Mehbooba meets PM, apprises him about sensitivities, sentiments on Art 35-A

Claims PM’s support on status quo for Article 370

12/08/2017



NEW DELHI, Aug 11: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given "100 per cent" assurance that he would back the PDP-BJP government's Agenda of Alliance, which says that the status of Article 370 can't be "fiddled with", Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said today.
However, she refused to give a direct reply on whether the prime minister had given an assurance on safeguarding the constitutional status quo for the state.
Mehbooba met the prime minister amid reports that she was seeking help against attempts to alter constitutional provisions that give Jammu and Kashmir its special status.
The very basis of the Agenda of Alliance in the state was that no one would try and alter Article 370, Mehbooba told reporters after the meeting.
"Our Agenda of Alliance was based on a foundation that the status of Article 370 can't be altered or fiddled with...
so none of us (PDP-BJP) can go against that," Mehbooba said in response to repeated questions on whether she had got an assurance from Modi on supporting the state government on Articles 35A and 370.
Pressed further on the issue, she said, "The prime minister has given 100 per cent assurance for the Agenda of Alliance."
She also said that Modi had given a "very positive" response to the issues raised in the meeting.
The Agenda of Alliance, between the PDP and the BJP, states, "... while recognising the different positions and appreciating the perceptions BJP and PDP have on the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir, considering the political and legislative realities, the present position will be maintained on all the constitutional provisions pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir including the special status in the constitution of India."
The meeting comes in the backdrop of the debate on Article 35A of the Constitution that grants special status to the state and is being challenged in the Supreme Court.
The chief minister said the law and order situation had worsened last year. "When the wounds of last year are getting healed, discussions on Article 35A leave a negative impact on the people.
"After all Jammu and Kashmir is an important part of this nation... When someone is trying to come out of troubled waters, we are pushing him back (by such debates on Article 35A)."
She said she had informed the prime minister that people feel their identity is at stake and the Centre should give a message on maintaining the state's special status.
"After all Jammu and Kashmir, despite being a Muslim majority state, rejected the two-nation theory and joined with India so that the identity of its people was protected," she said.
"I think their identity should always be protected."
The chief minister said she had told the prime minister about the difficult situation in Jammu and Kashmir and also that the situation was improving gradually.
"Jammu and Kashmir has the peculiar diversity where everything is different. It is a Muslim majority state. Hindus also live, Sikhs and Buddhists also live. Seeing that, there is a special position of Jammu and Kashmir... the idea of India has to accommodate the idea of Jammu and Kashmir," she said.
Mehbooba had met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh yesterday.
The state BJP, an alliance partner in the state government, had upped the ante with its spokesperson Virendra Gupta saying yesterday that the time had come to bid farewell to Articles 370 and 35A as they created a "separatist psyche".
Article 35A, which empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define the state's "permanent residents" and their special rights and privileges, was added to the Constitution by a presidential order in 1954.
Article 370 grants special autonomous status to the state.
The controversy erupted in 2014 after an NGO 'We the Citizens' filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking that Article 35A be struck down.
While the state government contested the petition, saying the president had the power to incorporate a new provision in the Constitution by way of an order, the Centre, recently, expressed its reservations.
Officials in the home ministry had said yesterday that its law officers would be presenting legal aspects related to Article 35A only and would refrain from joining the case.
The meeting assumed significance in view of the raging debate about Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution guaranteeing special position to the residents of Jammu & Kashmir.
The Chief Minister brought to the notice of the Prime Minister the sentiments of the people of the State attached to the special position and also the apprehensions the debate of any abrogation of the same has created in their hearts and minds. She informed the Prime Minister that such debates or demands have a very negative impact on the situational progress in the State which is steadily stabilizing after putting in lot of efforts by the State and Central Governments. "Such debates and demands only vitiate the atmosphere in the State and the country as a result of which people suffer immensely", the Chief Minister informed Mr Modi.
Terming Article 370 as the basis of constitutional relationship between the State and the Centre, Mehbooba Mufti informed Narendra Modi that the Muslim majority Jammu & Kashmir acceded to the union of India rejecting the two nation theory and consequently due constitutional guarantees were provided to J&K protecting its regional aspirations and character. "The need and urge for protecting and respecting this special status also got amply reflected during my recent interactions with leaders of several political parties in the State", she informed the Prime Minister.
Responding positively to the concerns and apprehensions raised by the Chief Minister, the Prime Minister assured the Chief Minister that 'Agenda of Alliance' agreed upon between PDP and BJP should form the basis of any discussion on the State. He also reaffirmed the successful implementation of AoA in the State during the tenure of present Government.
Pertinently, regarding the special status of J&K, the Agenda of Alliance between PDP and BJP clearly states;"While recognizing the different positions and appreciating the perceptions BJP and PDP have on the constitutional status of J&K considering the political and legislative realities, the present position will be maintained on all the constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K including the special status in the Constitution of India."
The Chief Minister had also met the union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh yesterday in this regard.

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