'Tinkering with Article 35A akin to setting powder keg on fire'

Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti Sunday warned New Delhi against fiddling with Article 35-A, saying any tinkering with the State’s special status would be like setting a powder keg on fire.

The former Chief Minister made the statement at a time when the Centre has rushed 10,000 additional forces to the State amid rumors that it might scarp Article 35A – the constitutional provision that empowers state’s legislature to define J&K permanent residents and grants them exclusive privileges including citizenship rights, right to property, employment and settlement.

“I want to tell the central government that any tinkering with Article 35A will be like setting a powder keg on fire. It will have such disastrous consequences that nobody would be able to control. If any hand tries to touch Article 35-A, not only that hand, but that whole body will burn to ashes,” Mehbooba said in a stern warning to Government of India. She was addressing a function in the summer capital on the party’s 20th foundation day function.

For the past few days panic has gripped Kashmir after Union Home Ministry decided to rush 100 companies of paramilitary forces to Kashmir, barely a few days after National Security Advisor (NSA) AjitDoval’s 3-day visit to Kashmir.

The most talked about fear in the Valley is that the Government of India might scarp Article 35A. “Get ready for the big fight. Elections come and go. The real test is to save the special position of Jammu and Kashmir. We will fight any such attempt till death,” she asked the supporters who responded with clapping.

In its election manifesto for the 2019 general election, which it won with a thumping majority, the BJP had promised abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A. Since then, the party leaders, both at the Centre and within the state have raised up the issue time and again.

Mehbooba Mufti waves at the public during a function to celebrate PDP’s 20th Foundation Day in Srinagar. Aman Farooq/GK

Mehbooba said the prevailing situation in J&K was not good and attempts were being made to weaken people of Kashmir politically and economically.

“There is panic. Everything has been destroyed, from J&K Bank to others. Attempts are being made to weaken Kashmiris politically and economically. We have to fight against this as no other party will stand up against this,” Mehbooba said.

She said, in the fight for protection of State’s special position, attempts would be made by New Delhi to harass the PDP and its leaders.

“New Delhi knows that PDP is the only party that stands like a wall to protect Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and identity. They can even send Mehbooba Mufti to jail. But, do not get worried. PDP is the only party that can fight them as we do not have any baggage,” said Mehbooba.

She said her part won’t let sacrifices of people go waste. “We cannot forget those sacrifices.  I read Omar’s (Abdullah) statement in which he asked New Delhi not to touch Article 35A and leave it for the Supreme Court. I am asking you that is there anyone who is ready for any tinkering with Article 35-A, either by the central government or the Supreme Court?” she asked.