(Mr. Balraj Puri, 80, was born in Jammu city and attended the Ranbir High School and the Prince of Wales College in Jammu. He is a journalist, human rights activist and a writer who has been an eye witness to the turbulent history of the State. He has written 5 books, including the historical "5000 years of Kashmir" in 1997. He is the Convenor of the J&K State branch of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and the Director of the Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, based in Jammu.)
Permanent Resident Bill of J&K is Anti-Women
On International Women's Day when Rajya Sabha passed a bill for reservation of 33% seats for women in Parliament and state legilatures, Jammu and Kashmir State assembly admitted a bill which would deprive women status of permanent resident of the State if they married an outsider. A similar bill was passed by the State assembly unanimously in March 2004, moved by amember of the National Conference, which was than in opposition. Now a PDP is doing it. The Congress, the BJP, the CPM and RSS supported Jammu State Morcha, re-tracked from their support to the bill in the upper house after their national leadership issued a directive to them. The then ruling PDP-coalition government dragged its feet and chairman of the legislature council adjourned the house since die. Moreover, the bill lacked support of 2/3rd members of the council which was needed to pass it as according to section 9 of the constitution of the State any bill relating to permanent resident of the State required 2/3rd majority to pass it.
The starting point in the argument in support of the proposed bill was the State subject law that Maharaja Hari Singh had promulgated vide Notification dated April 20, 1927 which provided certain safeguards and privileges for the permanent resident of the State.
But Maharaja’s law was not based on gender discrimination whereas the bill moved in 2004 and the present bill disqualify only women of the permanent resident status if they married outsiders and allow men to retain their status if they married outsiders.
A further disqualification has been added in the present bill to the 2004 bill which disqualifies a woman who had acquired permanent resident status by marrying a permanent resident after divorce. Also after the death of her husband, in case she settled outside the State.
Neither the earlier bill nor the present bill has any sanction in the in legal and constitutional history of the State. Nor has it any thing to do with Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which grants a special status to the State. If at all, it weakens moral basis of the Article by linking it with a gender biased bill. It would give a handle to the opponent of the Article 370 who would argue that it should be abrogated because it can be used to deny equality to women.
Even the Permanent Resident Act, 1957 and rules thereunder provide no legitimacy to the present bill or that of 2004. For the rule 8 of the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Permanent Resident Certificate does not provide for cancellation not to speak of disqualifying only women on any ground.
When daughter of a senior bureaucrat of the State, S A Qadri, married Mehmood-ul-Rehman an IAS officer from outside the State in 1973, her permanent resident status and her right to inherit property of her father was declared valid by the Revenue Minister on the ground that “the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir or any law does not provide for deprivation of a permanent resident status of his or her status.
In 1956 UN General Assembly passed a Convention on the Nationality of Married Women which ensured that a woman's nationality would not be affected by "either marriage or its dissolution or the change of nationality of her husband." After this, independent identity of a woman became a part of international law. This principle remains valid with or without Article 370; whether the state becomes just like any other state of India, becomes more autonomous or even acquires a sovereign status.
If the fear is, that outsiders, by marrying girls of the state, get property rights in the name of their wives and acquire an undue influence in the life of the state, it is more applicable to Kashmir valley than in Jammu. And there is greater need for applying disincentives to men who marry outside than women who do so. For as, Mehbooba Mufti, the President of the PDP had argued a statement to the press, "there are more reasons now that the law (which seeks to disqualify a women of her status as permanent resident of the state) should also be applied to men because, a) within last 15 years many young men have died (due to militancy related incidents); b) due to turmoil in the state so many boys have gone out for their higher studies who tend to marry their class or college mates; c) there has been an influx of Bengali, Bihari and other women in the state, who marry Kashmiri boys belonging to poor classes." Thus according to Mehbooba, women of Kashmir are deprived of much choice. This ratio will become very disturbing unless and until people give a thought to put restrictions on boys marrying outside the state, she adds. Otherwise, she warns "the girls may have to settle down as second wife". (Kashmir Times, 20 March 2004)
The opponents of the bill are doing a great harm to their cause by describing it as anti-Jammu or anti-national. It is just anti-women. Neither anti-Kashmir nor anti-Jammu.