The Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee and Law Minister of India, Dr B R Ambedkar, had opposed special status for Jammu & Kashmir when Sheikh Abdullah of Kashmir and then president of the Valley-based National Conference met him in October 1949 on the insistence of JL Nehru to solicit his support.
Rejecting the Sheikh Abdullah’s plea for special status, BR Ambedkar is quoted as saying: “India should provide all the money for the governance and development of your state. India should undertake to defend your state against Pakistan and other aggressors. Indians should die to defend your state. You will have a separate constitution, separate head of state, separate sets of laws and separate flag. Your people can buy and own land anywhere in rest of India but none who was not born in Jammu and Kashmir could reciprocally buy and own property in Jammu and Kashmir. Indians should be taxed to develop your land, to defend it from all aggressions and you have no obligation at all to the Indian Union. I can never agree to such treatment to any state.”
Sadly, the rational and national opposition of the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee was overruled. The result was that the Indian Constituent Assembly adopted 306-A (Article 370) on October 17, 1949 after a very brief discussion. Of course, a member of the Constituent Assembly Maulana Hasrat Mohani did raise objections against the move, but he was also overruled.
Opposing the draft Article 306-A, Hasrat Mohani had said: “Grant of special status to (Jammu &) Kashmir on the score of religion will enable it to assume independence afterwards”.
The disturbing developments unfolding in Kashmir Valley (just four per cent of the Jammu & Kashmir’s land area) prove that both BR Ambedkar and Maulana Hasrat Mohani were right and JL Nehru and members of his coterie, including Gopalaswami Ayyangar, were utterly wrong.
The latest stand of the Kashmir-based outfits, including the so-called mainstream and separatists of all varieties, on Article 35-A and the unstinted support their stand has been getting from Pakistan, has created a situation which, if not handled properly, could cause another communal division of India. If at all it happens, it would be the third communal partition of India. Third communal partition would mean balkanization of the country.
Those who claim that India witnessed only one communal partition have to revise their whole view on the subject. For, India witnessed not one, but two communal partitions in a short span of less than 16 months. First partition took place on August 15, 1947, when Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim Leaguers got Pakistan for Muslims out of India. The second communal partition took place on December 31, 1948, when Prime Minister JL Nehru and Wazir-e-Azam of Jammu & Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah joined hands to enforce a strict ceasefire. They took this mind-boggling decision at a time when the Indian forces had the Pakistani invaders, both regular and irregular, on the run.
The ceasefire helped Pakistan in two ways. It helped Pakistan to consolidate its hold over the illegally-occupied areas, including what we call Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir (PoJK) and the strategic Northern Territories (Gilgit-Baltistan). It also enabled the radical Islamists in the Pakistani Army and political establishment to Islamise the whole occupied areas. They converted and murdered lakhs of Hindus and Sikhs and those who could escape the Muslim wrath migrated to Jammu. Sheikh Abdullah’s administration didn’t allow one Hindu or Sikh from Muzaffarabad (administratively part of Kashmir province) to settle in Kashmir Valley. Their population now runs into lakhs and they are called “Displaced Persons”.
It needs to be underlined that the entire Jammu & Kashmir territories, which have been under Pakistani occupation since 1947-1948 are non-Kashmiri. The whole Gilgit-Baltistan was part of the Ladakh region and bulk of PoJK was part of the Jammu province. The point is that not one Kashmiri lived, and today lives, either in PoJK or in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The ongoing fierce debate in Kashmir aims at forcing New Delhi to make the unconstitutional Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution a permanent feature and also cause another communal partition of India. Three Kashmiri leaders (all Sunni) have taken upon themselves the responsibility of achieving the sinister twin aims and they are almost working in complete unison. They are Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and his son and Leader of the Opposition in the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly Omar Abdullah.
If the 14 per cent Muslim population in India can do without Article 370 and Article 35-A, why can’t Kashmiri Muslims?
What has stung them the most is the stand of the Narendra Modi Government on Article 35-A. Unlike Jammu & Kashmir Government, it has not filed any affidavit in the Supreme Court. Its stand is that Article 35-A is a “sensitive issue” and it needs a “wider debate”. The Supreme Court has upheld the view of the government and almost decided to refer the PIL on Article 35-A to a five-judge constitutional bench for disposal. The PIL was filed by an NGO, called “We The Citizens” in 2015. The petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court to declare Article 35-A unconstitutional as it was applied to Jammu & Kashmir on May 14, 1954 through a Presidential Order without taking the Parliament into confidence or by not invoking Article 368 of the Indian Constitution.
Besides, one daughter of Jammu & Kashmir Charu Wali Khanna, who was married outside the state to a non-Permanent Resident of the state, has intervened and sought justice for her children. She has told the Supreme Court that her children are being considered “illegitimate” by the Jammu & Kashmir Government, as she didn’t marry a Permanent Resident of the state. Her plea is that Article 35-A is discriminatory and has deprived the daughters of the state of their fundamental right to marry persons of their choice anywhere in the country.
Article 35-A bars all Indians, barring Permanent Residents of the state, from enjoying any citizenship right in Jammu & Kashmir, perpetuates gender bias and deprives Hindu-Sikh refugees from Pakistan of all citizenship rights which are available to the Permanent Residents of the state. There are about 2 lakh Hindu-Sikh refugees from Pakistan, all living in different parts of Jammu since 1947.
Both Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah have declared in unambiguous terms that there will be no one in Kashmir to give shoulder to the national flag if Article 35-A was tinkered with. They have warned of a “bigger trouble” in Kashmir in case Article 35-A was repealed. They have, in addition, been urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to initiate a meaningful dialogue process with Pakistan and its agents in Kashmir, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, to resolve the Kashmir issue once and for all. By meaningful dialogue, they obviously mean something more than Article 370 of the Indian Constitution under which the solitary State of Jammu & Kashmir has the right to have a separate constitution and separate flag and enjoys all residuary powers, including the power of taxation. The fact of the matter is that Jammu & Kashmir already enjoys quasi-independence. One more concession would mean total separation of Jammu & Kashmir from India.
On the other hand, Omar Abdullah has unleashed a no-holds-barred campaign against Indians. He has been saying that moves are afoot to undermine the Muslim-majority character of the state through judicial route. Apart from accusing New Delhi and RSS of working in tandem to subvert the special status of the state, Omar Abdullah has been seeking to provoke Kashmiri Muslims by claiming that if Article 35-A was abrogated, Indians would come to Kashmir in large numbers, buy land and settle there, snatch their jobs, set up chains of hotels in the Valley, their wards will usurp state-sponsored scholarship and so on. To be more precise, he is arousing popular passions in Kashmir by saying that the BJP and RSS have hatched a “sinister” conspiracy to end the 57-year-old regime that treats Kashmiri Muslims a race apart and declares all Indians foreigners.
Clearly, it is time to invoke BR Ambedkar and Maulana Hasrat Mohani to undo the October 1949 and May 1954 wrongs and integrate Jammu & Kashmir completely into India. If the 14 per cent Muslim population in India can do without Article 370 and Article 35-A, why can’t Kashmiri Muslims? These Articles have to go lock, stock and barrel if India is to avert the possibility of third communal partition. There is no other way.
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