Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday warned the Centre against revoking Article 35A of the Constitution, reported PTI. Article 35A grants special rights and privileges pertaining to jobs, and property ownership, among other things, to those defined as “permanent residents” of the state.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules at the Centre, had promised to scrap it in its election manifesto. The ruling party also wants to remove Article 370 of the Constitution that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir and limits Parliament’s power to make laws concerning the state. The state is currently under President’s Rule.
“We want to tell the central government that tinkering with Article 35A will be akin to setting a powder keg on fire,” the Peoples Democratic Party president said while addressing a function in Srinagar to celebrate her party’s 20th raising day. “If any hand tries to touch Article 35A, not only that hand, but that whole body will be burnt to ashes.” Mufti asked workers of the Peoples Democratic Party to get ready for a big fight to protect Article 35A.
Mufti’s comments came two days after the Centre decided to deploy 100 additional companies of paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir. The deployment comprised of 50 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force, 30 of Sashastra Seema Bal and 10 each of the Border Security Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Each company had 100 security personnel. The additional companies were deployed to strengthen counter-insurgency operations and maintain law and order.
Mufti had earlier said that the order had led to anxiety and fear in the state. She had added that the Kashmir problem cannot be solved militarily.
Former minister Sajad Lone said nobody has “the remotest idea” of what is in the offing. “The rumours of tinkering with Article 35A are spreading fast and there is no reaction from the state or the Central government,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “If the government… indeed has any such intentions, it would be tantamount to stretching adventurism to unacceptable limits. Any adventurism will erode the credibility of those who believe in the concept of India.”
National Conference chief Omar Abdullah said the Centre should repose faith in the Supreme Court and stop “bullying the people of the State with the unwarranted and intimidatory threats on annihilating Article 35A and Article 370”.
Shah Faesal, who quit the civil services earlier this year to join politics, said the direction was “fueling huge anxiety in Kashmir”. “No one knows why this sudden mobilization of forces is being done,” Faesal said. “Rumour is that something sinister is about to happen. Article 35a? It is going to be a long night.”
However, senior police officers in Jammu and Kashmir described the deployment of the extra forces as a routine exercise. “Additional requisition of forces has been made to make up for the 200 companies that need to proceed to their battalions for mandatory training exercises,” said Jammu and Kashmir Police Additional DGP (law and order) Muneer Khan.