Even as the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing on pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A, there is for the first time, a real possibility of an unprecedented change in the offing. Regardless of what the court decides on 27 August, the next date of hearing, it would help to bust a few myths surrounding Article 35A, which have been carefully fed into the Kashmiri psyche for decades, resulting in wayward propaganda and now threat mongering, in case it's revoked.
Myth 1: Article 35A is linked to Kashmir's accession to India
This is a particularly mischievous propaganda which Kashmiris have been fed ad nauseam by their incompetent local leadership. What is particularly shocking is that a civil servant, Shah Faesal, should tweet a warning similar to those issued by separatists: "I would compare Article 35A to a marriage-deed/nikahnama. You repeal it and the relationship is over. Nothing will remain to be discussed afterwards."
Truth: Kashmir's accession to India on 26 October 1947 was absolutely unconditional. In fact, the 'Instrument of Accession' is similar to those of any other princely state that became a part of India. Article 370 and Article 35A were the result of Shiekh Abdullah's vicious and unethical bargaining, and Jawaharlal Nehru giving in to these, despite foresighted leaders of the time like Sardar Patel, BR Ambedkar and Dr Rajendra Prasad advising him to the contrary.
In fact, Article 35A was churned out through a Presidential Order in May 1954 in the most unnatural circumstances. In August 1953, unable to cope with Shiekh Abdullah's vicious designs, Nehru got him removed from office in what came to be known as the Kashmir Conspiracy case. There was massive resentment over the way Shiekh was removed. Article 35A was Nehru's compensation to Kashmir for overthrowing an elected leader.
Nehru's inconsistency in first antagonising the patriotic Hari Singh by pandering to Shiekh, and then uprooting Shiekh when he realized his double-game vis-a-vis Pakistan, had made India vulnerable to endless bargain/blackmail by the local leadership of Kashmir. This blackmail continues till date by certain sections in Kashmir which purposely and unethically link Article 35A to Kashmir's continuance with India.
Myth 2: Article 35A is necessary to protect Kashmiriyat
Truth: Article 35A has resulted in radicalisation and ghettoisation. Kashmir was always open to external influences. The great Indian philosopher and sage Adi Shankaracharya had explored Kashmir in the 8th Century. In later years, Sufi saints, as well as traders from central Asia, would treat Kashmir as their second home. Kashmiriyat, thus, comprised a composite culture right from the beginning.
Hence, the larger and more dangerous impact of this constitutional provision has been on the psyche of the state. It has prevented the state from developing a sense of belonging for India. These articles have played a big role in keeping the state isolated from the economic and cultural evolution of the country. They carried within them the latent seeds of alienation and secessionism.
These seeds were strategically preserved for the first three decades, only to be conveniently sown, nurtured and grown into full-blown militancy by a failed political clan that was finding it tough to deal with the disillusionment of second generation independent Kashmiris. Article 35A has crippled Kashmiriyat, rather than protecting it.
Myth 3: Kashmiris will lose jobs if Article 35A is removed
Truth: Removal of article 35A will create the right investment and employment opportunities in Kashmir.
Had the Abdullahs concentrated on education and employment in the first three to four decades after Independence, the youth would not have been so vulnerable to radical influences. At this stage, the removal of Article 35A is the best bet to pull Kashmir out of the dark tunnel it has been forced into.
Myth 4: Removing Article 35A violates the Constitution
Truth: The constitutional validity of Article 35A, in the first place, is already suspect. It violates Article 14 of the Constitution which confers equality to all citizens. Article 35A is grossly unfair to people from other states of India as it imposes avoidable restrictions upon them. Residents of Kashmir, on the other hand, enjoy all privileges which any other Indian has, anywhere in the country.
The Way Ahead
The BJP stands opposed to Article 35A and Article 370, as has been the party's consistent stand throughout. Since Article 35A was introduced in the Constitution through a Presidential Order, it is not untenable to revoke it through a Presidential Order. However, that will not in the best spirit of democracy. The good thing today is that large sections of the Valley are finally disillusioned with the separatists. They are also equally fed up of Kashmir's two regional parties. No wonder then that sections of both PDP and NC have equivocally spoken out against their own party positions and supported India wholeheartedly.
The court's ruling notwithstanding, as things stand today, a BJP-led government in Kashmir is no longer unthinkable. Yes, we want Article 35A to go, but we would ideally want to achieve that through a democratic process and with the support of the people.
A day will come when the people of Kashmir will realise that the only solution to their problems is unhindered integration with India. We are committed to making that happen by the sheer strength of our conviction that Kashmir is India.
Kashmiriyat will merge with Hindustaniyat soon to make the Valley a permanent abode of peace.