Article 35A: Reach Out To Jammu, Ladakh

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Some new developments with regard to  Article 35A have come as a shot in the arm for the ongoing movement for the protection of the constitutional provision that grants special citizenship rights to people of J&K. One of them is the BJP legislator  from RS Pura Gagan Bhagat opposing the removal of the state subject law. Speaking to his supporters Bhagat acknowledged  that  Kashmiris by defending the article 35A were in a way “fighting our battle.” He accused his party of trying to remove the law to get votes in the run up to the next year’s general election. Bhagat even warned   that the people of Jammu could take to arms due to loss of jobs and land in the wake of the  repeal of the Article 35A.

This development is of a profound significance as it is not only for the first time that any BJP leader has spoken in favour of continuance of the Article 35A but it is also a sign of the expanding constituency in support of the law.

Earlier, a group of 300 lawyers of Jammu passed a resolution seeking protection of Article 35A.  If anything, it shows that eventually the better sense has prevailed and people of the state have begun to look at the attempt to change the state subject law through a secular than communal lens – albeit this shift is still in its early stages and voices that are emerging are too feeble and sporadic to be distinctly heard. The need is for more such voices to rise and seek to be heard.

One more welcome development is the ongoing effort in the Valley to forge a broad-based unity across civil society and political groups in support of the law. On Saturday, the newly floated civil society formation the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Society Coordination Committee called for a joint strategy and putting up a united defense in the Supreme Court against the legal challenge to Article 35A. However, the efforts in Kashmir are so far confined to the province only. There is an urgent need to seek partners from Jammu and Ladakh too. The people of the three regions can then jointly work to protect the law and the effort will be driven by a  perception of the common threat to the identity of the state. True, it is easier said than done. The attempt to do away with the constitutional provision is underpinned by a divisive political design that inherently trumps the efforts at a united response. But considering that the sections of the population in Jammu have begun to see through the gameplan and its disastrous long-term demographic consequences, there is an opportunity for Kashmiri groups to reach out to their brethren in other two provinces.

 

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