Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s remarks that Article 35A is “constitutionally vulnerable” and “has denied Jammu and Kashmir a booming economy” has triggered a fresh row in the state, with some Kashmir-based mainstream leaders calling his comments an attempt “to convert the constitutional relationship between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of India into an occupation”.
Jaitley’s remarks came late Thursday afternoon on a Facebook blog titled ‘The Rule of Law and the State of Jammu & Kashmir’.
“The state does not have adequate financial resources,” he wrote. “Its ability to raise more has been crippled by Article 35A. No investor is willing to set up an industry, hotel, private educational institute or private hospital since he can neither buy land or property, nor can his executives do so. Their ward cannot get government jobs or admission to colleges.”
The senior BJP leader, who is also in charge of the party’s campaign committee for the general elections, wrote that Article 35A was “surreptitiously” included by a presidential notification in the Constitution in 1954.
“Article 35A, which is constitutionally vulnerable, is used as a political shield by many, but it hurt the common citizen of the state the most. It denied them a booming economy, economic activity and jobs,” Jaitely said in the blog.
Reacting strongly to the statement, National Conference Vice-President Omar Abdullah on Friday said Jammu and Kashmir was damaged by militancy, not the special status it was granted through Article 35A.
Addressing a presser in Srinagar, the former chief minister said Jammu and Kashmir's special status had been under threat from the beginning, but “the threat of abrogation increased only after the BJP came to power”.
He pointed out that Jammu and Kashmir was not the only state in the country that had special status.
“The North East, Himachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshadweep also have special status and their own identity under the same Indian Constitution,” Abdullah said. “Why is it always that Jammu and Kashmir has to face the onslaught of these right-wing parties?”
He further said that there was a wrong notion that the special status was only for the Muslims in the Kashmir Valley.
“Article 35A is beneficial for Kargil and Leh as well as for the people of Jammu,” he asserted.
Moreover, senior leader of the Peoples Democratic Party and former minister Naeem Akhtar accused the BJP of trying to convert the legal and constitutional relationship between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union into an “occupation through subterfuge and systemic subversion”.
“It is unfortunate that the Sangh Parivar has fielded one of the better known lawyers of the country to oppose the Supreme Court's orders that upheld Article 35A not once but twice in the past,” Akhtar said.
He added that Jaitley needs to be told that the Constitution was not framed, developed and approved in isolation but has a political constitutional history, which the Sangh Parivar and some of its allies in the media try to overlook in pursuit of votes.
Akhtar said that Jaitley should know more than anybody else about the laws of the state, and that Article 35A is not, in any way, a hurdle in drawing investment to the state.
Furthermore, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader MY Tarigami said the finance minister was “misrepresenting” the Constitution as well as Jammu and Kashmir with his statement.
“Why don’t BJP leaders come out in the open and say that whatever laws were passed by the then ruler of the state, Maharaja Hari Singh, were wrong?” he added. “The maharaja passed the state subject law in 1927, and it was incorporated in the Constitution through negotiations and taken forward. Is there anything new that the BJP wants to scrap?”
Tarigami said: “The maharaja acceded to India by signing the instrument of accession and surrendered only three subjects — external affairs, defence and communication — to the dominion of India, while on all other subjects, the ruler of the state continued his sovereignty in and over the state by virtue of para(8) of the instrument of accession.”
Those who challenge Article 35A, Tarigami continued, conveniently forget that it was only Article 1 and Article 370 that were applicable to Jammu and Kashmir in 1954, when the Presidential Order on adding Article 35A to the short list was passed.
“If Article 35A is deleted from the Constitution, the accession of the state with the Union of India is liable to be jeopardised,” Tarigami warned. “Article 35A is not the only provision in the Constitution of India that applies to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.”
The CPM leader added that the conspiracy to remove Article 35A is essentially the agenda of communal, divisive and anti-democratic forces who want to thrive on uncertainty, hatred and turmoil.
“It remains on their agenda and is being exploited for political and electoral gains,” he claimed.
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Updated Date: Mar 30, 2019 17:08:13 IST