1.‘Kashmir has become a laboratory for all forces’
Militancy and civilian killings continuing despite the withdrawal of Article 370, says senior J&K politician and CWC member
The Congress Working Committee (CWC), in a strongly worded political resolution, expressed concern over the rise in violence in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and linked it with events such as China’s aggressive posturing, infiltration attempts by Pakistan and Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. Senior J&K politician and CWC member Tariq Hameed Karra spoke on the security situation and his comments at the CWC that created a political storm. Edited excerpts:
Let’s start with your comments about Sardar Patel’s role with regard to J&K at the CWC meeting. The BJP said your comments were meant to vilify him.
I don’t have to clarify nor do have I to give any explanation. Since you have asked something which is already in the media, I will repeat what I said. We had different set of agendas for the meeting and among them, the serial killings in J&K. When the idea of partition was conceived on religious lines, three States became the bone of contention: Jammu and Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad. In an informal discussion, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel suggested to Jawaharlal Nehru that Junagadh and Hyderabad can be negotiated in lieu of J&K. To this, Pandit Nehru said it will have national and international ramifications and he didn’t want India labelled as a theocratic state like Pakistan. Maybe Sardar Patel got convinced and there was unison. As the other States got integrated into the Union, so was J&K. That’s all I said, which is a historical fact.
The whole incident is being given a different colour. There are issues like inflation, rise in fuel prices and essential commodities, killings of farmers, and a recent report saying hunger levels are going up and even the value of our passport has gone down. So, the BJP wanted to make an issue and give a new narrative. My counter to their vilification charge is that it is they who have vilified the Sardar by removing his name from a stadium in Gujarat and renaming it as Narendra Modi stadium.
Coming to the recent violence in J&K, the CWC resolution seems to suggest a link between Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, hostility with China and Pakistan’s infiltration attempt. What’s your take?
Nothing can be ruled out. Kashmir has become a laboratory and a testing ground for all forces. There are the external forces but what about your own internal security. You can’t hold China or Pakistan responsible for your own internal security, your failure in intelligence grid is your failure.
You had glorified the abrogation of Article 370 and given a narrative that it [Art 370] was a stumbling block, be it development or political progress. Or the root cause of militancy. It’s more than two years now since you abrogated it, militancy is still there, civilian killings are still there. Many of our soldiers are getting martyred now and it was not of this magnitude earlier. Who is responsible for it? Now, they [the administration] have coined a new term ‘unknown’ gunman to describe the killings. Whose job is it to find them? Government statistics show 32 civilians have been killed so far and 21 were Kashmiri Muslims.
It is either intelligence failure or failure at the borders or a failure of their [the BJP] approach. They have to explain to the nation why our jawans are being martyred after Article 370.
There are now demands for holding elections and restoring the Statehood. How will that help in bringing down the violence?
Personally speaking, I would not like to link the violence with passing on the legislative powers to the elected bodies. Violence has its own reasons and genesis. You have to see what your focus is. Either you want to keep the pot boiling or you want to douse the fire. Union Home Minister [Amit Shah] has gone to Kashmir and my expectation would be that as the Home Minister of India, who is in charge of the internal security, he should adopt a holistic approach. And elections are a part of this approach to regain the confidence of the people.
- On October 17, 1949, Article 370 was added to the Indian constitution, as a ‘temporary provision’, which exempted Jammu & Kashmir, permitting it to draft its own Constitution and restricting the Indian Parliament’s legislative powers in the state.
- It was introduced into the draft constitution by N Gopalaswami Ayyangar as Article 306 A.
- Under Article 370: The Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir was empowered to recommend which articles of the Indian Constitution should apply to the state,
- The J&K Constituent Assembly was dissolved after it drafted the state’s constitution. Clause 3 of the article 370 gives the President of India the power to amend its provisions and scope.
- Article 35A stems from Article 370 and was introduced through a Presidential Order in 1954, on the recommendation of the J&K Constituent Assembly.
- Article 35A empowers the Jammu & Kashmir legislature to define the permanent residents of the state, and their special rights and privileges.
- It appears in Appendix I of the Constitution.
- The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019 has replaced Presidential Order of 1954.
- Subsequently, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, passed by Parliament divides the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two new Union Territories (UTs): Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh.
- This is the first time that a state has been converted into a UT.
- Of the six Lok Sabha seats currently with the state of Jammu and Kashmir, five will remain with the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, while one will be allotted to Ladakh.
- The UT of Jammu and Kashmir will have an Assembly, like in Delhi and Puducherry.
- Instead of 29, India will now have 28 states. Kashmir will no longer have a Governor, rather a Lieutenant Governor like in Delhi or Puducherry.
- Status of J&K Union Territory
- J&K Assembly will have a five-year term, not six, as was the earlier case.
- Section 32 of the J&K 2019 Bill proposes that the Assembly can make laws on any subjects in the State and Concurrent lists except on state subjects relating to “public order” and “police”.
- This is similar to Article 239 A of the Constitution that is applicable to Union Territories of Puducherry and Delhi.
- However, by insertion of Article 239AA and by virtue of the 69th Constitutional Amendment, the Delhi Assembly cannot legislate on matters in entry 18 of the State List, i.e. land.
- In the case of J&K, the Assembly can make laws on land.
- The special status provided to J&K under Article 370 will be abolished.
- Jammu & Kashmir will no longer have the separate constitution, flag or anthem.
- The citizens of Jammu and Kashmir will not have dual citizenship.
- As the new union territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be subject to the Indian Constitution, its citizens will now have the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Indian constitution.
- Article 360, which can be used to declare a Financial Emergency, will now also be applicable.
- All laws passed by Parliament will be applicable in Jammu and Kashmir, including the Right to Information Act and the Right to Education Act.
- The Indian Penal Code will replace the Ranbir Penal Code of Jammu and Kashmir.
- Article 35A, which originates from the provisions of Article 370 stands null and void.
- Since Presidential Order has extended all provisions of the Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir, including the chapter on Fundamental Rights, the discriminatory provisions under Article 35A will now be unconstitutional.
The Need for Changes
- Article 370 was added in the Indian constitution to provide autonomy to J&K.
- However, it failed to address the well-being of Kashmiris who have now endured two generations of insurgency and violence.
- It contributed to the gap between Kashmir and the rest of the nation.
- International events
- The situation emerging in the western neighbourhood and the possible re-ascendance of the Taliban in Afghanistan call for greater attention and care.
- More so, the emerging geopolitical dynamics in Afghanistan and the resultant United States-Pakistan rapprochement could have potentially led to more heat on the Kashmir situation in the months ahead.
- Constitutional challenges
- Presidential order that sought to abrogate of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, according to Article 370 (3) the President would require the recommendation of the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir to make such a change.
- However, the 2019 Presidential order adds a sub-clause to Article 367, replacing the terms:
- “Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir” to mean “legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir”.
- “Government of Jammu and Kashmir” to mean “Governor of Jammu and Kashmir acting on the aid and advice of the council of ministers”.
- The government sought to dilute the autonomy under Article 370 without bringing a Constitutional Amendment that would require a two-thirds majority in the Parliament.
- This provision is currently under challenge in the Supreme Court on the ground that it added article 35A in the Indian Constitution only through a Presidential Order.
- Conversion of Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory is in violation of Article 3, as the Bill was not referred to the President by the State Assembly.
- In the reorganisation of the state, the Presidential order also requires the concurrence of the government of the state. However, since Jammu & Kashmir is currently under Governor’s rule, the Governor’s concurrence is deemed to be the government’s concurrence.
- Federalism issue:
- The Instrument of Accession was like a treaty between two sovereign countries that had decided to work together.
- The maxim of pacta sunt servanda in international law, which governs contracts or treaties between states, asks that promises must be honoured.
- In Santosh Kumar v. State of J&K & ors (2017), the SC said that due to historical reasons, Jammu and Kashmir had a special status.
- In SBI v Zaffar Ullah Nehru (2016), the SC held that Article 370 cannot be repealed without the concurrence of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir.
- The Instrument of Accession was like a treaty between two sovereign countries that had decided to work together.
- Rise in Militancy: Article 370 was seen by Kashmiris as a marker of their separate identity and autonomy.
- There is a possibility of widespread protests and violence as a reaction to the dilution of Article 370.
- Terror elements in Pakistan would find Kashmir to be the most fertile ground for breeding terrorism.
- The unrest can affect the democratic progress that has been made so far.
- Out-maneuvering Pakistan: Pakistan used 370 to wage a proxy war, internationalise Kashmir, supporting terrorism, all that is gone now.
2.Himachal’s women farmers expand their horizons, without hurting nature
With training and support, low-cost natural farming is increasing incomes and leading to social empowerment
Women farmers in the hill State of Himachal Pradesh are gradually turning to non-chemical, low cost “natural farming”, which has not only provided them with a sustainable livelihood but also empowered them better.
Launched in 2018, the State’s Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Yojana (PK3Y) is promoting the climate resilient Subhash Palekar Natural Farming (SPNF), also called ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’.
Over 1.5 lakh farmers have been trained in natural farming in the State so far, with substantial numbers of women participants.
Moreover, the coming together of women from the hill regions for natural farming, regardless of their level of education, has helped them gain confidence in matters beyond agriculture. Practical training in natural farming is helping rural women in Himachal Pradesh gain confidence by supplementing family incomes.
“It is a different kind of empowerment. Since I shifted to the natural farming technique, the government’s Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) staff is regularly in touch with me. They motivate me and help me stay connected with the latest happenings in the field on a regular basis personally, and on WhatsApp groups, which is happening for the first time,” said Ganga Sarni Bisht, 54, from Kilba in the tribal Kinnaur district. Ms. Bisht, a post-graduate in Hindi and a former teacher, has been farming independently since 2013.
“I shifted to this non-chemical farming technique three years back, after attending a training workshop on the SPNF technique in Kufri. I am growing vegetables like beans, radish, carrot, spinach and beetroot with natural farming on one bigha land, along with apples. I am happy with the results. I have sown hing (asafoetida) now,” she said. Ready to replicate natural farming on another five bighas of land gradually, Ms. Bisht inspires women farmers in the village and shares the latest information with them in a group.
Natural farming gave Charna Devi, 49, a tribal woman from Chagaon village in uphill Tapri in Kinnaur, the opportunity to go outside the State for the first time in her life. She had not ventured beyond State capital Shimla before. “The travel taught me so many things,” she said.
Ms. Devi is now a member of an SPNF women farmers’ group formed in 2019. Its members cultivate apples, garlic, maize and other traditional crops in their own farms. The group has over 20 women farmers and it functions like a family. They even help each other in finding solutions for personal and social issues.
Executive Director of PK3Y, Dr. Rajeshwar Singh Chandel, said that women have always had an important role in agriculture in India. “Their inclusion in natural farming for training and exposure will not only build their capacity but will help women farmers gain confidence for overall betterment in society,” he said.
At many other places in the State, women farmers who have shifted to natural farming collectively plan to increase their income by processing fruits and creating marketing networks on their own.
Another group of more than 20 young women in Khaushshah village near Rampur Bushahr in Shimla district had been contributing in agriculture and horticulture at home but, “We were just silent workers with no say in deciding things in the field. The income from apple orchards was falling due to over-use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Since we were provided training in the natural farming project, we could move out of the four walls of the house and are now actively involved in changing the course of farming ,” said Sujata, a graduate farmer.
Their group, the Prakritik Kheti Mahila Khushhal Kisan Samiti, Khaushshah, was formed two years back, and registered in 2021. The women farmers’ group is doing natural farming individually on land measuring around 12.5 bighas,and the SPNF technique has helped them grow multiple crops like pulses and vegetables, alongside apples, for regular income from the same field. “Besides, it has helped us in connecting socially, and break mindset barriers on issues other than farming also,” said the group’s members.
Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Yojana
- Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Yojana (PK3Y) is promoting the climate resilient Subhash Palekar Natural Farming (SPNF), also called ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming.
- The scheme intends to provide subsidy with the financial assistance of Rs. 50,000 to encourage farmers for natural farming.
- The scheme will cover the activities being implemented by the department for the promotion of organic farming, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Pramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) or any other scheme were related to natural farming are being implemented.
- The Department of Agriculture would act the nodal agency for implementing Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kissan Yojana under zero budget natural farming system.
- The State Level Committee under the Directorate of Agriculture is responsible for planning, implementing and monitoring of the zero budget natural farming.
Zero Budget Natural Farming
- Zero budget natural farming is a method of chemical-free agriculture drawing from traditional Indian practices.
- It was originally promoted by agriculturist Subhash Palekar, who developed it in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the Green Revolution’s methods that are driven by chemical fertilizers and pesticides and intensive irrigation.
- It is a unique model that relies on Agro-ecology.
- It aims to bring down the cost of production to nearly zero and return to a pre-green revolution style of farming.
- It claims that there is no need for expensive inputs such as fertilisers, pesticides and intensive irrigation.
- ZBNF is based on 4 pillars:
- Jeevamrutha: It is a mixture of fresh cow dung and aged cow urine (both from India’s indigenous cow breed), jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil; to be applied on farmland.
- Bijamrita: It is a concoction of neem leaves & pulp, tobacco and green chilies prepared for insect and pest management, that can be used to treat seeds.
- Acchadana (Mulching): It protects topsoil during cultivation and does not destroy it by tilling.
- Whapasa: It is the condition where there are both air molecules and water molecules present in the soil. Thereby helping in reducing irrigation requirement.
- It has been pioneered by Shri. Subhash Palekar.
- The ZBNF farm model is based on polycropping.
- The expenditure on the main crop is recovered from the income from the short duration inter crops, hence the net expenditure on the main crop is ‘zero’.
3.More studies show the superiority of hybrid immunity
Differences between the memory B cells triggered by infection, vaccination might also underlie the heightened responses of hybrid immunity
Yet another study has shown that a combination of natural infection with a single dose of vaccine provides greater immunity than either natural infection without vaccination or full vaccination in infection-naïve individuals. People without prior infection but fully vaccinated with the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine showed a decline in neutralising antibodies over a period of three to seven months. But the decline was much less in vaccinated people with prior infection.
Though 500 health-care workers with or without prior infection were vaccinated, those with hybrid immunity — natural immunity from an infection combined with the immunity provided by the vaccine — had a higher and more durable neutralising antibody response. The hybrid immunity offers stronger protection than just infection or full vaccination alone.
The study, posted in the preprint server medRxiv on October 19 (preprints are yet to be peer-reviewed), has found that in 500 health-care workers, the neutralising antibodies were twofold more in people immunised with Pfizer vaccine following natural infection compared with people immunised with Pfizer vaccine but without prior infection.
In the case of people vaccinated with AstraZeneca following natural infection, the neutralising antibodies were threefold more than in vaccinated people with no prior infection.
One of the early evidences of hybrid immunity being better than full vaccination in people without a prior infection came in end-April. The results posted in preprint server medRxiv found that vaccination led to increased levels of neutralizing antibodies against variants in people who had been previously infected compared with those without a prior infection.
An earlier study posted on August 25 in the preprint server medRxiv found that compared with vaccine-induced immunity from two doses of Pfizer vaccine, natural immunity conferred longer lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease and hospitalisation caused by the Delta variant in Israel. But naturally infected individuals who were given a single dose of the vaccine showed additional protection against the Delta variant; the protection level conferred by hybrid immunity was even higher than the one offered by natural infection or full vaccination.
Soon after vaccines were rolled out, researchers began to notice higher levels of antibodies in people who were naturally infected prior to vaccination compared with vaccinated people without prior infection. In short, the hybrid immunity from natural infection followed by vaccination provided superior immunity than either natural infection alone or full vaccination.
However, a study published recently in the journal Science observed that “boosting of pre-existing immunity from prior infection with vaccination mainly resulted in a transient benefit to antibody titers with little-to-no long-term increase in cellular immune memory”.
There is a growing body of evidence that protection from natural immunity can be potent, and researchers are beginning to acknowledge this. However, scientific consensus about the exact strength or durability of the natural immunity post natural infection is not known. Also, the strength and durability of natural immunity might not be uniform and might vary between people depending on the nature and duration of infection (asymptomatic or symptomatic) and severity of disease (mild, moderate or severe).
“Antibody levels are really variable after recovering from infections, and those at the lower end of the spectrum might be more susceptible to reinfections,” Deepta Bhattacharya, Professor of immunology at the University of Arizona told NBC News. “But after a single vaccine in people who have recovered from COVID-19, antibodies skyrocket up, including those that neutralize variants of concern.”
Researchers at Rockefeller University in New York City looked at how different types of immunity would protect against potential variants. They modified the coronavirus spike protein such that it contained 20 naturally occurring mutations. In the lab, the modified spike protein was tested against antibodies from people belonging to three groups — those who have been fully vaccinated without prior infection, people with prior infection but not vaccinated, and people with hybrid immunity. They found the modified spike proteins were able to evade the antibodies from the first two groups but not antibodies from people with hybrid immunity. The study is posted in the preprint server BioRxiv.
In August, CDC published a study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) where they showed that unvaccinated people without previous infection are twice as likely to be reinfected compared with vaccinated people with a prior infection. This study prompted the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky to urge all Americans to take a vaccine even if previously infected. “If you have had COVID-19 before, please still get vaccinated,” she appealed.
The immunological advantage from hybrid immunity arises mostly from memory B cells. While the bulk of antibodies after infection or vaccination decline after a short while, the memory B cells, which evolve in the lymph nodes, get triggered on subsequent infection or vaccination. So when people who recovered from COVID-19 are re-exposed to the spike protein, the memory B cells are capable of churning out highly potent antibodies.
“Differences between the memory B cells triggered by infection and those triggered by vaccination — as well as the antibodies they make — might also underlie the heightened responses of hybrid immunity. Infection and vaccination expose the spike protein to the immune system in vastly different ways,” Dr. Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at the Rockefeller University in New York City told Nature.
Dr. Nussenzweig’s team isolated hundreds of memory B cells from people at various time points after infection and vaccination. They found that unlike after full vaccination, antibodies produced by natural infection continued to grow in potency and their breadth against variants for a year after infection. According to Nature, unlike after vaccination, the memory B cells formed after natural infection are more likely to make antibodies that block immune-evading variants.
But two studies have found that memory B cells in the fully vaccinated people without prior infection are growing in number and gaining mutations up to 12 weeks after the second dose, which allows the B cells to recognise and neutralise variants.