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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 39 New Delhi September 15, 2018

Of Article 35-A and Looming Crisis in Kashmir

Saturday 15 September 2018

by Abid Ahmad Shah

India is the confluence of 29 States and seven Union Territories, with a distinct demography, language, culture, lifestyle, etc. Jammu and Kashmir forms a part of the northern portion of the country with the privilege of being special status State among a whole gamut of States. The Constitution, as the basic guide of principles, gives rights to all the people of the country, common and special.

The Indian Constitution is the sum total of Articles, Schedules, rights, duties, etc. Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution is an Article and a provision that empowers the legislature of the J&K State to define permanent residents of the Jammu and Kashmir State and provides special rights and privileges to them in public sector jobs, property acquisition in the State and other aid and welfare moves.

Article 35-A was added to the Constitution via a Presidential Order, that is, The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, issued by the President of India on May 14, 1954 with the concurrence of the Jammu and Kashmir Government. The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954 was issued by President Rajendra Prasad under Article 370, with the advice of the Central Government. Article 35-A protects the demographic status of the Jammu and Kashmir. Article 35-A of the Constitution of India, which was applied to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, not only recognises but explains the constitu-tional and legal position of the State and does not provide something novel to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

In 2014, an NGO, We the Citizens, challenged the validity of Article 35-A in the Supreme Court of India. This year again the provisions of Article 35-A were challenged in the same manner, which invited the ire of all the mainstream and separatist leaders of the Valley.

Even an MLA of the BJP at the State level came out in support of Article 35-A. Subse-quently, on the day of hearing, the Valley came to a standstill amid hartals and bandhs called by the Joint Resistance Leadership in Valley (JRL). Down the passing phases of time in Kashmir, all the mainstream political parties of the State, except the BJP, have always defended Article 370 and Article 35-A. The former Chief Minister of the State, Mehbooba Mufti, once reiterated that fiddling with Article 370 and Article 35-A will hurt the soul of Kashmir.

According to renowned columnist A.G. Noorani, all the arguments against Article 35A are groundless, and are raised with “communal-minded majoritarian” intentions. The scrapping of Article 35-A will manifest into the erosion of the State’s autonomy.

If Article 35-A is scrapped, the extension of the Fundamental Rights and every other provision to J&K through Presidential Orders will stop to apply. This will manifest into the application of Article 1 and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution alone to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 35-A is not only a constitutional or legal issue, but it is a socio-economic and political issue. The major task of the ruling dispensation at the Centre is to protect the special rights of the masses of the State. Being an issue of enormous sensitivity, the Supreme Court of the country should dismiss the petition seeking to scrap Article 35-A.

Today, when J&K is passing through phases of political uncertainty post-coalition demise and caught in the whirlpool of political way-wardness, the major task of the Government of India is to build a consensus to protect the scrapping of Article 35-A and restore the faith of the people in the good governance systems.

The land of the State is getting fragmented as the population of the State is increasing and cultivable lands are turned into residential plots. Settling outsiders in the State will not be a good and mature idea.

The Valley has already experienced a two-day shutdown on August 26 and 27 when the  hearing of Article 35-A took place in the Supreme Court. The political party, National Conference, already deputed its members to New Delhi to defend Article 35-A, but the major task for the political parties of the State in current times is to work in unison for defending the special status and privilege of the State.

The 2008 Amarnath land transfer agreement should serve as an eye-opener for the Government of India which kept the Valley on the boil for various months and consumed the precious lives of the citizens. Fiddling with Article 35-A is tantamount to playing with fire in the politically fragile State placing its peace and stability in jeopardy. God save Jammu and Kashmir.

The author has done M.Sc. in Bio-Chemistry and B.Ed. from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and also qualified in CTET from CBSE. Earlier he worked as a project trainee at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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