In a move that will have massive repercussions for Kashmir, the Centre has decided to repeal Article 370 of the Constitution that grants special status to the state.
Announcing the move, home minister Amit Shah also decided to bifurcate the state into two Union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, which will have a legislature, and Ladakh, which will be without a legislature.
Shah moved the amendment amid uproar by opposition members.
Shah said: “I am presenting the resolution to revoke Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir except the first clause 370 (1).”
This comes at a time when the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir continues to be on the edge.
The announcement came after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, where the PM, Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met at the PM’s residence.
Likewise, this meeting was preceded by another meeting that started an hour earlier in which Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was also present.
Nevertheless, these key meetings were held after mobile internet services were suspended in Jammu, in view of the prevailing security situation in the region.
In Jammu, the government has imposed Section 144, which prevents the gathering of more than four people in the area.
Kashmir has been on the edge in the wake of a massive security build-up. Leaders of all major political parties in the state met here on Sunday and urged India and Pakistan not to take any step which may disturb the peace and escalate tensions between the two countries.
What is Article 35A?
Incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential order, Article 35A confers special rights and privileges upon the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and prohibits people from outside the state from buying/purchasing any immovable property in the state. Notably, the article authorizes the state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of J&K and provide them with notable benefits exclusive only to them.
Meanwhile, Article 35A proscribes non-permanent residents from permanently settling in the state, buying immovable property, acquiring land, applying for government jobs, any kind of scholarships and aids and other public welfare projects.
Moreover, the article also referred to as the Permanent Residents Law also bars a woman (belonging to the state) from any property rights if she marries a person from outside the state. However, the provision also extends to the children of such women. Since they do not have any succession rights over the property.
Notably, a full bench of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court in 2002 ruled that Jammu and Kashmir women who marry non-permanent residents will not lose their rights in their ancestral properties, be devoid of their right to work, education, inheritance or even adoption.
However, any have lambasted Article 35A to be discriminatory towards Jammu and Kashmir women.
Which parties were against the removal of Articles 35A and 370?
All Kashmir valley based parties, including the National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement (J&KPM) and others are opposed to any tinkering with Articles 35A and 370 that give a special status to J&K. The Congress party also wants these articles to be protected. Congress leaders maintain that senior leaders of the party, had painstakingly worked out J&K’s relationship with India through promises made in these articles. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti warned the Centre against the revocation of Article 35A, saying any tinkering with the constitutional provision would be akin to setting a powder keg on fire. Mufti asked her party workers to get ready for a big fight for the protection of Article 35A.
Who wanted Articles 35A and 370 removed?
Among the centrist mainstream parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stood for abrogation of these articles. The party arugued they are roadblocks not only to the integration of the state with the rest of the country but also in the development of J&K.