New Delhi, Aug 11 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday gave his “100 per cent” assurance that the coalition agenda will stay in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said, hinting at the continuation of the state’s special status.
Mehbooba Mutfi, who arrived here on Thursday, met Modi in the backdrop of a raging debate over the continuity of articles 370 and 35(A) of the Constitution that give Jammu and Kashmuir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, its special status.
“The basis of agenda of our alliance is that the status quo on Article 370 is to be maintained and none of us will go against it. The response of the Prime Minister is positive. The Prime Minister gave 100 per cent assurance to the agenda of alliance,” she told reporters after her 15-minute meeting with Modi.
Mehbooba Mufti said any attempt to fiddle with Article 35(A) – which empowers state legislators to define permanent residents and extend voting, jobs and inheritance rights to them – will have a negative impact in the state that has a “peculiar diversity where everything is different”.
“It should not happen. People of Jammu and Kashmir feel that their identity will be in danger. A message should go that there is no such thing,” she said.
Mehbooba Mufti, who met Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday, said Jammu and Kashmir was indeed a “Muslim majority state” but one also needed to note that “Hindus also live there, Sikhs and Buddhists also live there.
“Jammu and Kashmir rejected the two nation theory (in 1947) and joined this country with a view that its aspirations, identity would always remain alive. And that identity should always remain alive,” said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader who heads a coalition government with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Chief Minister said any attempt to change or abrogate Article 35(A) was akin to questioning “the idea of India that has to accommodate with the idea of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Article 35(A), added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954, accords special rights and privileges to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and empowers its legislature to frame any law without attracting a legal challenge.
The provision prohibits all Indians – except people from Jammu and Kashmir – from purchasing immovable property in the state, getting government jobs and availing state-sponsored scholarships.
The article has been challenged by a Delhi-based NGO, We the Citizens, in the Supreme Court, where the central government said last month that there was need for a “larger debate” on the issue of declaring the article unconstitutional.
The NGO contended that the 1954 order was supposed to be a temporary provision.
Mehbooba Mufti warned that any tinkering with Article 35 (A) would worsen the situation in the state when it was normalizing.
“People think that our identity can be in danger. So the message that Jammu and Kashmir is the crown of India should be reiterated.”
Ironically, while the PDP is a strong votary of continuing with the special status, its ruling partner the BJP contested elections on the plank that it would revoke the constitutional position for Jammu and Kashmir’s complete integration with the rest of India.
State BJP spokesperson Virendra Gupta on Thursday said the time had come to bid a farewell to articles 370 and 35(A) as they created a “separatist psyche”.
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