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Busting the myths about Article 370

Guest Blog by Ratul Das – Studying LL.M. at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences. Interests: philosophy,tracking political and social issues and sports.

I have seen this post doing the rounds on social media for quite some time now. Am pained to say this ‘awareness campaign’ is full of misinformation.

Propaganda Campaign

 

Propaganda machine of the BJP at work

 Let us examine the allegations point by point:

1. There is nothing like ‘dual citizenship’ in Jammu & Kashmir. The closest thing to it is the status of ‘permanent resident’ as defined under the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir. A cognate allegation goes that a Pakistani citizen attains Kashmiri ‘citizenship’ (or residential status) if he marries a Kashmiri ‘citizen’/resident. There is nothing in Article 6 of the Constitution of J&K to support this.

2. Disrespecting Indian national symbols and integrity are criminal offences under the Jammu & Kashmir State Ranbir Penal Code, Samvat 1989 (which closely mirror the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860).

3. The Supreme Court and institutions like the Comptroller and Auditor General have jurisdiction over J&K. By virtue of the Presidential Orders (as authorized by Article 370) the basic structure of the Indian Constitution applies to J&K. Further, to clarify, while the right to education has not yet been applied to J&K, right to information does apply.

4. There was once some confusion over whether a female resident of J&K loses her rights as a permanent resident if she marries someone resident outside the State. A landmark judgement, in October 2002, the full bench of J&K High Court, with one judge dissenting, held that the daughter of a permanent resident of the State will not lose her permanent resident status on marrying a person who is not a permanent resident, and will enjoy all rights, including property rights.

5. The State of Jammu & Kashmir does not recognize sharia law as applicable in courts of law.

6. The Parliament of India has a good role in making laws for the J&K. Till 1963, the Parliament could legislate only on subjects contained in the Union List, and had no jurisdiction in case of subjects covered by the Concurrent List under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Since then, the Union has been progressively acquiring competence to legislate on more and more subjects. On July 30, 1986, the President made an order under Article 370, extending to Kashmir Article 249 of the Constitution in order to empower Parliament to legislate even on a matter in the State List on the strength of a Rajya Sabha resolution. The Union Legislature now has the power to legislate not just on subjects contained in the Union List, but also on all of the subjects in the Concurrent List, and the State List. In this respect, the J&K is, in fact, worse off than any other state today.

7. Restriction over property acquisition cannot be directly attributed to Article 370. Anyway, such restrictions are not peculiar to J&K only. It applies to numerous tribal regions.

8. The State of Jammu & Kashmir is not the only one that enjoys ‘special status’ under the Indian Constitution. Part XXI includes special provisions for a number of States.

Politicising rapes: NCW Chairperson should resign

NCW ChairpersonNational Commission of Women (NCW) is a respected organisation that is deemed to be the voice of women, who have been subjected to brutality from the society. It is expected to stand by those who face violence within their homes and without, always upholding the tenet of equality and dignity for women. Sadly, the current Chairperson of the NCW has not only miserably failed in her job, but allowed her political biases to influence the august chair she holds.

Mamta Sharma’s connection to the Congress is well known. She even contested Rajasthan Assembly elections on a Congress ticket (I am not even sure if that is allowed). And indulging in politics as NCW Chief is her forte (which was clearly proved when she visited Kolkata, and was flanked by senior WB Pradesh Congress leaders wherever she went).

For a person who holds the august chair of NCW Chairperson, it is but expected she will be sensitive towards victims of gender violence. It is hence appalling when the NCW Chief blames women for molestation and asks them to “dress carefully” to prevent sexual violence.

Mamta Sharma threw all protocols and conventions to air today when she wrote to (not unsurprising, given her political leanings) WB Pradesh Congress a letter, which had little to do with concern for women and was more of a political tool ahead of Lok Sabha elections. Blaming WB Govt for rising crimes against women in the State, she asked Congress to take steps to ensure safety of women (yes, the same Congress which has presided over rape after rape in Delhi; coincidentally Delhi houses the office of NCW).

Mamta Sharma is wrong on many counts. If one goes by statistics, the National Crime Records Bureau clearly show that the number of rapes in West Bengal has come down from 2536 (in 2009) to 1590 (November 2013). While crimes recorded against women in 2012 in Kolkata were 68, that in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore stood at 585, 232, 94 and 90 respectively.

Secondly, whenever crimes against women have been reported in the State, the administration has always arrested the culprits in the shortest possible time. What better example than the Madhyamgram case (October 26 – FIR lodged, Oct 31 – all accused arrested, Dec 17 – chargesheeted) or the Khidderpore case (arrests made within 24 hours). It is a tragedy that people, who failed to take action after incidents like Bantala, Dhantala, Bhangar, Tapasi Malika, Anita Dewan or Jagori Baske, now shed crocodile tears for the safety of women.

Already, there are 65 women’s police stations in different districts of West Bengal. The West Bengal Govt has set up 80 fast-track courts to deal with these crimes. Every district has a human rights court. The truth is that, due to a free media and greater sensitization due to administrative support, crimes are reported freely by women. This was unimaginable in the previous regime, where rape was a tool of scoring political brownie points.

And to spread social awareness against crimes like these, the Government has started projects like Kanyashree, Atmaraksha and Sukanya for women empowerment. Unlike some priviledged politicians who make a hue and cry over women’s issues during election season, the West Bengal Govt has been tirelessly working for the cause, despite a huge anti-publicity industry based in Delhi.

While politician Mamta Sharma is free to have her own opinion and biases, when she is on the chair of NCW Chairperson, bipartisanship and empathy from women is the least of our expectations from her. If she is incapable of doing justice to her post, she should immediately resign.

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