Every now and then Article 370 and 35A emerge as the key issues in the context of Jammu & Kashmir. Though politicians of the State who want to monopolise the discourse of the State use them as instruments of separatism, there are many in the Kashmir Valley and other parts of the State who feel that these articles are hurdles in the integration process of ‘Kashmir’ with the rest of India
“Humein Article 370 aur Article 35A se koi lena dena nahin hai; humein issse azaadi chahiye, humein vikaas chahiye, rozgaar chahiye aur aatankwaad se mukti chahiye (We have nothing to do with Article 370 & Article 35A. We want to get rid of them. We want development, employment and freedom from terrorism)”, said 25-year-old LLB student Zuhail Lone, a Sunni Muslim youth from Srinagar, Kashmir.
Political leaders in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) have reacted sharply to the BJP's manifesto where the party has reiterated its stand on scrapping Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution that grants special status to the State. The contentious issue has, in the past as well, evoked similar reactions from the State's leaders. Some of the known supporters of the separatists are also singing the same tune in the rest of Bharat.
Naturally, the debate on Article 35A and 370 of the Indian Constitution is hot again. While many political commentators have dubbed the BJP Government’s intention to get rid of these articles as ‘playing with the fire’, Kashmiris on the ground, especially the youth think otherwise.
There is a difference between the two articles. Too much emotion and too little logic surround arguments around Article 35A of the Indian Constitution. Unlike Article 370, Article 35A appears in Appendix 1 of the Constitution. Article 35A was inserted by a Presidential Order in 1954 — not by an Act of the Parliament. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the Article 370, but through Article 35A, citizens from outside the state are barred from owning property in J&K. Non-J&K Indian citizens can’t get permanent residency in the State. Indian citizens from outside J&K aren’t allowed admission to schools and colleges in the State. Indian citizens, again from outside J&K, cannot take employment in the State. Article 370, then known as Article 306 (A), on the other hand, was a temporary provision created at the time drafting the Constitution to deal with the situation created by the aggression of Pakistan in J&K in 1948. It was a provision that was supposed to diminish with the approval of the Constitution of India by Constituent Assembly of the J&K, which actually lapsed in 1954 when it ratified accession or maximum in 1957 when Constituent Assembly of J & K dissolved.
“Article 370 and Article 35 A should be removed from J&K because Article 370, 35A are barrier for the development and employment. We are not able to establish industries in Kashmir. Almost 60 per cent of the youth does not have any job opportunities. Politicians are using these articles for their political benefits while as Separatists are earning out of it.” —Zuhail Lone, a Kashmiri YouthEven if we brush aside the national sentiments regarding these two articles, which is overtly and largely against their continuation, and focus only on the ‘Kashmiri’ narrative, things are no different.
Zuhail Lone is clear in his mind that, “Article 370 and Article 35 A should be removed from J&K because Article 370, 35A are barrier for the development and employment. We are not able to establish industries in Kashmir. Almost 60 per cent of the youth does not have any job opportunities. Politicians are using these articles for their political benefits while the Separatists are earning out of it.”
“Article 370 and 35A is just a political tool used by the politicians for their political benefits. Because of this, no political party talks about development, jobs, basic needs and other essential things for us.” —Malik Adnan, a Kashmiri YouthAnother Kashmiri youth Malik Adnan of Baramulla says, “Article 370 and 35A is just a political tool used by the politicians for their political benefits. Because of this, no political party talks about development, jobs, basic needs and other essential things for us.”
A persistent agony among the Kashmiri youth is regarding the absence of job opportunities for them. They relate it indirectly to the presence of these articles. Malik Adnan informs us that, “There is no job opportunity here in Kashmir. In the name of Article 370 and 35A, the party in power in the State take a lot of fund allocations from Central Government but uses these funds for their self-development or for the development of near and their dear ones”. During the election season, he claims, “the local political parties literally threaten the public of J&K that if they are not voted for power, the Central Government will remove these articles and snatch all the benefits whatever they are getting in the name of Article 370 and 35A.”
Kashmiri youth is looking up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as someone who has made the issues of development and prosperity as the prime focus in the State again.Others like Zakir Khan do not agree. He underlines the emotions of the Kashmiris being attached to these articles. It seems some like Khan actually have centred their identity on these articles. He says, “Being a Kashmiri I think Article 370 and 35A should not be removed because emotions of Kashmiris are attached with Article 370 and 35A. If this will be removed, it will create more violence and bloodshed in Kashmir.”
‘Disruptors of development in the Valley’: Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah & Omar Abdullah
NC and PDP’s Foul Play
On the issue of regional parties like National Conference (NC) and People Democratic Party (PDP), Zuhail Lone said, “Yes this is absolutely true that NC and PDP are playing with the future of Youth of Kashmir. Not only are these parties alone, but the Hurriyat is also involved with them.” There is a growing sentiment that these dynastic parties are playing with the future of the youth of Kashmir by playing a soft-separatist narrative that is anti-development and growth.
Lone underlines the irony of the Kashmiri politics beautifully. He aptly articulates, “When they are in power they don't pay heed towards J&K but when out of power they start singing tunes of Pakistan. If we go through their recent statements both the parties, have claimed that their workers are real Mujahideen”. “They are supporting Pakistan, and they are pushing the young generation of Kashmir towards destruction. People should boycott these two parties and should think about the development and future of the State”, Lone added.
Malik Adnan stated that “NC and PDP narrates one-sided story to the Kashmiris. They never tell us about the benefits of removing Article 370 and 35A. They keep on threatening us. This has become a toll to mislead the Kashmiri youth.
Just tell me one thing why is Pakistan is so worried about removing Article 370 and 35A from J&K. Who the hell is Pakistan to decide whether it should be there or not?”
Former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, in response to the BJP manifesto, has said that any attempt to repeal the special status would have severe repercussions in the region. The implicit and explicit claim in these threats is that Kashmiris do not want any abrogation of these articles whatsoever. However, there seems to be much anger on the ground against these parties and their Supremos.
NC chief Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti’s political rival in the State, echoed a similar stand by saying that the abrogation of Article 370 would pave the way for the State to gain "freedom". "If you do that (repeal Article 370), the accession will also not stand. I think this is the will of the Allah; we will get freedom from them," he said.
These views are not being echoed by the Kashmiri youth at all. Zuhail Lone says, “NC aur PDP ne to Kashmir ko nark bna diya hai (both the parties have turned this heaven (Kashmir) into hell. These two parties have a hand in gloves with Jammat-e-Islami and other anti-India outfits.
I am a Muslim, and all the local parties claim that they fight for the rights of Muslims in the Valley. My mother was killed in front of my eyes, but nobody came to my support. Why did they kill my mother? I know one thing; all who are living in Kashmir are Hindustani first. So the Centre should treat us as they treat other states. I can say that after removing Article 370 and 35A, Kashmir will be on the path of development. There are no cinema halls. We cannot roam freely in the state. Is this you call a special status?”
Even someone like Zakir Khan who is against abrogating the Articles has a strong disliking for NC and PDP. He concurs with the larger angst against both parties saying, “Yes, both NC and PDP even INC are playing with the future of Kashmiri youth. In power, they react like True Indians, and they chant slogans like Bharat Mata ki Jai and out of power they give anti-national statements, they even try to add fuel to the fire. They are the main cause of unrest.”
PM Modi addressing a public rally at Kathua Stadium, J&K
The Hope called ‘Modi’
Amidst the despair, Kashmiri youth is looking up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as someone who has made the issues of development and prosperity as the prime focus in the State again. Zuhail has no issues in admitting straightaway that he is a great supporter of PM Modi. He tells us that, “I am not the supporter of any political party, but yes I do support PM Modi because he is working for the development of India as well as J&K. He is taking good steps for the development of the country, and the way he is showing his zero tolerance towards terrorism is highly appreciated as we all are victims of terrorism. So who so ever will eliminate terrorism we will support him.”
There seems to be a great consensus regarding the fact that youth in Kashmir does not want any politics of blood. Zuhail clearly states that the Hurriyat and the political parties are running their business by shedding the blood of the youth.
He says, “Youth should ask for their rights, they should ask for their fundamental rights, and the main thing is they should not engage in any such activities which will lead them towards death and destruction.”
Zuhail also concurs with the idea of development which is enshrined in the politics of PM Modi. He says, “Now the Kashmiri youth will vote for development, not for the separatist forces. Every youth want development except few, but nobody speaks because they know that the moment they speak out openly against these evil forces, they will be killed. Let me tell you, “I have been attacked twice by the terrorists for speaking in favour of removal of Article 370. Now after requesting to some senior police officer, I have been provided with security.”
Even Zakir Khan who seems not to be in favour of abrogating Articles 370 and 35A cannot help but appreciate PM Modi’s initiatives in Kashmir. He says, “PM Modi's initiatives were really good for the youth of Kashmir especially BPO centre at Bandipora and other sports programmes. My message to Kashmiri nationalists is, don't lose hope, try to spread love, brotherhood and peace and try to show and spread the positive side of Kashmir.”
It gets clear when one makes a visit on the ground zero in the Kashmir Valley that the present generation is no longer ready to take the burns of the violence and partisan. They are in favour of peace, prosperity and people-centric policies from the Government. They want a hard strike on terror. There may have mixed feelings regarding the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A, but there seems to be a consensus that Kashmiris are no longer ready to be played in the hands of those few families who have allowed the State to be burnt to perpetual their selfish interests.
A wider condemnation of NC and PDP is in the air. A wider appreciation of PM Modi can be felt and heard in the Valley. Also, what is promising and comforting together is the fact that Kashmiri youth have started seeing a ray of hope in PM Modi.