Rift between the PDP and BJP, the ruling alliance partners in Jammu and Kashmir, seems to have widened over the issue of Article 35A of the Constitution which empowers the state government to define “permanent residents” of the state and allow only state subjects to settle down and buy property there.
The PDP has joined ranks with opposition parties like National Conference and Congress to oppose BJP’s 'move' to abrogate Article 35A. A section of the saffron party has criticised the provision asserting that it encourages alienation, deepens the concept of a separate identity and creates a political gap between the state and the rest of India.
Congress leader Karra, a former PDP leader who resigned as the MP from Srinagar, appealed to the people to realise that tinkering with Article 35-A could take away the right of state subject certificate, which otherwise, was protecting the distinct identity of the state.
The former finance minister said that he had cautioned the PDP against allying with the BJP.
The Congress leader said, "Now that Chief Minster Mehbooba Mufti has raised a warning against abrogation of Article 35-A, she actually has endorsed my stand and justified my moral ground for quitting the PDP."
Mehbooba should have shown the "high moral ground" at the time of "recobbling and renegotiating" the alliance with the BJP after her father and chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeeds death, he said.
National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah said on Monday that opposition parties and the people would oppose any move to abrogate Article 35A of the Constitution.
“When it will come to that decision (abrogation of Article 35 A), you will see this mass (of people) rising. Do not forget when that Amarnath Yatra (land row) thing happened, people rose overnight. So, ...35 A will be far greater revolt and I wonder whether they (government) will be able to hold that,” said Abdullah on Monday.
Asked about the course of action by the opposition parties, the NC president said the issue is in the Supreme Court which has not given its decision yet, so the parties would take the issue to the people.
"We will first raise this issue among the people like we did on the GST (recently). We will put it up vociferously before the people," he said.
The state subject law should not be eroded at any cost, Abdullah said. He alleged that it was a BJP and RSS conspiracy to erode the special status of the state.
"As far as conspiracy is concerned, you all know that the agenda of BJP and RSS is basically to erode the autonomous structure of this state. And we, as a united front, are going to bring this to the people so that they know the fallout," he said.
Abdullah’s statement falls in line with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s remarks last month in which she had warned against tinkering with 35A saying that there would not be anybody to hoist the Tricolour in Kashmir in that eventuality.
BJP criticises Article 35A
A section of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sympathisers is pushing the party to bring changes in the Article 35A of the Constitution, said a media report.
Mufti’s ruling ally BJP countered her saying that the Article has done more harm to the State than any other provision of the law.
The state unit of the BJP said that while the party stands by the Agenda of Alliance with the PDP and won't seek alteration of existing constitutional position, "it is equally true that Article 35-A has done more harm to the state than any other provision of law."
Reacting to Mufti’s remarks, Union minister Jitendra Singh said the tricolour is "sacrosanct" and termed the chief minister's remarks as "shocking and ridiculous".
He said that since the matter was subjudice, one should wait for the court's verdict. He said the court verdict would be binding on all. State BJP leaders are vocal about their views as they strongly feel that Article 35A should be repealed.
Separatists call for shutdown on August 12
Meanwhile, separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Yasin Malik, in a joint statement in Srinagar on Monday, called for a shutdown on August 12 to protest what they termed attempts to abrogate Article 35-A of the Constitution and other issues.
They warned the Centre and the state government of a protest agitation if attempts are made to fiddle with Article 35-A. If these plans are not stopped, then we will appeal to people to come out and start an agitation, the statement said.
Under the Article, state laws do not allow non-residents to purchase land in the state and the issue is in focus with a Kashmiri woman, Charu Wali Khan, who recently filed a petition seeking changes in the constitutional provision as she wanted succession rights though she is settled outside the state.
Responding to her plea, the Supreme Court sent notices to Centre and state last month. The petitioner has argued that the state’s laws, under Article 35A, have disenfranchised her. Advocate General K Venugopal told the bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud that the petition against Article 35A raised "very sensitive" questions that required a "larger debate".
The top court referred the matter to a three-judge bench and has set a six-week deadline for final disposal. The bench is likely to deliver its verdict in September first week.
The BJP in its Assembly election manifesto had promised that it would give voting rights to all the settlers in Jammu and would also give land at cheap rates to retired Army officials in all the major towns of J&K.