On October 26, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir, executed the Instrument of Accession making the state a part of Union of India and On August 5, 2019 the Government of India issued a constitutional order superseding the 1954 Presidential order and abrogated the special status, Article 370 & Article 35A of the State of J&K. This was followed with bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union Territories (UT’s) with effect from the midnight of October 31, 2019 by the enactment of Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
The effect of this move is India now has two new Union territories – Jammu & Kashmir (with Legislature), and Ladakh (without State Legislature) while India has one less state now. It is to be noted that October 31 has a historical importance, as it is the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first Home Minister, who is credited for merger of over 560 princely states into the Union of India.
This is for the first time that a state has been converted into two UT’s even though there are numerous examples of a UT becoming a full state or a state being bifurcated into two states. However, Reorganization is a slow process and it takes many years to solve the issues completely. Issues relating to Andhra Pradesh, which was bifurcated into Andhra and Telengana in 2013, are still being brought to the cognizance of Union Government.
The UT of J&K has a legislature similar as Puducherry while Ladakh without a state legislature is similar as Chandigarh and both the UT’s are headed by two separate lieutenant governors (LG). However, the Indian Government has assured that once the situation normalizes, Jammu & Kashmir will be restored as a state again. So, we can consider the UT status of J&K as temporary. But what led Ladakh to be separated from J&K?
People of Ladakh have been demanding bifurcation from a long time. In 1989, the agitation started by the Ladakh Buddhist Association lasted for four months. When J&K was one state, Ladakh felt isolated and the people were treated as second class citizens. It’s ecological and cultural uniqueness was not given due importance and was often neglected because the culture of J&K and Ladakh both are very different. Also, tourism and movie shootings face obstacles due to militancy in J&K.
With this, the Constitution of J&K and Ranbir Penal Code ceased to exist and the Centre is in direct control of Law & order and the Police, whereas the entire UT of Ladakh is under the direct control of the central government by the LG through the Ministry of Home Affairs. Also, the IAS, IPS and other Central service officers and Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB) will be under the control of the LG.
With all these, the domicile rules of the UT of Jammu & Kashmir has also been re-defined. As per Section 3A of the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Order, anyone who has resided for a period of fifteen years in the UT of J&K or has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in class 10th/12th examination in an educational institution located in the UT of J&K is now eligible for it. Those registered as migrants and their children will also come under the purview. Also, the children of Central Government officials, All India Service officials, PSU’s etc. who have served in J&K for a period of ten years will also come under the rules.
J&K is a special case and a small incident here blows up and takes shape of a major law and order situation. Everyone including the international community will have a close eye on the J&K’s landscape as to how the things unfolds in the days to come.
This article is authored by Govind Hari Lath, a final year law student at Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.