ANSH CHOWDHARI Adil, sitting across the attic in his room in Rajouri, pensive and anxious, yet gleeful smile could be seen on his brimming face as he seems exuberant about the abrogation of the Article 370, which has prevented him from becoming a full citizen of Jammu and Kashmir since his grandfather migrated from Mirpur in 1947 braving the Tribal brutalities. Lately, this sentiment has pervaded among all West Pakistani Refugees, Gorkhas, Women, Valmikis and others who were denied equal rights at par with those holding a Permanent Resident Certificate. And all this is just because of Article 35A. Article 35A was incorporated into the constitution by a Presidential notification of 1954 by completely superseding the parliamentary scrutiny on the advice of the Nehru’s cabinet. This controversial Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah, which provided Indian citizenship to the ‘State Subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir. This order was issued under article 370 (1)(d) of the constitution, which allows President to make certain “exceptions and modifications” to the constitution for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It’s shocking to know that this article is found as an appendage to the main body of the constitution. Even many legal luminaries weren’t aware of any such provision existing within the constitution. This covert insertion of this article speaks a lot about its original intent. This created an inexplicable chasm between the citizens and non-citizens of the state, where the latter were denied many inalienable rights available to the former. They were made second fiddle to the permanent residents. They were not able to get employment under the state government and were also debarred from contesting elections. Paradoxically, they were eligible for voting in National elections but were debarred from voting rights in the very state they lived in. Meritorious students were denied scholarships, admissions in educational institutions of the state without any judicial redress. The case of Radhika Gill is quite well known. Further, there were issues with the citizenship of those who migrated to the state during the time of Partition, as they were still not treated as citizens under J&K Constitution. They made innumerable requests to the central government in last seven decades so as to address their concerns, but nothing substantial happened. The political reservations were also absent. Gujjars and Bakkarwals have had no representation in the state assembly. All this, suo moto, made J&K a medieval feudal territory where people were discriminated on the basis of their religion, gender, ethnicity and occupation. A clear violation of Article 14 (right to equality), 15 (no discrimination on the basis of race, religion, caste, sex or place of birth),16(equal opportunities in public offices) and 21(protection of life) was underway and I wonder how come the champions of civil rights never spoke about it. This was being perpetrated with continued impunity. Administration was working hand in gloves with the civil society to deny these ‘lesser privileged’ their rights and so was their honour and dignity. The President, therefore, had used his powers under Article 370 to fundamentally alter the 370 itself, thereby ending the very existence of 35A, after the recent Presidential Proclamation superseded the order of 1954. The decision aims to power the hitherto powerless communities by ending the discrimination meted out to them. It has integrated them fully with the mainstream of India’s polity, where they too can enjoy all the entitlements enjoyed by their compatriots in other parts of the country. And, even I could sense that liberating force, which is all ubiquitous. This repeal of 370 and 35A has opened the floodgates for the private investors in the state, thus increasing the prospects of jobs and betterment of the socio-economic situation of the state, embittered by a spate of violence and bloodshed since last three decades. The state administration, in order to seek businesses, on Tuesday announced a three-day global investors summit to be held in Srinagar from October 12. Post this repeal, the buying of lands would bring private investments and MNCs to give a fillip to the local economy. The state’s health and educational infrastructure too, will see a transformative change. Peace and stability are the precursorsfor development and this decision is actually doing the same. Nevertheless, a question still lingers in my mind as upto what extent this decision can be a harbinger of change in our state, for there are many reasons which may hinder the proliferation of aforementioned ideas. Firstly, there remains a possibility of this decision being challenged legally on grounds of procedural infirmities and National Conference has already filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. Secondly, once the security cordon is lifted from the valley, there remains a bigger challenge of maintaining law and order on the streets of Srinagar. Thirdly, the decision might haven’t fared down well among the common Kashmiris, for it being passed without any legislative input or representative contribution from the local people. This might push them towards further alienation and dissesions may widen between Delhi and Srinagar. Fourthly, the continued clampdown on mobile network along with the arrest of two former chief ministers might have embittered the common Kashmiris. Fifthly, there seems to be a consensus developing among some Kashmiris about the manner in which this decision was thrusted upon them, without due diligence towards parliamentary practices of discussion and deliberation. What was unbecoming is the unwillingness of the central government to engage with the mainstream political leaders and the cavalier manner in which they were dealt with. Some critics have termed it as an onslaught by majoritarian fascist government by using brutal repressive methods of silencing the minority, thus ushering an era of undeclared emergency in Kashmir. One thing, notwithstanding, was clear that the special status was meant to end, as it was mentioned as Temporary, Transitional and Special Provision. But, had it been the concurrence of the majority of the people buttressing the stance of the government, things would have been much different. What this decision would ensue, only time and circumstances can tell. I’m reminded of Rabindranath Tagore’s famous lines where he says “Where the world has not been broken up into fragments, By narrow domestic walls…. Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”I, therefore, just hope that the future of Adil and millions of others like him remains secure and peaceful without any encumbrances per se, for they are going to lay the pedestal for the future growth of this crown territory of India.
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