Article 35A: Time to get rid of this stain on India’s soul

It is, perhaps, an opportune moment that the country’s soul, which is ravaged by the stains of article 35A be finally relieved from it. It will be one step towards ending the demographic hegemony in Kashmir.

Last week a Kashmiri terrorist rammed a vehicle laden with more than 300 Kgs of explosives into one of the 70-vehicles convoy that was transporting around 2500 CRPF personnel to Srinagar. 44 soldiers lost their lives in the ghastly attack. The responsibility of the attack was later claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad terror outfit.

The attack garnered widespread condemnation from across the world. Various heads of the states condemned the attack and expressed their solidarity with the bereaved families of the fallen soldiers as well as to a wounded India. It is, however, a sobering realisation that such battles are not won by accumulating denunciation from those who remain entirely unaffected from such attacks, they are won by formulating and implementing long-term policies meant to attain a permanent end to the conflict. Condemnation from powerful countries, hardly, in any way, act as a deterrence for the terror outfits.

One of the aching legacies of India’s first Prime-Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is the Kashmir imbroglio. When Maharaja Hari Singh signed a treaty with Indian Union, Nehru went overboard to grant the state a special status under the constitution. Article 370 deems the state of Jammu and Kashmir as an autonomous state, while the article 35A, enacted by Presidential order in 1954, empowers the state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents. The article 35A effectively proscribes Indians other than Kashmiris to acquire or hold land in the state.

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As the terror attacks across the world including the Pulwama attack reveal, the terrorists are now employing audacious methods to execute their plans. Similarly, the Indian government will have to think beyond the conventional measures of tackling the menace of terrorism and adopt new-age methods. It is in this sense that India’s calibrated all-encompassing strategy to nail Pakistan and its terrorists down should include the abolition of article 35A as one of the weapons in its armoury.

The Pakistani establishment and the terror outfits based out of Pakistan have realised it a long time back the essentiality of article 35A to bolster their irredentist claims on J&K. Therefore, any attempts made by the Indian political parties to abolish or alter the article have been received with vehement protest by them through their sympathisers in the valley. The article 35A provides a guarantee of population homogeneity in the state. The demography of the Jammu and Kashmir is excessively skewed in the favour of Pakistan and its backed terror outfits. Its abolition may throw open the state for a variety of people not necessarily sympathising with their ideology.

Repealing article 35A, therefore, will not only provide Indians with the rights to acquire land in Kashmir and settle at the place of their choice anywhere in the state, but it will also deprive the terror groups the tactical advantage they currently enjoy in readily carrying out their nefarious activities in Kashmir. By effecting the demographic dividend of the state, the government will be able to dismantle the network of terror accomplices nurtured by Pakistan in Kashmir. The Hurriyat will be pushed into oblivion and stripped of its hegemony, as more number of nationalist Indians start residing in the valley.

In the aftermath of the attack, terror outfit JeM had released a video in which the terrorist who attacked the CRPF convoy could be seen spewing venom and addressing non-Muslims as “cow piss drinkers”. The Army has a herculean task eliminating such inordinately brainwashed terrorists and their over-ground supporters in Kashmir who come to their aide when these terrorists are holed up in an encounter site.

These supporters pelt stones at the Army formations to obstruct their proceedings and facilitate terrorists in escaping from the site. A large population of Army supporters in the valley will dissuade them from resorting to stone-pelting. Annulment of article 35A will also pave the way for the long-standing issue of rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir. They will feel much more secure inhabiting Kashmir under such a propitious situation.

It is, perhaps, an opportune moment that the country’s soul, which is ravaged by the stains of article 35A be finally relieved from it. The nature of terror attacks is changing, so is the need to change the nature of retaliation as well. A cogent message needs to be sent out to the adversaries that India will not only act against the terrorists wreaking havoc, it will also doggedly pursue those who aide them.

The attack in Pulwama claimed 44 lives of our soldiers. There have been countless casualties of our soldiers fighting terrorists in Kashmir. If India truly seeks to exact revenge for its martyred soldiers, it needs to shun palliative measures directed at achieving short-term goals but take steadfast decisions to completely eradicate the scourge of terrorism in Kashmir, and abolishing article 35A will be one such measure in that direction.

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