Srinagar: National Conference leader Omar Abdullah Friday hit out at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for advocating repeal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, saying any such talk will raise questions on the accession of the state to India as well.
He told reporters that the BJP and its leadership would have to tread carefully on this issue and the terms and condition cannot be renegotiated.
“If you want to debate Article 370 and Article 35A, then I am sorry, there will be questions raised on the accession as well, because accession was on these very terms,” he told reporters.
Article 370 grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir while Article 35A empowers the state legislature to define the state’s “permanent residents” and their special rights and privileges.
Abdullah said Jaitley’s claim that poverty in Jammu and Kashmir is because of Article 35A is completely wrong. “He either forgets or has not been informed well enough that before the advent of militancy (in 1989) there was no such complaint here. If Jammu and Kashmir has suffered, it is due to militancy and not Article 35A. If you look at the period before 1990, the state was counted among the fastest growing ones of the country. There was no industry which was not found in the state then,” Abdullah said.
The former chief minister said he was surprised when people talked about removing the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. “How do they want to do it? This state became part of the country on the basis of this special status... Accession was on the basis of a negotiated settlement by virtue of which the state had all the powers, except those related to currency, communications, defence and foreign affairs,” he said.
“Nowhere has it been made time-bound, like it will last for 10 or 20 years. It is a straightforward thing -- as long as this state is part of India, it will be given the special status,” he added.
Abdullah said the special status and identity of Jammu and Kashmir was under severe threat. “This danger is not new but has increased over the past five years, especially since 2015 when BJP joined the state government,” he alleged.
He claimed that a blog by Jaitley over Jammu and Kashmir's special status on Thursday was evidence that the thinking of BJP and its leaders about the state is not right. “Whatever we say we cannot change the thought process of BJP and its leaders. However, we could have taken this debate forward, had they put forward truth and facts about the issue. Reality has been presented in a distorted way and a wrong impression was sought to be created that Jammu and Kashmir is lagging due to its special status,” he said.
The NC leader hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his handling of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and held it responsible for the slow growth in the state. “If Modi sahab had dealt with the situation of the state well and kept it in the same condition as the UPA had handed it over to him in 2014... we would have developed much more,” he said.
“How do you expect an investor to set up a hotel in the state when a sitting governor talks about boycotting Kashmir? I did not hear Jaitley saying that this is wrong. No BJP leader told the governor that talking about economic boycott of a part of the country is unconstitutional and illegal. That time they stayed silent and now they talk about law,” he added.
Abdullah said Jammu and Kashmir was not the only state in the country with special status. “There are other states as well which enjoy special status under the Constitution. But no one talks about those states, be it the northeast states, Himachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar or Lakshadweep. When an assault is launched, it is only on the special status of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
He said a wrong notion was being spread that articles 370 and 35A were benefitting only the Muslims of Kashmir.
“The fact is that special status of Jammu and Kashmir has benefits for not only the valley but it has also protected Jammu and Ladakh regions as well. The masses of Jammu and Ladakh when spoken to, devoid of politics, do not want Article 35A to be removed,” he added.