New Delhi: A think-tank close to the RSS is planning to approach the Supreme Court to challenge Article 35A of Constitution, which, it claims, allows the state of Jammu and Kashmir to grant special privileges and rights to permanent residents but denies rights to several others who too have genuine claims.
"Article 35A was added in the Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954. But it is against the basic structure of Constitution, which even Parliament cannot amend. So this Article is unconstitutional, which was added without taking Parliament into confidence," said Ashutosh Bhatnagar, Director of the think-tank Jammu Kashmir Study Centre.
Bhatnagar said he hoped that Supreme Court would take suo motu congnisance of the matter. But if that doesn't happen, the group will approach the apex court.
"We have constituted a group of leading constitutional experts which is deeply studying this issue after which we will definitely approach the Supreme Court and seek its intervention in removing this unconstitutional law," he said.
Bhatnagar was speaking on the sidelines of an interaction organised by the Jammu Kashmir Study Centre, where some "victims of Article 35A" also shared their problems.
One of the speakers at the interaction, Mangat Ram, said that members of 'Valmiki' community were brought from Punjab to work in Jammu and Kashmir but now their succeeding generations have no right either to buy land or get state jobs and are now struggling in pitiable conditions for livelihood.
Another speaker Rashmi said her mother was a resident of the state while her father belonged to Himachal Pradesh. Because of this family members could not get permanent resident status even though they continue to live there.
Speakers representing Gorkha community and those who migrated from West Pakistan also rued that despite living in the state for generations, they were required to present a Permanent Residence card, which many among them did not have, to acquire higher education, land or jobs.
"This Article deprives nearly 20 lakh people of Jammu and Kashmir from their fundamental rights. We want to say, that this Article which affects such a huge number of people should be immediately annulled," Bhatnagar said.
Former Union Minister and lawyer Jagdeep Dhankar, who was present at the event, said that there are many non permanent residents who because of Article 35A, could not vote for even a panchayat election in the state even though they can vote in Lok Sabha elections.
Dhankar observed that in the world's largest democracy, a situation exists where one can become the Prime Minister, but cannot vote in the state elections.
Referring to Article 370 on the basis of which Article 35A was added in the Constitution, Dhankar said there was a lot of ignorance about it.
While it is often said that Article 370 confers special status on J&K, it is not so and Article 370 was on ly a "temporary" provision, he said.