Newspapers Tuesday dedicate their front pages to the historical decision of the Narendra Modi government to scrap Jammu & Kashmir’s special status.
“History, in one stroke”, headlines The Indian Express, with an eight-column picture of PM Modi greeting Home Minister Amit Shah after Rajya Sabha cleared the Bill to bifurcate the state.
“In a momentous decision to confine” Article 370 of the Constitution “to the dustbin of history” and “rewrite the political landscape of the country,” the BJP-led NDA government Monday “revoked the special status granted” to J&K and “secured Rajya Sabha’s approval for a Bill to bifurcate into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature similar to Puducherry, and Ladakh without one like Chandigarh,” writes Express.
Express quotes PM Modi’s statement on the same: “Article 370 was a temporary provision. How long can a temporary provision be allowed to continue?”
Opposition said that the Centre had committed a “cardinal blunder” and a “fatal legal error.” Former CM of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah “called the two decisions “unilateral and shocking” and claimed that the state was prepared for a “long and tough battle,” says Express.
“Territory of the Union” headlines Hindustan Times, with two starkly contrasting pictures of Nehru shaking hands with Maharaja of J&K Hari Singh, and PM Modi congratulating Home Minister Amit Shah after the “passage of reorganisation Bill in Rajya Sabha.”
In a “move planned” with “political and legal precision”, and “complete suspense”, the central government led a move in Rajya Sabha “to end the special status of J&K,” writes HT.
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HT also lists the decision’s practical implications — J&K not having a flag of its own, or Indian Penal Code replacing Ranbir Penal Code and it not having its own constitution, among many others.
The Hindu’s photograph choice says it all: a barbed wire’s on a deserted Kashmiri street under curfew, and a neutral headline: “J&K loses its special status, divided into two UTs.”
The government’s “surgical strike” on the “State’s autonomy” came as “telephone and Internet services in the Valley were suspended” and “additional Central security personnel were deployed,” writes Hindu.
Hindu also includes a panic-stricken story on Kashmiris residing in Delhi waiting to hear from their loved ones in Kashmir.
Economic Times has an interesting headline: “In new political grammar, J&K loses two articles”.
It calls the move a “swift stroke”. The NDA government Monday “fundamentally redefined the Centre’s relationship with the state of J&K”, ET writes.
Times of India has two headlines: “Rewriting both history and geography of J&K” on one of its flaps, and “Kashmir is now Union’s territory” on its front page.
“Monday’s move has not repealed Article 370; it has effectively made it defunct. It has done away with Art 35A, which emanated from it,” explains TOI. It remains surprisingly neutral in its narrative, “the move, a gamble to many, can have repercussions far beyond J&K by impacting political fault lines.”
It calls Article 370 a “dead letter” and “no longer the bulwark against the extension of the Constitution in its entirety to the State.”
The Telegraph clearly upset, stages a mock conversation, “What do you think of shutting down an entire state and detaining former CMs before taking a fateful decision? (Ramachandra Guha)”, and the answer from Srinagar is, “The number you are calling is either switched off or not reachable at the moment, please try later.”
“In one fell swoop,” the Modi government moved to take way J&K’s special status, tells Telegraph. The “legislative blitzkrieg” unleashed by Amit Shah ended “the weeklong suspense built by troop mobilisation and lockdown of the Valley,” it writes.
It derides the Opposition’s pusillanimous response: “…Outfoxed, the Opposition cut a sorry figure with even some parties such as TMC vehemently opposing the Bill but walking out.”
Express: In ‘Rupture in history, stitching a future’, it explains the long, complicated history of Article 370, citing the BJP’s decision to scrap the law as an “audacious red line over and across the Nehruvian idea of India”.
However, Express critically considers the lack of due process in the move, including detaining two top state political leaders— a first since 1953. Unlike former prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, the Modi administration opted for “force” instead of consulting political figures in the state while handling a “politically and communally contentious” issue.
It predicts regional parties like the AIADMK and the TRS may request states “with a traditionally strong regional ethos” be deemed Union territories too.
Hindu: In ‘A wrong way to end’, Hindu editorial attacks the BJP government’s move on J&K for its haste and stealth, its disregard for the constitutional propriety and federal democracy.
J&K’s special status “was meant to end, but with the concurrence of its people”, it writes, but the Centre’s move marked by “executive excess” sees J&K represented by an “unelected” Governor and a Parliament that has ratified the conversion of the state into two UTs “without any recommendation of the state” as envisaged by the Constitution — or the will of the people.
Also, “BJP’s adventurous route” in the backdrop of the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan “that will trigger an unforeseeable churn in Islamist politics” in the region could have “unintended and dangerous consequences”, concludes Hindu.
Times of India: In ‘Changing the Game in Kashmir’, it says the “momentous decision” has been a “long held wish” of the BJP, which sees Article 370 as a “historical wrong”. It argues that Article 370 has contributed to Kashmir’s problems: it vested power in a “tiny Valley elite” that disempowered citizens and fuelled “separatist sentiment” allowing Pakistan to stoke the fires in the Valley — this may have been the worst of both worlds”.
However, TOI questions bypassing consultations “which would have been democratically sound”. It also questions dividing J&K into two UTs, “the first time in history” that a state has been converted into UTs — statehood will have to be granted eventually, to J&K, it says.
TOI suggests the Centre acted due to developments in Afghanistan and Islamabad “upping the ante on Kashmir”.
The “historic” decision by the Modi government on Kashmir received full-day coverage Monday and was the only topic of discussion on prime time.
“Historic and game-changing”, said Times Now, while CNN-News 18 said “India celebrates”. “Modi’s Naya Kashmir”, observed India Today, and “Modi corrects 1947 error”, called out News X.
Anchors like Rahul Shiv Shankar, Navika Kumar (Times Now), Arnab Goswami (Republic), Sudhir Chaudhary (Zee News) and Rajat Sharma (India TV) welcomed the move.
Others like Rajdeep Sardesai (India Today) and Ravish Kumar (NDTV) raised a few questions.
Interestingly, Congress, which had boycotted TV debates, allowed leaders like P Chidambaram (India Today), Abhishek Manu Singhvi (CNN-News 18 and NDTV 24×7) and Ashwani Kumar (Republic) to appear on debates — on the condition that they would not engage in a war of words with other panelists.
On NDTV 24×7’s ‘Left Right and Centre’, Singhvi, most unusually, called the move a “political masterstroke”. He conceded that there was “overwhelming support” for the PM in the country barring Kashmir. However, he felt the move was legally dodging and could be challenged in court.
ABP News: Would the change in Kashmir’s status reduce “the gap between Kashmir and India on social level now?” asked anchor Romana Khan.
BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain said, “Modi hai toh mumkin hai. Today, the entire country is congratulating Modi…people feel a sense of freedom. J&K will only benefit from this.”
Lawyer Farooq Khan voiced his concern. “My concern is that we consider Kashmir our own, but don’t feel the same about Kashmiris. The way Amarnath Yatra was cancelled and panic was created, and the decision was taken in secrecy — this is not how it is done,” he said.
Replying to Khan, Abhay Dubey, professor at CSDS, said, “…we will find the truth about this when the politicians will be released from house arrest and the security will be loosened.”
NDTV India: Anchor Ravish Kumar juxtaposed J&K Governor Satyapal Malik’s statements that no major step was being contemplated with Monday’s move.
Then he quoted BJP’s justification for changing Kashmir’s status because of terrorism and wondered that “it is still not clear how demoting the state to a Union Territory will help fight against terrorism.”
“How will Kashmir change?” he asked.
“Kashmir has lost its special status. It is not even a state anymore”, replied Faizan Mustafa of NALSAR Hyderabad. “Revoking 370 will boost the economy and increase jobs. Now we must see how the governance improves,” he added.
Republic: Arnab Goswami fulsomely welcomed the government’s move. “Justice has been done,” he proclaimed grandly. He lit into JD(U)’s Pavan Verma for his party walking out of the vote in the Raja Sabha.
Verma shrugged off the insult and questioned the “manner” of the move.
“The elections that were due were not held. J&K is almost under the state of emergency overflowing with troops. We really want to know the reason to convert J&K into a Union Territory,” he countered.
“The very protagonist of Article 370 had accepted that it was a temporary provision,” said Dr. Jitendra Singh, MoS.
Political analyst Suneet Chopra was skeptical. “Today you have broken up that state and you think you are uniting India?” he asked.
Sushant Sareen, senior fellow at ORF, said, “The government has played a very smart card, they have destroyed 370 without removing it from the statute books.”
India Today: Anchor Rajdeep Sardesai interviewed former home minister P. Chidambaram on the decision.
Chidambaram said, “They have dismembered the state and reduced them to union territories.”
“If you want to create a union territory out of Ladakh, that is one thing. But why J&K? Is one state different from another? Don’t you see the monstrosity?”, he added.
Sardesai asked, “What about scrapping 370 is troubling you?”
“What troubles me is that 370 is part of a compact. The people want it to be implemented in letter and spirit. They want more autonomy. Over the years, we have chipped away at that promise, and today we told them point blank that there is no autonomy. Doesn’t this push away the people of Kashmir from India even further?” he asked.
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