Here's how the debate over Article 370 has suddenly brought Jammu & Kashmir on the same page

A Govt. order to allocate pharmacy shops to non-local businessmen in Jammu, in violation of Article 370, has proved to be a game changer in J&K politics

For years, some right-wing parties including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party aspired to abrogate Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu & Kashmir. But people’s opinions of the state has often been polarising.  While Kashmiris have fought tooth and nail against the proposed abrogation, Jammu often preferred silence, a hint at its willingness to be in uniformity with other Indian states. But a recent government order to lease out pharmacy shops to non-locals has suddenly brought both the regions on the same page, where even Jammu seeks safeguard of its special status.

Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (JKMSCL) had reportedly issued a tender to a Delhi-based firm, Sanyog Enterprises Private Limited to open 57 chemist shops at different government hospitals in the Jammu region, otherwise a BJP bastion. The decision drew severe opposition, with chemists and druggists from Jammu going on a 72-hour strike.

President of the Jammu Chemist Association, Naveen Bali said: “On one hand, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti terms people who oppose Article 370 as anti-nationals but on the other hand her government gives permission to a non-state subject.”

The strike call was duly backed by the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Jammu Kashmir Chemists and Druggists Association.

While the news was seemingly downplayed by a section of media, the message of the strike is loud and clear: Now Jammu equally throws weight behind Article 370.

This means people of Jammu and Kashmir are coming closer ideologically, something which may reduce polarization in the state and help in harmony. The citizenry of Kashmir has welcomed the Jammu move.

In a bid to take the “uniformity in ideology a step forward”, the Kashmir Inc. has volunteered for an initiative, whereby business communities of the twin regions will “sit back and discuss Article 370 for the betterment of the state.” “We will soon be initiating a dialogue process between people of Jammu and Kashmir regions whereby we want to consolidate the uniformity in opinion on Article 370 . . . ,” says Muhammad Yasin Khan, who heads the Kashmir Economic Alliance.