The nation would appreciate Prime Minister Narendra Modi if he scrapped through a Presidential Order both Article 370 and Article 35-A, which is possible under Article 370 itself
The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s September 30 unequivocal demand seeking constitutional amendments for abrogating discriminatory Article 35-A and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to empower Hindu-Sikh refugees and assimilate people of Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of the countrymen has evoked a response in the state on expected lines.
The state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is part of the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government, and victims of these discriminatory provisions, including Hindu refugees from Pakistan and parts of Indian Punjab (Valmikis), have all welcomed his demand or suggestion — whatever one may call it. These refugees have expressed hope that both these atrocious Articles would be removed from the Indian statute book enabling them to exercise all the rights available under the Indian Constitution and lead a dignified life in the state as Indian nationals.
Contrarily, Kashmiri parties, including National Conference (NC), Congress, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM), People’s Democratic Forum (PDF) and Awami Ittihad Party (AIP) and separatist outfits have all in one voice denounced the RSS chief’s demand. They have accused the RSS and the BJP of not respecting the Indian Constitution and implementing their Hindutva agenda in Kashmir step by step. Tinkering with Jammu & Kashmir’s special status is fraught with dangerous consequences, they have warned. It is difficult to differentiate between the so-called mainstream Kashmiri parties and separatist outfits, as there was no difference between what the former said and the latter opined.
For decades together, some generations are living through this miserable state of refugees for their decision to be in Bharat and remain as a Hindu.
Addressing hundreds of Swayamsewaks on the auspicious occasion of Vijay Dashami at Nagpur, RSS headquarters, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, inter-alia, had said: “The positive effects of this strategy (counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir) are visible on the ground. Still, there is an urgent need to take the benefits of development to the masses in the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir, including the Jammu and Ladakh regions, without any discrimination and through transparent and clean governance. The problem of refugees is still not resolved in the State. For decades together, some generations are living through this miserable state of refugees for their decision to be in Bharat and remain as a Hindu. Despite being citizens of Bharat, they are still far away from the basic facilities of education, employment and democratic rights, and leading a backward life. This is happening just because the discriminatory provisions in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that denied them the fundamental rights”.
He didn’t stop just here. He further said: “The problems of permanent residents of the state who migrated from the Pakistan-occupied Jammu & Kashmir in 1947 and the people who were displaced from the Kashmir valley in 1990 are remaining as it is. We have to create conditions so that our these brothers can lead a happy, dignified and secure life like other Indians by availing equal democratic rights and fulfilling democratic duties, even while remaining firm and devoted to their religions and national identity. For this just work, necessary Constitutional amendments will have to be made and old provisions will have to be changed. Then and then only, the residents of Jammu & Kashmir can be completely assimilated with rest of Bharat and their equal cooperation and share will be possible in the national progress” (Indian Express, Sep 30)
Jammu houses almost two million Hindu-Sikh refugees. There are three categories of refugees in Jammu. Refugees from Pakistan, refugees from Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir (PoK) and refugees from Kashmir Valley. The population of refugees from Pakistan is approximately two lakh. They have been demanding citizenship rights ever since their migration to Jammu in 1947, but with no result. They are Indian nationals but not “Permanent Residents” of the state. The Union Government, the Jammu & Kashmir Government and the Supreme Court of India have all expressed their inability to mitigate their hardships, saying Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution, which was applied to the state on May 14, 1954 through a Presidential Order with retrospective effect without taking the Parliament into confidence, bars them from exercising any citizenship right in the state. Several organisations and individuals have approached the apex court, which would hear PILs against and for Article 35-A after Diwali.
The Narendra Modi Government was the first-ever government at the Centre to appreciate their grievances and announced a Rs 2,000-crore financial package for them
All Kashmiri parties, “mainstream” and separatists included, oppose their demand saying the grant of citizenship rights will “erode” the state’s special status and “change” its demography. Interestingly, not one refugee from Pakistan resides anywhere in Kashmir, which became almost 100 percent Muslim in January 1990, when Kashmiri Hindus quit their homes and hearths in the Valley en-block to save their lives and dignity and escape the wrath of radical Islamists.
Refugees from Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir (PoK) are “permanent Residents’ of the state and their population is almost 1.5 million. They, like the refugees from Pakistan, also came to Jammu and other parts of the Jammu province between October 1947 and December 1948 leaving behind their houses, landed estates and business establishments. They have been demanding since 1947 adequate compensation for the properties they left behind, proper rehabilitation and proprietary rights on the properties they were settled after their migration by the Jammu & Kashmir Government and abolition of the Custodial Department.
The Narendra Modi Government was the first-ever government at the Centre to appreciate their grievances and announced a Rs 2,000-crore financial package for them under which each PoJK family was to get compensation of Rs 5.5 lakh (The Hindu, Jan 2, 2017). They welcomed the package but continued to raise their main demand: Abolition of the Custodial Department. They believe, and rightly so, that their life would remain uncertain as long as the Custodian Department existed. The Custodian Depart looks after the properties which were left behind by Muslims in 1947 in the aftermath of the communal partition of India. Thousands of Muslims from Jammu had migrated to Pakistan.
As for the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus, they have been demanding the creation of separate homeland for them within the Valley invested with Union Territory status as per their “Margdarshan Resolution of December 1991”. They have been saying that “they cannot co-exist with those who ousted them from the Valley and that they would return to Kashmir only if they were granted a dispensation with a certain area in the Kashmir Valley where the “Indian Constitution flows freely”. Their population is about 7 lakh.
Reacting to the Nagpur statement of the RSS chief, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh declared in Jammu on October 1 that the “BJP will follow the RSS line on Article 370” and reiterated the party’s age-old line that “Article 370 has caused more harm than anything else” (Daily Excelsior, Oct 2). So much so, he asked the coalition government “to have a review of the public holidays, including the birthday of NC founder, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, being observed in the state”. “Bilkul kaha hai (Yes, I have asked it),” said Nirmal Singh when asked, “whether he has asked the government to review the list of holidays being observed in the state” (Indian Express, Oct 1). Sheikh Abdullah’s birthday falls on December 5.
Hailing RSS chief, West Pakistan refugee leader Labha Ram Gandhi said that the statement of Mohan Bhagwat give their struggle a boost and encourage them to fight against all discriminatory provisions in the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution.
It needs to be underlined that members of the Valmiki Samaj are entitled to become only “Safai Karamchari”.
“There are a number of discriminatory provisions in the Constitution which needed to be rectified. Article 35-A is a glaring example of such provisions and it needs to be annulled without any delay,” Gandhi said (The Tribune, Oct 1).
Senior Valmiki leader Gharu Bhati expressed identical views and bemoaned that they were the “worst victims of discriminatory provisions” in the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution.
“We welcome the statement of the RSS head. He has recognised the sufferings of the marginalised sections of society living in Jammu & Kashmir. It will give a new impetus to our struggle” (The Tribune, Oct 1).
It needs to be underlined that members of the Valmiki Samaj are entitled to become only “Safai Karamchari”. As said, the response of the so-called mainstream parties and separatist outfits in Kashmir to the RSS chief’s demand was identical. The rattled Congress, the NC, the PDP, the CPI-M, the AIP, the PDF, the Tehrik-e-Hurriyat of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) of Yasin Malik warned that any move on the part of the RSS and BJP to dilute the state’s special status by tinkering with Articles 370 and 35-A will be resisted with full force.
It is, in the words of BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, “a 5-minutes’ job”. He is absolutely right.
It is neither possible nor desirable to reproduce here verbatim the reactions of these Kashmiri “mainstream” and separatist parties. Suffice it to say that they all warned that tinkering with the special status of Jammu & Kashmir would be to play with fire and cause more unrest in the already restive Valley (Indian Express, Oct 1; Greater Kashmir, Oct 2).
It’s time to call a spade a spade and undo the wrongs committed by the Congress in Jammu & Kashmir. The line taken by the RSS chief is rational, national, human and as per the needs of the suffering people and exigency of the time. The nation would appreciate Prime Minister Narendra Modi if he scrapped through a Presidential Order both Article 370 and Article 35-A, which is possible under Article 370 itself. It is, in the words of BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, “a 5-minutes’ job”. He is absolutely right.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.