Four years after Article 370 abrogation: The unanswered, uncomfortable questions about India’s federalism

Source: The post is based on the article “Four years after Article 370 abrogation: The unanswered, uncomfortable questions about India’s federalism” published in “The Indian express” on 7th August 2023.

Syllabus: issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure,

News: The author discusses concerns about India’s federalism due to the repeal of Article 370, including the unclear meaning of statehood, the issue of local people’s says in governance, and whether this action sets a dangerous precedent.

About India’s federalism

The Supreme Court of India acknowledged federalism as a basic feature of the Constitution in the S R Bommai v Union of India case (1994).

India practices “asymmetrical federalism”, meaning states have different relationships with the Union.

This unique model is a result of both design and historical events.

Asymmetrical federalism has helped India remain united despite various secessionist movements.

Articles 371-A to 371-J demonstrate that a uniform approach to federalism isn’t suitable for India, highlighting the need for local adaptations.

What are the major concerns for India’s federalism due to the repeal of Article 370?

Statehood Meaning: The repeal of Article 370 has led to the “downgrading” of Jammu & Kashmir from a full state to a Union Territory. It prompts questions about what statehood within the Union of India signifies. It’s the first instance where a full state has been demoted to a Union Territory.

People’s Voice: The action raised concerns about whether residents of a state should have a say in how they’re governed. Previously, changes in a state’s status were often made with the approval of that state’s legislative assembly, a convention that wasn’t followed in this case.

Setting a Precedent: The removal of Article 370 might set a precedent for the unilateral revocation of special provisions made for other states. This could destabilize the unique asymmetrical federalism India has cultivated to accommodate different needs across its states.

Delay in Restoration: Four years after the revocation, there’s no timeline for restoring Jammu & Kashmir’s statehood. This could negatively affect the region’s governance and societal harmony.

Centralization Concerns: The action appears to centralize power, contrasting with the trend of decentralization to strengthen the Union. It raises questions about the future direction of India’s federalism.

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