Onslaught on Kashmir autonomy

Greater Kashmir

Onslaught on Kashmir autonomy

No tinkering with the Article-35 A

Hassan Zainagiree

Aug 2 2018

‘The best way to predict your future is to create it’—- Abraham Lincoln

Even if looked from the ‘national’ perspective, the ruling BJP government’s approach in tackling the Kashmir dispute—having both internal and external dimensions– reeks of blatant disregard to collective interest of the ‘Nation India’. Its ‘muscular, militaristic approach’( P.Chidharambram) to force people of Kashmir to submission has, far from dampening the resolve of people, widened the gulf between Delhi and Srinagar. Already its monochromic obsession—to worship only one color saffron—is conceding not only more space and lending respectability and legitimacy to , what it denounces as, ‘ separatism’ but also rapidly constricting the political groups India nourished and groomed to perpetuate its interests and use as a buffer. Now the onslaught on the last bastion of the residual autonomy—Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution—is piling up the lava of anger among the masses and there is every apprehension of that lava exploding to volcanic eruption.

Anticipating the looming threat to the demographic position of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the political props of Delhi, warranted by its own political survival, cannot afford to enjoy fence sitting. The gravity of the hard times following the probability of the annulment of the constitutional provision is already forcing these pro-accession groups to speak in tune and language of the common people. The strong sentiment of defiance across spectrum of political opinion should make the Modi-led government sniff the mood of the people (including pro-Indian parties) and desist from pursuing such an adventurism. It will have catastrophic implications. Both at political and regional level.

A Delhi-based NGO, ‘We, the Citizens’, affiliated with Sangh Parivar, of which BJP is a political face, have filed a petition against Article 35-A. The constitutional provision allows the JK state legislature to define the ‘classes of persons who are or who shall be the state subjects (permanent residents) of the state and conferring on such residents any special rights and privileges or imposing upon other persons any restrictions as regards employment under the state government, acquisition of immovable property in the state , settlement in the state or right to scholarship and such other forms of aid as the state government may provide’. As we can see from a glance these rights and privileges are attributes of state sovereignty. And this provision, under constitutional mechanism governing relations of state with the Union of India, has a nature of protective cover to fence off any threat aimed to rob state of this special position. A slew of petitions challenging 35-A and clubbed together by the Supreme Court are listed for hearing on August 6. It is not the first time that said provision was challenged. But previous governments filed counter affidavit against the petitions challenging its constitutional validity. That resulted in courts dismissing such petitions. This time, the BJP government at Delhi has not filed a counter affidavit against the petitions. And this has ratcheted up the tension in Kashmir. Both pro-resistance and pro-accession groups fret demographic change if the provision is struck down from the Constitution.

Not that Congress party, claiming to be ‘secular and democratic’, has remained committed to what it pledged to Kashmiris. Its track record shows her playing deceptive politics and breeding a clutch of errands to act as accomplice as and when required. Like snakes devour their own offspring, Congress used Article 370 that was inserted to safeguard state’s autonomous character against the very provision. To disembowel it off its very vital contents. They tunnelled a lot of crafty consignment across the ‘tunnel’ and reduced Article 370 into an ‘empty shell’(as then home minister Nanda in Nehru government boasted). Any relationship that has origin in insincerity and plays wicked politics to consolidate its position will sooner than latter develop cracks of mistrust and fade uglier as the days roll on. Nehru’s fascinating exterior like his project democracy in Kashmir has black spots. His successors tarred it further. But, perhaps much aware of the tsunami that may unleash, resisted to any temptation of altering the demography of the state. Nehru was prudent enough not to ignore the internal and external factors. RSS brigade—give the devil his due—does not believe in searching for fig-leaves, in concealing its dragger. It is blunt, straight forward. Bulldoze the fence to let in the influx from outside to drown us. That is its muscle mentality. The solution of festering sore called Kashmir.

Strange those who fight for Dogra swabimaan (pride) seem to be impervious to the fallout in case Article 35-A is done away with. Their own cultural, ethnic, linguistic identity will be threatened. The benefits the state subject entitles them regarding job opportunities and other state privileges they will be deprived from. In some other Indian states too the people of the native land enjoy some exclusive rights to land and employment and in other regions violent campaigns are carried out against the ‘outsiders’ to protect their ‘ unique’ culture and ethnicity and economic benefits. In an ocean of outsiders, it will be difficult, rather impossible, for Jammu Dogras to preserve their island of seperato-cracy, with eminent shades of yesterday autocratic arrogance. One more thing, when they were at their meridian splendor, it was on their behest that Dogra despot Hari Singh enacted the legislation in 1924 for the reasons that they had apprehensions of getting marginalized and losing land to outsiders. The Article 35-A gives constitutional legitimacy to the same Dogra demand. That Dogras—the elite ruling section Maharaja belonged to—today are insensitive to the sinister designs aimed to scrap the Article 35-A is because the benefits and privileges of the law encapsulates Muslims too, who, fortunately or unfortunately, are in majority.

Notwithstanding the BJP government’s not filing counter affidavit and Attorney General KK Venugopal pleading for `larger debate’ on the subject, the petition before the apex court deserves to be dismissed, keeping in view the earlier decisions delivered by the Court. Moreover, Article 35-A, that has been added in the Constitution Application Order 1954, is integral to the regime of all such Orders that President of India applied to JK state. If Application Order 1954 stands questioned, then rest of Orders cannot claim inviolability. And as rightly said by our legal luminary and noted advocate Zaffar Shah some time before, and I reproduce: ‘If the Court rules that Constitution Application Orders are invalid, such a judgment will have to be made applicable to all Constitutional Orders from 1950 till date. The Constitutional link between the the Union and the State will be snapped and the position of the State will be same as it was before constitutional arrangements were worked out. It will also affect various provisions of the Constitution of the State and result in Constitutional crisis’.

As it is an issue of existence for people of JK and issue of every citizen, the Governor administration is urged to get the hearing deferred till the time elected government is in place to articulate its stand on the issue. When for an ‘interlocutor’ to carry forward ‘interaction’ hearing in the SC has to be postponed, why not this time when future of Kashmiris hangs in thread. Or, has the story to do Palestine been scripted? But one thing is certain. People here will not tolerate any tinkering with the Article 35-A. They won’t take it lying down. 2008 mass agitation was fuelled by land row. This time, perhaps it will spiral out of control, may be across the confines.