South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continue to remain in the news. Till now, it was a volatile scenario following the killing of Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8, 2016. Now, it is because of BJP’s demand of removing Article 35A from the Indian Constitution. The Jammu & Kashmir unit of BJP has demanded the scrapping of Article 35A and 370 (which gives special powers to the state of J&K) from the Constitution. The demand of BJP made J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti furious. The common people of the Kashmir valley and saner voices across the country are against the removal of both the Articles. The issue of Kashmir should be seen in a totality and must be resolved politically rather than delaying or doing nothing. The issue concerns the lives of the people living in the valley and their aspirations. Kashmiris want to protect the rights given to them by the Constitution.

Article 35A empowers the J&K legislature to define permanent residents of the state. It was added in the order issued by then President Rajendra Prasad on May 14, 1954. The Jammu and Kashmir Constitution was adopted on November 17, 1956. It had defined a Permanent Resident as a person who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been a resident of the state for 10 years and has lawfully acquired immovable property in the state. It simply means an Indian citizen living in any other state than J&K cannot buy immovable property in J&K and is not eligible for the government appointments.

Atal Behari Vajpayee took some initiative, when he was PM, to win the hearts of the people of the valley by saying the issue needs to resolve by talking to all stakeholders. He coined word Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat and Kashmiriyat. Unfortunately, there is no dialogue with the Kashmiris since Narendra Modi led government came to power. It led to more resentment, frustration among the people. The government of the day must talk to the people and pacify them. It should be the role of the state. The role of the government needs to engage people and convince them. No government can be allowed to suppress the aspirations of the people, be they from Kashmir or any other part.

The discussion began when We the Citizens, an NGO, filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India demanding scrapping of Article 35A. The intention behind the petition is to scrap the Article and allow people residing in other states to buy immovable property and settle down. It is against the spirit on which the Instrument of Accession was signed between Raja Hari Singh (then erstwhile ruler of J&K) and the Indian government. Mehbooba Mufti immediately opposed any kind of change in the Constitution.

She met her political bête noire Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) agreed to defend the Article. “If the special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir is tampered with, or the Permanent Resident Act (35A) – a provision that empowers the state’s permanent residents – removed, there will be ‘no one to shoulder the Indian flag in the Valley’, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said recently. She met PM Modi amid raging controversy about Article 35A and said he had given an assurance on safeguarding the Constitutional status quo for the state.
PDP and BJP formed the government on the Agenda of Alliance (AOA).

It categorically states, “While recognising the different positions and appreciating the perceptions BJP and PDP have on the constitutional status of J&K considering the political and legislative realities, the present position will be maintained on all the constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K including the special status in the Constitution of India.” So, the demand to scrap the Article is also against the (AoA). It is also sheer opportunism to remain in power and speak against the AoA.

If Article 35A is repealed, then it may also nullify various orders issued under it. Earlier, the Governor and CM were known as Sadr-e-Riyasat (President) and Wazir-e-Alam (PM). India and the International community does not agree with the position of China on Tibet. Over the years, China is changing the demography of Tibet by settling Han Chinese. Pakistan also began changing the demography of Northern Areas and Gilgit-Baltistan from the days of Zia-ul-Haq. Israel has the same policy. Sri Lanka has adopted the same in Tamil dominated North Sri Lanka. The policy of deliberately changing demography is dangerous as it does injustice to the local community. No community accepts people deliberately brought from outside. It affects them. The issue of Kashmir is a political one and it needs to be resolved politically. The aspirations of the common people are important and to achieve it, the Indian government needs to have a serious dialogue with the people of Kashmir.

 By: Jatin Desai


Updated On: Sunday, 20 August 2017