By Zeeshan Rasool Khan
It was, more or less expected, that after implementation of GST, the second step of the Government of India would be alteration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status- that is, Article 370. This article has been a thorn in their flesh since a long time; its abrogation had been in election manifesto of the BJP as well. Now, almost three years after assuming office and succeeding in making India almost Congress free, with BJP affiliated officers in every office the powers that be in New Delhi have started using the judicial route to abrogate the Article 370 by scrapping of Article 35A, which has most intricate relationship with Article 370.
Before pointing out the ramifications of its abrogation we must know what Article 370 is all about. Article 370 was included in the Indian constitution, which among other things entailed and made it incumbent upon the Indian parliament to seek Jammu and Kashmir’s concurrence to extend all other laws to the state; Article 35A of the constitution is a derivative of Article 370, which allows the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly to define who is a permanent resident, who is eligible to vote and work for/in the state, who can own land and so on. Thus, under this article, residents of the state live under a separate set of laws, relating to ownership of property and fundamental rights thereby furnishing Jammu and Kashmir, with a special status .
There have been many attempts for the said article’s abrogation beginning in 1956, 1961, 1970 but petitions challenging the Article 370 were dismissed by the court. The contemporary debate began after an RSS-linked NGO challenged it by filing a PIL in the Supreme court of India on December 2015 on grounds that Article 370 was added to the constitution through amendment under Article 368 , that is, through pa residential order and was never presented before parliament, which the court admitted and is likely to hear on this matter.
Let us take this case into account; if the Article 370 is violation of the Article 368 and is unconstitutional then several other laws that were extended to state through presidential orders also need to repealed .Thus scrapping of this article make all other presidential orders from 1950 onwards, invalid and nullifies all the 41 subsequent presidential orders, making various other provisions of the Constitution of India applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. Prior to the insertion of Article 35A, the Governor and the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir were addressed as the Sadr-e-Riyasat (President) and Wazir-e-Azam (Prime Minister). Its repeal must then lead back to the same arrangement.
Secondly, some argue that Article 370 is gender discriminatory because if a woman marries a non-permanent resident she loses identity, there is no such issue because, in a landmark judgment, Jammu and Kashmir High Court, in 2002, held that women married to non-permanent residents will not lose their rights. Some claim it deprives a particular community from rights.
Honestly speaking, all such objections are without substance. The justification behind the attempts of abrogation is flawed. It is a gimmick to dump the Kashmir Issue once for the all. With its abrogation , the people of Jammu and Kashmir would not only lose their residency and property rights but it would trigger demographic change that will have a negative impact on the UN resolutions that promise “plebiscite”. It is, in fact , a well planned conspiracy to integrate Jammu and Kashmir completely with India that has acceded to India conditionally.
Mainstream political parties along with the Hurriyat have resolved to oppose any such move aimed at abolishing this article tooth and nail but it yet to be seen whether they would really rise above their politics to do something for upholding the Special status or, it would be , merely conventional politics. It a is litmus for those political parties who have been using Article-370 as an election slogan to prove their sincerity .It must not be treated like GST because without any doubt this is the most sensitive issue that needs to be dealt with, by every possible means. If the article goes, it would be major setback and can have bad repercussions for the state of Jammu and Kashmir and its identity.
—The author can be reached at: email@example.com