News Frontliner Web Desk 18 August 2019: After Indian government scrapped Article 370 of the Constitution that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcates the state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir on August 6, 2019, several statements made by the Indian PM is found to be far from truth.
In a speech after the amendment of Article 370, which removed the special status for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised speech, in Hindi, on August 8, 2019 said that several laws that apply in other parts of India have not applied in J&K, which has negatively affected development in the state.
It’s true that India’s Right to Education Act and the law to prevent child marriage were not applicable in J&K, but the state’s own law makes education up to 14 years free and compulsory, and its rate of underage marriage is lower than many other Indian states.
Article 370 did give the right to the J&K Assembly to not accept laws passed by the Indian parliament or laws enshrined in the Indian Constitution. But, since the 1950s, a number of Presidential orders have amended Article 370, making more and more laws applicable in J&K.
By the Presidential Order of 1954, almost the entire Constitution (including most constitutional amendments) was extended to Jammu and Kashmir.
Contrary to PM Modi’s claims that the state did not develop because of Articles 370 and Article 35A, the state’s social development indicators are mostly better than the national average, from life expectancy to infant mortality, literacy and poverty, showed analysis of government data, published on August 8 2019.
Even without a law against child marriage, as PM Modi rightly said in his speech, fewer women in J&K were married as children when compared to other states. In 2015-16, 8.7% of J&K women between the ages of 20 and 24 years were married before the legal age of 18 years, compared to the national average of 26.8%, according to data from the National Family Health Survey IV. In Bihar, this figure was 42.5%, and in Gujarat 24.9%, data show.
J&K was the first state in India, much before the communist government in Kerala, to carry out non-compensatory land reforms. These land reforms along with a massive debt write-off undertaken over 20 years, from 1951 to 1973, transformed the lives of rural masses and underlie J&K’s better-than national average human development indicators.
J&K has truly lagged in private investment, attracting less than even Bihar, but experts differ on whether this was due to Article 370 or the uncertain security situation in the conflict-ridden state.
The state has high debt, as Modi said in his speech, and a dependence on the central government for funds. But this dependence is similar to several north-eastern states’, which are challenged by geography, and were the focus of secessionist movements in the past.
In the period from 2011 to 2019, 54% of the revenue that J&K received from the central government was in the form of grants, which is higher than what other developed states such as Maharashtra or Gujarat received, but comparable to the north-eastern states such as Mizoram (61%) and Nagaland (67%), based on research on state budgets by PRS Legislative Research.
As stated before, J&K’s own education law makes education up to 14 years free and compulsory.
It does not make education a fundamental right, and does not provide for reservation of 25% of seats for the poor in private schools. Yet the state fared slightly better than the rest of India in gross enrolment in senior secondary schools (students enrolled in Classes 11 and 12 as a proportion of all children of that age) in 2015-16 – it reported 58.6%, compared to the all-India average of 56.6%, as per data from the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
“Brothers and sisters, Article 370 and 35A gave Jammu and Kashmir nothing other than separatism, terrorism, dynastic politics, and corruption. Pakistan was using these articles as a weapon to instigate people against the country. Because of this about 42,000 innocent people lost their lives, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh could not develop fast…” Modi said in his speech.
A May 2002 Ministry of External Affairs fact-sheet on J&K does not mention Article 370 as a reason for separatism and terrorism in the state. “Pakistan has always sought to use deniable violence to achieve its objective of wresting Jammu and Kashmir from India,” it said. The fact-sheet blamed militants and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism for the destruction of lives, property, and law and order in the state, and not Article 370.
“Militancy in J&K claimed over 40,997 lives over 27 years, an average of 4 deaths per day in the state until March 2017,” according to data from the Indian government. The casualties include 13,946 civilians, 5,053 security personnel and 21,998 militants between 1990 and March 2017, data show.
Casualties increased after 2015, when the Bharatiya Janata Party and the People’s Democratic Party formed a government in the state. Over 800 terror incidents were reported in J&K over the three years ending 2017 – up from 208 in 2015 to 342 in 2017 – according to an IndiaSpend analysis of government data published in June 2018. The state saw the most terror incidents in 2017 since 2010, which saw 488 incidents.