Article 370 of the Indian Constitution gave special legal status to Jammu & Kashmir, a state located in the north part of India that was previously administered by India till the mid-1954. Since then, various movements for self-determination have been advocated by people from Kashmir for sovereign statehood. This part of India is well recognized as Niassa or Dharamshala in India. It is also called Niassa Province in Pakistan. All this information can be accessed on the internet.
Many people who are very patriotic about their statehood movements do not want the articles relating to Jammu & Kashmir to be discussed or mentioned in the assembly during the time of formation of an independent nation. There were many reasons for such a move on the part of people. Many were against the implication of the use of “armed forces” in “self-determination”. Moreover, there were many others who felt India was being colonialized through her association with Pakistan. These were basically the feelings of the people who supported the constitutional demands for Jammu Kashmir statehood. As a matter of fact, many people think Article 370 is one of the articles that were implemented after the creation of India.
However, Article 370 does not state any right to secede from India if a statehood movement for Jammu & Kashmir is conceived. Therefore, the people believe that it is not a law that can be used to attain freedom from India. The use of force is allowed by a person who is governed by the Constitution of India. Anybody who wants to exercise his or her right to self-determination can do so. However, that cannot be done if somebody happens to be governed by Jammu Kashmir’s constitutional demands.
It is believed that many of the subjects enumerated in Article 370 are already in existence since ancient times. They are part and parcel of India’s culture and have existed ever since independence. Many people have understood the essence of these constitutional rights and the demand for Jammu Kashmir statehood. They feel that Article 370 is not a binding legal instrument but only an invitation for the people of Kashmir to initiate the process of statehood.
There is no harm in introducing the constitutional right for statehood because it gives every citizen the opportunity of nationhood and also gives them the right to continue with their ancient cultural heritage. However, this demand does not appear to be genuine by the people of Kashmir. Most of them consider that it is not feasible for them to participate in a plebiscitary election as they feel it will be unfair. The result of such an election will be unacceptable to them and they will demand an absolute victory in order to hold the reins of power.
People of Kashmir believe that the federal government and the plebiscitary system should work together to grant them their legitimate right to self-determination. They will not accept any form of violation of their constitutional and human rights. They will also not accept military occupations. It is true that Article 370 has been made as a binding instrument by the international community and the country, but it is not a legal weapon to be used against the people of Kashmir. Even if implemented, it will not change the conditions of life in Kashmir.
Although many Kashmiris are ready to participate in the plebiscitary election as they see it as the best way of ensuring federalism and statehood for Kashmir, many others do not accept this idea as they do not wish to be associated with the misuse of power. They also do not want to be deprived of their basic human right of freedom. Kashmir is known to be a peaceful and friendly country and there have been very few cases of communal riots or attacks on minorities in the state.
It is not possible for Kashmiri people to decide for themselves whether or not they should separate from India in the face of Article 370. This is something that only the government of India can decide as per its Constitution and nothing else. However, it is important for the people of Kashmir to understand that if they vote for a separate entity, then they are just as well. They can have the same privileges as other citizens of India who have opted for separation. The basic issue here is whether or not the people of Kashmir feel that they are free.