J&K – The issues around the state

[op-ed snap] Perils of historical amnesia: on Article 35A

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Article 35A

Mains level: Special status being enjoyed by J&K and efforts to remove it


Context

Article 35A challenged in Supreme Court

  1. The controversial Article 35A of the Constitution is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court
  2. Its critics have argued that the Article affords Jammu and Kashmir undue powers, particularly by preventing non-State residents to own land in the State
  3. In reality, the fundamental purpose of Article 35A was the exact opposite: instead of giving the state a “special status”, it was designed to take autonomy away from it

History of Article 35A

  1. The Article was introduced in May 1954 as part of a larger Presidential Order package, which made several additions to the Constitution (not just Article 35A)
  2. The overall gist of this Order was to give the Government of India enormously more powers over the State than it had enjoyed before
  3. For the first time, India’s fundamental rights and directive principles were applicable to Jammu and Kashmir and the State’s finances were integrated with India
  4. The Order also extended the Indian Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over certain aspects of Jammu and Kashmir

Delhi Agreement

  1. In 1952, after the international clamour for an immediate plebiscite had somewhat subsided, Jawaharlal Nehru invited Sheikh Abdullah (then PM of Kashmir) to discuss how India and Jammu and Kashmir could be more closely integrated
  2. The result was the 1952 Delhi Agreement but it could not come into force

J&K is less autonomous than before

  1. It took 70 years for successive governments to steadily chip away at Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy to bring it to today when the only meaningful “special status” that it enjoys is Article 35A
  2. Almost all of State’s other autonomous powers have been subsumed by New Delhi
  3. Abolition of Article 35A should be seen as part of this larger decades-long process of the State’s integration into India, sometimes through legal means and sometimes through outright fiat

Way Forward

  1. The whole project of federal nation-building requires constant negotiation between the nation-state and its components
  2. Such efforts need to have an underpinning of at least some kind of transparent democratic process
  3. If Article 35A is to be removed, it must be removed as an expression of the will of the people, through a political process which includes the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the discussion
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