For many in Jammu and Kashmir, the Supreme Court’s Monday verdict, which put a unanimous stamp of approval on the Centre’s decision on August 5, 2019 to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution of India that gave the former state a special status, came as no surprise.

“The court has shown once again that when it comes to Kashmir, it is an extension of the Indian state,” a student of political science in Srinagar, who did not want to be identified, told Scroll.

Several residents said they had not expected the court to go against the powerful Bharatiya Janata Party government in Delhi on a decision that was central to its ideological agenda.

“The revocation of Article 370 has been on the BJP’s agenda since long,” the student said. “The founder of its parent organisation Bharatiya Jana Sangh [Shyama Prasad Mookerjee] died in Kashmir while protesting against Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.”

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud on Monday ruled that Article 370 was a temporary provision “necessitated because of the war conditions in the state” and that the state of Jammu and Kashmir had no “internal sovereignty”. “It was a feature of asymmetrical federalism, not sovereignty,” the bench said.

The court also ruled that the President of India did not need the concurrence of the state government of Jammu and Kashmir to repeal Article 370. In August 2019, when New Delhi sprung the decision on the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the erstwhile state had no elected government and was under President’s Rule.

The verdict came as a setback to many who had pinned their hopes on the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on the apex court.

“This is the moment we feel more betrayed as judiciary was our last hope,” said Rouf Ahmad, a postgraduate student working in a private company. “The court was meant to correct constitutional mistakes and violations committed by the political regime against the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Ahmad disagreed with the argument that Jammu and Kashmir, after the judgement, stands “fully integrated” with the rest of India. It will lead to further “alienation of Jammu and Kashmir from India”, he said.

He added: “This verdict gives reason to believe that justice is not the priority when it comes to dealing with Jammu and Kashmir. An impartial verdict would have gone a long way to heal the bruised people of Kashmir.”

‘A new jurisprudence’

In its verdict, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to rule on the validity of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 – the law that paved the way for the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories.

“The Solicitor General submits that Statehood will be restored to Jammu and Kashmir. In view of this submission, we do not find it necessary to determine whether the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019 was invalid,” the Court said.

This aspect of the judgment is being seen as having wider ramifications for the Indian federal structure.

“The Supreme Court abdicated its constitutional duty to decide on the validity of state’s actions and opened a new jurisprudence of ‘assurance by Solicitor General’ – whereby SG’s words are the gospel,” said a Kashmiri legal researcher, who requested not to be identified. “It also gave a green signal to the central government to usurp power from any state by converting them into Union Territories.”

The judgement has revived the fears that the endorsement of the decisions of August 5, 2019, would open the door to demographic change in Kashmir. “The real agenda of the BJP is demographic change in Jammu and Kashmir,” said the student of political science quoted above. “After the court’s decision, that agenda has got approval from the highest court.”

However, for many Kashmiris, who are past their prime, the verdict is another one in a long list of broken promises.

“Take every instance of history in post-independent India, it’s New Delhi which has betrayed Kashmiris,” retorted an octogenarian villager in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district. “Whosoever trusted Delhi, was betrayed by Delhi. Be it Sheikh Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti. Who will trust Delhi now?”

‘Defeat for the idea of India’

On Monday morning, as the Supreme Court readied to announce its judgment, several mainstream political leaders, including two former chief ministers – Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – alleged that they had been put under house arrest and the media was not being allowed inside their residences.

However, Manoj Sinha, Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, denied that anyone has been put under house arrest. “This is totally baseless. In the entire Jammu and Kashmir, no one has been put under house arrest or arrest. This is an attempt to spread rumours,” Sinha told reporters in Jammu on Monday morning.

With the media not allowed to meet them on Monday morning, both Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti put out their reactions on the Supreme Court’s verdict on social media.

“The Supreme Court’s verdict stating that Article 370 was a temporary provision, is not our defeat, but the defeat of the idea of India…We have been betrayed,” Peoples Democratic Party chief Mufti said in a video statement.

Her party has also suspended all the activities for the next one week in order to “stand in solidarity” with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“We had knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court in the expectation of justice...,” Abdullah said in a video. “We accept that we failed to get justice for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in the Supreme Court but we will not stop our efforts...with this hope that maybe not today but somewhere in future, there will be an atmosphere in the country in which we will be successful in regaining our lost respect and identity that was snatched from us on August 5, 2019.”

Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also underlined that the verdict was a disappointment but was not “unexpected particularly in the present circumstances.”

“Those people who at the time of the Partition of the subcontinent, facilitated the accession of Jammu and Kashmir and reposed their faith in the promises and assurances given to them by the Indian leadership must feel deeply betrayed,” Mirwaiz told Scroll.