New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh calls it India’s ‘biggest Constitutional fraud’, and a grounds for discrimination for generations settled in Jammu and Kashmir. It’s called Article 35A, and was inserted into the Constitution over six decades ago. But the country continues to be ‘largely unaware’ about it.
The Jammu Kashmir Study Centre (JKSC), an RSS-backed think tank, has now taken upon itself to ‘educate’ Indians about the perils of the constitutional provision, inserted ‘illegally’.
Holding symposiums and seminars across the country, the JKSC is campaigning to build consensus against the Article.
Challenge To Validity
The legal validity of Article 35A has been challenged before the Supreme Court, in a petition filed by a New Delhi-based NGO. It seeks that the Article, which was added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954, be scrapped.
The Article empowers the state legislature to define the ‘permanent residents’ of the state, and provide special rights and privileges to them in respect of employment, acquisition of immovable property, and settlement citizens. It also debars citizens from other parts of the country from acquiring immovable property or taking up employment with the state government.
During a hearing in the case earlier this month, the Central government had said a larger debate was essential to deal with this sensitive issue.
The RSS, during its recently-concluded annual conclave in Jammu, had also harped on the need to create awareness, in order to build consensus against the provision.
The JKSC claims the article was added by the then-President Rajendra Prasad at the behest of the Jawaharlal Nehru government, and without the knowledge of Parliament.
It calls the Article ‘unconstitutional’, as any addition or deletion of an Article amounts to an amendment of the Constitution, which can be done only by Parliament, as per procedure laid down under Article 368.
Despite Article 35A being part of the Constitution, it doesn’t appear in the main body of the Constitution rather, it is carried only as an appendix. This is the reason that not just the masses, even the legal fraternity is largely unaware about it. Perhaps this was done intentionally, said Pradeep Sharma, of the legal wing of the JKSC.
The JKSC, which views the Article to be root cause for violation of rights in Jammu and Kashmir, plans to hold at least 300 seminars and symposiums across the country, featuring legal and constitutional experts, students, eminent personalities, and intellectuals.
Four Classes Of Victims
The focus of the campaign is on highlighting the plights four classes of victims of the Article ‘valmikis’, West Pakistan refugees (WPRs), women and Gurkhas.
The Article has been a source of discrimination for generations of these four classes of people who, despite being settled there for decades, continue to be deprived of any rights, said Sharma.
Nearly 300 families of valmikis, mostly from Punjab, had moved to Kashmir in 1957-58 to work as safai karmcharis in the state, because locals refused to do the menial job.
In order to regularise their jobs, the government amended the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Service Regulations, but only to that extent. It has ensured that the valmikis continue to be scavengers for generations. The current generations of valmikis cannot get admission in state-run colleges, can’t get a job, said Sharma.
Another set of ‘victims’ are the West Pakistan refugees. Nearly 20,000 families migrated from West Pakistan during Partition in 1947, and are settled mostly in the Kathua, Samba and Jammu districts of the state.
Not considered naturalised citizens, WPRs are entitled only to vote in Parliament elections, and not for the state Assembly.
The WPRs have been agitating and their representatives twice met Prime Minister Narendra Modi with their demand for citizenship.
Similarly, Gurkhas of the state are also not considered naturalised citizens, and are not entitled to a Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC), despite living there for several generations. They have to go to other states to be recruited in the Army.
The provision is also a ground for gender discrimination.
Under the Article, if a female PRC holder marries a male who is not a naturalised citizen, her children are not entitled to inherit her property. However, no such restriction is applicable to males.
None of these four classes can avail the benefits of various social welfare schemes of the state government, nor are their children entitled to scholarships and freeships, because you are entitled only if you are a PRC holder, Sharma pointed out.
The campaign is to make people aware about the sufferings of the people in Kashmir due to this article and there is mass movement against this discrimination, which has continued for generations.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is running the government in alliance with the BJP, has issued a stern warning against any tinkering with the Article.
Addressing an event at the national capital, Mehbooba on Friday said any change in its status would invite repercussions.
Any tinkering with the Article won’t be acceptable. I won’t hesitate in saying that nobody will even carry the corpse of the National Flag in Kashmir (if the Article is scrapped). Let me make it very clear, she said.
Courtesy- Catch News
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