Ruling on separate flag heats up J & K politics

Ruling on separate flag heats up J & K politics
Ruling on separate flag heats up J & K politics

New Delhi

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he Jammu and Kashmir politics is once again in turmoil after the state High Court on Saturday made it mandatory for all constitutional authorities to hoist the state flag on their vehicles and buildings as mandated under Section 44 of the J&K Constitution. The Judgement will force all the BJP ministers to use the state flag on their vehicles and buildings, something they will find difficult to swallow since the BJP has been all along opposed to “two flags and two Constitutions” divide between the state and nation.

The BJP’s alliance partner PDP has reacted cautiously to the order, saying “it was a non issue” whereas the National Conference and the Left parties have given it a thumps up. With a great deal of sentiments attached to this emotive issue among denizens of the valley, the BJP ministers have to make a difficult choice between the party’s age-old averment and political expediency.

“The party leadership would deliberate upon the issue and take a collective decision,” said state party Chief Sat Sharma.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]O[/dropcap]n the other hand, Education minister and PDP spokesperson Naaeem Akhtar said that the entire controversy was a non-issue as everyone was supposed to respect the state flag and constitution.

“This is not an issue. Everybody in the state gives due respect and honour to the state flag. The High Court’s judgment was reiteration of the government’s old practice of upholding the sanctity and respect of the state flag,” he said.

But his words will not be music to the ears of the BJP leadership, because opposition to the state’s flag and separate constitution been the core of its Kashmir policy.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]B[/dropcap]ut the judgment has given ammunition to the PDP to enforce an earlier order of March 12 by which the General Administration Department (GAD) under Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had issued a circular making it mandatory for all constitutional authorities to use the state flag on their vehicles.

The circular read: “All the constitutional authorities are enjoined upon to maintain the sanctity of the state flag, at all costs, as is being done in respect of the Union Flag. The flag shall always be hoisted jointly on the buildings housing constitutional institutions and shall be used on the official cars of constitutional authorities. Any deviation in this regard shall amount to insult to the Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Insult to State Honors Act, 1979.”

After the BJP mounted strong pressure, the Chief Minister was forced to withdraw the circular within the 24 hours. But this time around, the BJP ministers will have no choice but to hoist the same flag on their cars and buildings which they have all along opposed. Now the next tug of war between the PDP and the BJP would be on the latter’s expectation that the alliance government went into appeal against the judgment. More so because the judgment also frowned upon the Sixth Amendment, also called The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir (Sixth Amendment) Act 1965. The amendment replaced “Sadr-i-Riyasat” by the Governor. The court observed that “elective status of the head of the state was an important attribute of the constitutional autonomy enjoyed by the state”, and a part of the “basic framework” of the state Constitution.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]O[/dropcap]bserving that “to perpetuate an error is no heroism and to rectify it is compulsion of conscience,” the court dropped enough hints to the legislators to re-amend the constitution to restore Sadr-i-Riyasat.

“In absence of challenge to Jammu & Kashmir Constitution (sixth Amendment) Act 1965, it would be appropriate to leave the matter to State legislature for taking measures as required to uphold the Constitution. The legislature is equally under a constitutional obligation to uphold the Constitution and rectify an error, wherever necessary,” the court said.

On April 10, 1965 the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir (Sixth Amendment) Act 1965 replaced the Sadr-e-Riyasat by the Governor.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n his order, Justice Hassan Masoodi also said that Jammu and Kashmir enjoys a special position in India and that Article 370 is permanent and can’t be abrogated, repealed or amended. “The state flag is one of the attributes of constitutional autonomy or limited or residual sovereignty — by whatever names we call it — enjoined by the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Justice Masoodi said.

Most political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have welcomed the decision.

“We welcome observations of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir. The genesis of the political turmoil in the State lies in the erosion of the state’s special status and internal autonomy that was guaranteed to the state in a negotiated accession,” said NC spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he CPI (M) has also welcomed the judgment and called for restoring Sadr-i-Riyasat in place of Governor.

Incidentally, for years the PDP has also been in the forefront of demanding that the Governor be replaced by Sadr-i-Riyasat, but now the party is in alliance with the BJP, it is treading cautiously.

“It is important judgment. It has raised some important issues. It should be given thought,” PDP spokesman, Mehboob Beg said.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he judgment has left the BJP in a piquant situation and it has to be seen if the party is able to convince the Chief Minister to appeal against it. That can at least be a face saver for the BJP for which Jammu and Kashmir is very emotive issue.

Navin is a senior journalist with years of experience in covering India’s Capital city. His keen observations and ability to create the big picture from disparate pieces of information is invaluable.
Navin Upadhyay



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