'Changing Art 35A will nullify JK's accession to Union'

Peoples Deomocratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti addresses a press conference in Srinagar on Monday. PTI photo

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday warned that any tampering with Jammu and Kashmir's special status would "undermine and nullify" the state's accession to the Union, saying the consequences of such a decision would be something the country had not witnessed since 1947.

The former chief minister expressed hope that the Supreme Court, which is likely to hear petitions on Article 35A this week, will consider that the provision is a bridge between the state and country.

She also asked the Centre "not to play with fire by tampering" with the Article 35A, saying if it is done "the consequences would be such that the people who bear the flag of India would perhaps not be able to do so".

"JK is a Muslim majority state which acceded to India under certain conditions and that condition is Article 370...Unfortunately, whenever there are elections, JK becomes a part of electioneering. Before the 2014 polls, Afzal Guru (Parliament attack convict) was sent to the gallows.

"Now, it is the test of the Supreme Court. We have very high regard for the SC and I hope that before taking a decision on Article 35A, the SC would think that Article 370 - whose part is Article 35A – is a bridge in our relation with the country and any unnecessary fiddling or tampering with it will undermine and nullify the very contract that legitimizes the JK accession to India," Mehbooba told reporters.

"It is my humble submission to the powers in our country, do not play with fire. Its consequences would be grave and something which you have not witnessed since 1947," she said.

The PDP president appealed to all political parties in the state to devise a joint strategy to save Jammu and Kashmir's special status and said she was in touch with National Conference leader Omar Abdullah over the issue.

"...we have to get united and sit together to chalk out a strategy to save Article 35A because if there is any tampering with it, then there will be no question of saving Article 35 A, but about saving J-K," she said.

She added, "If there is an attack (on Article 35A), then I do not know which flag, other than the tricolour, would the people of Kashmir bear in hand. And if they do so, then do not tell us that we had not warned you (Centre). Do not push the people of JK to the wall," she said.

Mehbooba said people of the state would have to resist any tampering with its special status and all parties, irrespective of their ideologies would have to come together to defend it.

"We will have to resist it ourselves. Irrespective of our ideologies, we all -– whether separatists or mainstream –- will have to resist it and even if we have to come out on roads, the PDP is ready for that," she said.

The former chief minister termed as "revenge and vengeance" the crackdown on Jammat-e-Islami leaders.

"Just four days after the attack (February 14 Pulwama attack), you start arresting people without any proof or reason. It means vengeance, revenge. The arrests are vindictive action just to show to the country, where many elements want that Kashmiris be taught a lesson," she said.

She said such crackdown and arrest of Jamaat and other leaders "suit the BJP's election process".

Referring to the withdrawal of security to the separatists and some mainstream political leaders, Mehbooba said it was "vindictiveness" by the BJP-led Centre.

"The security of only the separatists and PDP leaders has been withdrawn. If this is not vindictiveness, then what is it? They fear PDP might do something if something happens," she said.

Asked about the tension in the valley and the issuance of advisories by various departments, she said the government was creating chaos.

"This is creating chaos, tension and uncertainty because the way they are asking people to stock ration and medicines is an indicator to something else," she said.

On Omar Abdullah's poll pitch, the PDP president said her priority was not polls but safeguarding the identity of the state.

"I think our biggest priority right now should be saving our identity. Let them hold elections whenever they want, my priority and the priority of people of JK is not elections," she said.

Abdullah Monday said holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be a test of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's handling of Kashmir over the last five years.

"Will the Modi government bow before those forces of separatism & terror that have always sought to disrupt/delay polls in J&K or will polls take place on schedule? The moment of truth for PM Modi's handling of Kashmir over the last 5 years," Abdullah wrote on his Twitter handle.

The former chief minister was reacting to media reports that Election Commission of India will take a call on holding Assembly polls together with Lok Sabha polls after a visit to the state this week.

Abdullah said except for an odd by-election, all elections in Jammu and Kashmir since 1995-96 have been held as per schedule.

"Will PM Modi be able to keep to this schedule or will he accept he's totally mishandled J&K? The next few days will give us the answer," he added. 

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'Changing Art 35A will nullify JK's accession to Union'

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