On December 7, a seminar on Article 370 and Article 35-A was organised at the prestigious Jammu Club. It was organised by a Delhi-based NGO, Vasudev Kutumbakam Foundation. The Hall was packed to its capacity and over 99 percent audience consisted of Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir (PoJK) – all victims of the pernicious two-nation concept or radical Islamists and all struggling since 1947 to obtain justice and natural rights, including the right to live with dignity.
Under this controversial Article (370), the solitary State of Jammu & Kashmir enjoys the power to have its own Constitution and separate flag and also the power to exercise residuary powers.
Those who spoke included Labha Ram Gandhi, President, West Pakistan Refugee Action Committee; Dr Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman, Panun Kashmir; Retd Col. RSN Singh, Ex-Raw Officer and Defence Expert; Capt. Sikander Rizvi from Baltistan (PoJK), eminent Shia Scholar; Ashok Vasudeva, General Secretary, Vasudeva Kutambkum; Pushpendra Kulshrestha, India Correspondent, News (Pakistan); and this writer.
Article 370 grants a separate status to Jammu & Kashmir within the Indian Union on the score of religion. Under this controversial Article, the solitary State of Jammu & Kashmir enjoys the power to have its own Constitution and separate flag and also the power to exercise residuary powers. It was incorporated despite the opposition of Chairman of Drafting Committee, Dr BR Ambedkar, Dr syama Prasad Mookerjee, founder President of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Molana Hasrat Mohani and others.
When Sheikh Abdullah met with Ambedkar to solicit his support to the demand seeking special status for Jammu & Kashmir, Ambedkar candidly said: “You want India and Indians to defend Kashmir and Kashmiris. You want Kashmir and Kashmiris to exercise all rights all over India, but you do not want India and Indians to exercise all rights in Jammu & Kashmir. I am Law Minister of India. I cannot be a party to an act of betrayal of national interest”.
Mookerjee said: “How is Kashmir going to be integrated with India? Is Kashmir going to become a republic within a Republic? Are we thinking of another sovereign parliament within the four corners of India barring this sovereign parliament? If you just want to play with the winds and say we are helpless and let Sheikh Abdullah do what he likes then Kashmir would be lost”.
As for Mohani, he warned the Indian Constituent Assembly on October 19, 1949 and said: “The grant of special status to Kashmir on the score of religion would enable it to assume independence afterwards”.
Article 35-A says that a person will be treated as a “Permanent Resident of J&K” only in accordance with the law which was already in force in the State before May 14, 1954.
Article 35-A raises a high wall of hatred between Kashmiri Muslims and all other Indians. Under this Article, which was added to Article 35 without taking the Parliament into confidence in 1954 or adopting a dubious approach, gives absolute power to the Jammu & Kashmir Government to grant or not to grant citizenship rights to those considered non-permanent residents of Jammu & Kashmir.
Article 35-A says that a person will be treated as a “Permanent Resident of J&K” only in accordance with the law which was already in force in the State before May 14, 1954. In other words, a person who does not qualify as a Permanent Resident of the State under law as was applicable before May 14, 1954 cannot now become Permanent Resident of the State.
This Article further provides that the Permanent Residents will continue to enjoy Special Rights and Privileges in the matter of (1) Employment under the State (2) Acquisition of immovable property in the State (3) Settlement in the State (4) Scholarship and aid as the State Government may provide. Any law which gives these Special Rights and Privileges to the Permanent Residents of the State cannot be declared null and void by any Court on any ground.
The fact is while Article 370 considers Kashmiri Muslims a race apart, Article 35-A considers all Indians, barring Kashmiri Muslims, a race apart: Indians, who unlike the permanent residents of Jammu & Kashmir, do not exercise any right – right to vote, right to higher education, right to property, right to bank loan and right to job under the State Government – in the State.
…an overwhelming majority of population in Jammu & Kashmir is intensely pro-India and that the Kashmiri-speaking Sunnis, who constitute just 20 percent of the State’s population and has been ruling the roost and the State since 1947, was responsible for the whole problem…
To be more precise, Article 370 and Article 35-A have created a Muslim republic on the territories of the democratic India and only helped Pakistan and its Kashmir-based agents mislead the international community that Jammu & Kashmir is not a settled issue and a final decision on the political status of Jammu & Kashmir vis-à-vis India is yet to be taken.
All, without any exception, spoke without mincing words vehemently opposed Article 370 and Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution and suggested that these were poisonous and must go lock, stock and barrel forthwith. And all, without any exception, asserted and reasserted, and with facts and logic, that the area of strife in the State is limited to only Kashmir Valley, which constitutes not more than 11 per cent of the State’s total land area and the rest of the State was free of the menace of separatism, terrorism and jihad. Besides, all, without any exception, rightly asserted that an overwhelming majority of population in Jammu & Kashmir is intensely pro-India and that the Kashmiri-speaking Sunnis, who constitute just 20 per cent of the State’s population and has been ruling the roost and the State since 1947, was responsible for the whole problem in the State.
But more than that, all, without any exception, asserted and reasserted that the bungling instinct of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah’s politics of communalism and soft secessionism created the whole mess in Kashmir and rendered the very vast nationalist constituency in the State ineffective and unreal for all practical purposes. The upshot of their whole argument was that it was not “Kashmir problem or problem of Kashmir, but it was problem in Kashmir and problem fundamentally religious”.
To be more precise, their refrain was that “Kashmiri Sunnis want another communal partition of India and it cannot be allowed just because a particular region has become a predominantly Muslim”. “If Jammu & Kashmir is allowed to go out of India just because it is Muslim-majority, then India will break into smithereens,” the speakers said, and added that “Jammu & Kashmir is highly strategic and it has to remain a part of India as it was part of India culturally, civilizationally and politically an integral part of India since time immemorial”. One of the speakers said “Jammu is India’s Kurukshetra and Jammu will determine the fate of India”.
However, the most heart-wrenching statement was made by Labha Ram Gandhi. He said: “We the refugees from Pakistan have been residing in different parts of Jammu province, especially its Jammu, Samba, and Kathua districts, since 1947 and still people term as Pakistani”.
Indeed, the speakers catalogued all the evil effects which followed after the application of Articles 370 and 35-A to Jammu & Kashmir. It is time New Delhi repealed both these Articles. These were enacted by the Indian Parliament and it can be repealed by it, as it is the supreme and sovereign law-making body. Those in Kashmir or elsewhere who say these Articles cannot be repealed only put forth spurious and untenable arguments. The fact of the matter is that these two Articles are part of the Indian Constitution, and not of the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution of 1957.