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Article 35-A proves to be a disappointment more than a protector of rights to Valmikis, Gorkhas, and Women of Jammu and Kashmir

According to Article 35-A, the J&K state legislature has the right to define the term “permanent residents” and also to alter its definition

Permanent Residents
Indian constitution’s Article 35-A empowers the state legislature of J&K to provide a definition of ‘permanent residents’ of the state. Wikimedia Commons
  • Article 35-A exists in the Constitution not as a part of the amendments’ list but as an appendix
  • It allows J&K state legislature to define the term “permanent residents” and also to alter its definition
  • Article 35-A was enacted to safeguard the rights of J&K’s permanent residents but Valmikis, Gorkhas, and women are being discriminated against

Jammu and Kashmir, August 12, 2017: Indian constitution’s Article 35-A empowers the state legislature of Jammu and Kashmir to provide a definition of the state’s ‘permanent residents’ and provide them with special privileges and rights. It was incorporated in the Constitution by the then President of India on 14 May 1954 under an order known as the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954.

Article 368 underlines that no Constitutional amendments can take place in the absence of a parliamentary procedure. Article 35-A was not presented before the Parliament. It exists as an appendix instead of the amendments’ list in the Constitution. Article 35-A instead of providing special rights and privileges and/or protecting permanent residents of J&K, it has discriminated against some.

 Women have suffered the worst are the women amongst the others who are discriminated against.

According to Article 35-A, the J&K state legislature can define “permanent residents” and also change its definition.

Also read: India and Pakistan have to become Peaceful Neighbours, says Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti

Till 2002, the female residents of J&K were being issued Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCs) with the tag ‘valid till marriage’ by the Revenue Department. In a case labeled Jammu and Kashmir Versus Dr. Sushila Sawhney and others, as per the majority opinion, the full bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court it was decided that a permanent resident’s daughter getting married to a nonpermanent resident or an outsider will not let go of the prestige of Jammu and Kashmir’s permanent residence.

In spite of the clear judgment by the High Court and its legal position, a committee was made by the Revenue Department of the state in 2016 to solve an already settled matter. The government at the center was not allowed to intervene, due to Article 35-A.

Marriage with an outsider: If a woman from Jammu-Kashmir marries someone who is an outsider, she will not be permitted to reside in the state in any circumstance. If a man belonging to another state gets married to a woman in J&K, he is not qualified to receive a PRC, including any of the benefits associated with it.

This conveys he is not eligible to be given a government job, his children are not eligible to enroll in institutes and professional colleges run by the state, and he cannot buy land.
This indicates that in the situation of a woman marrying an outsider, she will be obliged to leave her state and reside somewhere else. Before such women had to let go of the prestige of a permanent resident and even her spouse and offsprings didn’t get PRC. However, this does not happen if the involved resident is male.

Valmiki Families: The number of Valmiki families sent to J&K from Punjab in 1957 for the work of safai karamcharis were 200. All these families were ready to be employed in J&K after it was promised to them that the clause of  ‘permanent resident’ would be in their favor.

After five long decades, each family’s strength has grown and the employee numbers have gone up. Their plight, however, is that they will be regarded as J&K’s ‘permanent residents’ only if they work as safai karamcharis.

The offsprings of these families, who have been graduated, cannot give applications for government jobs. Even the literate youngsters belonging to their families can only work as safai karamcharis. The community that was allocated to safai karamcharis to reside in has not been standardized till now.

J&K’s Gorkhas: They were appointed to all the positions of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s army and after that Maharaja Gulab Singh’s. Their families resided in Jammu and Kashmir since 200 years and before, and are around 1 lakh in number. They are not given PRC on unreasonable grounds. The reason is Article 35-A which allows the state government to discriminate among the state’s permanent residents.

Now the question that arises is if Article 35-A was meant to safeguard the rights of Jammu and Kashmir’s permanent residents then why do Valmikis, Gorkhas, and women face discrimination?

If Article 35-A allows J&K’s government to be biased to the state’s permanent residents, then why shouldn’t it be repealed with immediate action? Such points need immediate attention to guard J&K’s permanent residents from further bias.

-prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter Hkaur1025

Next Story

Internet Shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir- Longest Lockdown in a Democracy

Kashmir Internet Shutdown Takes Toll on Economy

Kashmir girl
A Kashmir girl rides her bike past Indian security force personnel standing guard in front closed shops in a street in Srinagar. VOA

By Niala Mohammad, Yusuf Jameel

The internet shutdown in India’s Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, which shows no signs of abating and has been the longest lockdown in a democracy, is taking a toll on the local economy and has led to the loss of thousands of jobs, according to rights groups and analysts.

Access Now, a global digital rights group that has been monitoring the situation in Kashmir, told VOA the “loss of connectivity in the valley” because of the shutdown has been “devastating to the local economy.”

“India’s internet shutdown in Kashmir is the longest ever in a democracy,” Raman Jit Singh Chima, Access Now’s senior international counsel and Asia Pacific policy director, told VOA.

“The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce has gone on record to speak of the immense economic cost that the internet shutdown has caused to the region, undermining the very economic goals that the Union Government promised it would drive through integrating the area into the wider Indian Union,” Chima added.

The lockdown has been in place since August, when New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s semiautonomous status and imposed a curfew on the region, including shutting down the internet.

The government defended its decision, saying it was a temporary measure to prevent possible terrorist attacks.

In a televised address to the nation in August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “The Kashmir decision will bring positive changes in the lives of the common man. It would mean the protection of Indian laws, industrialization, a boost in tourism and, therefore, more employment opportunities.”

India Kashmir
Indian security personnel guard outside the civil secretariat of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir during the annual reopening of the former state’s winter capital in Jammu, India. VOA

However, opposition parties in the country argue the opposite is happening.

“You have redefined the definition of normalcy, the J&K [Jammu and Kashmir] definition of normalcy now prevails in the rest of the country. This is uncaring and unthinking government,” Indian National Congress said on twitter this week in reference to what’s happening in Kashmir and the passage of a recent controversial law.

India’s parliament recently approved legislation that allows Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities who are living in India illegally to become citizens. The applicants must prove they were persecuted because of their religious beliefs in neighboring Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan.

However, the law does not apply to Muslims, which critics say is discriminatory.

Terrorism or protests? 

India’s government, led by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), defends its continued lockdown of internet connectivity in Kashmir as a deterrent to terrorist attacks.

While briefing the country’s lawmakers in November, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, a close ally of Modi, said the internet would be restored as soon as local authorities felt it was appropriate.

“There are activities by our neighbors in the region, so we must keep security in mind. Whenever local authorities see fit, a decision will be taken to restore it [internet service],” Shah said, referring to Pakistan’s alleged interference in the region.

India has accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of fomenting instability in Kashmir by supporting local militant groups, a charge Islamabad has denied.

Some analysts, however, say the internet lockdown is largely designed to prevent collective political protests.

“The stated reason [by the Indian government] was to contain possible terrorist attacks. In my view, it is largely designed to prevent collective political protests of any sort,” Sumit Ganguly, a professor of political science and the Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilization at Indiana University, told VOA.

Other analysts, such as Ashok Swain, a professor of peace and conflict studies at Uppsala University in Sweden who follows Indian politics, said the reasons behind the Indian government’s decision to shut down the internet in Kashmir are multifaceted.

“As I see [it], the real reason for [the] internet shutdown is not to restrict communication within Kashmir Valley, but to restrict Kashmir’s communication with [the] outside world,” Swain said, adding the government is more concerned about its global image as a democracy.

“By taking away the internet, [the] regime is also controlling the local media and its publication as the journalists are dependent on [the] regime’s mercy to communicate with [the] outside world and to contact with their offices,” Swain said.

India Kashmir
A masked boy in Kashmir throws stones at a police drone flying over Jamia Masjid mosque where Kashmiris are offering their first Friday prayers since Aug. 5 in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. VOA

Local economy 

Sheikh Ashiq, the president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told VOA that there has been a rapid rise in unemployment and a significant drop in Kashmir’s cottage industry.

“Our handicraft sector, that is solely based on the internet, is at a standstill. As a result, 50,000 artisans are jobless,” Ashiq said, adding that the export of its heritage industry handicrafts had declined by 62%.

Experts say the action against Kashmir has led to losses in tourism, health care, education and in the communications industries.

“The state economy has lost more $1.5 billion due to [the] lockdown. Several companies, whose operations were internet-dependent, have been closed,” Swain said.

The internet lockdown “has affected education, health service and even regular movement of the people, creating a severe humanitarian crisis. Business, particularly fruit trade and tourism, have [been] affected severely,” he added.

Local voices 

Young Kashmiri entrepreneurs like Muheet Mehraj see a bleak future in Kashmir, as the internet shutdown has placed a cloud over future employment prospects.

“If something doesn’t change for the better with time or our internet isn’t resumed, then I don’t understand what I am going to do in the future,” Mehraj told VOA.

Many businesspeople told VOA they have been forced to leave Kashmir to earn an income.

Syed Mujtaba, the owner of Kashmir Art Quest, shifted his business to Delhi because of the lockdown.

“Eventually, my family and my own logic told me it was best to leave Kashmir,” Mujtaba told VOA.

“Now I am in Delhi, you know … in search of new opportunity … and halfheartedly so, to be honest. My heart is still in Kashmir and will always remain in Kashmir,” he added.

The government, however, continues to paint a normal picture of the situation on the ground.

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“The situation in Kashmir does not need to be normalized. The situation in Kashmir is already normal,” Home Minister Shah told lawmakers last month.

Ashiq, of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce, paints a different picture.

“We are handed a narrative of development. However, we do not see any form of development,” he said. (VOA)