The opposition leaders on Monday urged the Centre not to act hastily on the Article 35A, which gives special privilege to the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, on her part, has warned of serious repercussions if the Article 35A is tampered with.
"I hope the adjudication about the Article 35A by the Supreme Court would be done very sensitively, carefully. In terms of politics, we should not be playing with something so sensitive," said former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Salam Khurshid here on Monday.
"The issue of Kashmir is very sensitive. Kashmir has defining dimensions. It defines India as a truly secular country. Therefore, anyone doing anything in haste or for narrow political advantage would be very unfortunate," said Khurshid.
In Srinagar, PDP chief Mehbooba asked the Centre not to play with fire and "fiddle" with the Article 35A. "Otherwise you will see what you have not seen since 1947," she said.
Addressing a press conference, Mufti said: "If the Article 35A is attacked, then I don't know which flag the people of Jammu and Kashmir will be forced to pick up instead of the tricolour."
Talking about an alleged crackdown on extremists in the Valley, she said: "Hurriyat and extremist leaders are being arrested overnight. The number must be in hundreds now."
"In the whole country, there are cries for war. Whenever there is a war between India and Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir's people have to bear the brunt," she said.
She also alleged that Jammu and Kashmir is always made a poll issue in the country. "In 2014, Afzal Guru was sent to the gallows in a similar way. The biggest concern at this time is about Article 35 A, which is in the Supreme Court now," she said.
"Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority state which acceded to India under certain conditions-the Article 370. Our identity must be maintained. Outsiders must not change demography," she said.
Former chief minister and National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah too said that Jammu and Kashmir might find itself in a situation that is worse than what Arunachal Pradesh is presently facing, if the Centre interferes with the Article 35A of the Constitution.
Abdullah said: "You keep threatening us with the Article 35A. Look at what is happening in Arunachal Pradesh now where there is no militancy. They have interfered with their Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) as we have. See what is now happening there. If you interfere with the Article 35A, the situation here might be worse than Arunachal Pradesh."
However, the Constitution expert Subhash Kashyap on Monday said in New Delhi that the President of India can remove the Article 35A if he wants. "Article 35A is not a core part of the Constitution,"
"The President gave Article 35A to Jammu and Kashmir under a special provision. If the President wants, then he can remove the Article 35A. However, you need the approval of Jammu and Kashmir government," said Kashyap.
"In the current situation, the Governor is the government of J-K and in a central Cabinet, there are representatives elected from J-K. Therefore, there is no legal obstruction if there is no government in JK. The Governor works like a government," added Kashyap.
In Hyderabad, Lok Sabha MP and AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi urged the Central government to deal with the Article 35A issue "rationally." "It is a very delicate issue. The Central government must act rationally," he said, while interacting with the reporters.
CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury too said that the Centre must publicly commit to retaining Article 35A of the Constitution. In a series of tweets, Yechury said: "The Central government must make a public commitment that Article 35A will be retained intact in the Constitution. Any attempt to tamper with Article 35A will fundamentally damage the special status accorded to J & K under Article 370 of the Constitution."
A bunch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A is listed in the Supreme Court's cause list for hearing between February 26 and February 28. The state, however, had sought postponement of the case citing the absence of elected government there.
The Article 35A disallows the outside people but residing in Jammu and Kashmir from buying or owning immovable property in the state, settling permanently, or getting the state government jobs.
Jammu and Kashmir government's standing counsel in the Supreme Court, Shoeb Alam, moved an adjournment letter before the apex court on February 11, citing the absence of elected government in the state and hence the hearing in the matter should be adjourned.
CPI-M also issued a statement on Monday, stating that "the people of Kashmir Valley and all shades of political opinion there are highly perturbed by the reports of the efforts to do away with the Article 35A of the Constitution.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)