The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the BJP on Saturday said the party was open to a debate over Article 35A of the Constitution, which confers special status to permanent residents of the state, as protests continued against the August 6 Supreme Court hearing on petitions challenging the provision.
The Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions in the matter, 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,” the state BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi told reporters.
He 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.
Targeting the National Conference (NC) and the Congress, Mr Sethi said people in the valley are being misled over Article 35A by being told 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.
He said Article 35A 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.
“When we are a part of India then what is the need for separate provisions and that too when it has created hurdles in the development and is also discriminatory in nature,” he added.
Accusing Rana of playing politics over the name of Maharaja Hari Singh, Mr 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 Paksitan 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.
“Jammu and Kashmir is not for foreigners but West Pakistan refugees are Indians and can live anywhere in the country, but not Rohingyas and Bangladeshi nationals,” he said.
“My appeal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir is 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,” Mr 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.
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.