In what was a politically super-charged Monday in Parliament, Union Minister Amit Shah announced that Article 370, which gave special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, stands scrapped 'at once'. By the end of the evening, he made an earnest appeal to everyone opposing the move and also made a case for Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill 2019 which was passed in the Upper House 125 votes to 61.
Article 370 related to a special provision in the Constitution which, among others, barred people from rest of the country to buy property in Jammu and Kashmir. Shah tabled the resolutions scrapping Article 370. ""I am presenting the resolution to revoke Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir except the first clause 370 (1)," he announced. The ensuing commotion forced the House to be adjourned.
Article 370 has been abrogated through Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 2019, signed by President Ram Nath Kovind.
This was followed by a proposal to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories - Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature and Ladakh without a legislature. The "statement of objects and resons" issued by Home Minister Shah read, "The Ladakh Division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir has a large area but is sparsely populated with a very difficult terrain. There has been a long pending, demand of people of Ladakh to give it the status of a Union Territory to enable them to realise their aspirations. The Union Territory of Ladakh will be without Legislature."
Throught the rest of the day, there were praises and criticisms in equal measure. While BJP's NDA allies supported the move, some opposition parties like AAP, BSP, BJD, YSRCP and TDP too backed the government. Among those raising concern were Congress, TMC and political parties of J&K. J&K politicians like Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah even went to the extent of saying that people of Jammu and Kashmir have been betrayed.
By evening, Amit Shah was back in Rajya Sabha and tore into Article 370 by calling it the main stumbling block in the path towards development for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. "I am not here to do politics. All of us have to work together to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir. Let us rise above vote-bank politics," he said. "More than 41,000 innocent lives have been lost Jammu and Kashmir. Who is responsible? Pakistan's Zia-ul-Haq said that till Article 370 is in place, the youth of Kashmir won't be able to connect with India. What message does our Parliament want to send to the people of the Valley? Should the people there remain in the 18th century? Those backing Article 370, their own children are studying in UK and the US."
Shah also said those against revoking Article 370 have a 'mental barrier' and that they have their own vested interest in mind. "The dream of Article 370 has been shown by politicians of Jammu and Kashmir to the people there. Can they count the number of benefits of Article 370? This was done for selfish reasons of a handful of politicians," he said. "Give us five years and we will make Jammu and Kashmir the most developed place in the country."
Shah then defended the move to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir. "Let me assure you that Jammu and Kashmir will be a state once again when the situation there normalises," he said.
The Rajya Sabha eventually voted in favour of the bill that would split Jammu and Kashmir into two UTs. With BJP already having the numerical strength in Lok Sabha, Tuesday could well be just a formality for the bill here.
Reactions have been aplenty from those outside Parliament as well. LK Advani congratulated PM Narendra Modi and Shah for a 'bold move' while a number of other eminent personalities hailed the historic decision. There were also scenes of celebration across the country with reports of jubilation even in Jammu and Kashmir. NSA Ajit Doval was monitoring the situation there closely and no untoward incident was reported. He is now expected to visit the state in the coming days to take stock of the ground realities.