Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti attracted criticism from all corners as apprehensions regarding the abrogation of Article 35A, which prohibits people from other states to settle in J&K, grew stronger. Although CM Mufti tried to pacify the people by saying that she had been assured by Prime Minster Narendra Modi that the state’s special status would not be tinkered with, not much has changed. While civil society held a silent protest to make their resentment known, former CM Omar Abdullah of National Conference dismissed Mufti’s assurances, pointing out that the people of Jammu and Kashmir were keen to listen on this issue from the Prime Minister himself, rather than from a Chief Minister who “lies through her teeth”.
Omar Abdullah on Friday sought a special session of J&K Assembly before 29 August to frame an appropriate response to counter arguments in court, as the case is slated to be discussed on the same date in the Supreme Court. Omar said that abrogation of Article 35A will have serious ramifications for the people of all the three regions of J&K. He said that the defence put by the J&K government in the court was weak, alleging that Mehbooba Mufti was not keen to safeguard Article 35A. He said that the Central government’s attorney has observed in the Supreme Court that the issue of Article 35A needs wider discussions and it has cleared the doubts in the minds of people of J&K that the Centre was in favour of its abrogation.
The Opposition leader added that the state legislature has been empowered to legislate and to determine such issues, hinting at a possible clash between the legislature and the judiciary.
Sensing trouble, Mehbooba Mufti has dispatched her four ministers to New Delhi to hold wider consultations on how to defend Article 35A in a robust manner. J&K’s Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan held a meeting with prominent lawyer and PDP MP from Baramulla, Muzaffar Hussain Beigh and discussed the legal aspects of Article 35A. The four PDP ministers including state Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan, Horticulture Minister Syed Basharat Bukhari and Information Minister Chowdhary Zulfiqar have a brief from Mufti to shore up support on Article 35A from the BJP’s central leadership.
The separatist leadership has rebuffed Omar Abdullah, who recently told them not to comment on the fate of Article 35A as they were not accepting the Constitution. Blaming National Conference for most of the ills of Kashmir, the separatist leadership in a statement said that they cannot remain silent on this issue as such issues have a direct bearing on the right to self-determination.
Congress’ state unit president Ghulam Ahmed Mir on Friday told the media that the Central government must file a counter affidavit for Article 35A if the PM has given any assurance to Mehbooba Mufti on this issue. Ghulam Ahmed Mir said that Mehbooba Mufti must explain to the people of Jammu and Kashmir why she has given, what he called, a free hand to the BJP to end the special status of the state. Mir said that Mehbooba Mufti was hand in glove with the BJP and was a stooge of RSS.
It is in place to mention that the credit of “discovering” that Article 35A can be challenged goes to Jammu based columnist Daya Sagar. Recently he told the media that in 2009 he had read Article 35A and finally in a national seminar at Ghaziabad in 2013, he had questioned this Article. But the BJP and RSS stalwarts had not listened to him then.