Don’t Invite Chaos to Valley By Removing Article 35A
In real terms, Article 35A is a sub-set of Article 370 of the Constitution under which Maharaja Hari Singh, J&K ruler at time of Independence and partition of India, acceded to India. It should be noted that he did not ‘merge’ his domain into India but ‘acceded’ under specific conditions.
Singh, although closely aligned to the RSS and its affiliates in the Jammu region, had no mind to join ‘Hindu’ India after Independence and had wanted to remain independent. When Pakistani irregulars nearly seized his summer capital Srinagar, he pleaded with New Delhi to save him. But he struck a bargain. The conditions are enshrined in Article 370, which is the critical bridge that links Kashmir to India.
Essentially, Singh wanted to ensure continued protection -- after accession to India -- for the properties of his Hindu subjects, primarily the Jammu Dogras and the Kashmiri Pandits. Kashmir valley Muslims were practically serfs then and hardly owned any land.
In1927, responding to moves by the Dogra Pratinidhi Sabha and the Kashmiri Pandit Pratinidhi Sabha, Hari Singh had passed the State Subject Laws, whose purport was to prevent affluent elements and top civil servants from outside, principally from neighbouring Punjab, from acquiring properties in J&K. Subsequently, under Sheikh Abdullah’s ‘Naya Kashmir’ programme, which brought about land ceilings, the Valley’s Muslims, too, came into property and became beneficiaries of the 1927 law.
It is this law that receives protection through Article 35A that was brought into the statutes in 1954. But Article 35A does something else of no small significance. It confers Indian citizenship on J&K’s ‘state subjects’ (now known as Permanent Residents, with a few categories added). If Article 35A goes, the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh will cease to be citizens of India. In that event, Pakistan can move in with ease by throwing bridges at the Muslim communal elements in the Valley, or even muscling its way in.
Those asking for the scrapping of Article 35A may then be invited to repent at leisure. The Valley’s ‘independence-seekers’ will stand no chance at all if the Pakistani hordes come marching in, as they nearly did in October 1947. Those demanding the scrapping of Article 35A are being short-sighted. Essentially, their vision is less about integrating Kashmir ‘fully’ into the rest of India and more about wanting Hindus to dominate all aspects of life, including demographics, everywhere. To that extent, the notion of citizenship under democracy is also to be held in abeyance, though this is never put down in black and white. In the case of J&K, the demographics can be controlled only when non-Muslims from outside Jammu & Kashmir are permitted to buy land and property, especially in the Valley, on a massive scale. It is broadly in line with this view that the RSS presses for property rights and the accrual of other benefits that follow to the progeny of non-J&K refugees from the Pakistan side after Partition.
It is the denominational view of life and politics, rather than genuine republican concerns, that the apex court is being called upon to adjudicate in the guise of the petition of the RSS-linked NGO, We The People -which also finds Article 370 repugnant and seeks its abrogation.
Since the removal of Article 370 -duly brought in through the Constituent Assembly giving J&K autonomous status -- will be hard for the BJP to deliver even when it has a comfortable majority of its own in Parliament, Article 35A is being made to serve as the thin end of the wedge.
We, as Indians, will be inviting chaos and worse if Supreme Court even finds the writ petitions challenging Article 35A maintainable.