Interview with Kashmiri journalist on impact of nullification of Article 370

Interview with Umar Shah Kashmiri journalist

Digital Discourse Foundation

Interviewed by Malini Shankar

1 Umar what did Article 370 mean to the common man in J & K before it was abrogated?

 It meant nothing at all. The people of Kashmir were least concerned over the internal autonomy. For them, it is the Indian government which has been ruling them since 1947.   Not even a single person was rejoicing over having own flag, constitution or power to amend the Indian laws.

However, if there was anything people were worried about- it was the State Subject Law enacted by the Hindu King of Kashmir- Hari Singh back in 1927. It was later incorporated in the Indian constitution through 1956 presidential order and was known as Article 35-A. This Article was the component of Article 370.   The Article 35-A used to bar outsiders from buying any property in Jammu and Kashmir. For the people, this Article was a shield that used to protect their Muslim majority character.  Even today, if Article 35-A is restored, everything in Kashmir will become normal. You wouldn’t find any mourners for Article 370 but for Article 35-A.
The people are not protesting against Article 370 but for Article 35-A

2 Was the common man unable to access - say packaged milk or vegetables not available in J & K imported from other states in India? The other way around was it possible under Article 370 to export meat and poultry / horticultural produce / NTFPs from J & K to other states / UTs in India or the world? Oak / Cedar / pine and walnut timber are very sought after but barely available anywhere else in India – for instance.

Article 370 wasn’t even remotely connected to the business activities in Kashmir.  It never acted as a barrier for the locals or for the people hailing from mainland India to do businesses in Kashmir.  Taj, Lalit and many prominent Indian brands had their businesses flourishing in Kashmir even before 370 Abrogation.

3 There is talk of economic investment in J & K and creation of employment opportunities which were hitherto apparently hindered by Article 370. But unemployment remains an issue even in states and UTs without Article 370. Your comments please. Activists and political pundits aver that economic investment will fuel unsustainable economic growth and bring industrial pollution to J&K. Would you agree?

Before the revocation of Article 370, the employment and literacy rate of Jammu and Kashmir was far better than other Indian states including those which are ruled by the BJP.  How the removal of Article 370 will boost the economic activities in Jammu and Kashmir is beyond the reach of reason.
Jammu and Kashmir particularly Kashmir Valley is environmentally fragile zone. The ruthless industrialisation,  as proposed by the government, is going to prove apocalyptic in more ways than one.  Kashmir is a place that provides water to 1/5th population of the world.

4 Was Article 370 a hindrance to Kashmiris to marry Indians outside of J & K?
Not at all. It never was a hinderance.

5 Why in your view did Article 370 prevent employment and livelihood security to locals if at all? 
I am sorry to say this. All this rhetoric is manufactured.   There is Article 371 and similar clauses in force in other Indian states like Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, North East.  Are these special provisions acting as a hinderance in the employment and livelihood security to the people there as well?

6 Do you think this unemployment was the primary reason for terrorism in J &K?
No. It was the status quo that was the main reason. The delay in addressing the dispute.

7 Or was there political disenchantment in society that fuelled terrorism?

8 What are the civil rights of the common man that Article 370 curbed? I need an apolitical perspective please.

There were no civil rights associated with Article 370 except the state subject law or Article 35-A. People are ruing over its abrogation as they fear that its removal will change the genesis of Kashmir dispute forever as it can change the demography of the erstwhile state. 

9 Tell me if wildlife protection was in any affected by Article 370 in J & K? I mean measures like waivers and exemptions pertaining to wildlife protection or penal provisions for wildlife crime etc…

No.  Wildlife protection was not  in any way  affected by Article 370. Infact there were series measures taken during the past years for the wild life protection like Save Hangul project that won praises all over the  world.   The wild life protection act of 1978 in JK was more stronger than any national law meant for the purpose.

10 If a non-Kashmiri girl marries a Kashmiri boy will she and their children not be allowed to inherit his ancestral property in Kashmir as is being alleged? Or the other way around if a Kashmiri girl marries a non-Kashmiri, will she and your / their children not be entitled to your ancestral property?  I mean before it was abolished… and if its abrogation makes a difference in this regard. It implies Article 370 stood for a patriarchal lineage in favour of Kashmiri men… your response…

If a woman from J&K marries outside the state, she doesn’t lose property rights. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah said on record that his sisters, who are married outside the state, own property in Kashmir as much as he does.

11 Before Article 370 was abrogated could any non-Kashmiri not buy land on account of either Article 370 or domicile factors?  

No. Non residents of Jammu and Kashmir were not entitled to buy land in the erstwhile state.

12. Do you think revocation of Art. 370 will enable Govt. Of India to reclaim through annexation Pak Occupied Kashmir?

Indian Government has always been maintaining that the Kashmir under the control of Pakistan should be annexed to India and has often been terming it as an unfinished business of partition of India in 1947. The Government of India has been reiterating its stand time and again that it will get the other Kashmir annexed with the union.

Article 370 was not in force in Pakistani Kashmiri and therefore its revocation will have no affect on that territory. It was not an impediment either for the Government of India to reclaim Pakistani Kashmir. 

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