Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday warned against meddling with Article 35(A) of the Constitution, which grants special rights to the state legislature. She said changing the constitutional clause would come with repercussions, IANS reported.

“Any tinkering with the article will not be acceptable,” she said. “I will not hesitate in saying that nobody will even carry the corpse of the national flag in Kashmir [if the article is scrapped]. Let me make this very clear.”

She further said that opposing Article 35(A) would mean “weakening the forces who have accepted India”. “They make efforts to integrate Jammu and Kashmir with India with respect and dignity,” Mufti said. “You are weakening them.”

‘NIA arrests won’t solve any problems’

Mufti said the July 24 arrests of seven separatist leaders by the National Investigation Agency were just an administrative measure and will solve the real problems of the state.

“An administrative measure cannot help us resolve the situation and cannot address the real problem of Kashmir,” Mufti said. “It is important to replace it with a better idea.”

Mufti was speaking at an event organised by the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals titled ‘Understanding Kashmir’.

On July 24, the NIA had arrested seven Kashmiri separatists, including Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Shah, for allegedly funding terror groups in Jammu and Kashmir. The Hurriyat conference had called for a shutdown following the arrests.

Whats is Article 35(A)?

Article 35(A) of the Indian Constitution gives the Jammu and Kashmir legislature the power to define the “permanent residents” of the state and provide them with special rights and privileges. An NGO, We The Citizens, had challenged the article’s legality in the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was never presented before Parliament and was implemented on the president’s orders.

The Constitutional provision bars citizens from other parts of the country from acquiring immovable property in the state, taking up jobs with the state government, availing of state-sponsored scholarships, or settling permanently anywhere in Jammu and Kashmir.

The article was implement by former President Rajendra Prasad in 1954. Under the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954, the provision appears as an “appendix” in the Constitution and not an amendment.

Centre’s hesitance to respond

On July 17, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the three-judge Supreme Court bench hearing the case that the Centre was reluctant to file an affidavit because it was a sensitive subject. He also suggested referring the case to a larger Constitution bench, the Hindustan Times reported.

The NGO has argued that Article 35(A) was meant to be a “temporary provision” in the Constitution, but the state of Jammu and Kashmir has defended the clause, saying it had become “a permanent feature of the Indian Constitution”.