On Article 35A, state govt needs to do more


Supreme Court has deferred the hearing of the petition challenging Article 35A till after Diwali. This has relaxed the otherwise prevailing tense situation in Valley. Before the postponement, Valley was all keyed up for the August 29 hearing. There is so much that has happened over the past some weeks. Kashmir looks set to plunge into yet another extended unrest should Supreme Court pass an adverse judgement. The issue, however, is not only about the unrest which will last some duration before the Valley limps back to normalcy. It has existential relevance for the Valley and thus its disastrous fallout will not go away after an anticipated unrest ends.

However, the question remains that except for the disquiet that the apprehended move has generated in Valley, the centre has chosen to maintain silence over the issue. It is difficult to tell what the central government is up to. Though some major BJP leaders in  the state and the centre have explicitly called for the  repeal of the state subject law, the party’s top government functionaries have maintained a studied silence. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, has assured her that the state subject law will be respected, but neither the PMO nor the other responsible ministers in the government have held out a public assurance.

This has validly deepened the anxieties in Valley. The central government can justifiably say that it has no control over the Supreme Court and that let the court decide. And one can hardly find fault with this argument. But this hardly detracts from the fact that the petition challenging the law has been filed by an NGO close to Sangh Parivar. The Article 35A which was extended to the state through a 1954 Presidential Order gives protection to the state subject laws in J&K whereby outsiders are not allowed to settle or acquire property in the state. The petitioner seek the repeal of the “unconstitutional provision” since it was added by Presidential Order and not by approval of the parliament.

Besides, the position of the BJP and its allied groups on the issue is vey well-known. For them, it is Article 35A and not Article 370 which comes in the way of settling Indians from other parts of the country in J&K. They believe that the only way to resolve Kashmir issue is through a sweeping demographic change in the state. And when the people of Kashmir oppose the move it is resisted by the Hindu rightwing parties which quickly take the issue to the mainland India creating possibility of a bigger communal discord.. And lost between them is thus the space for an honest and objective discussion.  A successful challenge to Article 35A will have far-reaching political fallout. It will be an assault on the Muslim identity of J&K.  Once the protection is gone, it won’t take very long for the demography of the state to change. This is why what is needed in Valley is a united political front against the apprehended move. Though the state government has displayed some recognition of the gravity of the challenge, it needs to do much more than that.





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