Retired Supreme Court judge and former Solicitor General of India N Santosh Hegde has said the controversial Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution that provide special status to Jammu and Kashmir need to be scrapped as they run counter to the idea of Kashmir being an integral part of India. Justice Hegde told Financial Express Online that the Articles were introduced at a point of time when Kashmir was not a part of India.
“Today, that is not the political situation nor is there a sovereignty situation in the country. Kashmir is an integral part of India. If it is an integral part of India, it should be equal to all other states,” Justice Hegde told Financial Express Online.
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Arguing why he believes that these provisions need to be abrogated, Justice Hegde says that they cannot survive several decades after India’s independence. “Article 370 as we know speaks of a different political status, which according to me, after 70 years of independence and the merger of Kashmir with India, cannot survive there because the situation today is entirely different.” He had first made this reference in an interview to PTI.
While Article 370 provides for special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Article 35A prohibits outsiders from purchasing land and property in the state. The abrogation of these two Articles has been on the agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party since it came to power and also features on its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
“We are committed to annulling Article 35A of the Constitution of India as the provision is discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir,” the party said in its Sankalp Patra. The party’s manifesto added that it believes that Article 35A is acting as a hurdle in the state’s development. The BJP, which was in government in Jammu and Kashmir with Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP, also reiterated its stand to abrogate Article 370.
The release of the manifesto led to a massive political uproar with political parties in Jammu and Kashmir strongly opposing any such attempt by the Centre. Farooq and Omar Abdullah’s National Conference — which is contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress party — and Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP have opposed the idea fiercely, even going to the extent of saying that Kashmir will not remain a part of India if Article 370 is scrapped.
While former CM Omar Abdullah called for a separate Prime Minister for Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah remarked that those saying that Article 370 and 35A were temporary are indirectly implying that the accession of the state to India was also temporary.
“Article 370 is the constitutional connection between J&K and Indian Union. Instrument of accession is contingent on Article 370 which is inextricably linked to Article 35A. Any tampering will render Treaty of Accession null and void,” another former CM Mehbooba Mufti recently said.
Strongly objecting to such rationale, Hegde said, “Anybody can say tomorrow…even Khalistan people will say that we are a separate part of India. We will have to deal with them in the same coin. There are secessionist forces even in the mainland who would like to have an independent part of India. But we cannot accept it.”
Rejecting the arguments by politicians from Jammu and Kashmir, the former Karnataka Lokayukta said, “It is not for Mr Omar Abdullah or anyone to decide whether Kashmir is a part of India or not. Over the decades, we have accepted it is a part of India, we have spent so much money, our soldiers have lost their lives.
“If it is not part of India why should we be concerned about their security and other things? In my opinion, India is one sovereign country and Kashmir is part of it.”