The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019 with 125 votes in favour and 61 against it. The bill, moved by home minister Amit Shah, bifurcates the state into two Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Some Opposition parties like the Congress, the All India Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) vehemently opposed the bill and the resolution, calling it a subversion of democracy, even as Shah said none of their fears would come true in Kashmir. The Bahujan Samaj Party, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janta Dal, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Telugu Desam Party, the Telangan Rashriya Samiti and Jagan Reddy’s YSR Congress were amongst the parties that voted with the government.
This is how the Rajya Sabha debate unfolded:
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad: “In my political life, I had never even imagined that the state which is India’s crown, one day that head will be chopped off”.
“You have made light of the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding it was a ‘matter of shame’ that the Centre had reduced the state to a non-entity with Lt Governor’s rule.
“It will be a black spot on India’s history when the day this legislation is passed (in Parliament),” Azad said, claiming that the “state was being removed from the map of India” by being bifurcated and converted into a Union Territory.
“Today they are removing Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, abolishing Article 35A, doing delimitation by breaking the state without its will...”, Azad said.
With this 47-page bill, we are ending a state without enough deliberation."
He dared the government to bring such a Bill to convert Gujarat into a Union Territory, saying it should not take things lightly, and accused the Centre of muzzling the state’s history while being “drunk” with power.
Congress leader P. Chidambaram said:
How can the government use Article 370 to modify Article 370? At best, you could use Article 370 to modify other provisions."
“By repealing Article 370, you are unleashing secessionist elements that you cannot control,” the Congress leader said.
Derek O Brien (TMC): The Trinamool Congress MP described it as “Black Monday” and a dark day for the country’s constitution, the idea of India, and the Rajya Sabha. “Trinamool is against the Constitutional immorality and procedural harakiri committed today,” he said.
Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD):
Today we have opened the gates for Kashmir to turn into Palestine in five years.”
“We have seen earlier narratives end. I appeal to you with folded hands, sacrifice arrogance, embrace Kashmiris, then Kashmir will embrace you on its own. You separated it, that makes me sad,” Jha said.
Tiruchi Siva (DMK): “The architects of the Constitution had given powers in this regard only to the state Assembly and the Central government has made this move when the elected Assembly is not in place.”
“MNCs (multinationals) would take over and it won’t be the land of Kashmiris anymore,” he said.
TK Rangarajan (CPI-M): The government did not consult people of Jammu and Kashmir and the RSS-BJP was destroying the Constitution, he said.
You dissolved the assembly in J&K and President rule was imposed. Tomorrow, you can bifurcate any state. The Constitution of India is in danger."
Vaiko (MDMK): He expressed fear that scrapping of Article 370 would lead to Kashmir becoming like “Kosovo, South Sudan and East Taimur” in future.
That apart, the United Nations and the countries which are against India might use this issue to “interfere” in Kashmir’s affairs, he said.
Kapil Sibal (Congress): “Today is not a day to go back to history or talk about law. We need to think that why are we here and why are we democratic nation.”
“I know that the bill will be passed as you have manufactured democracy. Only the history will tell whether this day is historic or blot on the history or killed the spirit of democracy.”
“We (Congress) won Kashmir and you lost Kashmir.”
You brought the bill at 12 o’clock and now you want to discuss. How can there be a good debate when we don’t have the bill or resolution with us?"
KK Ragesh (CPM): “Democratic fabric of the nation is being questioned. There is an extra-ordinary situation existing. Political leaders are under house arrest and section 144 has been imposed in the state.”
Binoy Viswam (CPI): “Fear was spread among the people of Kashmir and, today morning, through the Bill this conspiracy was made into practice.”
Ram Gopal Yadav (SP): “You could’ve just scrapped Article 370, why was it necessary to make it a Union Territory? If you wanted to remove article 370 then you should have done only that, why did you abolish statehood?”
Vandana Chavan of NCP said that the party would abstain from voting on the bill as it was shocked.
Those who spoke in favour
BJP’s Shamsher Singh Manhas claimed that had Article 370 not been in place, terrorism would not have reared its head in the state.
Sushil Kumar Gupta (AAP): “We want the suffering of the Kashmiris to end, we want the suffering of the soldiers who sacrifice their life end, we want terrorism to end and we want people from all around the country to be able to travel there and do business.”
I believe completely that now there will be peace in Kashmir. "Sushil Kumar Gupta
He said AAP would tolerate injustice by Lt Governor, but stand for unity and against terrorism.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman: “It has been a commitment in BJP’s manifesto since the time of the Jan Sangh. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee lost his life in mysterious circumstances. He was union minister. He talked about Article 370. This is on for very long time.”
Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir would no longer be deprived of many benefits and laws available for safeguarding interest of the citizens in other parts of the country.
He also said that Article 370 created alienation, which was transient or temporary.
Amit Shah’s defence of the bill
Shah replied saying “nothing will happen” and Kashmir will not turn into another Kosovo. “It was heaven on earth and will remain so,” he said replying to the debate on the resolution and the bill which were taken up together.
Amit Shah said:
— Full statehood will be restored to Jammu and Kashmir at “appropriate time” and after “normalcy” returns.
— “Article 370 is the biggest hurdle to normalcy in the state” and government was committed to making Jammu and Kashmir the most developed state in the country.
— Terrorism cannot be eliminated from J&K until Article 370 and 35A are in existence.
— Development was being stalled in the state because of Article 370, real estate prices hadn’t moved in sync with national average, tourism did not develop in the state because of restrictions on purchase of land for outsiders and no industry could be set up.
— Restrictions placed by Article 370 and 35A crippled healthcare and education.
— Article 370 was a temporary provision and he asked how long a temporary provision could be allowed to continue. The Supreme Court, however, has repeatedly upheld that this is not a temporary provision.
(With PTI inputs)