New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill that seeks to scrap Article 370 and Article 35A in Jammu and Kashmir, while also bifurcating the state into union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The Bill was passed by the Upper House through a voice vote, with 125 being in favour and 61 against it and there was also one abstention.
With the passage of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, it will now be discussed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. The Bill lays the ground for the stalemate in Kashmir to be resolved after 70 years, with the Centre now gaining greater legislative control in the region.
Speaking in the Upper House, Union home minister Amit Shah said: “Because of Article 370, democracy has never percolated, corruption was at its peak and poverty was entrenched in the area. There are people of different religions in the valley and we are not politicizing on the basis of religion. The people of J&K want democracy and if you see clearly you will know how much Article 370 has harmed J&K."
On Monday, the Upper House also passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Second Amendment) Bill. It seeks to extend the 10 percent quota to economically weaker sections to the state which has special constitutional provisions.
Addressing the members of Rajya Sabha, Amit Shah said, “Repealing Article 370 is the only way out to resolve the crisis and deadlock in Kashmir. It will take some time, but this is the only way."
Shah also added that no legal scrutiny could nullify or dilute the efficacy of the Bill, adding that it was imperative for Article 370 to be abrogated in order to eradicate terrorism from the region.
Amit Shah, earlier today, moved the Rajya Sabha, announcing the government has decided to repeal Article 370 of the Constitution which grants special status to J&K. Shah also said the government has decided to bifurcate the state into two Union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, which will have a legislature, and Ladakh, which will be without a legislature.
The scrapping of Article 370 – which promises autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir - will have far-reaching repercussions on the restive state as the abrogation of the article suspends the clause that allowed all laws to first be ratified by the state assembly, which currently stands dissolved.
The Opposition however, lashed out at the Centre for destroying the equilibrium in the region and “dismembering the state."
Senior Congress Member of Parliament (MP), P. Chidambaram said, “Momentarily you think you’ve scored a victory. Our foremost duty is to protect rights of states and the people of those states. I genuinely fear you are pushing thousands of young men from this column to join the other column of a few hundred. If it happens you will rue this day when you repealed article 370."
As per the order, President Ram Nath Kovind has exercised his power under Clause 1 of Article 370. The presidential order has done away sections under Article 35A, which gives special privileges to “permanent residents" of the state while defining the term “permanent residents".
“Under Article 370 there is a provision that the President may by public notification declare that this article shall cease to be operative… from such date as he may specify… Because there is President’s rule, all decisions of the assembly will be taken by the House and we can pass the order with majority," Union home minister Amit Shah said in the Upper House.
Article 370 laid down that except for matters related to defence, foreign affairs, communications and matters specified in the Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir, the Parliament needs the state government's ratification for all other laws. So far, residents of J&K lived under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians.
Jammu and Kashmir will now be governed by same laws applicable to other Indian citizens.
The Upper House was rocked by massive uproar following Shah’s statement, earlier in the day.
Peoples Democratic Party MPs Nazir Ahmad Laway and MM Fayaz protested outside the Parliament after, both MPs were asked to leave the House following their attempts to tear up the Indian constitution.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Shiv Sena and YSR Congress Party unequivocally extended their support to the scrapping of Article 370 saying that “In the true sense today Jammu and Kashmir has become a part of India."
Ghulam Nabi Azad however, hit out at the Centre saying, “Today BJP has murdered the constitution as well as democracy through the scrapping of Article 370. The very article that gave special status to J&K and linked it to the country, has today been done away with mercilessly."
However, Shah hit out at Azad saying, “This is not the truth. Article 370 has not linked J&K to India. It has only alienated J&K from the country. Only three families have looted the state and have benefited from it. The country wants to know why Article 370 was extended for so long, why people did not benefit from reservation, why so much money was pumped into J&K but why are the people still poor? Not a second should be wasted in removing article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir."
Former J&K chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti, who was placed under house arrest on the intervening night of Sunday and Monday, took to Twitter to hit out against the abrogation.
She said, “What did J&K get for acceding to India? Another partition along communal lines? Our special status isn’t a gift bestowed upon us. It’s a right guaranteed by the same Parliament. A contract entered into by J&K leadership and India. Today the very same contract has been violated."
National Conference (NC) vice president and former J&K CM Omar Abdullah said that the “decision will have far reaching and dangerous consequences."