Row over Article 35A: New proxy war unleashed on Kashmiris
India’s strategic planning to erode special status of J&K was revealed when nomenclature of Sadr-e-Riyasat was replaced with Governor of state and Wazir-e-Azam with Chief Minister (6th Amendment Act of 1965, Constitution of J&K). Kashmiris who were already displeased with Maharaja’s decision felt further betrayed. Should Jammu have united with Kashmir to safeguard these titles J&K would not have been subjected to tribulations.
Now, there are renewed fears that Kashmir is going to lose the last vestiges of its autonomy through the removal of Article 35A and Article 370 of the Indian constitution. Article 35A, part of article 370, enshrined in part XXI of the Indian constitution gives full authority to legislature of J&K to define the state’s permanent residents. Article 35A grants special rights to permanent residents of the state of J&K and has been recognized, accepted and acted upon since its enactment. It has been used as a legal tool to forbid non-state subjects to own property or acquire government job in J&K. The law was first passed by Maharja Hari Singh in 1927 to stop heavy influx of people from northern states. No law passed by the Parliament regarding the state of J&K can be applied to the state without the Order of President of India in concurrence of the state government. Therefore, Article 35A was incorporated in constitution of India in 1954 by an Order of President of India (then president Dr Rajendra Prasad) to overcome the fear of territorial loss and was made part of Article 370. Since then displeased Indians have been in constant struggle to abrogate article 35A.
No one can falsify it, India failed politically as well as militarily to integrate J&K fully with its union. Therefore, India is using judicial power to erase unique identity of J&K to integrate J&K fully with its union of states. A writ petition was filed by RSS backed NGO “We the Citizens” that challenged the constitutional validity of both Article 35A and Article 370. They call it infringement of some of the fundamental rights of its own citizens. It argues that four representatives from Kashmir were part of the Constituent Assembly involved in the drafting of the Constitution and the State of Jammu and Kashmir was never accorded any special status in the constitution. Article 370 was only a ‘temporary provision’ to help bring normality in J&K and strengthen democracy in that state, it contends. It further argued that Article 35A is against the “very spirit of oneness of India” and “creates class within the class of citizens of India.” Charu Wali Khana, a lawyer and former member of National Commission for Women and a most importantly a native of J&K filed another petition, were woman argued Article 35A is against the women of state because the laws flowing from this Article disenfranchised her children. Her children were denied citizenship of J&K, because she married to a non-state-subject. Therefore, she called article 35A against women. According to constitution of J&K, if a woman marries and outsider, she loses her citizenship and if a man marries a non-state-subject woman, the woman gains citizenship. Quoting it all against woman only, Dr Charu Wali Khana filed petition against constitutional validity of article 35A. West Pakistani refugees joined the club of petitioners too, challenged Article 35A on the grounds of discrimination in spheres of acquiring property, service and voting right.
The plea filed by RSS backed NGO had been already adjudged by the highest court of India. Kashmiris know it is an integrated approach of RSS and its sister alliances which had viciously gained momentum after Narendra Modi led NDA government came to power. The center is trying to mislead people of Jammu. To some extent they succeed in doing so, but resistance offered by Kashmiris proved that the political turmoil in valley is not a socio-economic issue but a political issue. Kashmir is all united to safeguard last remnants of special status of J&K. It is obvious, if Article 35A is scrapped, the immediate effect witnessed would be changing demography of state. The most effected would be Jammu and least effected would be Kashmir valley. Heavy influx of non-state-subjects would prefer to purchase land in Jammu because Jammu provides good geopolitical conditions to outsiders to make investments. Kashmir valley which is militancy hit and Ladakh which doesn’t provide feasible geographical locations to establish an industry would be least preferred. Therefore, the greatest threat imposed after Article 35A is scrapped would be faced by people of Jammu. Jammu would attract more non-state-subjects than Kashmir and Ladakh which would snatch bread and butter of people of Jammu, in long run.
In this regard anger of Kashmiris is particularly virulent towards the Indian media. Kashmiris treated Indian media and foreign journalists as allies who would carry their message to the larger Indian public and the world. But they failed to do so. Therefore, Kashmiris consider the Indian media to be their enemies, particularly TV channels. Media is running a vicious campaign against special status of J&K and articulates a wrong message among folks where they try to portray Article 35A an obstacle in development of state. The Article is not discriminatory for its own people; it is portrayed discriminatory by Indian national media. If it is not discriminatory, then why it came under questioning? Kashmiris are not only worried about demographic changes that may occur but the exploitive nature of Indians may would render people of state jobless in long run of time. The litigation seems to be rational in its form but it is well knit web which is the outcome of a prolonged conspiracy of some communal forces bolstered by ruling party at centre, which aims at destabilizing J&K to get political benefits. Time has feathers, after one or two decade, state-subjects may be subjected to torture and misery like it happened in Palestine. Kashmiris are morally well equipped to defend Article 35A. Kashmir would retain its identity, may be Jammu would lose, if policies hatching underneath wouldn’t be checked right now.
Although BJP’s new approach, instead of bringing peace to the region appears poised to trigger the most destructive period in the history of the conflict. Kashmir decries over the decision to challenge Article 35A as a declaration of war. Kashmiris also urged people of Jammu and Ladakh to rise up and asked other socio-political groups to fight against the destructive policies to defend the special status of paradise on earth. The decision is threat to the peace of the already battling region which paves threat to the expected Indo-Pak peace talks too. UN should also take note of it as the issue may engulf both sides of de facto border in its rage. Experts and policy makers are of common opinion on this decision and think the decision to abrogate Article 35A would open the gates of hell.
To fight foxy policies of New Delhi, separatism was reborn in J&K during early 90’s which compelled government of India to led military expedition in state killing more than one lakh people since then. Unwilling to take any chance, Indian authorities are persistent to clampdown aggravating tension. Since 2008 civilian agitations have got impetus. The resurging separatist ideology in defense of land and people of J&K has been a growing headache for both political leeches of J&K as well as their masters in New Delhi. If Article 35A is scrapped, it would trigger new intifada in valley. (Author can be reached atsheikhnissar@Outlook.com).