Handwara: National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah on Monday said that Article 35A was a “non-negotiable” article of faith for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and called for sacrifices to safeguard the state’s special status.
Abdullah, who represents Srinagar constituency in the Parliament, asked workers of his party to be ready to “fight every battle required to safeguard the state’s special status and its political and cultural identity”.
“The assault on the state’s special status is part of the longstanding ideological mission of those quarters who have always opposed J&K’s political rights and dignity,” said Abdullah in his address to an NC convention in Handwara today.
A petition by a right-wing NGO, ‘We The Citizens’, is pending in the Supreme Court, seeking the scrapping of Article 35A of the Indian Constitution that empowers the J&K legislature to determine the state’s “permanent residents”.
“This battle has been forced on the people of the state at a time when all efforts should have been made to initiate a process of reconciliation and healing,” Abdullah said. “At this juncture of unease and uncertainty in the state, the people expected a political initiative that would bring the state back to an era of peace, normalcy and prosperity. Unfortunately, rather than building those bridges of faith, certain organisations and powers are trying hard to dismantle the existing constitutional bridges between J&K and the rest of the country,” Abdullah said in his speech to NC workers.
He reiterated the National Conference’s resolve to fight against all “such intrigues” and said, “The need of the hour is for all the three regions of the state to remain united and debunk all distortions that are being spread against Article 35A.”
All mainstream political parties in Kashmir have called for safeguarding Article 35A, and the resistance leadership has expressed “unflinching support” on this. The Supreme Court will hear the petition challenging it after Diwali.
“Article 35A is vital and non-negotiable for the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Those trying to divide us on regional and religious lines to further their agenda will have to be defeated. This is a battle for the interests, rights and dignity of every single citizen of Jammu & Kashmir, irrespective of his religion, region, language and caste. Our party is reaching out to people in every nook and corner of the state in all the three regions, to make the people aware of the disastrous ramifications of Article 35A being struck down. We will continue with this process of outreach and consensus-building at the grassroots level,” Abdullah said.
“We kept cautioning the PDP as well as others about this impending ploy from day one, but these warnings were not taken seriously, or it’s quite possible there was and is a tacit understanding among these parties to sacrifice Article 35A to bargain for personal political power. The Article 35A case has been handled with gross irresponsibility and unprofessionalism, giving the opposing side an intentional advantage. Key and vital factors – both constitutional and political – have not been presented and that is why our party will not hesitate to defend Article 35A in a strong, articulate and responsible manner even in the Supreme Court, if that is what it takes. It is heartening to see a consensus on the ground level and among various trade and social organisations on this key issue. The National Conference will work hand-in-hand with them in this battle,” he said.
He said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had approached the NC in 2014 to form the government in J&K. “We rejected the offer and had conveyed the same to PDP,” he said.
The NC president asked his party workers to reach out to people in their respective areas and spread awareness on the issue of Article 35A.
“There are a lot of fallacious and disingenuous distortions being fabricated about Article 35A – how it is allegedly a roadblock for development. This is baseless and part of a greater plan to further an agenda of political and cultural hegemony. Article 35A is the cornerstone of the state’s prosperity and of its citizens. We need to fight this distortion campaign with information and facts, and that is where each one of us has a vital role to play,” Abdullah said.