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.