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Interview With Hasnain Masoodi

Interview With Hasnain Masoodi

Will approach SC to oppose revocation of article 370: National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi

The Narendra Modi government's move to render Article 370 ineffective and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories has caught off guard political parties and people of Jammu and Kashmir. The deployment of extra forces, restrictions on public movement, snapping of mobile and internet services have badly affected the lives of people in the Valley. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation may have come as a relief but people are unsure of their future now that article 370 has gone.

What is in store for Jammu and Kashmir now? Is road ahead going to be rough or smooth? To get answers to these questions, Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to Omar Abdullah's National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi. Anantnag MP, Masoodi is a former J&K High Court judge. He authored the 2015 Judgment which held that Article 370 is beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation.

Masoodi has requested the Central government to put decisions like abrogation of article 370 and division of J&K into UTs on hold as these may have serious repercussions. He accused the Modi government of unilaterally deciding the fate of state by sidelining the stakeholders of J&K and ignoring the sentiments of people. Describing it as murder of democracy, he said that the move was a gross violation of the Indian Constitution. He further said that the opposition parties would unitedly fight against the government's move. He maintained that his party would challenge the government move in Supreme Court as articles 370 and 35a are associated with the state's autonomy, special status and territorial integrity.

IC: The article 370 has gone. Who will benefit from it?

Hasnain Masoodi: Nobody will be benefitted from it. They should have taken people into confidence before revoking article 370. There is propaganda in the media about disharmony between Hindus and Muslims in J& K. Muslims take part in Hindus’ celebrations and vice-versa.

IC: The fact was article 35A was anti-women and yet the governments in J&K did not amend it or dropped it.

Article 35A was part of Delhi declaration which was passed by the Parliament. Article 35A protects rights of people with regard to scholarship, employment and property rights. If it is discriminatory, then it can be amended.

IC: But no effort was made to amend article 35 A especially with regard to protection of property rights of Kashmiri women if they marry non-Kashmiri.

Article 35 A per se talks about protection of rights of people. Earlier, if a woman from Kashmir got married to non-Kashmiri, then she lost rights and property rights both. In 1990s, an amendment took place recognising that she would continue to have her rights but those rights would not be passed on to her descendants. Even that can be amended, if needed.

IC: Ladakh has become a Union Territory now. People of Ladakh are deeply elated. Your views.

Ladakh is an independent region for all practical purposes like governance. Demands for a separate state keep coming from all parts of the country or the world. Culturally, everybody is different. It is incorrect to say that all of them are happy now. Ladakh is an autonomous region now. The Ladakh hill development council had been created by the state government in 1990s run by Dr Farooq Abdullah. Later, a separate division had been created for Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir. The demands from people of Ladakh were met by the state government from time to time. The Central government should have respected territorial integrity of Jammu And Kashmir State.

IC: The allegation was that crores of funds were released for Jammu and Kashmir from time to time, but these funds never percolated down to the last man due to rampant corruption. The development did not happen at the ground level. Your views.

It is incorrect. There was no reason to unsettle Jammu and Kashmir which is a prospering state. The state is not lagging behind with flourishing economy. The per capita income of J & K is highest in the country. Millions of people come to J &K for religious pilgrimage. No starvation death or case of malnutrition has been reported so far.  People in J&K have three essentials of life namely food, clothes and house. No suicidal death has been reported from any part of Jammu and Kashmir whereas Maharashtra has reported 12,000 suicidal deaths. The fruit production is 2.5 million metric tonnes every year. There are nine universities in the state. The youth is serving the nation and working across the world. Instead of abrogating article 370, the Central government should have called for elections, get elected and taken up issues in J&K Legislative assembly. 

IC: What will be next strategy?

A day before the before the resolution on article 370 and J&K reorganisation bill 2019 were brought before the Parliament, all party meeting of Jammu and Kashmir was held to discuss the prevailing conditions in the Valley and its fall-out.  The leaders deliberated on the political situation triggered by a massive deployment of security forces, advisories issued and abandonment of Amarnath Yatra midway and forced removal of tourists from the Valley. The leaders expressed apprehension of a major political development. These leaders unanimously resolved to unitedly protect and defend identity, autonomy and the special status of the J&K against all attacks and onslaughts whatsoever. Gupkar declaration was released which described the modification, abrogation of article 35a, 370, unconstitutional delimitation or trifurcation of the state as an aggression against the people of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh. The parties also resolved to seek audience with the President and Prime Minister and apprise them of the situation. Now leaders of my party have been placed under house arrest. I cannot make phone calls to my family. How can I make a strategy? The entire Jammu and Kashmir is under curfew. People are unhappy due to clampdown. The government at the Centre is aware of the fact that people are not happy with their decision. It has been more than 100 hours that the work in J&K has come to a halt.  I do not know if elections, which were due in Jammu and Kashmir, will happen. There is a political uncertainty now. He stated that the Modi government is gradually going on back foot because of public resentment.

We will certainly approach the Supreme Court to oppose the revocation of article 370 and bifurcation of the State into two Union Territories. The Central government should have done consultations with the J&K legislatures and people before taking a big leap.

IC: Jammu and Kashmir is a Union Territory now? How do you view situation in J&K now?

The way restrictions have been placed and Congress leader Gulam Nabi Azad has been sent back from Srinagar airport, speaks volumes about the prevailing conditions in Jammu and Kashmir. There is no communication. For the first time, mainstream politicians have been placed under detention. This is an indication that road ahead will be rough and tough.

IC: Scrapping the special status of Kashmir has been an important feature of the BJP’s core ideological agenda. The Narendra Modi government fulfilled its promise.

Several promises are made by political parties in their election manifestos but did not expect that it would be fulfilled in such a manner. We are surprised and shocked.

IC:  One argument to support revocation of article 370 is that it will help Kashmiri Pundits to integrate with Jammu and Kashmir as they felt isolated due to militancy in the Valley. What do you have to say on it?

This argument is baseless. Kashmiri pundits have a bigger share in the economy of Jammu and Kashmir from education to trade and tourism. Those who have settled outside Kashmir or elsewhere in the world have no intention of returning to the Valley under any circumstances.

IC: Pakistan has taken strong objection to the repeal of article 370 and called back its Ambassador, snapped trade ties with India. The fact is that J &K is an integral part of India. Hence, it is an internal matter of India but Pakistan has been trying to evoke response from the International community on the development.

The Central government is to be blamed for it. Look at US, UK, China and UN which have reacted on the development. It is up to Pakistan how to react. I can't say anything. We had requested the Central government not to do anything that may disturb peace in the state.

(Published on 12th August 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 33)