A Fraught Move

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Is the Governor’s administration out to tinker with the procedure for granting the Permanent Resident Certificate in J&K? The reports to this effect certainly point to plans to make this procedure easier, a measure that has alarmed the people in the state. On Monday, the National Conference leader Omar Abdullah shot a letter to the Governor Satya Pal Malik calling on him to refrain from any changes in the PRC rules.  In his response to Omar, the Governor has assured him that there was no plan for such changes, people are not convinced.

The anticipated move has also attracted criticism from the PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti who has warned of 2008 like agitation should the Governor’s administration choose to go ahead with the contemplated changes. And interestingly the alleged plan has also been slammed by the People’s Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone.

While Governor’s denial that any changes to the PRC were in the offing should put the controversy to rest, the government needs to do more to inspire faith among people. More so, when over the past four and a half years, the people in the Valley have become very insecure about their identity. And legitimately so. The successive legal challenges to J&K’s special position and also the centre’s direct and indirect efforts to undermine the state’s already battered autonomy has broken the trust between the people and the state. One such issue that has been the single-most cause of this loss of faith is the attempt to do away with the Article 35A, the state subject law that forbids outsiders to buy immovable property in the state. 
The ongoing case in the Supreme Court about the article has united divergent ideological and political groups in the state. And one can understand why. Perhaps never before has New Delhi been perceived to be making as concerted a bid to mess with the state’s leftover special constitutional position as in the past four and a half years – albeit, some of this perception reinforced by the BJP ’s ideological stance on the state.  The party has appeared to be in a tearing hurry to pursue its longstanding agenda on the state.

This has reinforced an existing narrative in Kashmir, aided by the history of the past seventy years, which sees New Delhi always conspiring to undermine the state’s autonomy, not stopping even at its drastic erosion so far but working opportunistically to see the end of it. So, any move by the state to make changes to the constitutionally guaranteed safeguards for the state – real or perceived – becomes an immediate source of alarm. And beyond a point, this alarm could lead to Valley’s plunge into yet another unrest. So, the Governor’s administration will be advised stay within its mandate, which is at best that of a caretaker administration. The larger legal and political issues like the ones concerning the PRC should be left for a democratically elected government to deal with.

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