Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today warned that any tinkering with the special status granted to the state will have serious ramifications and there will be no one to hold the tricolour. At a seminar here, she spoke on issues like Article 35-A, which gives special status for Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, and said efforts should be made that no one tinkers with it.
The Chief Minister said while on the one hand efforts are afoot for resolving the Kashmir issue within the framework of Constitution, on the other hand, "we flog it". "Who is doing it? Why are they doing it? (challenging the Article 35A)" she asked as she added candidly, "let me tell you that my party and other parties who carry the national flag there, despite all risks... I have no doubt in saying that no one will hold it if it is tinkered".
Mehbooba said by challenging Article 35-A in the Supreme Court, none of the separatist groups in the valley was getting affected as they were on a different agenda all together. "But, you are weakening those powers which are Indian and trust India and participate in elections and who fight to live a life honourably in Jammu and Kashmir. This is one of the problem," she said.
In 2014, an NGO 'We the Citizens' had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking striking down of Article 35 A. They contended that the President could not have amended the Constitution by the 1954-order and it was supposed to be a temporary provision.
The PIL said the state government, under the guise of Article 35A and Article 370 which grants special autonomous status to the state, has been discriminating against non-residents who are debarred from buying properties, getting a government job or voting in the local elections.
Article 35A was added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954 and it accords special rights and privileges to the natives of the state and empower its legislature to frame any law without attracting a challenge on grounds of violating right to equality of people from other states or any other right under the Constitution.
While the Jammu and Kashmir government contested the petition saying the President has the power to incorporate a new provision in the Constitution by way of an order, the Centre recently expressed its reservations in filing a reply and requested the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar to refer the matter to a larger bench as constitutional issues were involved in the case.
Mehbooba, while delivering her keynote address at the 'Understanding Kashmir' session hosted by social group BRIEF, said Kashmir is an idea of India. "The basic question is how much is the idea of India ready to accommodate the idea of Kashmir? This is the crux," she said.
She recounted how during Partition, Kashmir, even being a Muslim majority state, defied the two-nation theory and the divisive separation on grounds of religion, and aligned with India. "There have been special provisions in the Constitution for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Unfortunately, with the passage of time something happened somewhere that both sides (state and centre) started doing dishonesty," she said.
"Rather than addressing the problem, we took administrative measures like dismissal of government or making charges of conspiracy, sedition... ..we had all these things against separatists which at times led to their hangings, weapons exclusive to Kashmir and more security measures and increasing number of security people. These administrative measures have not helped us to address the idea of Kashmir...," Mehbooba said.