It was only to be expected of the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government of Jammu and Kashmir. It is not in their grain to grant equality to women and equal rights to all citizens. But what has stunned the people of the country is the silence of the women organisations of the communist parties and feminists who breast-beat from home-top in the name of communalism.
The anti-women bill of the PDP-Congress government suits everybody who wants to keep J&K separated from the rest of the country. Denying equal rights to women, denying them the right to choose their destiny have nothing to do with special rights. It only smacks of a medieval mindset, a fundamentalist bourgeoisie feudal approach.
All eyes are now set on March 12 sitting of the Legislative Council where the Jammu & Kashmir Permanent Resident Bill is slated to be passed. On March 5, 2004 the Bill, disqualifying Kashmiri women who marry outside the state from right to own property, had been passed in the State Assembly by the ruling People’sDemocratic Party and its major ally, the Congress Party. (Congress has now withdrawn its support in the face of widespread criticism.) But the damage is already done.
The J&K government’sbid to return to the patriarchal paradigm can best be described as regressive in the extreme. Possibly under pressure from the hardliners and facing trouble from the Opposition, the National Conference, against the withdrawal of the Special Leave Petition from the Supreme Court, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had passed the controversial Bill seeking to withdraw the Permanent Resident Status (PRS) of women belonging to Jammu & Kashmir state if they married non-Kashmiri residents.
This ?discriminatory? legislation spells wide-ranging ramifications for the women of this state. Permanent Resident Status is given to those men and women whose ancestors have lived in the state for at least 109 years prior to May 14, 1954. Only those who hold this status can buy property, seek employment and avail of other privileges.
Going back to the year 1927 when the princely state had passed an order debarring women who married outsiders from retaining their PRS status, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court had struck down the order on October 7, 2002 on receiving petitions from many local women, including the grand-daughter of a former Chief Minister of the state.
The High Court had described it as violating the fundamental rights of the women under the Constitution of India since it amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex. The state government in the Supreme Court challenged this verdict, but within a year, withdrew the Special Leave Petition, possibly due to the apprehension that it would be struck down by the Supreme Court
The new legislation would have more implications in the Jammu region where a large number of women would be affected for marrying out of the state. The effects will be negligible in the Kashmir Valley where very few have married outside. The Bill is not only hypocritical but is making a mockery of women and the law. When a man?a ?state subject? marries an ?outsider? it is acceptable, then why a woman marrying an ?outsider? becomes an ?outsider??
The state government is reneging on the most basic right a modern state accords its citizens?equal rights. The only ray of hope to this otherwise ?retrograde? Bill for the Kashmiri women is that the legal position of female descendants of permanent residents in the matter of inheritance will continue to be in accordance with the Personal Law applicable to them.
This is only the beginning of a situation which can best be described as sitting on a keg of dynamite waiting to blow off any day.
(From Team Organiser)