The war cry reverberating in the valley of Jammu & Kashmir over the BJP promise to scrap Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is more a ‘poll campaign propaganda’ than a serious threat to liberate the state from the Union of India. The reference to Article 370 and Article 35A is part of the Election Manifesto of the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections. One should not forget that the National Conference and the People’ Democratic Party are in the fray contesting Lok Sabha election in Jammu & Kashmir. Dr. Farooq Abdullah is in fray from Srinagar seat while Mehbooba Mufti is contesting from Anantnag Lok Sabha seat.
Interestingly, the PDP has not fielded any candidate in Jammu region and in Udhampur from where Dr. Karan Singh’s son is in the race as Congress candidate. The PDP has not fielded it’s candidates for hat it calls to “prevent division of votes”. But PDP will field a candidate against Dr Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar.The language that the two leaders Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have used to decry the mention of scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution is akin to waging war against India if the provisions giving special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir are removed from the Constitution.
Look at what National Conference leader Dr Abdullah has said. He says, “We will fight it. I think it is Allah’s will that they are trying to abrogate it. Let them do it and it will pave way for our Azadi.”
He further said he will fight for Article 35-A until his death, warning that the fallout of any tinkering with the Constitutional provision would be difficult to control.
Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti on Monday April 8 said that abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution would lead to Jammu and Kashmir’s “freedom” from India.
“If you free Jammu and Kashmir from Article 370, you will free the state from country as well,” she said. “I have said many times that Article 370 links Jammu and Kashmir with the country. When you break this bridge, India loses its legitimacy over the state. It becomes an occupational force.”
This is not for the first time she has used harsh and defiant language against the Centre. Earlier also she said that if human rights violations in the valley by security forces are not stopped there will be none to hold the tricolor in the valley. Well, there are separatists and anti-national forces in the valley are often seen carrying the flag of Pakistan and banners of ISI and that of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria while holding protest in the valley in the past.
The enactment of Article 370 of the Constitution giving special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir was done as a temporary measure at the time of accession of the state to the Union of India. Later, Article 35 A was inserted which was done without amending the Constitution by a decision of the Union Cabinet headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.
Article 35A of the Constitution is facing scrutiny in the Supreme Court of India. This article gives special rights and privileges to the residents of Jammu & Kashmir. This Article was inserted by ‘order’ when in 1954 the then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad issued order at the recommendation of Union Cabinet.
In 1956 it defined a permanent resident as someone who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been a resident of the state for 10 years, and has lawfully acquired immovable property.
Under the provision of Article 35A no outsider can buy or acquire any immoveable property in the state.
This law makes it almost impossible for any investor to put money in the state to set up industry. The state has tremendous potential to become an industrial hub for food processing industry, cottage industry and chemical plants. Beside, people from other parts of India can go and settle in the state to make Jammu & Kashmir a cosmopolitan state of India. It will also help in fast integration of people of the state into mainland India. It will open the door of prosperity and happiness giving job opportunities to the local youths of the state. And most important thing will be an end to separatist movement in the valley. But the regional political parties fear that once Article 35A is scrapped outsiders will displace the local residents in due course of time. This is unfounded apprehension. Today the financial capital of India Mumbai is inhabited by people from all over India. There is no restriction on buying and acquiring property. Anyone from any part of the country including people from Jammu & Kashmir can own property and settle in Mumbai or for that matter in any part of the country.
Notwithstanding Jammu & Kashmir enjoying special status under Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution of India Parliament’s power to amend Article 370 and Article 35A is not curtailed. Article 368 of the Constitution empowers Parliament to amend any provision of the Constitution including Article 370 and Article 35A.
The writer is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha