Conveners: VIDHI Centre for Legal Policy and the Asian Studies Centre at St Antony's College
Speakers: Shruti Kapila (Cambridge); Andrew Whitehead (Former BBC South Asia Correspondent); Prateek Joshi (Oxford)
Chair: Faisal Devji
Discussant: Arghya Sengupta (Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy)
Shruti Kapila (Cambridge) ‘Patel’s republicanism and the Hindu crown of Kashmir’
Andrew Whitehead (Former BBC South Asia Correspondent) ‘I accede to the Dominion of India: when and how the Maharaja of Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession’
Prateek Joshi (Oxford) ‘Nehru’s Kashmir: between the ‘sublime’ and imperial/populist divide’
The discussion will be moderated by Professor Faisal Devji, Professor of Indian History, Director of the Asian Studies Centre, University of Oxford and Professor Arghya Sengupta, Founder and Research Director at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy
On 5th August 2019, the government of India unilaterally revoked the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by abrogating Article 370 which had come to symbolise the state’s relative autonomy in India’s federal Constitution. The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was thereafter split into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh under direct central rule. While the events leading up to the revocation and the events that have followed since have captured wide international attention, the act of revocation itself represents a watershed constitutional moment in India’s legal and political history.
Making sense of the moment, however, requires inquiries at three distinct levels. First, it requires deep interrogation of the political context of Article 370 in the background of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to the Indian republic. The study of the accession of princely states such as Kashmir to the Indian union, which has otherwise been a much-neglected field of research, is significant in understanding how and why asymmetric features of the Constitution such as Article 370 came about. Second, the working of Article 370 in the seventy years of the Indian republic which led to the present moment needs to be looked into. This includes accounting for the effective hollowing out of Article 370 due to the series of presidential orders issued under it. This working also has to be seen in the background of the growth of militancy, the militarisation of the Kashmir valley and Kashmiri perceptions of their own identity and citizenship through these years. Lastly, the moment itself needs to be broken down into the series of complex legal acts through which it came about, at a time when the democratically elected legislative assembly of the state had been dissolved and the state was under direct presidential rule. While the Supreme Court of India is yet to decide on the constitutionality of the actions of 5th August, the actions raise several questions about the design of the Constitution’s federal features. These features seemingly facilitated the unilateral abrogation of special status even though the text of Article 370 required both the union government and the state to concur.
This Symposium thus seeks to bring together legal scholars, anthropologists, historians and political theorists to discuss and debate the abrogation of Article 370 from a multi-disciplinary perspective and shed light on the many ways of understanding it. Through these conversations, it aims to discuss the larger implications of this constitutional moment for democracy and constitutionalism in India.
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