(Early Times) Silence of J&K BJP intriguing

It was on July 11 that a report appeared in almost all the dailies, national dailies included, that the RSS-funded, controlled, inspired and guided Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre (JKSC) has decided to approach the Supreme Court to seek repeal of Article 35-A that empowers Jammu & Kashmir Government to define who the State Subjects are.

The JKSC claimed, and rightly, that Article 35A was incorporated in the Indian Constitution through a Presidential Order on May 14, 1954, bypassing Parliament and this Article (35A) is "at the root of the regime of rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir". According to the proposed petition, the Article was a constitutional amendment signed straightaway by the President in 1954 "without the knowledge of Parliament, which has the sole right to amend the Constitution".

The RSS national executive member, Arun Kumar, is one of the advisers with the petitioner JKSC. "Based on Article 370, Article 35A was added to the Constitution. This was done not by Parliament, but via a Presidential Order. Article 35A enables the state Assembly of J&K to define 'permanent residents' and to give them special rights and privileges. The ambit of permanent residents was deliberately kept narrow to exclude several communities," Aniruddha Rajput, counsel for the petitioner, said on July 11. "This distinction was arbitrary and archaic. The permanent residents were given discriminatory powers. Restrictions were placed on non-State Subjects in terms of public employment, voting rights, acquisition of property, settlement in state, even extending to such rights as claims to scholarships," he also said, adding "Article 35A is an outrage on the Constitution of India".

"Article 35A was positioned in the Constitution by way of an amendment which was an executive fiat without any reference to Parliament. Ironically, it was placed in Part III of the Constitution that deals with Fundamental Rights and yet it provides for protection to existing and future laws in Jammu and Kashmir that may be violative of these very human and fundamental rights," Jagdeep Dhankar, former Union minister with the last NDA government and senior Supreme Court advocate said. Dhankar is also part of the petitioning team.

The point is that the JKSC is opposed to Article 35-A and its opposition is well-founded. It is because of this unconstitutional provision that the refugees from West Pakistan and female State Subjects were denied their natural right to exercise all the rights available to the so-called State Subjects in Jammu & Kashmir.

Ever since July 11, Kashmiri leaders of all hues have been denouncing the RSS and the BJP and asserting that they would defeat the move of the RSS on Article 35-A. Education Minister and spokesperson of the state government Naeem Akhtar and PDP spokesperson Mehboob Beg have denounced the RSS move. The National working president and former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has also been opposing the reported move of the RSS.

Jammu & Kashmir Government of which the BJP is a part on July 11 said it would "deal" with the proposed move to challenge Article 35A. "We are committed to strengthen special status of J&K within the Union of India under the existing constitutional scheme," said government spokesperson Naeem Akthar. "We will deal with the challenge when it comes. The existing constitutional relationship between J&K and Union of India has being challenged in the past. But it has remained intact in its basic character. The judiciary has always upheld this character," Akhhar further said. PDP spokesperson Mehboob Beg also said the same while reflecting on the move on Article 35-A.

Not only Akhtar and Beg, even a government official, who is not supposed to make political statements, has supported Akhtar and said this was not for the first time that special status of J&K was being challenged in the court. "The Apex Court has struck down such pleas in the past and there is already a petition pending in the Apex Court related to the issue," said the said senior official.

Omar Abdullah has been more critical than the PDP leadership. He said that he had already cautioned that BJP's coming to power would be "dangerous for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. "You (media) should ask this question to the PDP which opened the doors for the BJP in Kashmir. We had already said that BJP will be dangerous for the state," and added that the NC will not allow the BJP and RSS to dilute the state's special status by abrogating Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution.

"Let me be completely unambiguous about this - the JKNC will fight any such move tooth and nail, whatever it takes!" Omar wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter on July 12. He was reacting to media reports that the JKSC was planning to move the Supreme Court to challenge Article 35A which, it claims, denies special privileges and rights to the non-permanent residents of the state.

What Akhtar, Beg, Omar Abdullah and a senior government official said about the JKSC and its move and about Article 35-A was given prominent space by the print media, both in Srinagar and Jammu. It is intriguing that not a single BJP minister or a single BJP spokesperson defended the move of the JKSC. The fact of the matter is that the local BJP leadership, including ministers and spokespersons, has not issued a single political statement since March 1 about the state's political future, and this, notwithstanding the fact that Kashmiri leaders have been making provocative statements on a daily basis against the BJP and its mentor RSS. Believe it or not, but it is a fact that the local BJP leadership has hardly made any political statement after October 2014, when the process to elect a new assembly in the state begun.

Why is the local BJP leadership not making any political statement? Has it been barred to do so by the party high command? The fact of the matter is that the local BJP leadership remains in the news not because it does something for the people or it speaks on the issues of local, state and national import but because its critics have been issuing statements against it almost daily describing it as a party of "cheats, bluffers, promise-brokers, power-brokers and rank opportunists". Equally intriguing is the failure of the RSS to take its critics in Kashmir head on and put across its point of view in an effective manner.