‘Like picking up explosives’: Mehbooba Mufti warns Centre on Article 35A
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday warned the Central government that any attempt to tinker with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir would blow up in its face.
“We want to tell central government that tinkering with Article 35A is like picking up explosives. Not only will those hands burn which are raised to touch 35A but also the whole body will become ashes,” Mufti said to rousing applause from the audience.
The former chief minister was addressing the 20th foundation day of her party in Srinagar. The PDP is battling the spate of desertions over the past year and the drubbing the party received in the Lok Sabha elections, with Mehbooba Mufti losing the Anantnag seat.
Her comments come after a central government order allowed additional 100 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) to be deployed in Jammu and Kashmir to reinforce counter-insurgency operations and maintain law and order.
The order triggered rumors in the state that something bad is about to happen to Article 35A, the special provision which grants the Jammu and Kashmir legislature the right to determine the criteria for permanent residency in the state.
The ruling party at the Centre, the BJP has been opposed to the special status of the state and has proposed its abrogation.
Mufti said that the situation was not right in Jammu and Kashmir.
“There is fear inside. Everything has been finished like the J&K Bank and other things. Slowly, the attempts are being made to weaken a Kashmiri; to weaken him politically as well as economically. Nobody will stand against this except my party,” she said.
“Omar (Abdullah) sahab recently told Delhi that ‘don’t touch 35 A, and leave it to Supreme Court’. Is any J&K resident ready that the Article 35 A is touched upon either by Supreme Court or Central Government,” Mufti said.
Article 35-A bestows J&K residents with special rights and privileges for acquiring property and government jobs, among others.
Mufti claimed that her party was the target for working as per ‘principles and talking in one language in Delhi as well as here’.
“The leaders here are not involved in anything or I am not involved in anything. What can they do? If I had made money and was involved in corruption they would jail me but that is not the case,” she said and named two PDP leaders who were either questioned by crime branch or the NIA recently.
Jammu and Kashmir Crime Branch recently questioned PDP leader and former public works minister Naeem Akhtar in alleged irregularities in J-K Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC). Similarly, the National Investigation Agency has questioned former MLA Aijaz Mir after his PSO decamped with seven weapons from his official residence in Srinagar in September last year.
The PDP chief said that her party was ready for anything for the state’s special status.
“Anything can happen, you should not worry but PDP will fight till death for the identity of Jammu and Kashmir and Article 370,” she said.
Article 370 of the Constitution grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Four petitions have challenged Article 35A’s legality in the Supreme Court on the grounds that it was never presented before Parliament and was implemented on the President’s orders in 1954.