The Kashmir bus creeps on the Constitution

The bus is the thin edge of the wedge

India gave in to Pakistan’s demands that the travel documents required for the journey from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad across the Line of Control should fall short of official passports and visas — permits issued by local authorities were to be used instead. Pakistan agreed that this facility would be open not only to Kashmiri people, but also to all citizens of India and Pakistan.

Although this meant that India could claim that its Kashmiri citizens are treated no differently from the rest, in theory at least, the Kashmir bus arrangements created a loophole where Indians and Pakistanis could bypass the normal visa regimes. To prevent this, the Indian government would have counted on bureaucratic measures — permits would be issued only to residents of Jammu & Kashmir state. But a resolution passed by the rubber-stamp parliament of ‘Azad’ Kashmir removed even this fig leaf, when it opposed allowing citizens of India and Pakistan to use make the journey. Whatever may be the case, it is difficult to shake away the impression that the travel permit process will end up sitting uncomfortably against India’s constitutional provision for equality of all citizens.

Next, comes the issue of currency. The Daily Excelsior of Srinagar reports that the passengers will need to use US dollars for the trip. There is another assault on Indian institutions, with the promise of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India not being redeemable in parts of India.

In its haste to get the bus up and running, India has made several compromises that, instead of better integrating Kashmir people with the rest of India, have only served to distance them more. The agreement to start the bus service has come at the cost of insidious compromises on India’s basic principles and institutions. In a country with a constitutional framework and rule of law, these precedents are likely to create undesirable consequences elsewhere across India.

Where are the public interest litigations when they are most needed?

4 thoughts on “The Kashmir bus creeps on the Constitution”

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  2. And in the middle of this all, a man sworn to upholding the constitution of India raises the issue of tripartite talks…

    Mr Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has lost any remaining shreds of credibility after this new shenanigan. May I remind folks that MMS has had a very sketchy history as a politician…

    He first rose to prominence as the home minister in the 1989 central govt of VP Singh. Soon after becoming the HM the abduction of his daughter and the subsequent release of terrorists as her ransom was a landmark event. An event that gave terrorists a conviction that they could bring India to its knees.

    More recently, MMS and mehbooba mufti shamelessly demanded for the CM post, even though their party was the smaller of coalition partners. Congress was generous enough to comply.

    Later MMS’s government tried imposing this stupidest of laws on J&K whereby any woman from the state would lose her right to own real estate in the state if she married a man from outside of J&K.

    Now this… not to mention the election antic of Mehbooba Mufti where in she exposed the personal identity of a voter by lifting the poor woman’s burqa.

    Just ranting about “healing touch” policy will not redeem Mr. Sayeed. He needs to show some real progress. At this stage, any past progress in J&K is a result of the efforts of the two recent central govts who have ruled in Delhi.

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