As the controversy generated by the move to abrogate the Article 35A of the constitution, guaranteeing special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that the constitutional provisions of JK need to be changed.
“Necessary constitutional amendments will have to be made and old provisions will have to be changed in that state,” he said at the RSS’ annual Dussehra event. BJP patriarch L K Advani and Union minister Nitin Gadkari were also present on the occasion.
“Only when the constitutional amendments are done, can the residents of Jammu and Kashmir be completely assimilated with the rest of India,” Bhagwat said, apparently hinting at Article 370 which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
The RSS chief who has been quite vocal on getting the constitutional amendments in JK finalized said that the problems of the people, who were displaced from the Kashmir Valley in 1990s, are yet to be addressed.
He cautioned the federal government over the Rohingya refugees demanding that they should not be encouraged to come to India.
“The central government should keep national security in mind while taking a decision on Rohingyas who are seeking shelter in the country,” Bhagwat said.
“We have been facing the problem of illegal Bangladeshi migrants and now Rohingyas have infiltrated into our country,” Bhagwat said.
Giving shelter to Rohingyas will not only put pressure on our jobs, but also pose a threat to national security, he said.
“Any decision regarding Rohingyas should be taken by keeping in mind the threat to national security,” he said referring to the people who have fled from violence-hit Rakhine state in Myanmar.
Pertinently, an RSS backed NGO has submitted a petetion in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of Article 35A of the Indian constitution. The act provides special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Recently, a woman called Charu Wali Khan, settled outside the state, challenged the legality of Article 35A of the Indian Constitution that allows J&K to define its “permanent residents”. She claimed in her petition to the Supreme Court that such a law takes her succession rights away and disenfranchises her.
In its response, the court sent notices to the Centre and the state governments last month to address her plea, following which Advocate General K Venugopal told the bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud that Article 35A raises several “sensitive questions” so the point about its legality demands a “larger debate”. The court then referred the case to a three-judge bench and set a six-week deadline for a final verdict.
In the mean time, political sentiments in the state are in a turmoil. The possibility of the Centre tampering with Article 35A has united the ruling PDP and Opposition, both defending the hurt sentiments of ordinary Kashmiris.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has warned, in well-chosen words, that no one will be left in the state to hold the national flag if Article 35A is tinkered with. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah has also added his voice to the controversy, saying that questioning the validity of Article 35A would be as good as challenging the accession of J&K.
In spite of the political rhetoric, there is more than a grain of truth in these apprehensions. Any alteration to Article 35A may leave the government at the Centre with a hot mess in its hands, damaging the vestiges of goodwill that ordinary Kashmiris may still have towards the Union of India.
Article 35A was added through the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, issued under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special autonomy to the state of J&K. The J&K Constitution (J&K is the only state allowed to have its separate Constitution) was adopted on 17 November 1956. It defined a permanent resident as someone who was a state subject on 14 May 1954, or has been a resident of the state for 10 years, and has lawfully acquired immovable property in the state.