Kashmir: Repeal of Articles 35-A and 370 of India’s Constitution?

An opportunity to correct a historic blunder.The time is ripe for Kashmiris to review Kashmir-India relation. With one voice Kashmiris from all walks of life should annul so-called accession, stay standstill or accede to Pakistan. And then, review relation with Pakistan also in keeping with Pakistan’s-constitution Article: 257. The article states: `When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State’. It is time the Kashmiris woke up and grab the opportunity to correct their historical blunder.

India’s Union minister Jaitley declared, `Article 35 A [of India’s Constitution] was “surreptitiously” included in the Indian Constitution. It was a “historical blunder” committed by Jawaharlal Nehru”’. His rant stimulated former chief minister `Mehbooba Mufti to warn (March 31, 2019) ` if Article 370, which guarantees special status to J&K, is done away with, the state’s relation with India will be over’.

While addressing party workers in Srinagar, Mehbooba said, `Article 370 is a bridge and the Constitution of India applies to us through it. And when you break that bridge, how come this Mehbooba Mufti, who swears by the constitution of J&K and India, will take oath? Then you will have to redefine the relations between India and Kashmir’.

Article 35A empowers IHK puppet government to `define a class of persons as constituting “permanent residents” of the disputed state and `to allow the government to confer on these persons special rights and privileges with respect to matters of public employment and acquisition of immovable property in the state’. In addition, `it grants immunity to such special rights and privileges legislation from being annulled on the ground that they infringe one or the other of the fundamental constitutional rights’.

Article 35A was included into the Constitution of India in 1954 by a presidential order made under Article 370 of the Constitution of India. The basic principles committee of the J&K Constituent Assembly, which was set up in 1951, presented its report to the Constituent Assembly in February 1954. As a part of the report, an annexure which listed out the provisions of the Constitution of India, besides Articles 1 and 370, that should be made applicable to J&K. This annexure included, among other Articles, Article 35A.

Background

Sheikh Abdullah befooled

Pandit Jawahar Lal Kaul (assumed surname Nehru) befooled Sheikh Abdullah to stab Pakistan in the back. Barkha Dutt recalls (This Unquiet Land, p. 154) `In a 1948 speech to the United Nations, Sheikh Abdullah, the most formidable political leader the state of Jammu and Kashmir had ever seen, made a blistering defence of the accession to India. Sher-e-Kashmir (Lion of Kashmir) roared, :I had thought all along that the world had got rid of Hitlers…but what is happening in my poor country I am convinced that they have transmigrated their souls into Pakistan…I refuse to accept Pakistan as a party in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir’.

Dutt says, “Sheikh Abdullah [later] began to talk about possibility of independent Kashmir….Soon after he changed his stance he was jailed and dismissed from office and was not able to lead the state for another twenty years’. Dutt analyses that even azadi (freedom) slogan was a ruse to push back `Jammu ko alag karo’ (separate the Jammu) slogan raised by Balraj Madhok’s Bharatiya Jana Singh (precursor to BJP). `The Sheikh’s clash was not just with Nehru, but closer home, with the praja parishad [local political party] of Jammu’.

How India whittled down `special status’?

India through a series of steps whittled down Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and 35-A of India’s Constitution. Governor replaced sadr-e-riast (head of J&K State) who could conveniently dismiss wazir-e-riast (re-desgnated chief minister).

Indian government dismissed its own ally, Mehbooba Mufti’s government. She outlawed several parities including Jama’at-e-Islami under handy label `separatist’. Kaswhmiri pedestrian and vehicles were ordered not to go anywhere near military convoys. About 800,000 troops were directed to carry on day-and-night searches, pick-up `suspects; and consigns them to military custody incognito. To humiliate Kashmiri leaders, they were called upon to explain their source of income. Even religious leader, Mirwaiz of Kashmir was not spared. He was summoned to New Delhi to explain `are you with India, or without’. To me them fearful of assassinations, they were deprived of security cover.

`Special status’ on judicial anvil

A petition was filed in India’s Supreme Court to do away with so called `special status. While Kashmiri leaders begged for election, their fate of total integration hangs in hands of petition pending with India’s Supreme Court.

OIC’s veiw

Organisation of Islamic Countries expressed ennui at plight of Kashmiris under Indian yoke India. The OIC reminded India that her rhetoric about accession and `integral part’ is a hoax. OIC echoed renowned historian Alastair Lamb’s concerns. He regards the Instrument of Accession, ‘signed’ by the maharajah of Kashmir on October 26, 1947, as fraudulent (Kashmir – A disputed legacy 1846-1990).

United Nations’ view of `accession’

Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the puppet assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions to forestall the `foreseeable accession’ by the puppet assembly. Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951 and affirmative Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957 outlaws accession or any other action to change status of the Jammu and Kashmir state.

Under hypnotic spell of Indian propaganda, readers naively accept IHK’s `assembly’ and preceding `instrument of accession’ as fait accompli. No sir, they aren’t. Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the sham assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions to forestall the foreseeable` accession’ by the puppet assembly. Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951 and confirmatory Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957 outlaws accession or any other action to change status of the Jammu and Kashmir state.

`Accession instrument’ is a myth, unregistered with the UN. Alastair Lamb, in his book Incomplete Partition (Chapter VI: The accession Crisis, pp. 149-151) points out that Mountbatten wanted India not to intervene militarily without first getting `instrument of accession’ from maharajah Hari Singh. Not doing so would amount to `intervening in the internal affairs of what was to all intents and purposes an independent State in the throes of civil conflict’. But, India did not heed his advice. It marched its troops into Kashmir without

maharajah‘s permission _ an act of aggression. Lamb says `timing of the alleged Instrument of Accession undoubtedly affected its legitimacy'(p.172, ibid). She adds `If in fact took place after the Indian intervention, then it could well be argued that it was either done under Indian duress or to regularise an Indian fait accompli’.

He argues that the maharajah was travelling by road to Jammu (a distance of over 350 km). How could he sign the instrument while being on the run for safety of his life? There is no evidence of any contact between him and the Indian emissaries on October 26, 1947. Actually, it was on October 27, 1947 that the maharajah was informed by MC Mahajan and VP Menon (who had flown into Srinagar) that an Instrument of Accession is being fabricated in New Delhi. Obviously, the maharajah could not have signed the instrument earlier than October 27, 1947. The instrument remains null and void, even if the maharajah had actually signed it. The reason, as pointed out by Alastair is that the `signatures’ were obtained under coercion. Under law, any undertaking secured through coercion or duress is null and void. She points out Indian troops had already arrived at and secured Srinagar airfield during the middle of October 1947. On October 26, 1947, a further airlift of thousands of Indian troops to Kashmir took place. She questions: “Would the maharajah have signed the Instrument of Accession, had the Indian troops not been on Kashmiri soil?” Isn’t it funny that, in the summer of 1995, the Indian authorities reported the original document as lost or stolen?

Lamb concludes (p. 191, ibid):`According to Wolpert, V. P. Menon returned to Delhi from Srinagar on the morning of 26 October with no signed Instrument of Accession. Only after the Indian troops had started landing at Srinagar airfield on the morning of 27 October did V. P. Menon and M. C. Mahajan set out from Delhi from Jammu. The Instrument of Accession, according to Wolpert, was only signed by Maharajah Sir Hari Singh after Indian troops had assumed control of the Jammu and Kashmir State’s summer capital, Srinagar’.

Historical blunder

The real blunder was not introduction of Article 35A, but accession to India, through a resolution of null-and-void constituent assembly. To forestall the `foreseeable accession’ by the puppet assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions, Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951 and confirmatory Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957. These resolutions outlawed accession or any other action to change status of the Jammu and Kashmir state. For one thing, even `Accession instrument’ is a myth, unregistered with the UN. Let us put aside above UN resolutions and let India repeal Article 35A. What will happen? This will revert the disputed state back to a quasi-sovereign status, with its own prime minister and president. The state subjects of disputed Kashmir will cease to be citizens of India. Entry of Indian nationals into disputed Kashmir will be obstructed. The goods from India will have to pass through a customs barrier to pay an import duty. And, above all, the Kashmiri people will not be legally obliged to uphold the integrity and sovereignty of India. By swoosh of repeal, India’s nemesis,

Pro-freedom parties (so-called separatists) will become mainstream stakeholders.

Legal view

To quote A G Noorani (Dawn August 11, 2019), “Article 35-A is not a mere executive order under Article 370 but is itself a constitutional provision, a compact recorded in both constitutions. No court can ignore this. As the Privy Council held, ‘parliament could as a matter of abstract law’ repeal the statute of Westminster recognising the independence of the dominions. But that is theory and has no relation to realities.”

The threat to Article 35-A poses an existential threat to disputed Kashmir. Curbs on alienation of hereditary occupancy of lands existed in Kashmir since times immemorial.

In 1922, the princely state’s council of ministers imposed curbs on employment of outsiders in administration, as well as “all grants of land for agricultural and house-building purpose and grant of houses and other state property shall be made to state subjects only”. A notification in April 1927 defined them.

The basic principles committee set up by the J&K constituent assembly presented its report on Feb 3, 1954. “All these fundamental rights should be subject to the overriding condition that: (i) no law of [J&K] relating to [J&K] subjects to be hereafter called ‘permanent residents’ and regulating their rights and privileges; and (ii) no law hereafter to be made by the [J&K] legislature defining the permanent residents and conferring on them special rights and privileges in relation to acquisition and holding of property in [J&K] or in the matter of employment under [J&K] and imposing restrictions on citizens other than permanent residents for settling within [J&K] should become void on the ground that it is inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by Part III of Constitution of India.”

On Feb 11, 1954, the report of the drafting committee was presented to the constituent assembly, in which an annexure set out the provisions of the Indian constitution, besides Articles 1 and 370 that should apply to J&K. Obviously; this annexure had been settled with the Indian government. Article 35-A was among them. On Feb 15, Girdhari Lal Dogra moved that a copy of the annexure be sent to the Indian government “for appropriate action”. On May 17, the president’s order under Article 370 followed, inserting, among other provisions, Article 35-A in the constitution.

Articles 370 and 35-A are a symbiotic twin, a compact between the centre and Kashmir, which was negotiated over May to October 1949. It was agreed between Jawaharlal Nehru and J&K’s delegation headed by Sheikh Abdullah. Nehru recorded it in a note dated July 20, 1952. The terms of the agreement were explained to the Indian parliament (Lok Sabha) and to the J&K constituent assembly.

Article 35-A was added to the constitution of India through the presidential order of 1954 issued by the first president Rajendra Prashad on May 14, 1954 in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 370. Article 35-A empowers the J&K legislature to define permanent residents of the state. The J&K adopted its own constitution on 17th November 1956 and defined the person who could be the permanent resident of the state.

Background to state-subject law

The background of state subject law is as old as the geographical and cultural history of Kashmir exists. The permit system known as “Rahdari” for the exit and entry into the state existed even during medieval and ancient periods of Kashmir. The state subject provisions got the legal shape only when Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927 enacted a law known as state subject or permanent residency law. The dogras were apprehensive that better educated people from east and west Punjab would migrate to Kashmir and dominate government services due to their advancement in education. Major portion of government service posts were occupied by either KPs or dogras in J&K state during dogra rule. A very negligible percentage of Muslims were given jobs in government. During dogra rule, the British Government used to send their medical teams from England to treat Kashmiri patients. Even they were not allowed to over-stay sis-monthly sojourn.

Myopic Kashmiris did nothing to stop special-status erosion

Leaders of the mainstream political parties connived at erosion of the terms of accession through amendments to disputed-Kashmir constitution and Article 370.

What to do?

The time is ripe for Kashmiris to review Kashmir-India relation. With one voice Kashmiris from all walks of life should annul so-called accession, stay standstill or accede to Pakistan. And then, review relation with Pakistan also in keeping with Pakistan’s-constitution Article: 257. The article states: `When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State’. It is time the Kashmiris woke up and grab the opportunity to correct their historical blunder.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad. He is author of seven e-books. He has experience of serving Pakistan government for 39 years. He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. And specialises on India, Kashmir, and peripheral states