New Delhi: Over Monday and Tuesday, as the Union government changed the administrative structure of Jammu and Kashmir, the Union home minister Amit Shah reiterated that the decision was solely aimed at pushing the restive state towards development.
Though the decision seemed precipitous, especially when viewed in the backdrop of sudden troop deployment, suspension of the Amarnath Yatra, imposition of a curfew, and a spate of political arrests, the move, a person familiar with the development said, had been in the works for a while.
Another person aware of the development said, “The issue has been on the agenda of the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government for some time now. Perhaps people have been surprised by its timing."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), having tested waters during the first term at office in 2014-19, made Articles 370 and 35A major poll planks in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. Abolishing Article 370 has been on the BJP’s agenda for long.
“We are committed to overcome all obstacles that come in the way of development and provide adequate financial resources to all the regions of the state. We reiterate our position since the time of the Jana Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370," BJP had said in its 2019 election manifesto.
Soon after Shah took charge on 1 June, the ball was set rolling, especially in the wake of the Pulwama suicide blast – with security forces taking the biggest hit and the nation clamouring for reprisal.
“This decision is a tribute to all the patriots who made the supreme sacrifice for a united India," Shah said after the Rajya Sabha approved scrapping of certain provisions of Article 370.
“In 2014 and 2019 the issue was in the BJP manifesto. But in 2019, there was greater urgency to see it through. When the new Home Minister took over, the matter was dealt with more seriously especially because we had just been hit in the Pulwama attack," said the first person cited above.
The Presidential order which scraps the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir may soon face legal scrutiny. However, with both Houses clearing the amendments and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, which bifurcates the state into two union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, India’s northernmost state will be witness to historic administrative and political changes.
While this decision – to bifurcate and amend Article 370 – was in the works with the Centre likely to have taken a decision on the matter later this year, the pressure to execute it rose following US President Donald Trump’s recent comments on the sidelines of his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, with Trump saying that Modi welcomed mediation on the contentious matter of Kashmir—a claim India vociferously denied.
And so, while the Centre called off the Amarnath Yatra and rolled out troops to pre-empt a backlash, Shah rewrote history.
“The Yatra was stalled because there was a genuine terror threat and the Centre did not want to risk the lives of the people. But at the same time, following the Imran-Trump meet and Trump’s comments, there was a sense that there needed to be a resolution and soon. The Line of Control was also heating up and it appears there was a great sense of urgency," the first person added.
The Union home ministry however, declined comment on the matter.