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It must be defended

Article 35 A is more than a mere legal provision
Srinagar | Posted : Aug 13 2017 1:33AM | Updated: Aug 12 2017 11:45PM
It must be defended

In a move rarely seen in the past,  Parties in opposition  have joined hands with the    government   to devise  a strategy to defend  Article 35 A  of the  Union  Constitution  which  is facing  a renewed  judicial challenge in the Apex Court.  In  convergence  of  sorts on this issue    separatists too seem to be on the same page, though for different reasons.  Opposition leaders   counseled  CM  Mehbooba Mufti to arrange for a meeting with PM Narandra Modi,  wherein  they  “would apprise him  about the concerns  that abrogation of this Article will be dangerous for the  country and the state  .” And this meeting happened.   

 Political parties will be  doing  great injustice to the cause if it is made Kashmir specific .   They   must mobilize Civil society of the whole state and not restrict it to Kashmir only.   We presume  there are many in Jammu  and  Ladakh  regions  who  feel  the same. A broad awareness  program, shorn off regional and sectarian considerations,  is called for, so that every section of the society  gets educated  about pros and cons of the matter.  Those  who insist on  abrogation of this provision must be told that  if Article 35 A  goes, then be ready for  Resettlement  Act, 1982  to come into play. It can’t  be one way traffic. People from both sides should come  in. After all,  India  considers  POK  as  its   part and  residents thereof  as its  citizen. Besides  people of Jammu  and Ladakh  may  be told that their claim of regional   autonomy will get seriously dented  and there will be  an  unbearable strain on the region's demography. 

  Some   Kashmiri   Pandits  have  joined the campaign for abrogation of the Article.    Nobody can  deny  KPs  their love for India and the  Indian civilization. True, they are inextricably linked   to  the mainland. It is natural for them, therefore, to have India in Kashmir. But love for India should not blind a KP to  the hard realities of history and geography of the region. J&K has    acceded to India in 1947, irrevocably. But it was not a spontaneous or  an instinctive decision. Many considerations went into its  making .   Space  here  will not permit  a detailed discussion.  While relation of  the State  with Indian Union was reaffirmed at various times but regard for the  political  sensitivities    of    majority   of the populace  was always kept  in view. Besides,  geo-political position of the region was also factored in . Mutual trust defined the  Centre – State  relations,  which got formalized by incorporating  certain  special provisions  in the Sate and Union Constitutions.   Any change in that Constitutional arrangement would constitute a breach of  trust.    So Article 35 A  is  not  an ordinary   constitutional provision but an article of faith. Its  sanctity must  be  maintained. 

  If entry of non-state subjects is allowed to the sate Pandits  must  know who will come in   -thugs in the shape of Sadhus and  mahants. Do we need to  know these sadhus, who had sneaked  in through the  manipulations, have plundered the invaluable properties of the Temples and Shrines. Finding  ground fertile,  rabid Muslims from the mainland will also flock in.  J &K's   pluralistic /Sufi culture will come under a threat.

  For Tatas, Birlas and  Ambanis there were no restrictions. But they  avoided  coming  because  logistics here  are  not suitable  for money earning. It  is love of the lucre and not the nation that attracts a businessman to  the  place.  Some came, exploited  incentive  schemes   and  then  left.  

 It is for the  nationalists  to understand that those who campaign for the retention of this provision are in fact showing respect for the Indian Constitution.  There is nothing seditious about it. Pandits will get nothing  from the abrogation of this Article.  On the contrary it will   help them to retain  their special identity as KPs. Their  dispassionate  position on the subject,  if  not active support of the Article, will reveal their affinity to the  land of  birth.  This gesture will go long way  in building  mutual   confidence and help  reconciliation.

 PM Modi has travelled far in a positive direction that he should have confidence to win election in 2019 on  agenda of  further betterment of the countrymen .He  won’t  need  emotional crutches. It is time for him  to renew  the  pledge made by  GOI  to the Kashmir’s   to  safeguard their internal autonomy, albeit within the frame work of Indian Constitution . Central Government can’t leave the mater to mere constitutionality.  It has enormous political implications   for the whole country . PM should advise his law officers to contest the case on all aspects   and then  leave it  to the best judgment of the Court .

May Narrandar  Modi   be   another    Atal Behari Vajpayee  for  Kashmiris .

Author, a Kashmiri Pandit, is former Principal District & Sessions Judge