Larger Debate Over Citizenship Rights in the State J&K

Citizenship Rights in the State J&K

A political storm is brewing up as the centre government has sought a “larger debate” over Article 35A of the

Constitution, which empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them.

Similarly, earlier also, a think tank organisation, based out of Delhi and said to be close to RSS, called the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre’ (JKSC) had challenged Article 35A in the Supreme Court on 16 -17 July 2015.
Approximately, 1.5 lakh Hindu’s, mostly dalits migrated from West Pakistan in August 1947 as an aftermath of communal partition. These migrants, even after having stayed in the State of J&K for more than 65 years, have been denied citizenship rights to the State.
Background to the Issue 0n 15 Aug 1947, India and Pakistan were granted independence from the British rule to exist as independent nations. The State of J&K had opted to neither join India or Pakistan, but to exist as an independent entity.
On 20 October 1947, Azad Kashmir Forces, supported by Pakistan army attacked the frontiers of the state and marched towards Srinagar garnering more local support along the way, as the state, at that time had 75% Muslim population.
Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of J&K, approached India for assistance. India dispatched its troops to halt the advance of the Azad Kashmir Forces, with the condition that the state of J&K would accede to India. Hence, an ‘Instrument of Accession’ was signed between the Indian PM, Pandit JL Nehru and Maharaja Hari Singh on 26 October 1947. Sheikh Abdullah was appointed as the head of the emergency administration and
he endorsed the accession to India as an ad hoc arrangement, which would ultimately be decided by taking the “will of the people of J&K” into consideration through holding of a plebiscite.
In order to keep the local population humoured and to ensure that the “will of the people of J&K” remained in India’s favour, on 17 October 1949, Indian Constituent Assembly adopted Article 370 of the Constitution
ensuring special status and internal autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 gave the solitary State of Jammu & Kashmir the right to have a separate Constitution and separate
flag, but nowhere does it say which category of Indians will enjoy all citizenship rights in Jammu & Kashmir and which section/sections will not.
Kashmiri-dominated Jammu & Kashmir Constituent-cum-Legislative Assembly was formed in 1951and Article 370 formally became operative on 17 November 1952.
Later, incorporating the spirit of Article 370, the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution was implemented on January 26, 1957.
Article 1 of the Indian Constitution binds the State of J&K and its territory to the Indian Union, simultaneously, Article 370 grants it a special status and hence, all provisions of the Constitution of India are not applicable to the State of J&K.
Reasons Leading to the Article 35A Debate
The Kashmir Constituent-cum-Legislative Assembly, using the provisions of Article 370 of Constitution of India, adopted Sections 6, 8 and 9 for incorporation in the J&K Constitution, under which the State was to be governed in the future.

The provisions of Section 6 included the following:

(I) “Every person who is, or is deemed to be, a citizen of India under the provisions of the Constitution of India shall be a permanent resident of the State, if on the fourteenth day of May, 1954:
  • He was a state subject of class I or of class II, or
  • Having lawfully acquired immovable property in the State, he has been ordinarily resident in the State for not less than ten years prior to this date” and

(II) “any person who, before the fourteenth day of May, 1954 was a State Subject of class I or of class II and who, having migrated after the first day of March, 1947, to the territory – now included in Pakistan, returns to state under a permit for resettlement in the State or for permanent return issued by or under the authority of any law made by the State Legislature shall on such return be a permanent resident of the State (basically meaning that Muslim migrants from Pakistan who had moved to India between March 1947 and May1954 were given citizenship rights).
However, “no persons who had crossed over to the state of J&K after May 1944 will be considered eligible for citizenship rights”. The prime motive of this legislation was to deny citizenship rights to Hindu migrants from West Pakistan, who had migrated to the State in the wake of hostile environment that existed during partition.
Sections 8 and 9 further strengthened the hands of the policy makers, as the former gives the State Legislature the right to define Permanent Residents and the latter empowers the State Legislature to alter the definition of Permanent Residents.
Provisions of Article 35A are as Follows:
(a) Defines the classes of persons who are, or shall be permanent residents of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, or
(b) Confers on such permanent residents any special rights and privileges or imposing upon other persons any restrictions, like: Employment under the State Government;
Acquisition of immovable property in the State; Settlement in the State; or 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”.
Article 35A enabled the Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly to deny citizenship rights to the refugees from West Pakistan and all other Indians, barring Permanent Residents of the State.
Armed with absolute power, the Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly adopted Section 6 which said no persons who had crossed over to the state after May 1944 will be considered eligible for citizenship rights.
Thus, incorporation of the provisions of Section 6 meant two things:
Denial of citizenship rights to the Indians who were not Permanent Residents of the State as per the definition of Permanent Resident of the State.
Granted full citizenship rights to those who migrated from the State to Pakistan on or after March 1, 1947 and adopted Pakistani citizenship in case they returned to Jammu & Kashmir.
Present Debate on Article 35A
The issue at the bottom of the present debate is that, Article 35 of the Constitution of India was amended to 35A and was incorporated into the Indian Constitution through a Presidential Order on May 14, 1954, bypassing the Parliament. Article 35 A has created more of a communal discrimination by denying rights to its migrant citizens, e.g. they do not have the right to obtain jobs under the State Government, no right to acquire immovable property anywhere in the state, no right to vote in the Assembly and local-bodies’ elections, no right to higher and technical education, no right to bank loans, and so on.
Under the aegis of the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre’ (JKSC), several women, members of the dalit community, especially safai karmacharis, along with members of the Gurkha community and West Pakistan refugees who had migrated to the state during the partition, lodged formal complaints of rights violations with the National Commission for Women, National Commissions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Safai Karmacharis.
Article 35A (1954) was incorporated in the Indian Constitution through a Constitutional amendment even much before the Constitution of J&K came into existence (1956).
All above mentioned provisions and legislations were drafted and accepted by ‘senior’ leaders of Independent India with the concurrence of the people of J&K and hence, it may be unfair to accuse only the people of J&K (Kashmir Valley) for creation / holding to such like provisions.
Evolution of a democracy is an ongoing process and it is never too late to bring about corrective actions that are for the overall betterment of the society.
Meanwhile, National Conference and the Joint Resistance leadership (separatist trio of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik) have warned New Delhi of a vigorous agitation if any attempt was made to change the demography of Kashmir by scrapping Article 35A. The next date of hearing for petitions challenging Article 35A, called the “soul of Article 370”, is 14 August 2017.

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