JK Demography, Article 35 A, And PDP Alarm Bells!

20 February 2015
Greater Kashmir
Dr Javid Iqbal

Srinagar: JK political scenario is changing hue by the hour, not wholly on expected lines. However, politics being a game of uncertainties, up and down swings of mercury to note the political temperature presents interesting features. Alarm bells have started ringing sooner than they were expected. Of particular concerns remains Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's interview to Barkha Dutt of NDTV, a lady known to pick up the choicest of picks for Indian viewers, out of multiple woes of JK State. Mufti mixing caution in an understatement of sorts relates vis-à-vis the issue of west Pakistan refugees in JK State, ' this issue has been hanging fire for 60 years, we cannot act impulsively - we need to move sensitively - and before we do anything on this, we need to allay genuine fears that there is an attempt to change the demographics of the state.' This tongue in cheek statement follows Muzafar Beg's statement of calling it a humanitarian issue? The question remains whether the issue could be passed off as humanitarian in clear violation of Article 35 A that reserves the right of permeant settlement to specified categories. It defines Permanent Resident as the ones who were on May, the 14th 1954 State Subject of Class I or Class II having the same meaning as in State Notification No. I-L-84 dated the 20th April, 1927, read with State Notification No. 13-L dated the 27th June, 1932. Class I-II shall retain residency rights, should they seek to return to State under a permit to resettlement after having migrated to Pakistan after first day of March, 1947. And also the ones who had lawfully acquired immovable property 10 years prior to the said date shall be deemed to be Permanent Residents. Muzafar Beg being a practicing lawyer versed in constitutional law obviously knows the constitutional hurdles involved in an attempt to provide permanent residence status in JK State to West Pakistan refugees, hence the humanitarian plea? As well as willfully omitting references to Article 35A in PDP statements concerning dialogue-structured or otherwise with BJP. Apart from vague references to maintain the status quo vis-à-vis West Pakistan refugees, PDP is not demonstrative on this issue, the stress remaining on AFSPA and Article 370. While concerns on AFSPA and Article 370 remain, Article 35 A that protects the demographic status needs to be preserved in its prescribed constitutional form. And as it is, there is no provision in Article 35 A to accommodate West Pakistan refugees as Permanent Residents. BJP leaders including Arun Jaitley have been over the years hyping Indian concerns, calling Article 35 A an infringement of rights of Indian citizens. Infringement obviously vis-a-vis their right to settle in JK. However lately reference to 35 A in BJP statements remains in low key, while humanitarian concern is being projected a la PDP. A pattern thus emerges, which points to a possible consensus on the issue. Raising humanitarian concern is obviously meant to soften the adverse reaction that any step in violation of Article 35 A would evoke. PDP needs to come clear on this issue, sooner the better. PDP concern over Article 370 might have genuine tunings, however this Article has a measure of protection. The authority to set it aside has ceased with JK constitutional assembly no more in session. It remains sacrosanct in form, though misused in context. Gulzari Lal Nanda-former Indian Home Minister called it a tunnel through which much traffic has passed, more will. Nehru laid it clearly that it is being eroded. Constitutional authorities, including BJP leader of yore-Ram Jethmalani have clearly laid down that fiddling with Article 370 would amount to calling into question JK's relation with Indian state, implying the very sustainability of the relationship. AFSPA reminds of imbecile state of JK regional parties-PDP and NC. In spite of legal provision of declaring the state or a part of it undisturbed resting with JK State assembly that would render AFSPA redundant, both parties resort to virtually begging GOI for setting it aside. And, GOI-in its UPA or NDA garb puts the ball in armed forces court to take the final call on the issue, thus abdicating the supremacy of civilian authority, as laid down in Indian constitution. Vis-à-vis PDP's insistence on a written understanding before concluding a deal on coalition with BJP, it may be seen in context of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's past experiences, wherein GOI worked out constitutional changes making a mockery of JK's separate constitution by foisting regimes through questionable electoral practices. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was very much a part of 1965 power dispensing through which Articles 356-357 were imposed by working out the sixth amendment of JK constitution, widening powers of President of India to intervene, as and when the situation demanded. PDP's insistence getting to the point of calling of talks may not be taken as final, last reports indicated Mahbooba Mufti and Haseeb Drabu meeting Arun Jaitley in Delhi. If at all PDP rolls back, it might have a re-poll in mind and huge verdict a la AAP. That however is easier said than done. NC getting into act, in case of PDP roll-back has to be calculated on its perils. As it stands, it is doubtful whether PDP has taken the final call? Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival