The National Register Of Citizens draft in the news . So is Article 35 A of the Union Constitution . That Article 35 A is placed alongside NRC draft may sound a bit incongruous . Well, both are under a judicial scrutiny at the highest level , and on a closer examination of the issues involved in them, one may get some sense of fairness which the so called ‘ nationalists’ must care to feel ,for the good of a political cause they espouse . While as nationalist forces are in glee on the publishing of this draft which intends to protect the Assam from outsider’s influx and have come out in support of it , they are all worked up against J & K’s right to protect its demographic character . A right that stands well and truly recognized by the Union Constitution itself , given the peculiar position J&K State occupies within the Indian Union . Double standards don’t pay in the long run .
The situation that has emerged as a consequence of making public the NRC draft should provide an opportunity to the opponents of Article 35 A to curb their uncalled for exuberance to see this provision , incorporated very thoughtfully in the Constitution of India , obliterated there from .
In eighties of the previous century state of Assam rose against the influx of ‘ outsiders ‘ which comprised , mainly , the illegal migrants from across the international border . To satisfy the Assamese , Central Government and the agitating All – Assam Students Union signed Assam Accord . In consequence of the Accord and on the instance of Supreme Court NRC draft was prepared . The draft has come out and a political controversy of sorts has erupted . Ruling BJP is canvassing in its favour .
It is for the state of Assam to protect its interest, as it is for the others to do the same . Neighboring states of Assam are on the job .They have tightened security to prevent ‘spill over ‘ of the people left out of NRC draft . Arunachal Pradesh has invoked provisions of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations Act 1875 which resists the entry of non –Arunachalees in the state without Inner Line Permit –ILP . Meghalaya government has also issued orders to its officers on the similar lines to prevent the influx of the ‘ outsider ‘ .
Foreign nationals may constitute a bulk of the ‘ outsiders ‘ in Assam who require to be moved out , but thousands of Indian citizens from rest of the country have also settled in the state . It is apparent that Assamese are as non –sparing for these Indians as they are for the foreigners . No exemption is made for any one whom the government of Assam considers an ‘ outsider’ . Here is a lesson which the ‘ nationalists ‘must learn from the exercise . More so , when the neighboring states have closed their doors even for the Indian ‘ outsiders ‘ likely to move out of Assam .
Presence of Article 35 A must be seen in this perspective. Anyone , in J &K , clamoring for Its retention can’t be faulted with . This Article , as argued earlier through these columns , is more than a mere legal provision . It is an Article of Faith and must be defended .
It is good that Bar Association Kashmir has decided to intervene in defense of Art 35 A . We have been urging the lawyer body to come forward and play the game which, essentially, is theirs . Similarly , it is heartening to note that Civil Socirty in the Valley have stepped up the campaign to make public aware of the utility of this Article and the ill consequences that may flow should this provision go from the Constitution of India . What , however , pains is an attempt to make out this a Kashmir specific issue . It is not so . Anyone thinking on these lines does a great disservice to the genuine cause .
There is an impending need to take everyone on board who shares concern and has a greater good of J &K in mind .There are good many people in Jammu region – particularly in the plains of the province –who feel as concerned about the issue as anyone in Kashmir could be . They view the matter dispassionately and argue for retention of Article 35 A , as cogently as anyone across the tunnel does . It is of utmost importance to shun the tendency to confine the defense debate, only , to the surrounding hills of the Valley . The necessity of this Article must be told to the people and explained to them that this provision , along with Art 370 , is based on the principle of federalisms which underscores the broader scheme laid down by the Constitution of India .
BJP’s endorsement of the NRC draft may come handy .
B.L.SARAF, Former Principal District and Sessions Judge