India is the confluence of 29 states and 7 Union territories, with a distinct demography, language, culture, lifestyle, etc. Jammu and Kashmir forms the part of the northern portion of the country with the privilege of the special status state among the whole gamut of states. Constitution as the basic guide of principles gives rights to all the people of the country, common and special.
Indian constitution is the sum total of articles, schedules, rights, duties, etc. Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution is an article and provision that empowers the legislature of J&K state to define permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir state and provides special rights and privileges to them in public sector jobs, property acquisition in the State and other aid and welfare.
Article 35 A was added to the Constitution via a Presidential Order, i.e., The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, issued by the President of India on 14 May 1954 with the concurrence of the Jammu and Kashmir government. The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954 was issued by President Rajendra Prasad under Article 370, with the advice of the central Government. Article 35 A protects the demographic status of the Jammu and Kashmir. Article 35 A of the Constitution of India, which was applied to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, not only recognizes but explains the constitutional and legal position of the state and does not provide something novice to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
In 2014, an NGO, We the Citizens, challenged the validity of the Article 35 A in Supreme Court of India. This year again the provisions of Article 35 A were challenged in the same manner, which invited ire of all the mainstream and separatist leaders of the valley.
Even an MLA of BJP at the state level came in support of the Article 35 A. Subsequently,on the day of hearing, the valley came to a standstill amid hartals and bandhs called by the Joint Resistance Leadership in valley (JRL). Down the passing phases of time in Kashmir, all the mainstream political parties of the state except BJP have always defended the Article 370 and Article 35 A. The former Chief Minister of the state, Mehbooba Mufti once reiterated that fiddling with Article 370 and Article 35 A will hurt the soul of Kashmir.
According to renowed columnist A G Noorani, all the arguments against the Article 35 A are groundless, and are raised with “communal-minded majoritarian” intentions. The scrapping of Article 35 A will manifest into the erosion of the states autonomy.
If Article 35 A is scrapped, the extension of the Fundamental Rights and every other provision to J&K through Presidential Orders will stop to apply. This will manifest into the only application of Article 1 and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Article 35 A is not only a constitutional or legal issue, but it is a socioeconomic and political issue. The major task for the ruling dispensation at the centre is to protect the special rights of the masses of the state. Being an issue of enormous sensitivity, the Supreme Court of the country should dismiss the petition seeking to scrapping the Article 35 A.
Today, when J&K is passing through the phases of political uncertainty post-coalition demise and caught in the whirlpool of political waywardness, the major task for the government of India is to build a consensus to protect the scrapping of Article 35 A and restore the faith of the people in the good governance systems.
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The land of the state is getting fragmented as the population of the state is increasing and cultivable lands are turned into residential plots. Settling outsiders in the state will not be a good and mature idea.
The valley is already heading for chaos as the next hearing takes place in last days of this month in the Supreme Court takes place. The political party National Conference has already deputed its members to New Delhi to defend the Article 35 A, but the major task for the political parties of the state in the current times is to work in unison for defending the special status and privilege of the state.
The 2008 Amarnath land transfer agreement should serve as an eye opener for the government of India which kept valley on boil for various months and consumed the precious lives of the citizens. Fiddling with Article 35 A is tantamount to playing with fire, which could engulf the whole peace and stability of the politically fragile state as the last nail in the coffin is assimilated. God save Jammu and Kashmir.
On 27th of this month, as the fake news about Article 35 A’s scrapping spread in Anantnag, the situation went out of control with a volley of protests and ensuing disorder. That afternoon, as I went to watch the situation in Anantnag maintown, shops were closed, transport was off the roads and pindrop silence was looming large with a clarion call of aftershocks if Article 35 A is scrapped and Kashmir’s response thereof.
*Abid Ahmad Shah works in the Govt. Education Dept. J&K, views are personal.