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Article 35A and Kashmiri Pandits

Shiban  Khaibri
In our democratic set up , while agreeing with  the view point of Omar Abdullah , National Conference working president that “defending Article 35A must not be held anti – national”, we suggest him that  opposing it tooth and nail too must not be attacked with frivolous and unconnected reasons. We also feel aghast seeing abject and brazen double standards employed by many Kashmir centric leaders, who while championing something like “Aazadi “and feeling proud in calling themselves Kashmiris instead of Indians, not “believing” in the constitution of India are upset with the prospects of Article 35 A being challenged on legal and ethical grounds as being fundamentally in violation of Article 14 of the constitution of India. While advocating for Aazadi or whatever, to secede from the Union of India , they were “concerned” about this article getting reviewed in respect of its continuation. In other words, while demanding “Aazadi ” , they want to retain and fight against repealing of  Articles 35A and 370 of the constitution of India. It looks, definitely   strange and paradoxical. At the same time, those political leaders who do not advocate Aazadi etc and are feigning to be very strong votaries for this controversial Article are in complete silent mode over deportation of Rohingia and Bangladeshi Muslims who, under a sinister plan have been asked to “settle” here in Jammu. Even a bona-fide Indian citizen from any of the Indian states cannot settle down in the state but these illegal immigrants can and that also without a whimper from the leadership of Kashmir centric parties and their supporters here in Jammu. They were deliberately brought here after crossing many states en-route only to disturb the peace and the demographic structure of Jammu region.
Not only these illegal immigrants, there are also many Tibetian Muslims settled in down town Srinagar. It, therefore, exposes the double speak of the Kashmiri leadership of both hues over the same issue including the ruling PDP .  Mehbooba Mufti, it may be recalled, in an unexpected emotional burst went to the extent of saying,” There will remain none to give a “shoulder”  to the National Flag in Kashmir if this Article was abrogated.” Shouldering or lifting the bier is synonymous with non living bodies and hence quite insulting for the National Flag so dear to us. The stand of the Congress Party is a step forward in that it blames the PDP for “raising an alarm on the attempts of abrogation of Article 35A being yet another chameleon attempt by it to deceive the people of Jammu and Kashmir.” The central leadership of the old Party is silent over the state unit taking such a stand because votes are in mind and in thought.
Omar Abdullah, in his usual rhetoric against the BJP, in whose rule he remained a Union Minister in Vajpayee government, has termed it (repealing Article 35A) a “clandestine move of the saffron party”. He has used the usual phrase of  “to preserve distinct identity and dignity  irrespective of religion or caste”. It is a travesty that the word so important as “Secular” is not incorporated in the preamble of the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and therefore the phrase ” irrespective of religion or caste” is a misnomer, if not a calculated ruse. It may be recalled that the ethnic cleansing in 1990 took place in Kashmir valley because of the “Religion” factor and this writer has continuously been holding the view that the Kashmir issue too is nothing but a religious issue. What is , otherwise  the objective of the constitution of the state and   its commitment to preserving the diversity of multi religious character of the state when a guarantee to that effect is not to be found in it and so far all “secular” governments  in the state till date did not bother to look into it. Is it because of this fact also that Kashmiri Pandits were thrown out of the valley with their roots of over 5000 years there ? Does the absence of the basic pillar of secular character in the state constitution responsible for the hounded out community being  completely ignored and their status of internal displacement, now entering third decade, bothering none? Should Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, PDP, Congress as also  other separatist leaders who feel quite ill at ease, at the prospects of the controversial Article being challenged in the apex court praying for its repealing,  remain quite unconcerned about the biggest exodus in Independent India that of nearly 5 lac Kashmiri Pandits who as the main stake holders being indigenous inhabitants of the valley ask whether their return and rehabilitation should have not been  the priority of the Kashmiri leadership in comparison to defending  in vain the  Article 35 A? Is the absence of the guarantee of the state being a secular state by its incorporation in the main preamble as the basic pillar also responsible for increasing radicalization and spreading of Wahabi extremist cult in the valley? How long will the displaced community of Kashmiri Pandits wait for resolution of the burning problem of their exodus, and measures taken for their reversal? In the din of fight for the controversial Article, their main issue of displacement cannot be relegated to the background.
Our judiciary is guarding and protecting the rights of all the citizens without any discrimination. How come so far, the perpetrators of heinous crimes against the community, including massacres etc have not been suitably punished and how come our judicial process be not active like in the unfortunate incidents of 1984 and 2002 , to cite a few instances only? Are the powers that be, oblivious of their constitutional and moral duty towards the displaced community whose one complete generation withered away in the long wait to go back to their birth place? NC, PDP, the Separatists and other leadership including the clergy did not give a bandh call for just one day even or protested during these 28 years for Pandits not returning to their birth place, instead most of the young educated professional young Kashmiris on TV debates pass unwarranted remarks and put out manufactured reasons of their exodus.  The phrases that “they also are a part of Kashmir” and “Kashmir is incomplete without Pandits” look nice when spoken but not in practice, not even in the least. Should it be held that in spite or despite of the abrogation of Article 35A and 370, nothing is going to effect materially for the community on the ground, it so looks.
Not going deep into the nitty- gritty and legal intricacies of this controversial Article, let it be plainly said that both these Articles 35A and 370 are the modes of distancing and keeping distanced, the relations between the state and the Union of India even after 70 years of the state’s accession with the Union.
Why? The distinct identity which is very often talked of is nothing but buttressing the claim of the separatist leader Syed Geelani who propagates that the majority Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir cannot “live” with the Hindu “majority” India. The raison- d’etre of the accession with India was and remains the tolerant and secular character of India. India chose to be secular in absolute sense because of not only Jammu and Kashmir having “distinct” character but because millions of Muslims spurning and rejecting Jinnah and his Pakistan, not leaving India to live in the new theocratic state. Any attempt to alter and rewrite the fate of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by any means including proxy wars and religious extremism, was fraught with repercussions unimaginable.
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