Defending the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, the Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed an ”unprecedented” era of peace, progress and prosperity, with street violence, orchestrated by terrorists and secessionist networks, becoming "a thing of the past."
Referring to the "characteristic security situation" in the region, the Centre said organised stone pelting incidents connected with terrorism-separatist agenda, which were as high as 1,767 in 2018 has come down to zero in 2023 till date and casualty of security personnel has shown a 65.9 per cent decline in 2022 as compared to 2018.
The Centre's affidavit will be taken up on Tuesday by a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, which is scheduled to hear a batch of petitions challenging the decision to abrogate Article 370 that had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
On August 5, 2019, the Centre had decided to strip the erstwhile state of J and K of special status and bifurcate it into two Union territories.
Several petitions challenging the Centre's decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370 and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which split J-K into two Union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh -- were referred to a Constitution bench in 2019.
The Centre contended that the "historic constitutional step" being challenged has brought unprecedented development, progress, security and stability to the region, which was often missing during the old Article 370 regime. It is submitted that the same has been possible due to the policy of the Union of India of ensuring peace, prosperity and progress in the region, the affidavit said.
”It is submitted that the hosting of G-20 tourism working group meeting at Srinagar in the month of May 2023, was a watershed event in the history of valley tourism and the country proudly displayed its resolute commitment to the world that secessionist terrorist region can be converted into a region where even international dignitaries can be invited and global events can be held."
The Centre said after the historic changes, the UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh have witnessed profound ”ameliorative, affirmative and progressive changes in last four years encompassing its entire governance -- including the developmental activities, public administration and security matters which has positively impacted every resident irrespective of caste, creed or religion”.
It said bandhs and stone pelting (together), engineered, financed and forced by the separatist-terrorist networks, had tremendous negative ripple effects on economy and the society as a whole.
”It is submitted that the defining characteristic of the security situation in the region, which has a direct bearing on the day-to-day life of common citizens is 'street violence' which was a methodical and regular phenomenon. The street violence, engineered and orchestrated by terrorists and secessionist networks has now become thing of the past. The organized stone pelting incidents connected with terrorism-separatist agenda, which were as high as 1,767 in the year 2018 has come down to zero in the year 2023 till date,” the Centre said in its 20-page affidavit.
It added that ’bandhs' and stone pelting had resulted in closure of schools, colleges and universities, trade, industries and businesses on a regular basis intermittently, leading to severe loss of income especially of the poor and those who worked in unorganized sectors.
”In the year 2018, there were 52 incidents of organised ’bandh/hartal', which have come down to zero in the year 2023 till date. In addition, resolute anti-terror actions have resulted in dismantling of the terror eco-system which is reflected in a significant drop in terrorist recruitment from 199 in the year 2018 to 12 in the year 2023 till date."
The Centre said work on transit accommodation for Kashmiri Pandits for their safe return to the valley is in the advanced stage and is expected to be majorly completed in the next one year.
Highlighting numerous schemes launched by the Centre for the development of the entire region, the government said life has returned to normalcy in the region after over three decades of turmoil.
”It is submitted that schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and other public institutions are functioning efficiently without any strikes or any kind of disturbances during the last three years. The earlier practice of daily hartals, strikes, stone pelting and bandhs are things of the past now,” it added.
Emphasising that certain sections of the society, including displaced persons from Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and children of women married outside J&K, were earlier deprived of their basic rights prior to the August 5, 2019, decision, the government said all the residents of the region are enjoying all rights which are available to citizens in other parts of the country.
It said with the constitutional changes and enactments of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, seats have been reserved for the persons belonging to Scheduled Tribe, which has resulted in grant of reservation in legislature to them similar to the reservation available to such community in Legislative Assemblies of other States/Union territories in the country.
”It is submitted that with the improved security scenario, the Union territory has also witnessed highest ever footfall of tourists, viz, 1.88 crore tourists visited Jammu and Kashmir only during January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022 which is significantly contributing to the growth of the economy and has a direct impact on the income of common man,” the Centre highlighted.