Last month, while addressing the North East Council Plenary in Guwahati, home minister Amit Shah was quick to assure his listeners that his government had no intention of scrapping Article 371A, which provides safeguards to the people of Nagaland. Addressing the contradiction between this assurance and his government’s August 5 move to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, Shah said Article 370 was different because it was temporary. The home minister was reiterating the argument he made in Parliament when the government abrogated Article 370 in August, when he justified the action by falling back on its temporary status.
While Shah and other BJP leaders are right to claim that the provision that gave special status to Kashmir was not permanent in the Constitution, they are telling an incomplete story.
The framers of the Constitution did think of Article 370 as a temporary arrangement, but they had then envisioned that a permanent arrangement, embodying the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, would replace it in the near future. It was this provision that was expected to pave the way for a fuller integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India. By abrogating it, the Modi administration has possibly closed the only way by which the Indian government could hope to find a permanent constitutional solution for the Kashmir issue.
How did Article 370 enter the Constitution?
To make sense of why Article 370 was envisaged as a temporary measure, it is important to unpack the speech made by N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, member of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution as well as the cabinet minister looking after Kashmir affairs in the Nehru government, on 17 October 1949 in the Constituent Assembly. In his speech, Ayyangar outlined two “special conditions” prevailing in Kashmir, due to which it was not yet ready for integration with India...