Don’t In­vite Chaos to Val­ley By Re­mov­ing Ar­ti­cle 35A

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

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.

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