The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a plea which challenges Article 35 A and Section 6 of the Jammu and Kashmir constitution dealing with the special rights.
The fragility of the BJP-PDP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir has once again come to the fore as Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s remarks on Article 35 A drew condemnation from the BJP.
Ms. Mufti's remarks came even as the Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea which challenges Article 35 A, as well as Section 6 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. The provisions deal with the special rights that citizens of the State enjoy.
The Chief Minister, while speaking at a two-day conference in New Delhi earlier last week, had dramatically declared that ““If Article 35-A is tinkered with, no one in the State will hold the national flag in Kashmir.” BJP leaders were quick to express “shock and surprise” at her comments. Union Minister Jitendra Singh said the tricolour is "sacrosanct" and termed CM Mufti’s remarks as "shocking and ridiculous".
The article at the centre of the debate empowers the State of Jammu and Kashmir to define the State's 'permanent residents'. The special provision also bars non-State subjects of the State from settling or buying property in the State. According to the petitioner, Section 6 also bars a female State-subject, married to a non-State subject, from making claims over property or buying property in the State. It also bars the children of a female State-subject married outside the State from being “permanent residents”.
The aggressive statement of the Chief Minister is in the backdrop of the PDP being charged with surrendering the fiscal autonomy of the State after the implementation of the Goods and Services Act.
The PDP-BJP alliance itself has had a rocky journey due to the partners' differing philosophies on the special status of the State. The PDP, while calling repeatedly for the resolution of the dispute in Kashmir, has been clear that it can happen only by safeguarding the special status. The BJP, however, maintains the final settlement of the dispute can only be achieved with the complete 'integration' of the State by repealing the special status and the settling of non-State subjects in the valley. Incidentally, the BJP's election manifesto in the 2015 election promised land at cheap prices for sainik colonies in major towns where retired soldiers would settle, presumably, part of the 'integration' the BJP desires.
While the debate over Kashmir's special status is an old one, the threat this time seems heightened with the BJP government in power at the Centre and the party having a vital role to play in the continuation of the government in the State.