The Supreme Court’s hearing on revocation of the Article 35A that grants special status to the people of Jammu and Kashmir has once instilled fear in the valley. While the apex court today adjourned the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the validity of the Article 35A, it is feared that repealing of the article will have severe consequences.
Tinkering with the Article has been termed as a political strategy by the Centre to change the demography of the state by undermining the concerns of the indigenous population, experts tell Youth Ki Awaaz.
“From breaking of the alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to pushing for the scrapping of Article 35A, everything is happening right when General Elections are around the corner. This is clearly undermining the fears and apprehensions of the Kashmiri people. Everything should not be seen from politically benefitting angle, especially in a sensitive land like Kashmir,” said Waheed-Ur-Rehman Para, President Youth PDP.
Local journalists and politicians believe that the fate of Article 35A will not change the Valley’s sentiments towards New Delhi. According to them, the move to scrap the only Article that renders some negotiating power to the state will open a Pandora box of conflicts.
“BJP came in alliance with the PDP with the assurance that Article 35A will not be repealed. If they still go ahead and remove the Article, then it’ll be a breach of trust. The protests and tension is only going to intensify. By spreading an atmosphere of fear one can’t hope to win the people,” asserted Para.
Article 370 and Article 35A have been a contentious issue ever since the state of Jammu and Kashmir was formally included in the Republic of India.
What is Article 35A?
After partition in 1947, Kashmir was torn between two newly-formed countries- India and Pakistan. After a long period of uncertainty and political turmoil, Jawaharlal Nehru struck a deal with Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh. The instrument of accession signed between Singh and Nehru was the start of negotiating Kashmir’s relation with India.
Later in 1949, Article 370 was included in the constitution after deliberations between Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, an essential figure in Kashmir politics, and Nehru. Article 370 defines Kashmir’s political relationship with New Delhi by granting special status to J&K. It restricts Centre’s legislative powers over defence, foreign affairs, and communications.
In 1954, through a presidential order passed the then President Rajendra Prasad Article 35A was issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. The article accords special rights and privileges of the ‘permanent residents’ of the Kashmir in government jobs, land acquisition and other public welfare projects.
Significance of Article 35 – A Bone Of Contention
SC is currently hearing the petition filed by NGO, We the Citizens, that challenges the validity of both Article 35A and Article 370. According to the petition, Article 35A is against the “very spirit of oneness of India” and creates a “class within a class of Indian citizens”.
However, according to the residents of Kashmir, Article 370 and 35A are two planks on which the state can negotiate its autonomy with the Centre. Over the years, especially after the enforcement of AFSPA and PSA, the valley has been sceptical of New Delhi’s intent. The repeated atrocities of the armies and Centre’s meddling with the regional issue has further alienated the Kashmiris from India.
“New Delhi has already eroded Article 370. In terms of politics and security Kashmiris already feel that the Centre has failed to be considerate towards the concerns of the people. Repealing of Article 35A will send the message that even judiciary is against people of Kashmir. It will be a breach of trust,” argued Para.
It is further argued that the revocation of the Article 35A will trigger a large-scale incursion of big industrialists and people from other other states.
“It’s not just the political angle. People are also concerned about the environment. Just like how people in Singur opposed Tata’s plant, people in Kashmir fear that with mass migration, which may happen if the Article goes away, will not only change the demography of the state, but also hamper the environment,” said a Kashmir-based journalist Fahad Shah.
Commenting on Centre’s approach towards Kashmir, Shah argued, “New Delhi’s policies towards Kashmir haven’t changed much. Be it the rigging of 1987 elections or atrocities inflicted by PSA and AFSPA, Centre has never really given Kashmir the promised ‘special status’. Congress did behind the curtain and BJP is doing it openly. The current government at Centre likes to brag.”