Putting an end to rumours and fear mongering about changes in Article 371 of the Constitution following abrogation of Article 370 last month, Union Home Minister has made it clear that Article 371 won’t be altered with. He made it clear that while Article 370 was temporary in nature, Article 371 is concerned with special provisions about the Northeast. Amit Shah said, “After the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, there were attempts to misinform and misguide the people of North East that Article 371 would also be scrapped by the Centre,” PTI quoted Shah as saying. “I think it is important to clarify the difference between the two. Let me make it clear that the Prime Minister and the BJP government respects Article 371 and 371 (A).”
After this statement by Amit Shah there were some uninformed reactions by those who do not really understand the intricacies of the Constitution of India. One of the users said, “Amit Shah said in the presence of eight chief ministers of North East that the Centre will not touch #Article371
RSS don’t care for independent flag or visa bindings in North Eastern states.”
Amit Shah said in the presence of eight chief ministers of North East that the Centre will not touch #Article371
RSS don't care for independent flag or visa bindings in North Eastern states. https://t.co/G1tjt0ywIx
— RAMAN SHARMA (@ramanswall) September 8, 2019
Another one tweeted, “If the govt wants to treat whole nation equally by abolishing #Article370 then why is the govt respecting #Article371 it is also unequally treating northeastern states with special status
2 reason possible
1.Northeastern states are outside india
2.Less then1%Muslim in these states”.
If the govt wants to treat whole nation equally by abolishing #Article370 then why is the govt respecting #Article371 it is also unequally treating northeastern states with special status
1.Northeastern states are outside india
2.Less then1%Muslim in these states
— Mozammil Hasan (@MozammilHasan15) September 8, 2019
The Opposition and the liberals have been targeting the Modi government over Article 371. Earlier Congress and other Opposition leaders tried to create an atmosphere of fear following the abrogation of Article 370.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had first churned the debate around Article 371 and claimed that if the government can use the President’s rule and the majority in the Parliament to abrogate Article 370 nothing stops them to do the same with Article 371.
Earlier former Mizoram Chief Minister and Congress leader, Lal Thanhawla had also fueled the skewed speculations around the removal of Article 371 and tweeted, “RED ALERT to the people of NE. It has become a threat to states like Mizoram, Nagaland & Arunachal which are protected by the Constitution. If 35A and 370 are repealed, Article 371G, which safeguards the interests and existence of lesser tribals of Mizoram is under severe threat.”
RED ALERT to the people of NE. It has become a threat to states like Mizoram, Nagaland & Arunachal which are protected by the Consitution. If 35A and 370 are repealed, Article 371G, which safeguards the interests and existence of lesser tribals of Mizoram is under severe threat.
— Lal Thanhawla (@LThanhawla) August 5, 2019
“Today when you’re scrapping Article 370, what message are you sending to these states. By imposing President’s Rule in the Northeastern states and using the rights of their Assemblies in Parliament, you can scrap Article 371 too. What kind of constitutional precedent are you setting in the country?” Tewari had asked.
Several media reports regarding the same speculations had also surfaced over the past few days. However, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had firmly clarified in the Parliament that the Modi government had no intention to remove Article 371.
And now following the visit of Amit Shah to Guwahati the liberal brigade has been up and arms against the Modi government on its stand on Article 371.
Why do we need to have Article 371?
Why separate flag and separate passport is acceptable in North East India?
Why beef eating is OK In North East India but not in rest of India?
Why BJP says they will not touch to Article 371?
— Arun Shourie ᶠᵃⁿ (@FeignShourie) September 8, 2019
ARTICLE 370 mainly affects Muslims
ARTICLE 371 mainly affects Non Muslims pic.twitter.com/erDa8KrG3c
— My Fellow Indians (@MyFellowIndians) September 8, 2019
However, the liberals and the Opposition need to understand that there are a lot of differences between both the Articles.
It is important to mention here that the position of Article 370 which was recently abrogated and Article 371 which makes special provisions for certain states is totally different and incomparable. The basic difference between Article 370 and the set of provisions contained under Articles 371, 371A, 371B, 371C, 371D, 371E, 371F, 371G, 371H and 371J, is that while the former was a temporary provision, the latter constitute permanent provisions. It would be a gross error to compare a temporary arrangement with a set of special provisions put in place keeping in mind some local and unique needs of the states covered by these provisions.
An even bigger difference between Article 370 and the other set of special provisions for some of the states in the country is the very nature of these provisions. While Article 370 had the effect of alienating the people of Kashmir, Article 371 only enacted special provisions keeping the developmental needs of certain states in mind. Preserving social practices and customs was yet another consideration behind Article 371. Article 371 for example places “special responsibility” upon the Governor to establish “separate development boards” for “Vidarbha, Marathwada, and the rest of Maharashtra”, and Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat; ensure “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said areas”, and “equitable arrangement providing adequate facilities for technical education and vocational training, and adequate opportunities for employment” under the state government. Article 371-A was enacted in order to protect “religious or social practices of the Nagas” and “Naga customary law and procedure”. It also empowers the state legislative assembly to decide whether or not to adopt a Parliamentary law about “ownership and transfer of land and its resources” or “administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law.” Other provisions also enact similar clauses only with the view of catering to the special needs of such states and fulfilling their developmental aspirations.
It is beyond comprehension how these provisions can be equated with Article 370 which until its abrogation paved the way for a separate flag and constitution for the state of Jammu & Kashmir. It must be noted that while Article 370 was restrictive in scope as it restricted the scope of Central laws to a great extent, Article 371 and the related provisions added by subsequent amendments were of an enabling character. Take Article 371B for example. It vests the President, in respect of the state of Assam, with the discretion of providing for the constitution and functions of a committee of the Legislative Assembly of the State consisting of members elected from the tribal areas in the state. Article 371C provides for a similar provision for the state of Meghalaya in respect of members elected from the Hill areas of the state.
These provisions are clearly of an enabling nature. These provisions do not instill a sense of alienation as they do not contain objectionable provisions like a separate Constitution for the states covered by these provisions or a separate flag for these states. Article 370, on the other hand, never catered to the special needs of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Separate flag and Separate Constitution could have never served the developmental aspirations of the people of the state. This provision only inculcated a sense of alienation and facilitated separatist elements in the valley. Article 371 by its very nature does not encourage separatism. In fact, its enabling nature only strengthens the sense of unity and integrity of the country.
Article 370 was a temporary political arrangement, it did not even touch upon the social needs of the people of the state. As we overstretched the operation of Article 370, it only became a hindrance in the economic and social development of the state. Article 371 on the other hand is based on the social needs of certain states. It emerged as a facilitator of the development of such states. Therefore, those arguing for removal of Article 371 only because Article 370 has been abrogated don’t really understand the two constitutional provisions and how they differ from each other. Lack of in depth knowledge and awareness about the constitutional provisions has led to such uninformed remarks and fear mongering about Article 371.