Srinagar: Ahead of the likely hearing in the Supreme Court this week on a petition challenging Article 35A of the Constitution, Kashmir was on the edge on Sunday with leaders of Congress, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and People’s Conference cautioning the Centre to desist from any “misadventure” to scrap the statute.
The concern of the mainstream parties came in the wake of a complete shutdown observed in the Kashmir valley on Sunday in response to a call given by separatist leaders in support of Article 35A. The protest call was given by separatist leaders amid reports that Centre was considering the option of promulgating an ordinance to scrap the provisions under Article 35A which gives J&K government the rights to confer special privileges to those whom it defines as “permanent residents” of the state. Among other things, the statute prevents outsiders from acquiring any immovable property in J&K and denies property rights to women if they marry people from outside the state.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti warned that any tinkering with Article 35A will render null and void the state’s Instrument of Accession with India. “Article 370 is the constitutional connection between J&K & Indian Union. Instrument of accession is contingent on Article 370 which is inextricably linked to Article 35A. Any tampering will render Treaty of Accession null & void,” she said in a series of tweets even as speculation continued in the valley about the Centre’s move on the statute in the coming days.
“Before taking a decision, GoI must consider that J&K was the only Muslim-majority state that chose a secular India over Pakistan during Partition,” Mufti added.
Mufti’s warning came even as governor Satya Pal Malik’s administration tried to clear apprehensions about Article 35A, asking people “not to pay heed to rumours and exaggerate any matter that can lead to tension”. Government spokesperson Rohit Kansal said in Jammu that on February 11, the state government had requested SC to defer the hearing on Article 35A and its stand continues to be the same.
In line with the sentiments in the valley for article 35A, J&K PCC chief GA Mir said any tinkering with the special status of J&K would further alienate the people and asked BJP not to “even think about touching it” as the consequences would be “disastrous”. He said in a statement that special status granted to J&K is a settled issue and “any misadventure with regard to Article 35A would further deepen the alienation among the people, the fire of which will engulf the entire J&K state”.
He added that on the behest of RSS and other communal forces, BJP seems hell-bent upon tinkering with Article 35A to regain the lost ground. “You can’t achieve anything by tinkering with the special status of the state,” Mir added.
Former minister and People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone cautioned the Centre saying tinkering with the constitutional provisions applicable to the state would set a dangerous trend which will have serious repercussions as far as constitutional relationship of the state with the Union is concerned. (ToI)