Existential Question !

The finance minister Arun Jaitley’s post about the Article 35A has once again brought the sensitive issue back to the centre stage. And this time not only in Kashmir but also in India’s ongoing high stakes election campaign.  In his post Jaitley termed the Article 35A as “constitutionally vulnerable” as it was “surreptitiously introduced” into the Constitution. He also argued that the Article hampered economic development of the state.This has triggered a furore in. Kashmir where political parties have taken Jaitley’s observations very seriously.  And rightly so, as he is a very influential minister in the government and his word is synonymous with the government policy.  

Both the NC and the PDP have reacted angrily to Jaitley’s comments. The NC leader Omar Abdullah has said that revisiting Article 35A would also open up the question of accession of J&K with India.  But the PDP was more combative in its reaction.  Its leader Mehbooba Mufti has warned that in case Article 35A and Article 370 was expended, it will end India’s relation with Kashmir. She said  if India withdraws the special position given to the state on account of the accession, “then people of J&K will have to rethink whether they would even want to stay with you without conditions”.  Hurriyat M chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said that questioning of accession by the two parties was “an endorsement of the people’s principled stand on Kashmir issue”.

This public argument over the Article has lodged the  issue at the front and centre of the ongoing election campaign in India. The BJP has once again launched an assault on  J&K’s special position as part of its re-election bid. And in the process, it has once again caused a deep consternation in Kashmir. Even nearing the end of its term, the BJP has shown little inclination to exercise any flexibility in its ideologically rooted hard-line position on the state. 

The majority of the people of the state believe that the attempt to revoke the constitutional provision is designed to alter the demographic character of the state. India sees in it the solution to vexed Kashmir issue. By settling outsiders in the state, it hopes to weaken and finally obliterate the resistance to its rule in the state. But the implications, both short and long term, of the move  will  be horrific.  It will confront the majority of the people of the state with an existential challenge forcing them to resist it. Here is hoping that the BJP is seized of the extraordinary nature of the case and what its decision could entail for the country and J&K. Here is hoping that the all-important law is left untouched. Only in such an approach to the law lie the seeds of a future reconciliation and resolution of Kashmir.


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