Jammu and Kashmir Opposition parties unite against move to 'abrogate' special status

Clamour is growing against the move to abrogate the State subject law with a united Opposition threatening to launch a statewide agitation against the central and the state government, if the Article 35A, a provision of Article 370, is fiddled with.

Charu Wali Khan, a resident of Jammu and Kashmir, who is settled outside the state, has challenged legality of Article 35-A claiming in her petition to Supreme Court that the said law takes away her “succession rights” away and “disenfranchises her.” This is the second time this provision has been challenged in Supreme Court. In 2014, an NGO had filed a writ petition seeking to strike Article 35A down; the case is still pending in the Supreme Court.

File image of Farooq Abdullah. Reuters

File image of Farooq Abdullah. Reuters

The Supreme Court sent notices to both state and Centre government last month for a response. Advocate General K Venugopal told the court that the provision raises several "sensitive questions so the point about its legality demands a larger debate." The court has referred the matter to a three-judge bench and set a six-week deadline for its disposal.

This has kicked up a political storm in Valley.

On Monday, Jammu and Kashmir Opposition parties joined hands against any move to revoke the Article 35-A, which gives special rights and privileges to permanent residents of the state and empowers its legislature to frame laws. The provision was added to the Constitution by a presidential order issued in 1954 under Article 370.

After chairing a meeting of opposition leaders National Conference president and former Union minister Farooq Abdullah said that if Article 35-A is revoked, there will be “revolt” much larger than the Amarnath Yatra Agitation, that left at least 60 people dead in 2008 and rejuvenated the 'Azadi' movement in Kashmir.

“Don't forget the Amarnath Land row. People rose overnight; this will be a far greater revolt,” Abdullah said while addressing a press conference at his residence in Srinagar. “Agenda of BJP & RSS is to erode the autonomous structure of the state (Jammu and Kashmir), that is what their plan is,” he said.

Abdullah said the meeting of the Opposition leaders in Jammu and Kashmir was called to deliberate and discuss the implications of the abrogation of Article 35 (A) in the state.

“The chief minister (Mehbooba Mufti) has said she will quit the chair if 35-A is removed, hope she stands by it,” he added.

Senior advocate and constitutional expert, Zafar Shah, told Firstpost that, although, there is a stronger case for Jammu and Kashmir it also needs Government of India's support. But, he said, the situation in court today is different, the Government of India has refused to file an affidavit. That means New Delhi has not committed itself to support, or not to support Article 35-A, it has kept its options open.

“In earlier cases, in last sixty years- whenever such an occasion had arisen the Government of India had filed an affidavit and defended the position. This is for the first time when no such affidavit has been filed by the central government. That is the reason situation has become so grave today,” Shah said in an interview with Firstpost.

“The defense of it is left to the state government, now the state government has a problem because it is in coalition with a party whose workers have filed the petition. The BJP here, as part of Jammu and Kashmir government, has filed an affidavit in the court saying the petition should be dismissed. This is a paradox!” he added.

Meanwhile, BJP has said that the provision has done more harm to the state than any other provision of the law.

“It is a constitutional mistake. It was incorporated into a presidential order and not through the parliamentary process, Surinder Amabardar, a BJP MLC from Jammu said recently.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had recently openly threatened her own ally saying that if there is going to be any tinkering with the special status of the state, then there will be no one to hoist the tricolor in the Valley.

“Who is behind this litigation? It is none other than the BJP and RSS workers. They want this legislation to go but we will fight them,” Abdullah said.

The issue could snowball into a major controversy in coming days as the Valley is already reeling under unrest and street protests after the death of Burhan Wani.

“It has become a serious issue for the people of the state. They must leave no stone unturned to defend this provision. All the politicians of the state should unite and defend it. This law benefits all the residents of Jammu and Kashmir, regardless of whether you belong to BJP, PDP, NC or PDP. Since the BJP is pushing its agenda through the courts, they don't want this Article to be there. It is left to the people who don't share that ideology,” Shah said.

“Therefore it is very important that state government defends this provision. And the defense would mean, apart from engaging the lawyers for defending in the courts, they must also persuade New Delhi (BJP) to ask its workers to withdraw the petition,” he added.

A united faction of Hurriyat Conference has called for ‘Kashmir Bandh’ on 12 August against the proposed abrogation of Article 35-A, a statement issued by Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik said on Monday.

Updated Date: Aug 08, 2017 08:09 AM

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