Article 35-A

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Such is the nature of crisis that J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti even had a meeting with Farooq Abdullah at his Gupkar residence. NC working president and former chief minister was also present in that meeting in which senior Abdullah assured J&K chief minister that they should put a joint fight to safeguard the interests of the state especially when certain groups under the garb of the NGO’s are trying for abrogation of Article 35A and Article 370.

Asem Mohiuddin

Srinagar: Last month J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti speaking at a function in New Delhi conveyed a strong message to New Delhi and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi that if the special status of J&K is tinkered with, or Article 35A removed, there will be “no one to shoulder the Indian flag in the Valley”.

Image: The Legitimate

Mehbooba even warned that J&K “would not exist” without the special status. This message was a strong ground reality conveyed by the chief minister to its alliance partner BJP vis-à-vis Article 35 A. Not only Mehbooba Mufti but all the other leaders of the mainstream parties knew its consequences that could ripple J&K into chaos and fresh wave of killings.

It is only BJP that wants this article should go and its leadership in New Delhi has maintained complete silence over this issue though second rung leaders have been openly stating that the law should be repealed as it encourages separatist identity. Even for Union BJP leadership it has been a long pending ambition that there should be no separate identity to Kashmir, however, being in coalition with the PDP, the party’s centre leadership for the time being has kept its cards about Article 35 A close to its chest.

For the opposition parties like NC, Congress and others the impact of removal of Article 35 A will be felt in Jammu and Ladakh and these parties are trying to put a joint fight. The separatist’s leadership has warned of street protests across the state and on Saturday on the call of separatist leadership strike was observed not only in Kashmir but also in many Muslim majority parts of the Jammu.

On its part – Hurriyat Conference for the first time has warned of street agitation over this issue terming it as a ploy to alter demographic character of the state.   “In order to undermine its disputed nature. It is a very serious matter, people will hit the streets if any attempt is made to alter it,’’ Hurriyat chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said, adding that the special status of J&K basically aimed at reducing 75% Muslim majority of the state into a minority and change the basic character of J&K.

 On the Article 35A, the separatists and mainstream politicians unlike past are speaking in one voice. The former J&K chief minister and MP Srinagar, Farooq Abdullah even said that he is ready to go to jail to defend the Article 35A. Abdullah recently held a meeting of all the opposition parties to formulate a joint strategy to fight any move aimed at removal of Article 35 A.

Such is the nature of crisis that J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti even had a meeting with Farooq Abdullah at his Gupkar residence. NC working president and former chief minister was also present in that meeting in which senior Abdullah assured J&K chief minister that they should put a joint fight to safeguard the interests of the state especially when certain groups under the garb of the NGO’s are trying for abrogation of Article 35A and Article 370.

Mehbooba Mufti also held a separate meeting with three prominent opposition leaders – Ghulam Hassan Mir, Hakeem Yasin and Mohammad Yusuf Taragami who had advised her to apprise PM Modi about the sensitivities of this issue and its consequences in J&K, incase Article  35 A, is abrogated.

Mehbooba Mufti also met Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on abrogation of Article 35 A.  After the meeting with PM, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti said that PM gave her assurance on articles 370 and 35A will be respected.

“The basis of our agenda of alliance is that status quo of article 370 has to be maintained and that none of us can go against that,” CM Mufti told reporters after her meeting with PM Modi in the Parliament complex. She said the prime minister has assured her that articles 370 and 35A will be respected.

Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti
Photo: TheLegitimate

On this meeting there was no statement from PMO that raised suspicion within the leadership of the opposition parties.

Reacting on the remarks of Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah said that PM gave her assurance on Article 35 A that what J&K chief minister said is immaterial.  “What matters is what the PM said. That’s the only part of this meeting that matters at all,” Omar tweeted.

He further tweeted. “We no longer believe what @Mehbooba Mufti says after she comes out from these meetings. Can @PMO India explain ‘assurances’ pls?.’’

Omar said that if every assurance that Mehbooba Mufti claimed to have received had been fulfilled J&K would be largely trouble free today.

 “We are trying everything to make the government understand the dangerous ramifications of their moves. We don’t want the state to burn.’’

 Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir also expressed his doubts over the PM –CM meeting on Article 35 A. “It is a big issue and has a potential to create chaos in the Valley,” Mir said adding that Congress leaders and workers are ready to go to any extent to protect the Article 35 A or Article 370.

“We will fight this issue as a joint opposition.’’ Mir said that he along with the leadership of other opposition parties will try to educate people of other regions about the plans of RSS and BJP, how they are trying to ruin this state. “If Article 35 A, will be removed, not only people of Kashmir, but people of Jammu and Ladakh will also suffer.’’

In the meantime – the civil society and traders groups have also got activated and held several round table conferences looking out how to safeguard the Article 35 A by using political and legal tools since everybody is taking this very seriously now.

 “If the Prime Minister has said that agenda of alliance will be adhered to, as claimed by the Chief Minister, it should mean that the Government of India has agreed to file affidavit in the apex court to oppose the writ petition. If no affidavit is filed it would mean that the meeting has been meaningless and it would also mean that PDP should no longer rely on its coalition partner BJP,’’ Valley’s senior legal expert, Zaffar Shah said.

 Even some leaders have conveyed the government to convene the special session of the J&K assembly for Article 35 A. “Let the ruling alliance and the opposition leaders convene a special session of J&K Assembly and pass a resolution in favour of Articles 35-A and 370,” said members of round table conference held in Srinagar on Sunday while doubting the intensions of opposition and ruling parties. However, one thing is clear the Article 35 A has brought separatists and mainstream together. Even Pakistan’s Foreign Office has also intimated India against trying to change the demography of the J&K by using different tactics and its courts.

 The NGO that filed case:

In 2014, an NGO We the Citizens filed a writ petition seeking the striking down of Article 35A. While the J&K government filed a counter-affidavit and sought dismissal of the petition, the central government did not, despite pleas from the state government, especially the PDP.

Last month, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud that the petition raised Constitutional issues after which the court referred the matter to a three-judge bench and set six weeks for final disposal.

The Centre’s decision to not come out in support of the J&K government’s position is seen as part of a series of moves to breach the state’s special status. The RSS and the BJP, which is part of the ruling alliance with PDP, are opposed to Article 35A maintaining that it gives separate identity with in the country to the state and disallows the people from other states to settle down here and barring them to buy property in J&K.

The case in point for the BJP is the non settlement of West Pakistan Refugees (WPR) who have shifted to Jammu province during the partition of India 1947. While the state government has refused to offer them the permanent resident certificate, the New Delhi is terming it as injustice with the community saying that they have been the victims of Article 35 A.

However, many mainstream politicians feel that if they couldn’t defend the Article 35A politically and legally then it could be end game for the mainstream politics in J&K as the RSS and BJP has a plan to change the demography of the state like China did it in Tibet and Xingang and Isreal in Palestine. So they are using all their efforts to save it.

“For us it is a matter of survival. If we fail this time nobody will forgive us. So don’t rule out that mainstream and separatists will be one and even top mainstream leaders could go to any level. Because for us this issue is the matter of survival. Even we could embrace death for saving our honor,’’ said a senior member of ruling party.

The author can be reached at bhatasem@gmail.com

 

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