NC demands referendum on state's special status, says Article 35(A) is sacrosanct

JAMMU: Opposition National Conference (NC) on Saturday demanded a statewide referendum on Jammu and Kashmir's special status enshrined in the Constitution.

The party's demand comes in the wake of a debate over Article 35 (A) that allows the state legislature to define the list of ‘permanent residents' and their special rights and privileges. The article was added to Article 370 in 1954 by a presidential decree.

The BJP, which is an alliance partner in the Mehbooba Mufti-led government in the state, has been calling for the scrapping of the special provision since the party's inception in 1980.

A fresh debate over the continuation of the article has been generated after a Delhi-based NGO recently challenged its validity in the Supreme Court.

The NC said the BJP is using the people of Hindu-majority Jammu region of the state as a pawn in its national politics.

Addressing media here, NC provincial president and Nagrota MLA Devender Singh Rana, a close confidant of party leader Omar Abdullah, equated the article with the holy cow that cannot be touched.

"It is a very serious and sensitive issue and we believe that if 35(A) is scrapped, it would be a grave injustice to the people of the state, especially Dogras of Jammu," he said

Rana said his party will reach out to the people in every district apprising them about the dangerous ramifications of abrogating the Article 35 (A).

The NC MLA said common people in villages, who do not know much about the article, too are against abrogation of the state-specific laws.

"It is a shield for the backward people of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

Pointing out that the state is governed by Indian Constitution as well as the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, Rana said: "We have been vested with certain rights and we will fight for their protection. Our cadre will go to each block to educate the people," he said.

Rana recalled how the erstwhile Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh issued notifications in 1927 and 1932 to check influx of outsiders, especially from Punjab, who had started settling down in the state for business and jobs.

Referring to the petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Article 35(A), Rana said his party is of the view that the attorney general presented a very weak defence in the court.

"If 35 (A) is repealed then the Article 370 will also be weakened," said Rana.

 

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