New Delhi: The government on Monday revoked Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and proposed that the state be bifurcated into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, a bold decision that seeks to tackle head-on the vexatious 72-year-old problem wracking the soul of the nation.
Union Home Minister Amit Singh announced the decision in the Rajya Sabha, fulfilling the electoral promise of the BJP. While it sent a wave of jubilation among government supporters and others, it also provoked outrage from the NC and the PDP, the principal political parties in Jammu and Kashmir.
Unprecedented in its political courage, the decision to take away the state's special status and treat it like any other in the country is aimed at the ending the decades' old separatist movement.
As Shah moved a resolution in the Rajya Sabha that Article 370, which allowed Jammu and Kashmir to have its own Constitution, will no longer be applicable, there were also fears that the government's decisions would change the demographic profile.
PDO chief and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti articulated her apprehensions in a tweet.
"GOIs intention is clear & sinister. They want to change the demography of the only Muslim majority state in India, disempower Muslims to the extent where they become second class citizens in their own state," she said.
According to the resolution moved by the Home minister, Article 370 ceases to be operative from Monday itself.
"The president on the recommendation of Parliament is pleased to declare as from 5th of August 2019, all clauses of the said Article 370 shall cease to be operative... ," the resolution stated.
Shah also moved a bill proposing bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir division and Ladakh.
Shah, who introduced the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation bill, said the union territory in Ladakh will have no legislature like Chandigarh. The other union territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature like Delhi and Puducherry.
The announcement, capping days of uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir, led to an uproar, in the House and outside it too.
India has failed Kashmir in keeping its promises, said Mehbooba, saying that government's unilateral decision "to scrap Article 370" is illegal and unconstitutional.
"India has failed Kashmir in keeping its promises," Mehbooba, who is under house arrest in Srinagar, said on Twitter.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah echoed her outrage, also labelling the government's move "unilateral".
"Government of India (GOI)'s unilateral and shocking decisions today are a total betrayal of the trust that the people of Jammu & Kashmir had reposed in India when the state acceded to it in 1947. The decisions will have far-reaching and dangerous consequences. This is an aggression against people of the State as had been warned by an all-parties meeting in Srinagar yesterday," he said.
Congress leaders added their voices with P Chidambaram agreeing with Mehbooba in calling it a "catastrophic step".
"We anticipated a misadventure, but did not think in our wildest dreams that they will take such a catastrophic step." "Today is a black day in the constitutional history of India," he said outside Parliament.
Left leaders also expressed their opposition. While CPI general secretary D Raja said the "regressive step will further alienate the people of J-K", CPI(M) termed it an "attack" on the Constitution.
However, the mood was triumphant in the BJP quarters.
BJP leaders hailed the move and were buoyed by support from some regional parties like BSP, BJD, TRS and AIADMK, which extended full support to the resolution and the bill. NDA constituent JD(U) walked out.
The government also got support from Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal, who said he backed the Centre's decision and hoped it would bring "peace and development" in the state.
The government's move on Article 370, said senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, is a monumental decision towards national integration.
His party colleague Ram Madhav also hailed the decision.
"What a glorious day. Finally, the martyrdom of thousands starting with Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee for complete integration of J&K into Indian Union is being honoured and the seven-decade-old demand of the entire nation being realised in front of our eyes; in our lifetime. Ever imagined?" he tweeted moments after Shah's announcement.
Party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said the move had opened the path of growth and development for Jammu and Kashmir.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said the government's decisions on Jammu and Kashmir are "brave" and "very necessary" for the interest of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir.
In a joint statement posted on the Twitter handle of the RSS, Bhagwat and his deputy Suresh Joshi said everyone should rise above their interests and political differences, and welcome and support the decision.
Celebrations broke out the Shiv Sena headquarters in Mumbai's Dadar area. Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray dubbing it as a "moment of pride" and a "historic day" for the country.