Sly Move

Yes, Article 370 is a temporary article in the Indian constitution, but that does not mean that it can be abrogated on the whims of a political party. It can go only when the bigger issue is settled. To put it plainly, the Article can go when a plebiscite is held to determine the aspirations of the people of the state, or, a settlement is reached between the parties to the issue. This is how political and constitutional experts of the sub-continent perceive it.  Is the BJP prepared for that? Can it hold a referendum to know the wishes of the people? Or, can it take a final decision on Kashmir?

The BJP has other reasons to keep its hands off the Article. It wants to bring Jammu and Kashmir on par with other Indian states. Well, apparently there seems no harm in it, but should the process start from repealing Article 370? The state of Jammu and Kashmir can be brought on par by allowing the criminal justice system to function properly. The objective can also be achieved by repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). It can also be done by demilitarization. Can the BJP have only as many troops in J and K as it needs in Maharashtra?

The party knows full well that the Article cannot be abrogated.  The former Indian Law minister and BJP leader Ram Jethmalani has made it clear on two occasions. In 2010, he 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 gunpoint could remove or amend it.

The BJP may resort to overt and covert means to render the Article more hollow, without actually removing it. It can do so by repealing or amending Article 35-A of the constitution. Once this is done, the government of India will confer state subject status on West Pakistan refugees and others. This is the time for all shades of political leadership in Jammu and Kashmir, and the civil society, to stay vigilant and prevent another constitutional fraud.

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