Article 370 is always seen from a political perspective. We talk about political integration of Jammu and Kashmir, or about how India had two constitutions. No doubt Article 370 removal released the state of Jammu and Kashmir from the unjust provisions, but the real impact is on the society.
Since Article 370 came into force, it brought with itself a series of injustices for the people. Women couldn’t own property; the Permanent Resident rules under Article 35A restricted her choice of marriage. The Safai Karamcharis of Valmiki community, the West Pakistan Refugees and many more stood disadvantaged due to the partial provisions of Article 370.
No more! With the abrogation of the article, social empowerment is the new norm in the region. Article 370 prevented the provisions of Constitution and various social laws passed by the Parliament of India, since these laws needed the approval of the state assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. This created a wide gap in the social empowerment.
170 Central laws will now be applicable after the removal of Article 370. A number of people friendly and progressive laws such as Right to Education Act, Maintenance & Welfare of Parents & Senior Citizens Act-2001, National Commission for Minority Act and Acts for benefit of Women, Children, Disabled, Right to fair compensation for land acquired will now come to force.
Underprivileged Got Their Due
Among the constitutional provisions, the 73rd and 74th amendments empowering Panchayati Raj Institutions and urban local bodies have now become fully applicable to J&K. The application of these laws guarantees equity and fairness to the underprivileged such as scheduled castes and tribes, women, children and senior citizens. Free and fair elections at the local level can now be held in Kashmir, giving representation to the real voices of Kashmiri people.
Reservation ensures affirmative action for the disadvantaged sections. Indian Constitution guarantees reservation for socially and educationally backward communities to uplift them from years of injustice. The Dalits have been empowered due to the reservation in education and jobs. But Article 370 prevented the benefits of reservation being given in J&K. The newly formed union territories have rationalized the reservation rules to make them more progressive and to address the long pending demand of marginalized communities. Pahari Speaking People will get 4% reservation making nearly 1.75 lakh Pahari speaking families benefit from this move.
In case of Economically Weaker Sections, 10% reservation is implemented. 1.5 lakh families will benefit out of this. Moreover, reservation for physically challenged people has been enhanced from 3% to 4%. The people living near the International Border are often victims of underdevelopment and border tensions. Reservation benefits have also been enhanced to 4%, benefiting nearly 70,000 border families.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir witnessed the exploitation of Dalit communities like the Valmiki community. The community was denied any benefits despite living in Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, they were stuck in their erstwhile professions of Safai Karamcharis. Nearly 10,000 Safai Karamcharis who were denied citizenship and access to education and jobs are now legitimate domiciles with access to all rights and privileges.
Healing the Wounds
Kashmir had witnessed the horrors of Partition. Many people had migrated from Pakistan to India, to escape persecution. Many communities from West Pakistan took refuge in Jammu and Kashmir but were denied residency benefits of the state. The ironical situation was they could vote during Lok Sabha elections but not for the state assembly elections! Over 20,000 West Pakistan Refugees, earlier considered aliens in their own country, denied all democratic, citizenship and property rights have finally got their domicile rights. To sweeten the deal, the PM Narendra Modi led government also announced a financial assistance of Rs 5.5 lakh per family.
With the abolition of Article 35A, the unjust provisions for women stand cancelled. Under the provisions for Permanent Resident, a Kashmiri man can marry a non-Kashmiri woman but a Kashmiri woman will lose her benefits if she marries a non-Kashmiri man. This provision reeked of gender inequality and lopsided domicile provisions. With the abrogation of Article 370, a Kashmiri woman can freely marry the groom of her choice without losing any benefits guaranteed to a Kashmir domiciled individual.
The domicile rules for the two union territories have been relaxed. All those living in J&K and serving for more than 10 years are now recognized as J&K’s domicile subjects. The rules formulated for the issuance of domicile certificates are simple, progressive and has come to include the vulnerable section of the society like West Pakistani Refugees, Safai Karamcharis, Gorkhas, Valmikis and women.
A new Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh cannot happen until its people are not empowered. Social empowerment is the basis of any strong society, which was denied to the people of Kashmir. The first anniversary of the landmark decision marks the intent and decisive action of the government to improve the conditions in the region and give its people a better future. That’s true Kashmiriyat on display!