With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) resuscitating its vow to abrogate the Article 370 of the India Constitution in its latest election manifesto, the reaction from Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) has been one of anguish and disapproval. Throughout the day top political leadership of the state, cutting across party lines, and people on social media condemned the BJP for trying to rekindle the debate on the state’s sub-nationalism and tinkering with the special status of J & K.
When it was first introduced, Article 370 gave J & K complete control over its destiny (except in matters of defence, communication and diplomacy, where the Indian government had control). Owing to its special rights, J & K, India’s only Muslim majority state, has its own constitution and flag. “We reiterate our position since the time of the Jan Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370,” read the BJP’s ‘Sankalp Patra’ for Lok Sabha elections 2019. The manifesto added, “We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state. We will take all steps to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for all residents of the state.”
Immediately after the BJP released its manifesto in New Delhi, the reaction in Kashmir was both swift and sharp. Former chief minister of J & K and president of National Conference, Farooq Abdullah noted that the abrogation of Article 370 will pave way for ‘Azadi’ (freedom) for the people of the state. “Do they (New Delhi) think that they will abrogate Article 370 and we will be quiet? They are wrong. We will fight against it … Let them do it and it will pave way for our freedom,” the three-time chief minister and former union minister told a politically charged rally.
His son and former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, called out the governor of the state, Satya Pal Malik for accusing parties like National Conference of fearmongering over Article 370 and Article 35A.
In a day that saw plenty of action, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Delhi High Court seeking a ban on the participation of the valley’s two main regional political parties and their leadership in the upcoming elections. Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti took no time to make her displeasure public. “Why waste time in court? Wait for BJP to scrap Article 370. It will automatically debar us from fighting elections since Indian constitution won’t be applicable to J & K anymore,”
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What does it mean?
Article 35A was added through the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, issued under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special autonomy to the state of J & K. The J & K Constitution (only state allowed to have its separate Constitution) was adopted on 17 November 1956. It defined a permanent resident as someone who was a state subject on 14 May 1954, or has been a resident of the state for 10 years, and has lawfully acquired immovable property in the state.