August 2017 News

Article 35-A: In A First, All On The Same Page

8 August 2017
Greater Kashmir
Muddasir Ali

Srinagar: With a petition seeking abrogation of Article 35-A raising concerns across Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, in a surprising move, called on National Conference president Farooq Abdullah at his Gupkar residence here on Tuesday to 'discuss the ways to protect' the constitutional provision which grants state subject rights and privileges to 'permanent residents' of the state. A source said the Chief Minister reached Abdullah's residence at around 6 pm and though the leaders discussed different issues confronting the state, the focus remained on Article 35-A that has been challenged in the Supreme Court by a non-government organisation allegedly backed by right-wing groups. National Conference working president Omar Abdullah was also part of the meeting which lasted for about 20 minutes, the source said. Soon after the meeting, Omar tweeted that a significant part of it was taken up to discuss ways to protect Article 35A. 'Dr Sahib suggested that Ms Mufti consult other parties with an aim to create a wider consensus amongst like-minded parties in this battle to prevent Article 35A being struck down in the Supreme Court,' Omar tweeted. He termed the one-on-one meeting between the Chief Minister and National Conference president as 'cordial.' The meeting comes a day after Abdullah chaired a meeting of leaders of Opposition parties here, warning New Delhi and the state government against scrapping of Article 35A. 'Don't forget the Amarnath (land agitation) thing. It will be a far greater revolt if Article 35-A is removed,' Abdullah had told reporters after the meeting that was attended by senior leaders from Congress and other opposition parties. It had discussed the need for a 'united front' from mainstream parties to prevent scrapping of Article 35-A and raise awareness among people about the fallout of the move. As already reported by Greater Kashmir, Chief Minister has batted for wider political consultations on the sensitive issue. The Article 35-A was extended to J&K through 'Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order issued by President Rajendra Prasad on May 14, 1954. It was specifically devised to grant protection to state subject laws that had already been defined under the Maharaja's rule and notified in 1927 and 1932. The Supreme Court, which is hearing the Article 35A petition, has referred the matter to a three-judge bench last month and set a six-week deadline for its final disposal. The demand for abrogation has evoked strong opposition in J&K, with Mehbooba herself issuing a stern warning to government of India last month over any tinkering with Article 35-A, saying there would not be nobody left to hoist tri-colour in Kashmir if it is done. Legal experts have cautioned that if the Article 35-A is scrapped, J&K will lose all the special privileges including the state subject law, right to property, right to employment, and right to settlement. The source said during today's meeting, the Chief Minister sought cooperation of all political parties including National Conference in safeguarding the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Senior PDP leader Naeem Akhter said the Chief Minister had sought the meeting with National Conference president. She has already appealed to all political leaders to come together to safeguard the interests of the state. 'This is to underline the fact that the constitutional relation between the State and the Centre is based on Article 370 and provisions like Article 35A. If anybody tries to weaken these, it will weaken the constitutional relationship between the state and the Centre,' said Akhter. 'That is what both the leaders agreed upon during the meeting: the need for rising above normal political positions in the interests of J&K,' said Akhter.