Occupied Kashmir and Article 35 A

Today that land of Kashmir, once known among the wise as Little Iran.

under the heels of the enemy, has become weak, helpless and poor

A cry of burning lament issues forth from the heavens,

when the man of truth is overawed by the power and pomp of king and landlord.

The old farmer’s cottage, on the mountainside, where pain and grief ever rule—

tells it’s sad story of Fate’s hard lot.

So skilful of hands, so rich in mind, these people, alas, or pure breed,

O God, your justice, so long delayed, must come at last as retribution.

(Iqbal)

Kashmir – the land of beautiful valleys and lakes – once called paradise on earth, has been engulfed in a new wave of state terrorism since July 2016, following the killing of young Burhan Wani at the hands of Indian security forces.

The word Kashmir is not new to our ears. The conflict is not new either. Kashmir is known as the nuclear flashpoint between Pakistan and India. For 71 years, the people of Kashmir have endured a dark night of terror, inflicted on them by the same armed forces who claim to be the protectors of democracy, serving the so-called “World’s Largest Democracy,” For 71 years, India has claimed Kashmir as its “integral part.” For 71 years the people of Kashmir have denied being part of India. For 71 years, India has refused to grant them the right of self-determination in accordance with Un Resolutions. For 71 years, this issue has remained unresolved. For 71 years, Kashmir has bled and continues to bleed.

In recent months yet another burning issue has engulfed the valley – the attempt of the Indian Government to abrogate article 35A. This article, – which was incorporated within the Indian Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954, grants special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The purpose of the article is to confer certain privileges and immunities on the permanent residents of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The privileges conferred by the article include:

“Employment under the State Government: No one from outside Jammu and Kashmir can apply for jobs in the state government.
Acquisition of immovable property: No one from outside the state can buy or own land in the state.
Settlement in the State: No one from outside the state can settle permanently in Jammu and Kashmir.
Right of scholarship and such other forms of aid from the State Government: Exclusively for state subjects.”

The complete text of article 35 A in the Constitution of India is as follows:

“Saving of laws with respect to permanent residents and their rights. – Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, no existing law in force in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and no law hereafter enacted by the legislature of the state.
(a) defining the classes of persons who are, or shall be, permanent residents of the state of Jammu and Kashmir; or
(b) conferring on such permanent residents any special rights and privileges or imposing upon other persons any restrictions as respects –
(i) employment under the state government;
(ii) acquisition of immovable property in the state;
(iii) settlement in the state; or
(iv) right to scholarships and such other forms of aid as the state government may provide,

shall be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any rights conferred on the other citizens of India by any provision of this part.”

In 2014, this article was challenged in the Indian Supreme Court by an NGO called “We the Citizens.” and the case is still under proceeding. What makes matters worse, however, is that the current BJP Government is itself intent on repealing this article and is actually backing the writ filed by We the Citizens. Such support from the BJP government to this comes as no big surprise when we consider the fact that under the clear, obvious and unmasked patronage of this government Hindutva extremism and Cow Vigilantism has increased to an alarming degree within Indian society and is turning into quite an epidemic …

The repealment of article 35 A would have disastrous consequences for the already persecuted people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Most importantly, it would result in the authorization of purchase of land and property, and consequent residence and settlement in the area, to non-permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir. Such mass settlement would inevitably affect the demography of the state, where the majority is Muslim.

The attempts to abrogate this important article, in fact, appear nothing less than an attempt by the Indian government to alter the demography of the state, much like the Jewish settlements in Gaza Strip and West Bank. Such change in the state’s demography will doubtlessly have serious ramifications on Kashmir’s right of self-determination, and could well alter the result and fate of any future referendum held in Jammu and Kashmir, where the current opinion is clearly tilted towards an independent Kashmir, free from the clutches of Indian occupation.

The past few weeks have seen a strong wave of protest not only all over Kashmir but on social media as well. Kashmiris appear to be unanimous in their fears and concerns about the status of the disputed state following such a repealment. As Pakistanis about to celebrate our 71st independence day, it is our moral duty and obligation not to forsake the Kashmiris in this hour of desperation. We must raise our voices and record our protests on every forum in order to save Kashmir from turning into another Palestine, yet another burden on the conscience of Humanity – forsaken and forgotten.

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