SRINAGAR: Hours after Supreme Court hinted that five member constitution bench may hear plea against Article 35-A, which provides special privileges to residents of J&K, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and opposition National Conference working president Omar Abdullah said if Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured status quo on State’s special status to CM Mehbooba Mufti then why Centre was not defending the Article in the Apex Court as per the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Instead of defending Article 35-A, the Central government through the Attorney General has pitched for a larger debate on the Article,” Omar said while addressing a party convention, here.
He had earlier visited Jammu, where he addressed a day-long convention of NC District and Block Presidents of Jammu Province and senior functionaries.
The conventions were part of a series of workshops and meetings by NC to mobilize public opinion over Article 35-A, which confers special rights and privileges on permanent residents of J&K and debars the non-residents from buying land or property, getting a government job or voting in State Assembly elections.
"What happened to the assurances PM had given to Mehbooba during her meeting with him in the national capital last week. Why was not the central government formally defending Article 35-A in the Supreme Court as per the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and as a custodian of the Constitution of India,” Omar said.
Questioning the intention of BJP, he said whenever the situation turns against their anti-J&K strategies, they come up with sinister new agendas.
He expressed surprise over singling out of J&K in respect of the special provisions related to State Subject Laws notwithstanding the fact that several other states like Himachal Pradesh, North Eastern States, Lakshadweep etc were having almost similar laws regarding ownership of land and definition of domicile regulations, etc.
Alleging that BJP was hell-bent to trample the special status of J&K for a long time, Omar said, “Once they came to power, BJP realized that their designs cannot be achieved politically and therefore a short cut of proxy judicial activism through various affiliated NGOs has been initiated by clandestinely challenging the Article 35-A”.
The former CM cautioned people that repealing Article 35-A would not only squeeze jobs for local youth but “our business sector too shall suffer tremors with the influx of traders from outside the State. All the local land owners will be deprived of their holdings".
“If Article 35-A is repealed, we will traverse back to the unfortunate era of indignity, deprivation and oppression,” he said and lauded the farsightedness of erstwhile Maharaja Hari Singh in bringing the State Subject Laws into effect in 1927.
Omar said if Article 35-A was scrapped, it will cause enormous and irrevocable damage to the interests of the people of the three regions— Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh -- irrespective of their caste and religion.
He said BJP was wrongly claiming that Jammu would benefit if the law was scrapped. “In fact, Jammu will be worst hit before such repercussions are felt in the Valley”.
The former chief minister said the separatist groups like the Hurriyat Conference had right to raise the issue.
“The Hurriyat, which does not believe in the Constitution of India, has no business to comment on Article 35-A,” he said.
On the call of separatists, Kashmir had observed shut down on August 12 to protest attempts to abrogate Article 35-A.
Omar said those tinkering with Article 370 and Article 35A are threatening the concept of 'one India'.
The NC working president later told reporters that his party would discuss the options to join the legal battle against the scrapping of Article 35-A in the Supreme court.
"We would be discussing this option," he said.