JAMMU: The BJP on Saturday said that it is ready for a debate over Article 35A of the Constitution, which confers special status to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir even as protests continued across the state over the sensitive issue.
Meanwhile, the remark from the saffron party came two days ahead of the Supreme Court ruling on a bunch of petitions challenging the provision scheduled to come on August 6.
The apex court is expected to take up a batch of petitions, including the one filed by an RSS-linked NGO ‘We the Citizens’, seeking quashing of the article.
“The BJP is open to a debate with anyone or any political party on whether or not Article 35A is in the interest of the people of the state. We are extending an open invitation,” J&K BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi told reporters.
Sethi said over the last few days, the political climate in the state has heated up over Article 35A and some political parties, especially those active in Kashmir, have taken an “anti-national and anti-people” stand on the issue.
The J&K BJP chief also targeted the National Conference (NC) and the Congress for misleading the people in the Kashmir Valley over Article 35A that it is for their betterment and in the interest of the state.
“The continuation of Article 35A will not have any benefit for the state. The central government has pumped crores of rupees into the state over the last 70 years but the development has not been as it should have been,” he said.
Sethgi said that the special constitutional provision has acted as an obstacle in the state’s development because it did not allow outside investment.
“Investors do not come here to set up Infrastructure. The youth are not getting the jobs,” he added.
The BJP spokesperson alleged some politicians want to maintain the position for vote bank politics.
Responding to a statement by the NC’s provincial president Devender Singh Rana that the special provision was introduced by Maharaja Hari Singh to safeguard the interests of the state, Sethi said the situation was different from what it was now when the law was enacted.
“It was a princely state and not a part of India at that time. After accession, Jammu and Kashmir became part of India,” he said.
Accusing Rana of playing politics over the name of Maharaja Hari Singh, Sethi said it was the NC and the Congress who conspired to send the king out of the state and did not allow him to return till death.
As a result of Article 35A, West Pakistan refugees, who came to the state in 1947, have been denied the right of being state subjects, which was promised to them, and local girls who marry outside the state lose their right over property, he said.
Sethi also made an appeal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir urging them to ”understand the real purpose of Article 35A.”
It is like an iron chain which is keeping us from moving forward. If the state subject laws change, it will benefit the state,” Sethi said.
He said if the article is repealed, new laws could be made to pave way for industrial growth and to prevent outsiders from settling in residential areas.
Meanwhile, the National Conference (NC) and its arch rival PDP on Saturday took out separate protest rallies in Srinagar. The separatists and mainstream leaders called for dismissing the PIL before the Supreme Court.
MLA Khanyar Mohammad Sagar led hundred of party workers, carrying banners and placards, from the NC headquarters Nawai-e-Subah to Sher-e-Kashmir park.
One of the banners read, “If there are no Articles 35A and 370, then there is no accession (of Jammu and Kashmir to India)”.
The PDP also took out a rally from its office near the Sher-e-Kashmir park. Led by NC general secretary Nizamuddin Bhat and MLA Khursheed Alam, the protesters marched towards Lal Chowk but were stopped by the police.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), called for a two-day shutdown on Sunday and Monday across the state.
Article 35A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and denies property rights to a woman who marries a person from outside the state.
The provision, which leads such women from the state to forfeit their right over property, also applies to their heirs.