the Constituent Assembly ceased to exist after the adoption of the Constitution, it is not possible to alter or remove the Article now.” He added that only a government that adopts an entirely different constitution and asks judges to follow it at the point of a gun could remove or amend Article 370.
The constitutional expert said the demand for abrogating Article 370 was made when the BJP was in the opposition and, in his opinion, it was a mistake. “It is not within the purview of the Parliament,” he said. Pertinently an agreement between the leadership and the government of India urged both the parties to give up extremist positions on both the sides. While BJP had agreed not to seek the abrogation of the Article, the Hurriyat agreed not to seek secession.
Keeping the constitutional position in view, how can the BJP proceed to do away with the Article? And if it cannot be done, why is the BJP fooling India’s gullible masses? In any case, the Article has been diluted beyond repair during the past five decades. The process started during the Sher-e-Kashmir’s times when the draconian Defense of India Rules was extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Today the Article has been rendered as hollow as an empty pipe.