NRC Draft & Challenge To Article 35A

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