Article 370: Not so better for the better-halves
The recent debate over the separate status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir is entirely warranted. The evolution and development of any society can exclusively be determined by the status of women in the society. The state government of J&K treats women differently from men and has so far managed to get away with it. The women of J&K do not get the same rights as men do when it comes to citizenship rights for spouses and their children as well. There are some laws which successive state governments in J&K have followed and these laws clearly violate the principle of gender equality enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Incidentally, it bears mention here that gender equality, meaning equal rights for both men and women with no discrimination against women, is an established norm throughout civilised world and civilised societies. It is only in some backward and regressive societies that women are still treated as second class citizens and don’t enjoy rights similar, rather equal, to men. In fact, giving more and more rights to women so that they can measure up to men in all spheres of life has been the endeavour of civilised societies throughout the world. Not so in J&K. Here men and women marrying outside the state are treated differently. The men of J&K who marry outside can bring home their wives. These women then become state subjects as they get permanent resident certificates (PRCs). The men from J&K can marry any women of their choice, from any part of the world, be it Pakistan, the UK, the USA or China. These women will acquire citizenship of the state gaining from marrying State Subject men. The children born from these women will also get the citizenship rights in J&K without any hassles. They can then enroll in any school or college funded by the state government. These children will also have all the rights to get admission into professional colleges set up by the state government.
In contrast, till 2002 women from the state marrying outsiders cannot bring home their husbands even if the circumstances may so demand. The women of the state marrying outsiders face distinct disadvantages. Some courageous and resourceful women who married outsiders fought these discriminatory laws and practices promoted by the state government. However, they still have a long way to go even if they have got some respite and recognition. However, the relief or respite they have been able to get from the courts is miniscule, negligible or at best perfunctory and less than useful. Although the full bench of High Court of Jammu & Kashmir nullified section 6 of the state Constitution, the regional parties conspired and brought a bill ‘The Jammu and Kashmir Resident (Disqualification) Bill 2004’- which further attempted to negate the judgement of the High Court. PDP along with National Conference and the Congress party have been hand in glove in restricting the domicile rights of our sisters in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. It is also pertinent to mention here that only after the effective intervention of the then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee the above-stated legislation was stalled for further debate and discussions.
If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole family and thereby society and nation. Education is empowerment in today’s world of competition. At the global level, efforts have been made at various congregations to focus on aspects of education as a part of fundamental human right. Universal Declaration of Human rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, which is celebrated as the World Human Rights day all over. The Declaration is the foundation document of International Human Rights Law. According to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory… Education shall be directed to the full development of human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
The status of education of women can be an objective and academic tool to determine the significance of gender equality in the state of J&K. An observation was made on secondary data obtained from Census of India 2001 and supplemented with state digest of statistics and government reports. Females in J&K suffer disproportionately in education as compared to their counterpart. Women of the State have extremely low literacy rate, display low enrolment ratio and suggests high dropout ratio. The last year controversy over the all-girl rock band is well known. It depicts the control of fundamentalist forces over the social fabric of Kashmir valley. The State government succumbed to the religious fundamentalists that subsequently led to the unacceptable demise of the band called “Pragaash”.
The point is that a closeted society cannot aspire to grow. The level of influence, which the separatist have, is unimaginable. There is absolutely no doubt that government, NGO’s and civil society are making serious and unsuccessful attempts at resolving gender inequality in education in J&K, but there is still the need to make drastic efforts like implementation of Right to Education Act. The table shows the level of discrepancy present in the literacy levels of man and women
There is an urgent need to relook and introspect on the effects of Article 370 on the Women of the state of J&K. The recent political turbulence on special representation of Women in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas is much needed and timely. Various schemes are being run by the state governments like Ladli Lakshmi Yojana and Baalika Bicycles schemes that can be emulated in the Jammu & Kashmir too.
The present disintegrative constitutional relationship between the State and the Union has obstructed the growth and development of the vulnerable in all the ways and effective debate for its continuance is the need of the hour.
Literacy Rates by Sex in J&K
Year Male Female Total M F G
1961 19.75 5.05 12.95 14.70
1971 31.01 10.94 21.71 20.07
1981 41.46 18.73 30.64 22.73
1991 NA NA NA NA
2001 65.75 41.82 54.46 23.93
2008* 73.30 57.11 65.67 16.19
Note: MFG- Male Female Gap; * Estimated Literacy Rates Source: Census of India J&K 2001, Paper-2 of 2001, Rural-Urban Distribution of Population and Economic Survey, (2008-09)
Sunanda Pushkar, a Kashmiri Hindu woman married to senior Congress leader and Union Minister Shashi Tharoor, on December 3 swung solidly behind BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and said there was the need to hold a comprehensive debate on Article 370 and its implications, especially its adverse impact on the daughters of Jammu & Kashmir. She said that she is a daughter of the state, but she is barred by this Article from exercising the rights which are available to the male residents of the state. So much so, she said that she doesn’t want to visit Kashmir where the women are discriminated against. Sunanda Pushkar left none in any doubt that she is quite unhappy with the state subject rights applicable to women of the state and she would want a debate so that there is complete gender equality.
Why political parties running away from a debate on Article 370?—Ram Madhav
As political parties try to corner Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi for his call to have a debate on Article 370, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) senior functionary Shri Ram Madhav on December 4 accused the political parties of running away from the debate.
Defending Shri Modi, the RSS Akhil Bharatiya Sah-Sampark Pramukh said there has been no change in the official position of RSS over Article 370.
Taking on the political parties like Congress, JD(U), National Conference, he asked why are the parties running away from having a debate on the contentious issue.
Shri Ram Madhav’s reaction comes after, political parties were seen slamming the Gujarat Chief Minister, who had asked for a debate on Article 370 to decide whether it was helping the people in Jammu & Kashmir or not. Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D Raja asked why is the BJP raising Article 370 issue when polls are approaching? Another CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said Jammu & Kashmir’s special status, which is provided by Article 370 of the Constitution, is not a debatable issue but settled for all times to come. If there is a debate over it, it is being done to cause communal tension, he said.
In Jammu, State Congress chief Saifuddin Soz challenged Modi to a debate on Article 370, alleging Modi has no knowledge of either the Constitution or the history of the country. Union Minister Farooq Abdullah said, “Even if Narendra Modi becomes PM ten times, he will not be able to do away with Article 370.