CROWNLESS PRINCESSES

17 Jan 2018 15:33:04


Divya

Jammu & Kashmir, the crown of India, with its ethereal and picturesque locales is called the “paradise on earth”. However, the paradise was lost decades back in 1957 itself when half of its population, that is, its women folk was subjected to sufferings for the wrongdoings of the vested political interests. The women in the state are still way behind their counterparts in the rest of the country. It is indeed unfortunate that the women in the state of J&K till date are not entitled to enjoy economic, social, cultural and political rights on a footing of equality. The ugly face of gender discrimination in the state is reflected in the form of various policy decisions and executive orders. 

Across the world the battle for gender justice has been a long-drawn struggle. In India gender-based discrimination is prohibited under the Constitution under Article 14, 15 and 16 of Constitution of India; but its ugly face surfaces in Jammu & Kashmir notwithstanding the constitutional mandate to eliminate gender discrimination. The history of this contradiction lies in the misadventures of the past and the manipulations of the constitutional provisions by the executive. Article 35A was added to the Constitution of India, as a provision for Jammu & Kashmir, by a Presidential Order in 1954, without any discussion in the Parliament. This Article allows the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislature to define "Permanent Residents" of the state, who are eligible to vote, work for the state government, own land, secure, public employment and college admissions, etc. It was the unfettered discretion given to the State Legislature under the said Article to define the status of such ‘Permanent Residents’ and confer rights upon such class. The unfettered right to define ‘Permanent Residents’ under the Article 35A and enactment of Section 6 of the J&K Constitution on such strength has led to the gender discrimination by virtue of the said provisions.

Empowered by Article 35A, the State Legislature has enacted laws heavily loaded in favor of males. Men living in the State of J&K, even after marriage to women from outside the class of permanent resident would not lose the right of being permanent residents. A woman from outside the state shall become a permanent resident on marrying a male permanent resident of the state, but the situation is different in case of  women of J&K." Prior to the Judgment of the Hon’ble High Court of J & K in 2009, the case of State of Jammu and Kashmir Versus Dr. Sawhney and Others, from the year 1956, the state government, without any authority of law, by way of an executive fiat started incorporating an endorsement “Valid Till marriage” on the Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) issued to the females descendents of the “Permanent Residents” of the State. Finally the case of Dr. Sawhney decided the issue of illegal and unconstitutional endorsement i.e. “Valid Till Marriage” in favour of the females descendents of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and it was held that the daughter of a permanent resident of the state of Jammu and Kashmir will not lose status as a permanent resident of the state of Jammu and Kashmir on her marriage with a person, who is not a permanent resident of the state of Jammu and Kashmir”. However, the 2002 judgment still did not give the “Permanent Resident” status to her children or her Non PRC husband as it is done in the case of men living in J&K having PRC status. It is rather strange that the state in yet another attempt to keep the majority of the women deprived of the benefits of the decision of the Hon’ble High Court treated ‘Dr. Sawhney’s case’ as prospective in nature. In February 2017, the State Government constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Advocate General to examine the issues of gender discrimination against such PRC women after marriage with Non-PRC men, but justice still eludes the women folk.

 

The loss or denial of status as a permanent resident of the state of Jammu & Kashmir has far reaching effects as it “disentitles a person not only in respect of acquisition of immovable property in the state, but also in respect of employment in the state and the right to scholarship and such other forms of aid as the State Government may provide to the children of such women”. So the children of a PRC holder woman in wedlock with Non PRC man are not only deprived of property rights; but also right to jobs, scholarship and aids etc. The case of Farooq Abdullah and his son would adequately explain the situation.

"Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah (National Conference leaders) both are married to women from outside J&K. The father and son not only do not lose permanent resident status, but their wives and children get a right to property and all other rights of a Permanent Resident. At the same time, Sarah Abdullah, the daughter of Farooq Abdullah, is married to Sachin Pilot (Congress leader), so neither Mr. Pilot nor their children would get any rights to Sarah’s properties in the state or any other rights associated with the permanent resident status.

 

The discriminatory legislation has created strange situations in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. It has snatched away the right to own property from the legal heirs of women married to non PRCs, has rendered people jobless, has deprived many from education and destroyed many families of PRC women. There are women who married non-PRC men from outside the state and have been residing in the state; but their children are deprived of education, employment and property. There are cases of divorced or widowed PRC women who were married to non PRCs but now residing in the state and their condition is deplorable because of their   children being deprived of all benefits of PRCs and nowhere to go.

 

Such glaring discrimination forced some women of J&K to approach the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India where the Petitioner has challenged Article 35A and Section 6 of the State Constitution for being gender discriminatory. Now all hopes rest on the verdict of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. However, on our own its high time we fight to end such inequalities and discriminations. If the narrative of Jammu Kashmir has to change, we need to change the discourse it has taken about its women. Its important that gender equality which is imperative for development does not get sacrificed at the altar of vested interests for political and personal gains. We need to sensitize the society against such mass discrimination against the women as a class.

 

Let it be more than just a cry in wilderness?     

 

 

 

 

 

RELATED ARTICLES
JKN Twitter