Left-liberals have slammed the scrapping of Article 370; such is their self-righteousness, resulting in their confinement to their own echo chamber. They fail to realise they are championing some of the most illiberal and anti-women provisions modern India has ever seen.
After the Narendra Modi government’s decision on Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), women would no longer be deprived of their property rights in J&K if they get married to a non-resident. Article 35A, which emanated from Article 370, prohibited them, till recently, to be property owners if they marry an outsider.
Article 35A empowered the J&K government to decide who could be a ‘permanent resident.’ Only a permanent resident could acquire land, get a government job, settle in the state, etc.
Just like some ‘diehard sanskaris’ can’t see evil in lynching, those on the other side of the ideological spectrum can’t realise how egregious, anachronistic, illiberal, and misogynistic Article 35A and Article 370 were. They call the abrogation of Article 370 as unconstitutional.
Senior Congress leader and former home minister P Chidambaram spoke for the professional revolutionaries when he reacted to the abrogation: “The worst day in the constitutional history of India… which could lead to the dismemberment of the country.”
But how, Mr. Chidambaram? The preamble to our Constitution says - “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.”
How on earth could Article 35A and Article 370 be squared with a “secular democratic republic” With the principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity that it espouses? With the implicit and explicit stress on non-discrimination that our Constitution is replete with?
Putting restrictions on the choices of the residents of a state is patently illiberal; and putting restrictions on the basis of gender is anti-women to boot. And you know what? The luminaries of the Left-liberal establishment are aghast that such prejudice and misogyny has been consigned to the dustbin of history.
Introducing the abrogation Bills on August 5, home minister Amit Shah said in Parliament, “Daughters of the state marrying outside the state lose their rights to property. It is so discriminatory to the women and their children. SC and ST [Scheduled Castes and Tribes] people have been discriminated against and have been deprived of reservation to political offices. Despite knowing this a few people have been perpetuating this article only for their political gains.”
The next day, Shah said that those who favour Article 370 oppose the Prevention of Child Marriage Act which could not be applied to J&K due to Article 370. Similarly, other laws like the Right to Education, the Land Accusation Act, the Multiple Disability Act, the Senior Citizens Act, the Delimitation Act, and the Whistle Blower Protection Act could not be applied to J&K.
In his address to the nation on August 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also stressed the discrimination against women, “The daughters of Jammu & Kashmir were deprived of the right that our daughters had in rest of the states.”
Against this backdrop, the clamour by the intellectual elite against the removal of Article 370 sounds not just cacophonic but also downright reactionary. Do these self-appointed guardians of liberty, modernity, and progress believe that the half the population of J&K, that of women, should permanently be denied the rights which the other half enjoys?
Women were not just constitutionally denied their rights, there was also erosion of their existing rights. Another upshot of Article 370, also prepared a fertile ground for mushrooming of jihadists.
In J&K, there are about 55 lakh Muslims, where in the entire country they number in excess of 17 crore, as per the 2011 census. Yet, the number of Indian Muslims outside Kashmir who have responded to the Islamic State is in dozens, whereas the IS has quite a presence in the Valley.
The abrogation of Article 370 not only make women enjoy their rights in the state but also help make it more resistant to the jihadist fires and outrages.
The author is Editor, www.thehinduchronicle.com. Views expressed in the article are personal.