On the day of Dasehara, 30 September 2017, we had two important but contradictory statements from two different political figures on J&K. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said: "Necessary constitutional amendments will have to be made and old provisions will have to be changed in that state (J&K). Only when the constitutional amendments are done, can the residents of Jammu and Kashmir be completely assimilated with the rest of India." On the other hand, former Sadr-e-Riyasat Dr. Karan Singh observed: "After my interactions with cross section of society in Kashmir, there is a demand that the Government of India must put up a strong defence of the Article 35-A before the Supreme Court. I met a lot of people including former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Governor NN Vohra and took careful note of the sentiments that were expressed regarding Article 35A. While senior government authorities have publicly assured that Kashmir's sentiments in this matter will be respected, but the fact is that the final say will be of the Supreme Court and the government of India has not so far filed any affidavit."
Article 35-A empowers the J&K Legislative Assembly to define the 'permanent residents' of the state. This Article was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru. The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement entered into between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the 'State subjects' of Jammu and Kashmir.
The state subject law was originally promulgated by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927 when the 'sons of the soil' movement was launched by Kashmiri Pandits who opposed the hiring of civil servants from Punjab as it had affected their representation in the Dogra administration. Kashmiri Muslims were largely out of administration during this period. On the eve of partition in 1947, Hari Singh was in favour of an independent kingdom. He didn't favour joining either of the two dominions of India and Pakistan. But the tribal invasion forced him into signing the instrument of accession.
Once the Dogra rule ended, National Conference led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah took the centre stage in Kashmir politics. Sheikh Sahab was influenced by Nehru and the idea of secularism and democracy in India. But once Jan Sangh leader Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, defying the permit system, entered the state in May 1953 and demanded the abrogation of the Article 370, Sheikh Sahab's confidence in the secular India took a beating. He had second thoughts about the accession with India. Sensing the trouble, on 8 August 1953, Sheikh Sahab was dismissed as Prime Minister by the then Sadr-i-Riyasat Dr. Karan Singh on the charge that he had lost the confidence of his cabinet. I think Dr. Karan Singh had never repented this unwarranted exercise of power. Sheikh Sahab was denied the opportunity to prove his majority on the floor of the house and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed succeeded him as Prime Minister.
Once Sheikh Sahab was under arrest, Nehru tried to integrate the state fully with the union of India. The 1954 Presidential Order was issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. It was essentially a ploy to placate the pro-independence sentiments within the rank and file of National Conference once Sheikh Sahab was put under arrest. It was followed by the establishment of the Plebiscite Front on August 9, 1955 by Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beg.
After decades now, the contention of the right-wing in India is that the parliamentary route of lawmaking was bypassed when the President incorporated Article 35-A into the Constitution. Article 368 (i) of the Constitution empowers only Parliament to amend the Constitution. So did the President act outside his jurisdiction? But the fact of the matter is that the Presidential Orders were applied profusely over the state extending a number of central laws on the state. The challenge to Presidential orders shall take us back to 1952 position.
After the changing political dynamics in the sub-continent once Bangladesh emerged as an independent country in 1971, National Conference came to settle down with the Article 370 and 35-A as the most desirable political solution to the Kashmir problem. Other political formations including Hurriyat would accuse us of a sell-out. But today, when we are facing an existential threat, these dissenting voices have realised the significance of our political slogan: "maaje izat 370, beni izat 370". So this is the time when both the mainstream parties and Hurriyat must put their ideological baggage on one side and work together to save the state from communal onslaughts. The Modi government is willing to keep the Kashmir pot boiling till the 2019 General Elections. Intensified campaign is underway to communalize India on religious lines and Kashmir figures prominently in this agenda. Thus no urgency is shown by the centre and its pliant state government in J&K to pay any heed to the Agenda of Alliance. It's actually an agenda of divide and rule. But we must stand united.
Dr. Bashir Ahmad Veeri is a former member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council. Views are personal