In the middle of debate on Article 35A, which allows Jammu and Kashmir to define its “permanent residents”, the constitutional provision seems to have few takers among political parties and other organisations in Jammu. Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party chairperson Harsh Dev Singh described Article 35A as unconstitutional. “It is void ab initio as it is not passed by Parliament, but has been extended to Jammu and Kashmir by virtue of a Presidential order,” he said. Kashmiri politicians have been supporting it only to project J&K as different from India, he added.
Ashwani Chrungoo, president of Panun Kashmir, a front organisation of migrant Kashmiri Pandits, said there was a need to get rid of the “stifling statute” (Article 370) “coupled with Article 35A, which have provided a constitutional mechanism to promote fissiparous and separatist tendencies in J&K. This Article has created a state within a state and provided justification to so-called sub-nationalism,’’ he added.
Another migrant Kashmiri Pandit leader, Vinod Pandit, chairman of the All-Parties Migrant Coordination Committee, had a similar view. “If Article 35A comes in the way of development of the state compared to other parts of the country, there will be no hesitation in repealing it,” he said.
Javed Rahi, general secretary of Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, said that though tribals were not opposing the Article at present, the constitutional provision had adversely affected their development. He pointed out that people from Gujjar and Bakerwal communities got Scheduled Tribe status way back in 1991, but they did not get political reservation in the state legislature despite the fact that they were the third largest group after Kashmiri Muslims and Dogras.