A clutch of opposition parties have voiced protests against the Centre’s move to revoke the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, but news coverage from the archives of 1964 shows Parliament members across party lines demanded the abrogation of the constitutional provisions that gave the state special status in the Union.
The Congress Working Committee has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of violating constitutional law, parliamentary procedure and democratic governance in the move to nullify the Constitution’s Article 370 and bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.
While some opposition parties, including the Bahujan Samaj Party, backed the move, several others opposed it in Parliament.
On September 12, 1964, Hindustan Times reported that a Bill in the Lok Sabha urged that Article 370 be done away within the interest of complete integration of the state with the rest of the country.
“A unanimous demand for Kashmir’s full integration with India and a firm declaration by overnment about the irrevocability of the State’s accession was made today by members in the Lok Sabha during an inconclusive discussion on a private member’s Bill seeking to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution,” HT reported in its edition of September 12, 1964.
“The Bill found unexpected support from Congress members who, together with members of the Opposition, pleaded that the time had come to end the uncertainty about the State’s future. One way to do so was to scrap Article 370 which had outlived its utility,” the report added.
A day after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government moved to withdraw the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said nobody knew if it was for the happiness of the people of the state or not. He alleged that the government wanted to “confuse the country”.
HT’s archives from November 1964 show that those who supported the demand to abrogate Article 370 included Ram Manohar Lohia, Sarojini Mahishi of the Congress, and Kashmir leaders Abdul Ghani Goni and NH Samnani.
Arguing for the removal of the provision, Lohia said the prime minister should not create uncertainty in the public mind about Kashmir’s future. “That will give rise to a storm which you do not have the strength to face,” he was quoted as saying on September 11.
HC Kachwai of the Jana Sangh “deplored the uncertainty over the future of Kashmir created by the retention of special status, and urged immediate abrogation of the article,” according to Lok Sabha proceedings reported by HT on November 21, 1964.
The Congress’s SS More called for the unanimous adoption of the Bill to amend the Constitution and said: “there was no reason why Kashmir should continue to have a special status which came in the way of its complete and final integration in the country”.
The November report said the Bill was debated inconclusively in the Lok Sabha.
This past Tuesday, the Lok Sabha effectively revoked Article 370, ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and passed a bill bifurcating it into two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh — in decisions that seek to assert the supremacy of the Indian Constitution over the state.
Article 370 was nullified through a resolution with 351 members voting in support and 72 against, with one abstaining, after a debate that exposed deep divisions within the Opposition, including the Congress. The bill to create two UTs, redrawing the map of the state, was passed by the House with 370 votes in favour and 70 against.