Unfortunate scrapping of the Kashmir’s (India) autonomy

Atty. Bayan G. Balt

Article 370 of the Indian constitution gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The Article conferred power on Jammu and Kashmir to have a separate constitutiona state flag and autonomy over the internal administration of the state. the article was deemed to have become a permanent feature of the Indian Constitution. Article 370 along with Article 35A, defined that the Jammu and Kashmir state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to residents of other Indian states.

Kashmir is a region which has an area of about 222,236 sq km (85,806 sq mi. including Ladakh state). Both India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, but the territory has been partitioned between them since 1947.

Pakistan’s Azad Jammu and Kashmir, abbreviated as AJK and colloquially referred to as simply Azad Kashmir, is a region administered by Pakistan as a nominally self-governing entity with an area of 13,297 sq. km and population of 4.045 million (2017). The other part of Kashmir is Jammu and Kashmir is underIndia controls the southern half of Kashmir, which it has organized as the state of Jammu and Kashmir as a Union territory with an area of 101,387 sq km, population of 12,367,013, (2011). The majority of the union territory’s population are Muslims, (Wikipedia).

We are more interested in Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim populated state of India which recently made headlines in world political events. In 2019 it was downgraded to a union territory, and the eastern Ladakh region likewise became a separate union territory.

Under various Indian National Congress party-led central governments and locally elected state governments — such as those of the National Conference — between 1954 and 2011, India used the provisions of Article 370 to issue presidential orders to gradually extend the Indian constitution to Jammu and Kashmir with the concurrence of the State Government, and reduce the state’s autonomy.

Prime Minister Modi’s tenure has experienced democratic backsliding. Following his party’s victory in the 2019 general election, his administration revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and also introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act,

On 5 August 2019, India issued a Presidential order superseding the 1954 order that made all the provisions of the Indian constitution applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. Following the resolutions passed in both houses of the parliament, the President of India issued a further order on 6 August declaring all the clauses of Article 370 except clause 1 to be inoperative. Insaid rare and unfolding event for Kashmiris Muslims, the Parliament of India voted in favor of a resolution tabled by Home Minister Amit Shah to revoke the temporary special status, or autonomy, granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir.

It was reported by the media that actions and unpopular policies of Prime Minister Modi resulted in widespread protests across the country. Described as engineering a political realignment towards right-wing politics, Modi remains a figure of controversy domestically and internationally over his Hindu nationalist beliefs and his handling of the 2002 Gujarat riots, cited as evidence of an exclusionary social agenda.

Comparing the Kashmir and BARMM Autonomy-

Kashmir autonomy is provided in the Indian Constitution; however, it has no safeguard measures to guarantee its continuity, said provisions can be amended by the Indian House of Representatives with the concurrence of the Kashmiri’s state assembly thru presidential order. Unfortunately, the same maybe true of BARMM, thus, R.A. No. 11054 states:

ARTICLE XVII- AMEDMENTS, REVISION, REPEAL

Section 1. Amendments and Revisions. – Any amendment to, revision, or repeal of this Organic Law shall be made by law enacted by the Congress of the Philippines.

 The provisions suggest that RA 11054 can be abrogated by Congress of the Philippines anytime as it wishes without pre-condition. unlike the first ARMM Law or RA. 6734- (AN ACT PROVIDING FOR AN ORGANIC ACT FOR THE AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO) provide safety measure before it can be amended by Congress, the said law state:

ARTICLE XVIII-AMENDMENTS OR REVISIONS

SEC. 1. Consistent with the provisions of the Constitution, this Organic Act may be amended or revised by the Congress of the Philippines upon a majority vote of the House of Representatives and of the Senate voting separately.

SEC. 2. The Regional Assembly shall have the power to initiate proposals for amendment to or revisions of this Organic Act by a vote of three-fourths (3/4) of all its Members or it may call for a Regional Consultative Commission to propose the amendment or revision. In any case, the amendment or revision shall require the approval of the Congress of the Philippines.

SEC. 3. Any amendment to or revision of this Organic Act shall become effective only when approved by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite called for the purpose, which shall be held not earlier than sixty (60) days or later than ninety (90) days after the approval of such amendment or revision.

Stated otherwise, RA. 6734 can be amended only on the following conditions: (1). By majority vote of the House of Representatives and the Senate voting separately, (2). The amendment to or revision of this Organic Act shall become effective only when approved by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite called for the purpose, further, the Regional Assembly shall have the power to initiate proposals for amendment to or revisions of this Organic Act by a vote of three-fourths (3/4) of all its Members or it may call for a Regional Consultative Commission.

Some stakeholders are apprehensive should there be a change of leadership in Malacañang and Congress. Simply a hostile Chief Executive may do a Modi’s nationalist policy of abrogating or downgrading R.A. 11054. Fortunately, all presidential aspirants for the May 9, 2022 elections have no pronouncements against the BARMM, as a matter of fact, one presidential candidate in his interviewed told the media when asked about the Moro Muslims, he said “Bigyan natin sila ng tunay na autonomiya”. That sounds good, simply any law passed similar to Kashmir will not be conducive to our political and economic stability.

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For comment at: bayanbalt@yahoo.com

*Atty. Bayan G. Balt is past Chapter President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, 2013-2015) Chairman of the Ranao Federal State Movement (RFSM) and President of the Alliance of Regional Coalitions Against People’s Poverty (ARCAPP).

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