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Won’t go against sentiments of Kashmiris on Article 35A: Rajnath Singh

The Kashmir Valley has been hit by agitation against attempts to abrogate Article 35A of the Constitution, which gives special rights to permanent residents of the state.

india Updated: Sep 11, 2017 21:36 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Toufiq Rashid
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Rajnath Singh,Kashmir,Article 35A
Union home minister Rajnath Singh, along with J-K deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh (left) and Union minister of state in the PMO Jitendra Singh, at a press conference in Srinagar on Monday. (Waseem Andrabi / HT Photo)

Union home minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday the BJP-led government at the Centre will not go against the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir on constitutional provisions that guarantee special privileges to the restive state, amid a debate over articles 35A and 370.

Singh is on a four-day visit to the state which comes at a time when the valley is experiencing agitation against attempts to abrogate Article 35A of the Constitution, which gives special rights to the permanent residents of the state, and the arrest of seven separatist leaders by the NIA in alleged terror-funding cases.

“The government did not initiate anything on this or go to court. I assure the government would never take any step which will hurt the sentiments of people of Jammu and Kashmir,’’ he said.

Singh called it a “non-issue’’ and said it was being raised by people who have nothing “else to talk about’’.

He said “his assurances have come as a home minister of India’’ after he was asked about the individuals or organisations challenging these constitutional provisions were affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor.

“I don’t want to comment on who is saying what but I am talking as a leader of the BJP and home minister of India,’’ he added.

The Supreme Court last month asked the Centre to file a reply within three weeks to a writ petition filed by an NGO seeking that Article 35A be struck down.

The PIL said the state government, under the guise of Article 35A and Article 370, which grants special autonomous status to the state, has been discriminating against non-residents who are debarred from buying properties, getting a government job or voting in the local elections.

The top court is likely to hear the arguments in the case after Diwali.

Singh’s comments generated instant debate in the valley as netizens reacted to his statement. Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah said the “assurances should be carried forward’’.

“The Union government must now file a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court to defend 35-A. That is the way to carry this assurance forward,’’ Abdullah tweeted.

Abdullah met Singh on Sunday as led a delegation of his National Conference (NC) party. In a memorandum to the home minister, the NC registered “its strong protest at the ambiguity that exists on behalf of the central government in defending the state’s special status in the Supreme Court”.

The home minister also said the security situation in Kashmir Valley has improved as compared to last year and appealed to tourists in India and rest of the world to visit the region known for its scenic beauty again.

“I assure the tourists from India and rest of the world that Kashmiri’s are ready to welcome them,’’ Singh said.

He also said give Cs form the basis for resolution of the problems of Kashmir — “compassion, communication, coexistence, confidence-building, and consistency.”

“I have asked the security forces to treat youth below 18 years, who are involved with any criminal activities (militancy), as juveniles. They should be tried in juvenile courts and also be separated from hardened criminals,’’ he added.

Singh, however, added “no militancy is acceptable and militants will meet their fate’’.

He said the Narendra Modi government has taken unprecedented steps to “improve relationships with Pakistan but it was not reciprocated’’. “Pakistan should stop infiltrating terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir,” the home minister said in Srinagar.

Singh, who met about 55 delegations of civil society and representatives of political parties, said he was “willing to talk to any stakeholders’’. “I have come with an open mind. I am willing to talk to anyone. I am inviting everyone who is willing to help us in resolving problems of Kashmir,” Singh added.

He, however, refused to comment on why a formal invitation was not extended to separatist Hurriyat as most of its leaders are under house arrest or detention since Singh began his visit to the state.

Singh will travel to Srinagar, Anantnag, Jammu and Rajouri and meet civil society members, leaders of political and social outfits, business leaders and others, a move seen as a follow-up to the Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech in which he had reached out to the people of the valley.

First Published: Sep 11, 2017 14:59 IST