By Deepika Bhan
The separatist groups in the Kashmir want the Indian Constitution to stay put its provisions in the state. A highly unusual situation is taking place in the state of Jammu and Kashmir where pro Pakistan separatist groups are vouching for Indian constitution. Article 35 A of the Indian constitution has become suddenly dear to the separatist and the terror groups. They are opposing any tampering with the law.
The separatist groups which are working under the banner of joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Molvi Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik are at the forefront of fighting for the protection of the Article 35A. Every time the case has come up for hearing in the Supreme Court, the separatist conglomerate JRL has given shutdown calls in the valley. All the business establishments, educational institutions and offices are shut down.
The various separatist groups are advocating either independent status or merger with Pakistan. Now here is a situation thrown up by the controversy surrounding Article 35a of the constitution of the country. It is these very groups who are rallying in support of the constitution.
Article 35A protects the Jammu and Kashmir’s state subject laws and also the special privileges of its permanent residents as a result of this law. In the last four years, a few petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging this constitutional provision. The opposition to the Article 35 A is majorly on two points, one is that the law is highly discriminatory against the women and second raises questions on the constitutional validity of the article. But these contentions notwithstanding, the separatist groups are not ready to compromise on this constitutional provision of the country. They want the Constitution as it is.
This can be considered as a major turnaround. Have the separatist groups in the valley accepted the constitution of India as the last word? The groups have been questioning the Instrument of Accession and have been demanding the enactment of the United Nations Resolution which calls for plebiscite. They have rejected the Parliament resolution which says that Jammu and Kashmir is the integral part of India. They have repeatedly refused talks with interlocutors and government representatives. The only time they held talks was with the central government during the Vajpayee regime in 2004. After that they have been criticizing and rejecting everything that came from the successive central governments. So, the question that arises is what has changed in the valley spectrum that has forced the separatist groups to change the track suddenly and support the Constitution? When they give call for ‘freedom movement’, why should they bother about the Constitution and the Supreme Court? They support the Pakistan supported terrorists, then why should they fall for a provision of the Indian constitution?
Last year, when the case of Article 35 came up majorly in the Supreme Court, the then Mehbooba Mufti –BJP alliance was in power in the state. Mehooba Mufti, despite being in the alliance, went out of the way and met NC leader Dr Farooq Abdullah to discuss the situation regarding Article 35A. the political forces including PDP, NC, Congress and other regional groups all seemed to come together to work on the emotions in the valley in one direction and that was in support of the article. The political establishment in the valley did successfully send across the message. The separatist groups, sensing the sentiments seized the opportunity and came out forcefully to rally the sentiments. Since then, the Joint Resistance Leadership has taken the lead in channeling the emotions of the people on this topic. By supporting the Indian Constitution, they have ensured their relevance in the changed scenario. Perhaps, they have come to the understanding that the talk of UN resolutions are now a passé and fighting for the exclusivity within the constitution of India is the only way to ensure safe passage. The narrative seems to be finally changing in the valley.
(The author is a senior journalist with two decades of journalism experience .She hails from Kashmir .Her speciality interest areas include Jammu and Kashmir and Indo- Pak relations .She has worked in print and News TV as well )