SRINAGAR: The Article 35-A, which provides special privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, has turned into a political flashpoint in the State with the ruling PDP and opposition parties uniting for safeguarding the important law.
J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who has said if Article 35-A is tinkered with, there would be nobody in Kashmir to hold the tri-colour, Tuesday evening met opposition National Conference (NC) President Farooq Abdullah and State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir to discuss ways to protect Article 35-A.
The political parties in the State have shown urgency to join hands to safeguard Article 35-A, which grants special rights and privileges to J&K citizens and debars non-residents from buying land or property, getting a government job or voting in State Assembly elections and availing of state-sponsored scholarship.
This follows Attorney General K K Venugopal’s remarks in Supreme Court that Centre wanted a “larger debate” on Article 35-A.
Though the case filed by an NGO-linked to RSS has been going on in the apex court since 2014, the recent reply of Centre has set alarm bells ringing not only among the mainstream parties but separatist camp too.
Abdullah, who has been the three-time chief minister of the state, has warned that if Article 35-A was abrogated, there would be consequences severe than 2008 Amarnath land row agitation in J&K.
He has said abrogation of Article 35-A will threaten state’s existence.
The BJP has been defensive on the issue so far with its State chief spokesman Sunil Sethi saying that the party won't seek abrogation of Article 35-A and Article 370 till it runs coalition government with PDP in the State.
The opposition parties including NC, Congress and Kashmir-based independent parties and legislators are on the same page on the issue and have been demanding safeguarding and protection of Article 35-A.
The opposition leaders including CPI (M) State Secretary and MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, PDF Chairman and MLA Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen, DPN President and former minister Ghulam Hassan Mir met Mehbooba at her Gupkar residence Wednesday morning and discussed ways and means to safeguard Article 35-A.
The opposition leaders warned CM that abrogating Article 35-A would have serious implications for the state and its relation with the country.
“All parties should join hands to oppose tinkering or weakening of Article 35-A,” Tarigami said.
He said they suggested to the CM that a delegation of State leaders should meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and inform him that abrogation of Article 35-A will have severe consequences in the State.
A prominent Sikh body of the State has also come out in support of Article 370 and Article 35-A.
“We appeal all parties to join hands and defeat the elements, who want to change the special status of J&K by raking up issues like Article 370 and Article 35-A,” said All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina.
He warned that any attempt to change J&K’s special status would lead to serious ramifications in the State. “It will further threaten peace and tranquility of J&K”.
Legal experts have cautioned that if Article 35-A was scrapped, J&K would lose all special privileges including the state subject law, right to property, right to employment, and right to settlement.
The separatist camp, which is facing the NIA heat, is also worried over abrogation of Article 35-A.
Three senior separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, who spearheaded over five-month long unrest in the Valley last year after the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, have called for shutdown in Kashmir on August 12 against the moves to abrogate Article 35-A.
“By abrogating Article 35-A, Indian rulers backed by RSS want to change Muslim majority J&K into a minority and engineer a demographic change like what Israel did in Palestine,” they said.
Political observers and Kashmir watchers are of the opinion that if confusion over Article 35-A is not put to rest soon, it would add further fuel to the already raging fire and put the lives of people in the Valley in danger and further worsen the security situation.