Is BJP Set to Change Article 35A in Jammu & Kashmir?

Article 35A of the Constitution empowers the J&K government to define ‘permanent residents’ of the state. It allows the state government to provide special rights and privileges that only permanent residents can enjoy.

The BJP has criticized this openly. It says that this article promotes alienation as it deepens the concept of separate identity and also creates a political gap between the state and rest of India. It appears as if the BJP is all set to alter this article.

This article obstructs non-residents from purchasing land in the state. The issue is now in focus because a Kashmiri woman, Charu Wali Khan, recently filing a petition seeking changes in the constitutional provision as she wanted succession rights though she is settled outside the state. The woman argued that the state’s lawshave disenfranchised her.

In response to her plea, the Supreme Court sent notices to the Centre and state last month. The court referred the matter to a three-judge bench and has set a six-week deadline for final disposal. It is likely that a verdict will be delivered in the first week of  September. Even though the verdict is pending, state BJP leaders are vocal that the article should be repealed.

Surinder Amabardar, BJP MLC from J&K, said, “Article 35A is a constitutional mistake. It was incorporated through a presidential order and not through the parliamentary process.”

The explicit manner in which state BJP is voicing its opinion against the article, and the centre saying that a ‘larger debate’ is needed on the issue, rattled CM Mehbooba Mufti. During the Foundation Day celebrations of her party, she said that Article 35A should not be tinkered with. She also went on to say there would be no one to hold the tricolour if provisions regarding special status to J&K residents were altered.

BJP state spokesperson Virender Gupta replied to her statement: We are greatly shocked and surprised by the statement of Mehbooba that by challenging Article 35-A, the nationalist forces in the Valley get weakened and that India will not get a shoulder to carry its national flag in the state.”

Is Mehbooba’s outburst genuine or, is she worried that if the article is altered her political future might be in danger? Irrespective of that, there is nothing of more significance than national integrity which is weakened by this article.

Vinayak Jain