Political parties in J&K unite in defence of Article 35A

Barring the BJP, political parties came out with strong statements opposing any move by the Centre to dilute Article 35-A or amend it.

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Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir Monday warned the Centre of far-reaching consequences if Article 35A, which provides special rights to natives of the border state, is altered with PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti saying the people there may even raise some other flag and not the national tricolour.

The warning by the parties came on a day when the Supreme Court listed for hearing this week a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A, which also grants privileges to permanent residents of the state. The crucial hearing could come up on any date from February 26 to February 28.

The J and K administration had requested on February 11 to adjourn the hearing on the pleas on various grounds, including that there was no “elected government” in the state. The apex court had deferred till January this year the hearing after the Centre and the state said local bodies polls there would go on till December.

Barring the BJP, political parties came out with strong statements opposing any move by the Centre to dilute Article 35-A or amend it.

“I am in contact with (NC president) Omar Abdullah. We should have a strategy so that there is no attack on Article 35A. And if there is an attack, then I do not know which flag, other than the tricolour, would the people of Kashmir bear in hand and if they do so, then do not tell us that we had not warned you (Centre). Do not push the people of J-K to the wall,” Mehbooba told reporters.

Abdullah, the vice president of National Conference, reminded the Centre that a peaceful state like Arunachal Pradesh is also up in flames and people there have hit the roads in order to save their permanent resident status.

“That I believe should act as an eye-opener for those who are inimical to Article 370, Article 35A. Any mis-adventure in fiddling with the state’s special status will unarguably have serious and far-reaching consequences in Jammu and Kashmir. The situation will be worse than what it is in Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.

Abdullah said it was his duty to warn New Delhi about the consequences of any tampering with the special status of J and K.

“I am not threatening, it is my duty to warn you, the rest is your will. As a responsible citizen, it is my duty to tell Delhi that your thinking is not right,” the NC leader said.

At her news conference, Mehbooba warned that any tampering with the special status would “undermine and nullify” the state’s accession with the Union.

“JK is a Muslim majority state which acceded to India under certain conditions and that condition is Article 370 Unfortunately, whenever there are elections, JK becomes a part of the electioneering. Before the 2014 polls, Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was sent to gallows.

Mehbooba said the people of J and K would have to resist any tampering with the state’s special status themselves and all the parties, irrespective of their ideologies, would have to come together to defend it.

The PDP president appealed to all political parties in the state to devise a joint strategy to save the special status and asked the Centre to not “play with fire” by tampering with Article 35A.

“It is my request that this should not be done and if it is done, then the consequences would be such that the people who bear the flag of India would perhaps not be able to do so. It is my humble submission to the powers in our country, do not play with fire. Its consequences would be grave and something which you have not witnessed since 1947, she said.

The CPI (M) demanded that the Centre make a public commitment to retain Article 35A in the Constitution.

The state government’s counsel had sought permission from the Supreme Court for circulating a letter among contesting parties for adjourning the upcoming hearing on pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A.

Article 35-A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to permanent residents of J and K and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state.

It also denies property rights to a woman who marries a person from outside the state. The provision, which leads to such women from the state forfeiting their right over property, also applies to her heirs.

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