Shah as Home Minister raises expectations on Article 370

New Delhi (IANS) Ever since Amit Shah took over as the Union Home Minister nearly two months back, the Centre's policy on Jammu and Kashmir has become tougher, leading to expectations and speculation that there could be a forward movement towards abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which grants special status to the state.

The Union Home Ministry is committed to scrapping the Article, which also limits Parliament's power to make laws for the state, officials said.

An indication about the government taking a tough line on the issue came in Parliament recently when Shah emphasized, repeatedly, that Article 370 of the Constitution is "temporary in nature" and "not permanent".

He also insisted that Jammu and Kashmir would not have witnessed the situation in which it currently is if the article had been abrogated long back -- during the tenure of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Due to the special provision, only the people having the Permanent Residence Certificate of Jammu and Kashmir can buy land in the state.

The issue of scrapping Article 370 has been a major plank of the BJP for decades but it seems to have acquired a sense of more seriousness in the Modi government's second term, particularly with Shah holding the portfolio of Home Affairs.

While most of the parties and other sections of the society of Kashmir valley have been strongly opposing any move to abrogate Article 370, there has been an overwhelming demand in Jammu region of the state for scrapping this provision, which is seen as preventing the full integration of the state with the Union of India.

The issue received more limelight after the Supreme Court earlier this month said it would consider urgent hearing on a PIL challenging the constitutional validity of Article 370.

The court took note of the submission of BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay that his PIL be listed for an urgent hearing.

Upadhyay, who had filed the PIL in September last year, has contended that the special provision was "temporary" in nature at the time of framing of the Constitution and Article 370(3) lapsed with the dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly on January 26, 1957.

The plea also seeks a declaration from the top court that the separate Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir was "arbitrary" and "unconstitutional" on various grounds, including that it was against the "supremacy of the Constitution of India and contrary to dictum of 'One Nation, One Constitution, One National Anthem and One National Flag'.

Besides taking a tough line on Article 370, Shah has also given directions to the security and intelligence agencies to crack down on terrorists and separatists.

The Home Minister is also boosting the morale of Jammu and Kashmir Police, which is on the frontline of the fight against separatists and terrorism, the officials said.

The state is currently under the Centre's rule, ever since the PDP-BJP government collapsed in June last year.

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