Dr Karan Singh – the first governor of Jammu and Kashmir and son of the last ruler of the province, Maharaja Hari Singh, in a media interaction stated that Jammu and Kashmir’s merger with India is final and irrevocable.
Dr Sign said – The Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly has confirmed the merger and has declared it valid. Therefore, its authenticity cannot be questioned.
Legally, morally and constitutionally, the State is an integral part of India. However, on Section 370 and Article 35A, Dr Singh advised New Delhi to be very cautious. These should be taken care of as these include legal, political, constitutional and emotional factors that should be thoroughly reviewed.”
What is Article 35A?
Article 35A of the Constitution is a piece of legislation that grants certain rights and privileges to the citizens of Kashmir. This article gives the J&K legislature the right to define permanent residence and acquisition of immovable property within the regional boundaries. It was applied to the Constitution by order in 1954 by the issuance of then-President Rajendra Prasad under Article 370.
The Supreme Court held a hearing on the Article over a petition filed by NGO, We, The Citizens, challenging the validity of both Article 35A and Article 370. The petition suggested that these pieces of legislatures are against the “very spirit of oneness of India” and tends to create “class within a class of Indian citizens.”
According to the provisions in the Article 35A, the citizens are defined “permanent” as someone 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. The article also outlaws from owning property or having any gainful employment in the region. This greatly hinders private sector investments and ‘development’ in the region.
Article 35A is important in that it confers Indian citizenship to the “permanent residents” of J&K. This means the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh would cease to be Indian citizens if Article 35A stands abrogated.
Can Article 35A Be Abolished?
The contention is that the rhetoric of abrogating Article 35A from the Constitution would have devastating manifestations in Jammu and Kashmir. These statutes are seen as the pillars of the relationship between India and the state of J&K; the removal of these articles would lead to catastrophic consequences.
If Article 35A is abolished, this would have a direct impact on the local communities within the region. Even though this would open up J&K towards ‘more opportunities’, it could possibly pave the way to further disintegration of the state.
Many experts claim that even if Article 35A is abolished it would not, in any manner, solve the problems in the Kashmir Valley. Furthermore, this would only lead to increased pressure from sessions forces to create further divide and bloodshed.
Locals are of the view that Article 370 and Article 35A are sources of identity and autonomy bestowed by the Constitution upon the indigenous people of J&K. The removal of would lead the state to descend into chaos as unemployment, poverty, loss of property would all rise exponentially.
These pieces of legislatures are the foundation for Jammu and Kashmir’s relationship with the Indian Union. Besides the evident political angle, the people of Kashmir are concerned that the large scale influx of industries upon the removal of Article 35A would harm the delicate ecosystem of the region as well. The mass migration would only trigger socio-cultural disintegration and a loss of identity among the indigenous people of J&K.
According to Kashmiri netizens talking to the EurAsian Times, if Article 35A is abolished, ir will be seen as a breach of trust by the local people. The hardships due to AFSPA and PSA, the constant interference of the Army and Central government in local issues have been etched in the memories of the locals, this act would only further the alienate the people of Kashmir from India.
What Do Kashmiri Separatists Say?
The removal of the Article 35A would make the Treaty of Accession null and void thereby making the citizens of Kashmir open to the militance of terror groups rampant in the region. There are concerns that the removal of this legislature from the Constitution is a blatant attempt at “saffronisation” of the country. If that is the case, the act would lead to further erosion of Kashmir’s autonomy and change the demographics of the Muslim-majority state.
The idea of removing the provision in the Constitution is preposterous and short-sighted. Any hasty attempt at “integrating Kashmir” would only open a Pandora’s box of problems.
The recent visits by National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, and earlier visits by Amit Shah and the deployment of 10,000 personnel have only fanned the speculation on the abrogation of Article 35A.
The rather denominational view of citizenship and life in Jammu and Kashmir leaves many stones unturned about the nature of the fragility of Kashmir’s socio-political system. Instead of the jingoistic attitude that the Central government is found flaunting, it must consider rational and reasonable alternatives to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The abrogation of Article 35A would have a domino effect upon the people of Kashmir and cause irreversible damage. New Delhi must tread very carefully as the after-effects of Burhan Wani’s death still haunts the memories.