35A Intrigue: ‘PDP Playing Sinister Role’

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Srinagar: Hours after Supreme Court hinted that five member constitution bench may hear plea against Article 35-A, former 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.

National Conference chief insisted that his party does not question the accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India but wanted “concrete shape” to be given to Prime Minister Modi’s assurance that there will be no fiddling with the Article 35A.

He said the BJP was wrongly claiming that Jammu and Ladakh regions of the state would benefit by abrogation of Article 35A of the Indian Constitution which grants special privileges to the citizens of the state.

Jammu region will face the brunt first and Kashmir subsequently, the former chief minister said.

He said the Centre should file a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court where Article 35A of the Indian Constitution has been challenged by two women who have contended that they lost their citizenship rights because of this provision which grants special privileges to the citizens of the state.

Abdullah said those tinkering with the constitutional provisions like Article 370, which grants special status to J&K, and Article 35A are threatening the concept of ‘one India’.

“We will like the Prime Minister’s assurance be given a concrete shape and to make it a reality,” he said on Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s claim that Modi has given “100 per cent assurance” that he would back the PDP-BJP government’s Agenda of Alliance which says there will be “no fiddling” with Article 35A.

“A counter affidavit should be filed (in the Supreme Court) by the Central government as well,” Abdullah said.

He termed as a “lie and propaganda” that industrialists like the Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis would set up factories in Kashmir once Article 35A is removed from the statute.

It is a “lie and mere propaganda floated by those befooling people,” Abdullah said, adding investments in Jammu and Kashmir were held up as it is perceived an “unsafe destination” and not because of the Article 35A or Article 370 of the Constitution.

He said such laws are also prevalent in many other states like Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar where it is mandatory to be the resident of that state to purchase a land.

He said those people debating ‘one-India’ should first revoke such laws in those states.

“You are not touching these states and this issue is raked up by the BJP. So, we are compelled to think that you have selected Jammu and Kashmir only because Muslims are in majority here.

“If you really dream of ‘one-India’, then to realise that dream you should revoke such laws from the other states first.

Then we will accept that your intention is right. But, when you target only J&K, then it is obvious that we will doubt your intentions,” the NC leader said.

“We are one India. Please remember that Jammu and Kashmir became a part of the Union on the basis of a constitutional provision where in Union of India was responsible only for currency, communication, defence and foreign affairs. It has been eroded over the time,” Abdullah said.

“There is no reason why autonomous Jammu and Kashmir ceases to be a part of India. (But) yes, if you continue to tinker with the constitution, if you continue to erode everything that was the basis of accession, then it is those, who are doing that tinkering, are threatening the concept of ‘one-India’ and not us. We don’t question accession,” he said.

Insisting that none of the three regions of the state Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh — would benefit by the revocation of Article 35A, he said, “This propaganda of political parties here that Jammu should favour removal of Article 35A because it is to their advantage, I am trying to correct that thing.”

Taking a dig at the separatist Hurriyat Conference, Abdullah said, “They have no business to issue statements on constitutional provisions as they do not believe in the Constitution of India.”

He said the National Conference is thinking of organizing protests in every district of Kashmir as well as Jammu soon to give a message that the party is serious over the issue.

“Yesterday, there was a complete strike (in Kashmir). A friend told me that it was for the first time that Kashmir was observing a strike for saving the Indian constitution. The strikes earlier were for weakening the control of India in J&K….Now, the people of Jammu have also understood that they will not benefit from the revocation of this Article (35A),” he said.

Asked whether the party would take a legal recourse, he said, “We will have a meeting of the party and will discuss it.”

Terming as “rubbish” the allegation that NC is toeing the separatists’ line on the issue, Abdullah said, “Unfortunately, this attack (on Article 35A) is taking place when we perhaps have the weakest chief minister in our history in office.

“I do not think even (former chief minister) Ghulam Mohammad Shah was so weak that Mehbooba Mufti is. She remains silent and peddles lies only. She also lied on GST implementation in the state and now says that the Prime Minister has assured her on Article 35A.

“Where are the assurances? Why did the Centre not file an affidavit in the Supreme Court?”

Abdullah added, “When we complain that you are not keeping your end of the bargain (on accession), we are labeled anti-national. We are seeking what is within the constitution.

What do you talk about ‘Kashmiriyat’, ‘Jhamooriyat’ (democracy) and ‘Insaaniyat’ (humanity), (if) you do not trust the law here. You want to change the law.”

He insisted that Article 35A has nothing to do with land ownership. “The truth is that before 1990, there was good industry in Jammu as well in Kashmir. Why did industry die after 1990? It had nothing to do with Articles 35A or 370. It had everything to do with Jammu and Kashmir being perceived to be an unsafe destination for investment,” he said.

In response to another question, he said, “Pakistan, since 1947 had made attempts to separate Kashmir from India, either by war or militancy and terrorism.

“We all know that they (separatists) need the support of Pakistan. Pakistan do help them. It is a reality and nothing new,” Abdullah said, adding the government is taking action against them.

He claimed that there is no gender-based discrimination after the implementation of a law by the PDP-Congress government led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in 2003-04.

“My sisters have as much right over the property in Jammu and Kashmir as I have. A propaganda based on lies is being spread to attract people towards them (BJP). The fact is that after the bill was brought in by the Mufti-led government in 2003-04, gender discrimination, that was prevalent for long, is no longer effective,” he said.

NC Working President questioned the intention of the BJP and 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 Jammu and Kashmir 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.

He said the BJP has been hell-bent to trample the special status of Jammu and Kashmir for a long time, which was incidentally their election plank in 2014. “But 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 35A through a ‘Mukhota”, he added.

Referring to the designs of the BJP in attacking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Omar Abdullah made a mention of the recent implementation of GST, and said this act too had deprived the State of its right to impose taxes. “We have now seen with distress our Chief Minister rushing to the Centre to seek tax concessions for various crucial sectors for the State such as horticulture and tourism with the GST Council in turn paying little attention”, he added.

Cautioning the people about the consequences of repealing Article 35A, Mr Omar Abdullah said not only would jobs squeeze for local youth but our business sector too shall suffer tremors with influx of traders from outside the State, he said, adding that the local land owners will be deprived of their holdings”.

“If Article 35A is repealed, we will traverse back to the unfortunate era of indignity, deprivation and oppression where Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammed Abdulah had steered out the people of the State”, he said and lauded the farsightedness of Maharaja Hari Singh in bringing the State Subject Laws into effect in 1927. He said the Maharaja had brought these laws into effect to save the interests of those locals holding land and finding representation in the state administration as there were apprehensions of non-state subjects usurping the locals. He said the laws enacted 90 years ago have withstood the test of time in preserving the identity of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh besides preserving their legitimate rights.

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