Article 35 A – there is a way forward

There is a need to explore newer possibilities for a better future

Jammu and Kashmir is  a place where contradictions  flourish  in all seasons. The summer  is a special season   when the State activates its paradoxes  to confuse the rest of the world, but ends up  a loser itself.


The flavor of the summer 2018 is Article 35 A of the Indian constitution. A challenge to this Article has stirred endless odds. Barring legal experts, everyone else has become  an authority on the subject. The legal luminaries know which argument goes in their favour – the provision has been the part of the constitution for 64 years now. There must have been some merit when  President issued the order and extended it to J&K  in 1954 for doing so. The push and the need  for this Article  in 1954 has to be measured  against the backdrop of the situation and its legality. Or, was it just a some kind of politics that Delhi was intending to play with the people of this state rich in resources but a marginalised lot in the economic terms. Their  only asset was their land and the resources.


The Centre must have weighed many  possibilities before going in for the constitutional provision in 1954  that now  is  at the heart of  an engineered divide between the hereditary permanent residents of the State  and the  citizens of the rest of the country, especially on the issue of the rights to land and the jobs. Certain facts come to  mind  to the  people in the State  as to what must have pushed the then Congress ruled Centre to  do all this, what it did.


India was suffering from consequences of the Partition in 1947 as might have the newborn nation of Pakistan –born on the religious grounds. It had  to cope with so many problems all at once – the settling of  Hindu and Sikh refugees who came from  what is Pakistan now. If that was a major concern, the secular India  also had to reassure its Muslim population that they were safe in the land  that they had  chosen to stay back resisting the calls of the Muslim League  to migrate to the new nation carved out of India.


Jammu and Kashmir, where the leadership of the day  had made a conscious decision to accede to India  as a sequel to   Maharaja Hari Singh ‘s signing of instrument of accession with India,  was  having its own pangs- the Hindus and Sikhs from what is now Pakistan administered Kashmir that some people love to call “ Azad Kashmir”  were  hounded out  from the land of their ancestors  by invading tribesmen, and  Muslims had to migrate from the plains of Jammu  because they  met or were under the threat of meeting the  same fate that the Hindus and Sikhs had met   where they had their homes. This was a heart-rending story  that is an inescapable part of the tortured history of Jammu and Kashmir.


Delhi had hurt Kashmiris by deposing and arresting the tallest leader of the times Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. The trust had frayed. To my mind, it was an attempt to  win over the trust of the Kashmiris in less than  a year’s time to  assure them that  their identity would not be diluted.  This is my understanding that Delhi undertook this major step.


Kashmiri leadership has threatened to “ offer any sacrifice” to save this constitutional provision of the Indian constitution. They have advanced several theories  based on their idea of Article 35 A  and  also  as per their  political convenience. That happens  in such situations, legal matters become the issues to be settled in streets. That is nothing new to Kashmir, but the leadership and emotionally motivated narrative should also look at some of the critical points.


The challengers and those who are backing them want the land and jobs in Jammu and Kashmir. That is what they have stated and it is quite clear to us all.  The permanent residents of the state  need to reflect that why the challengers have been able to make a case, if at all  they have, out of it. Legal position can be debated by the legal experts  and settled in the courtroom.


Kashmiri leadership  also needs to reflect that where  do we stand. The weakness  was injected when the PoK refugees had to struggle for their rights, they are still struggling for the same. Kashmiri Pandits  had to flee their homes.At that time, an argument of Kashmiri identity  suffered a dilution. The history  has become a matter of ideological conviction and commitment. That has  hit hard the claims of unique identity.  A time has come when  the situation and the need  of the identity should be seen  in authentic form not on a select  or the basis of religion.  May be that is a  way forward.