Sixty eight years ago a son of Bengal, who was called the Lion of Parliament, died in Srinagar in Sheikh Abdullah’s jail under mysterious circumstances. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, speaking in Lok Sabha termed it as a murder. He was Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who led a movement to end the nefarious permit raj in Jammu and Kashmir and declared that either the two flags, two constitutions and two heads of state system will go or he will sacrifice his life.
His sacrifice paved the way for abolishing of the two constitutions and two heads of the state policy. However, each and every law that was passed in Parliament began with an irritating and hurtful line “this Act will be effective in all of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir.” And the two flags remained – one for the Indian state and the other for J&K.
Sixty-six years later the two great followers of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee -Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister and Amit Shah as the home minister, finally and irrevocably restored the dignity and supremacy of the tricolour in Jammu and Kashmir.
They have realized the dreams Syama Prasad Mookerjee died for – Unity with the rest of India, security and honour of the persecuted Hindus, voting rights to refugees who came from Pakistan post partition, equality to Gurkhas and honour restored for the Valmikis, ending the two flags system and giving scheduled castes the same rights that they enjoyed in rest of the country.
The Modi-Shah decision gave assurance of safe and happy return to the Kashmiri Hindus who were treated barbarically and forced to leave their age old home and dreams.
August 5, 2019 was the day when nation’s home minister Amit Shah spoke in Lok Sabha on the abrogation of Article 370 while introducing the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill 2019. I still feel the thrill of that historic speech. Virtually it was the soul of Sardar Patel that was speaking through the man of destiny, Amit Shah, that day. He was fully immersed in the facts and figures and the historical wrongs that were inflicted upon the patriotic people in Jammu and Kashmir due to Article 370. He said with pain in his eyes that Article 370 has been responsible for the killings of 41,849 people in the last decades and if it had been abolished before these citizens of India would have been saved. He began his speech remembering Syama Prasad Mookerjee and each and every word he spoke has been etched permanently in the minds of the patriotic people even as it created fear in the anti-national Jihadi elements whose end came closer with this Act.
There were people, responsible and belonging to various streams, who would think it is impossible to abrogate Article 370 and the equally nefarious 35A. (Article 35A was surreptitiously included by a presidential notification in the Constitution in 1954).
But like the Himalayas, the Modi-Shah leadership stood firm and saved Kashmir forever. History will look at them as the true descendants of the legacy of Lalitaditya and the humble followers of the spiritual legacy of Adi Sankara.
But there is also another story behind it.
A new Amit Shah rose on the horizon like a brilliant star.
The astonishingly impeccable alacrity, focussed attention and extraordinary acumen shown by Amit Shah to study hundreds of the state laws of Jammu Kashmir, selecting the most painful ones and deciding which one are to be dustbinned, which ones amended and corrected gave a new direction to the civil servants who had never seen a leader with such sharpness to internalize the complicated laws and their language, initially meant to keep the Hindu minorities at a permanent position of disadvantage.
Amit Shah has endeared himself to the highly patriotic bureaucracy which was learning while explaining the minutest details and hidden agendas of the J&K laws created under Abdullah Shahi. At each and every step, laws were framed in such a way that Hindus would feel suffocated, their land ownership became a joke, their land transfer was a routine matter.
Amit Shah decided to repeal eleven land laws that were found to be regressive, contradictory and outdated. He also had the new land laws to protect over 90% of the land in J&K from being alienated to outsiders but will help revamp the agriculture sector, industrialization, and create more jobs in the state.
The Prohibition of Conversion of Land and Alienation of Orchards Act, 1975 not only prohibited alienation of orchard lands; it surprisingly restricted creation of new orchards too. Similarly, the old Agrarian Reforms Act prohibited the selling of land distributed to tillers even after 44 years. The Right of Prior Purchase Act severely constrained an owner’s right to dispose off his own property.
The new land laws are modern and progressive even while affording adequate protection against alienation of land to the outsiders. A number of protections have been built into the new land laws on similar lines as has been enacted in other states such as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
To begin with, no agricultural land can be transferred to any person from outside the UT of J&K but can only be sold to an agriculturist from within J&K.
No land used for agricultural purpose can be used for any non-agricultural purpose. The terms agricultural land and agriculturist have been unambiguously defined to include not just agriculture but horticulture and allied agro-activities as well. Agriculturist has been defined as “ … a person who cultivates land personally in the UT of J&K..”.
The safeguard on agricultural land alone would ensure that more than 90 percent of land in the UT which is an agricultural land remains protected and with the people of J&K.
The new provisions not only address the infirmities in the old set of laws but also provides for modern and enabling provisions to aid in the agricultural and industrial growth of the UT of J&K.
While progressive provisions of the repealed laws have been retained by including them in the modified Land Revenue Act, new provisions have been added to modernize existing laws. There are now provisions for setting up of a board of revenue, regional planning for regulating use of land, alienation and conversion, land lease, consolidation and Contract Farming.
The board of revenue comprising senior officers will not only be the Developing Authority for preparing regional plans but can also notify a scheme of consolidation of land holdings and also a scheme for restricting and regulating the fragmentation of agricultural land holdings to make agriculture viable.
The basic question that was sought to be answered by Modi government while acting to reorganize J&K was why the rule of law that governs the rest of the nation not apply to the J&K?
Why should the Indian state yield to those gangs who think if violence, terrorism, stone throwing, anti-national ideological sloganeering is checked, it will have a wrong, negative effect? Modi and Shah decided that the rule of law and equality before the eyes of law are the best remedies to the ills that are faced by J&K people.
I must quote from an enlightening article written by late Arun Jaitley – “The Jamaat-e-Islami, in the last several years, has indulged in ideological indoctrination which provided the manpower resource for separatism. It transformed the Valley from the liberal land of ‘Sufism’ to hardcore ‘Wahhabism’. It has been banned. Hundreds of its activists have been arrested. Its offices have been sealed. Its activities have been significantly curtailed.
The Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which was working over-ground, has also been banned. Several of its people have been arrested. Separatists and Hurriyat leaders, as also several undeserving cases numbering in hundreds, have had their security withdrawn. You cannot advocate a break away from India and expect India to secure you.
The NIA has cracked down on terrorist funding. The Income-tax Department has swung into action after seventeen years and discovered several sources of anti-national funding. The CBI is looking into 80,000 gun licences given in recent years.
In reorganizing the state, not only the dreams of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee have been realized but also the Amit Shah impact has given a deadly blow to the violent activities.
Jammu Kashmir is experiencing a new era of peace and prosperity. The new laws and regulations drafted and finalized by home minister Amit Shah will have a lasting impact on India’s security and Jammu-Kashmir-Ladakh peoples’ prosperous future.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.