“Our Fight is for Kashmir, not against Kashmir, not against the Kashmiris.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi emanated these words at a rally in Tonk (Rajasthan) on Saturday. With these words, the PM finally condemned the assaults and attacks on Kashmiri students all over India. After keeping silence of more than a week this statement was seen as a little respite to the tensions that followed after the Pulwama Attack.
Within minutes of PM’s speech, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, in a tweet thanked PM for breaking his silence on attacks against Kashmiris in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and expressed hope that such incidents would not recur.
It’s been a more than a week since the terrible attack in Pulwama & more than a week that Kashmiris have been bearing the brunt of the public anger. Perhaps finally after PM @narendramodi Sb has spoken these forces targeting Kashmiris will stop in their tracks.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 23, 2019
Little did the people know that within hours the political tension between the Government and Kashmir will further escalate. The valley witnessed a huge crackdown on members of Hurriyat and Jamat-e-Islami. Almost 200 members of these organizations were arrested by the State Police leading to anger among the civilians in the central and southern Kashmir where these arrested people have a considerable following. Additional troops (100 companies of paramilitary forces) have been rushed to Jammu and Kashmir. Such a huge movement of Armed Forces has been attributed to the upcoming elections in the country by the Government. As if the above developments in the Valley was not enough, the Supreme Court is finally set to hear the petition challenging Article 35A from February 26-28. The situation in the valley could further worsen with this highly politically sensitive Article 35(A) of the constitution.
So What is Article 35(A)?
It is a constitutional provision that allows the Jammu-Kashmir assembly to define permanent residents of the state. The permanent residents of the state have:-
- special rights and privileges in public sector jobs,
- acquisition of immovable property in the State,
- scholarships and public aid along and welfare.
The provision mandates that no act of the legislature coming under it can be challenged or struck down or declared void for violating the Constitution or any other law of the land.
How did Article 35(A) get into practice?
- Maharaja Hari Singh, who ruled the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir defined the state subjects, including the citizenship via notifications of 1927 and 1932. The law regulated the migrants to the state.
- In Oct 1947, After Independence from the British Colony, the Maharaja had signed the Instrument of Accession while joining India, which included the law barring any outsider from buying property in the state.
- The Article was the outcome of a 1952 Delhi Agreement between Jawaharlal Nehru and then Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah several provision of Constitution of India was extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- A 1954 presidential order saw its annexure to Article 370, allowing the state to define who would constitute permanent residents of the state.
What are the petitions about?
- It all started in 2014 when a Delhi-based NGO ‘We the Citizens’ filed a petition suggesting that Article 35A goes against the “very spirit of oneness of India” and claims that, “Kashmir never separated from the Federation of Indian dominion.” The NGO contends that Article 35A creates two classes of citizens which is against the basic tenets of the Constitution.
- In 2015, the West Pakistan Refugees Action Committee Cell moved the Supreme Court through a writ petition, pointing out the violation of human rights of refugees who settled down after partition independence. West Pakistan refugees do not have the right to property or vote and are not recognized as permanent residents. Referring to the Resettlement Act of 1982 passed by the state, the petitioners highlighted that it gave such persons and their kids the right to acquire permanent citizenship.
- Charu Wali Khanna, a lawyer and former member of the National Commission for Women, filed the petition against Article 35A in the Supreme Court after the J&K government refused to identify her as a permanent resident because she didn’t have any documentary evidence to prove her claim. The apex court has clubbed her plea with a petition challenging the constitutional validity of the provision.
“Article 14 of the Constitution gives a fundamental right to equality before the law. But 35A is heavily loaded in favor of males because even after marriage to women from outside, they will not lose the right of being permanent residents,” she told the court in the petition.
Why are Kashmiris Apprehensive?
The contention over 35(A) could escalate the cases of violence in the valley. Scrapping or changing provisions of the Article could eventually erode the autonomic authority of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Citizens especially the Kashmiris fear that doing away with the Article will bring large scale demographic changes in the Muslim Majority Kashmir.
What has been the Political Response?
Currently, states having a heavy presence of Armed forces have witnessed a spike in the violent clashes of Citizenship issues.
The former chief minister and National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah said, Jammu and Kashmir might find itself in a situation that is worse than what Arunachal Pradesh is presently facing if the Centre interferes with Article 35 A of the Constitution, which gives special rights and privileges to people in Jammu and Kashmir.
Almost every party in the valley has warned against the repercussions of the scrapping of Article 35(A). BJP new ally Sajad Lone, who was minister to the BJP-PDP Government has said that “Any change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir will kill mainstream thought in the Valley”.
The BJP led, NDA government at the Centre is mulling over making its stand clear on the politically sensitive Article 35A that gives special rights to the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been very vocal against the special status of Kashmir.
Manish Tiwari of Congress has also warned about the government’s position on the Article.
Nero’s of Delhi are fiddling & India’s 2 most sensitive states J&K &Arunachal Pradesh are burning. While AP is burning because of Permanent Residence Certificates NDA/BJP will set J&K on fire if it subverts Article 35-A thru executive action-Adv:Pak&China https://t.co/eXnAhNq1xS
— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) February 25, 2019
After Pulwama Attack the Government’s position on the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir will define the future relations of the Centre and the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. With Elections on the way in a few days from now, the situation in the valley could get worse with such complicated political interests around it.