Every Tom, Dick and Harry in the so-called Kashmir mainstream and separatist camps is hurling threats over ‘any attempt to repeal Article 35A’ in Jammu and Kashmir. Who they are threatening? The case is under the consideration of Supreme Court of India, which has to decide the matter. Therefore, should it be construed that all these threats are directed against the top Court of the country? Does this amount to contempt of Court?
Stage is set and curtains are going to rise with the Supreme Court hearing on Article 35A of Constitution of India, giving the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature a carte blanche to decide who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the State and confer on them special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare measures. The provision mandates that no act of the legislature coming under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other law of the land.
The most awaited hearing today could be a game-changer or turn out as anti-climax as the Jammu and Kashmir Government has made it known through its Standing Counsel that it would request the Supreme Court to adjourn the hearing on Article 35A, citing preparations for upcoming Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) elections as the reason. The proceedings can either progress or get adjourned as per the wisdom of the Apex Court. However, the reason cited by the Governor’s administration does not carry any wait, as the elections are a continued process. If the government is today apprehensive about the fallout of the Supreme Court verdict on Panchayat elections, the judicial process will continue to get derailed in future as well. The Panchayat elections would be followed by Urban Local Bodies polls, then elections to the Lok Sabha and then to Legislative Assembly. The process is open ending and given the logic of the Jammu and Kashmir Government, the atmosphere for deciding the petitions on abrogation of Article 35A will never be conducive.
In this backdrop, the Apex Court is expected to go deeper into the issue, which is certainly beyond the administrative excuses being offered by the State Government. Those in Jammu and Ladakh know well how the so-called Kashmir mainstream, separatists, secessionists and activists have come on the same page, making the constitutional proviso Kashmir specific. The language of the separatists and activists is becoming venomous and highly anti-nationalist. Those having sworn by the Constitution of India are hurling open threats. The just removed Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has warned that nobody will be Tricolor bearer in Jammu and Kashmir (read Kashmir) if Article 35A is tinkered with. Former Chief Minister and Union Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah went steps ahead, warning: “When it will come to that decision (abrogation of Article 35 A), you will see this mass (of people) rising. Do not forget when that Amarnath Yatra (land row) thing happened, people rose overnight. So, …35 A will be far greater revolt and I wonder whether they (government) will be able to hold that”.
But for the Kashmir centric ‘mainstream’ political outfits, the popular sentiment in Ladakh and Jammu is for revocation of the Article 35A, which is being seen as discriminatory and gender biased. While the Valley is observing shut down over the issue, the Jammu and Ladakh regions are playing cool and, in fact, want a decision on the issue to be pronounced as soon as possible. This proves that the self-proclaimed champions of Jammu and Kashmir State are naïve about the sentiments of nearly five million Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, if not patriotic secular Muslims, who don’t subscribe to what the separatists and leaders like Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti threaten. The people of Jammu and Ladakh are of the considered view that Article 35A encourages alienation, deepens the concept of a separate identity and creates a politico-psychological gap between the State and the rest of India. Those hurling threats should remember that repealing Article 35A will encourage millions of Indians in Jammu and Ladakh to keep the Tricolor aloft with a sense of pride. The Kashmir centric politicians with vested interest must not undermine the spirit and sentiment of these two regions. They must also understand that commitment of Jammu and Ladakh to national integration cannot be undermined by the threats of uprising or agitations. Such threats may not also help the so-called mainstream leaders who have lost their political space and individual credibility in their own constituencies in the Valley because of dubious character. They must learn to respect the aspirations of all, not that of a specific community or a region.
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