India's Supreme Court has deferred a hearing on repealing article 35A, which enables the Kashmir state legislature to define who are “permanent residents” and to safeguard special rights for these residents in public sector jobs, social schemes, property ownership and state aid.
State legislature is also immune from legal challenges on grounds of “violating the Indian constitution or any other law of the land”.
Critiques of the article 35A such as “We Are the Citizens”, an NGO backed by the right wing Hindu group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), argue that it violates the “very spirit of oneness of India”.
Indian based news outlets have argued that a repeal of the bill will promote economic development and gender equality in a region the sorely needs it, maintaining that the isolationist policy Kashmir has pursued has warned off migration and external investment to the benefit of the poorest within the region. Furthermore, enabling the region to define who is a permanent resident will disempower women’s voting rights, they argue. (Read here, here and here).
Locals in Kashmir and Jammu however, who have recently staged a shut down protest of markets, transportation and staging sit in protests for a few days, argue the attempts to repeal the bill are a cynical move by the BJP to shift demographics in the majority muslim region to favour Hindus and thus undermine voices for self-determination.
In a joint statement the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an alliance of secessionist parties and leaders, said:
“The mischievous move to remove Article 35A is clearly aimed at undoing possibility of holding Right to Self Determination by changing the demographic nature of the state and settling nonresidents here and hence undermining the conflict and its resolution. People of Jammu and Kashmir in unison have send a clear message to New Delhi that they will never allow these designs against them to succeed”.
Responding to the charge of sexism implicit within the bill Professor Ather Zia from the University of Colorado writes:
“In the 1960s, Kashmir's Revenue Ministry began issuing residency certificates to women that were valid only until marriage. The ministry refused to renew the residency status of Kashmiri women who had married non-residents. But legal experts say this unjust proclamation has no basis in the Constitution and should not be upheld”.
In her article she dismisses the claim that Article 35A would disenfranchise women, especially those who marry non-residents as false.
"In 2002, a High Court ruling in Kashmir made it clear that Kashmiri women would not lose their residency under any condition," she added.