As the Supreme Court continues to hear a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35-A, life in Jammu and Kashmir has come to a standstill following a shutdown call by the separatists to protect a provision of the Indian Constitution. This is a huge departure from the Kashmir’s predominant separatist stand which doesn’t recognise the Indian Constitution.
Many would argue that Article 35-A has brought the different stakeholders, of the Jammu and Kashmir society, together for a common cause.
Let’s have a look at why this Article holds so much sway over Indian politics and what it actually is.
Article 35-A is a provision that empowers the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution to define permanent residents of the state and provide special rights to them. This is the bone for contention for many. Under this “special rights”, the state prevents outsiders from buying and owning property in the state.
How did it come about?
Its incorporation dates back to 1954 when Jahawarlal Nehru Cabinet adviced the then President Rajendra Prasad to issue the inclusion order. The order followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement, between Nehru and then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
Now, what is the challenge before the Supreme Court?
A Delhi based NGO, We the Citizens, has challenged the constitutional validity of the of the provision arguing that it goes against the Article 14 as it creates a “class within a class of Indian citizens,” as per their petition filed in the court.
The right-wing political parties have contended that if Article-35 is scraped down then it would allow people to go and settle there thus altering the demography of the Muslim-majority state.
Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, in a strong worded statement, warned that if Article 35A is removed, there won’t be anyone left to carry the Tricolour in Kashmir; Omar Abdullah has called it the death knell for pro-India politics in the Valley.
The Centre has so far refused to make its stand clear, citing the sensitiveness of the issue.