Srinagar: After days of speculation over the possible abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 35A of the Constitution, Governor Satya Pal Malik as well as the state BJP moved to set the record straight Tuesday.
The issue had become a major talking point after several government orders leaked on social media, including the Centre’s directive to deploy additional forces in the state.
Malik said people of the state should not pay heed to “rumours”.
“The orders circulated are invalid. Don’t pay attention to rumours. Everything is normal. Simple incidents are projected as something big here,” he said.
The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the BJP, meanwhile, gave the sense that all this was in preparation for state elections, which Valley-based political parties have been demanding ever since the governor dissolved the assembly on 22 November last year.
Elections the priority
BJP leaders ThePrint spoke to gave credence to the theory that the government exercise, including the deployment of forces, collecting data on mosques and so on, had to do with elections and not Article 35A.
There were also indications that the BJP had mellowed its demand to abrogate Articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution, which provide special status to J&K.
“Nothing can be done on it (Article 35A) right now,” said J&K BJP general secretary Ashok Kaul, who was in New Delhi Tuesday to attend a party core group meeting chaired by Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and Udhampur MP Jitendra Singh.
“Our core group meet was also focused on holding elections in the state. We haven’t discussed Article 35A with the leadership,” he said.
Kaul said another core group meeting will be held soon, but did not say whether J&K’s special status will be discussed.
While both Kaul and state BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur said the recent troop deployment and other exercises conducted by the Centre were routine, official sources said the state unit had asked the central leadership to prioritise state elections.
Also read: With special status hollowed out, J&K considers Article 35A last vestige of real autonomy
No talking on 35A, matter is in court
Thakur said the BJP wasn’t changing its stance on Article 35A.
“Our stand is the same on Article 35A and 370 — that they should be removed — but right now our concern is holding peaceful elections in the state. The Centre knows how the security situation here is, and any decision taken by the Centre will be based on doing good by the state,” he said.
“The BJP doesn’t have anything to do with Article 35A. The matter is in court. It is unfortunate that senior state leaders like Mehbooba Mufti are scaring people into believing that 35A will be abrogated. National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party have no other issue to talk about,” said Thakur.
Kaul added: “We have neither asked for its (35A) removal, nor recommended that it should be kept as it is. That is not the issue here. The matter is in court.”
South Kashmir BJP leader Sofi Yousuf concurred with the others. “We should not talk about Article 35A. The matter is in court and we as a party will respect the court’s decision, as should everyone else,” he said.
Yousuf added that elections should be held soon, and that the BJP was ready. “The ideal time for the polls is October-November,” he said.
Meanwhile, J&K police sources said senior officers have told the state administration that there could be an “adverse fallout” if Article 35A is abrogated, given the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
A source said that though the state government did not officially seek an opinion on the subject, discussions were prompted after the documents leaked.
“The police have to routinely update the administration about the prevalent security situation,” a senior state government official told ThePrint.
“Senior officers have conveyed to the administration that there has been a lot talk about a possible law and order problem, generated due to speculation over a major policy decision of the Centre.”
Also read: Kashmiris more agitated over fate of Article 35A than talk of India-Pakistan war