Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir-based political parties have warned the Centre to not tinker with the state’s special status, preserved in the Article 35A and Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

“We had made an effort to tell the people of this country and government what the consequences could be if they toy with Articles 35A and 370. We made an appeal too, but no assurance has been given yet from the Centre. They are not bothered to say that everything will be alright,” PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti had said.

So, what is Article 35A?

The Article 35A bars people from outside the state to settle permanently in the region. People from outside Jammu and Kashmir are also not allowed to buy land in the state. Apart from this, government aid, jobs and other benefits are available only to permanent residents of the state.

Who Are Permanent Residents?

Maharaja Hari Singh, the last ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, through a promulgation, had fixed a definition of a permanent resident. All those who were born within the geographical boundary of the state before 1911 were defined as permanent residents of Kashmir. Also, those who acquired land 10 years prior to 1911 were also considered as permanent citizens of the state.

Why The Controversy?

The Article relates to special rights and privileges of the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 35A, added to the Indian Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954, also empowers the state’s legislature to frame laws without attracting a challenge on grounds of violating the Right to Equality of people from other states or any other right under the Constitution.

Petitions filed before the Supreme Court claim that the Article was added ‘illegally’ to the Constitution and that it was never tabled in Parliament. A petition filed by lawyer Charu Wali Khanna claims that Article 35A discriminates women.

According to the contentious Article, if a Kashmiri woman marries someone from outside the state, the privileges being provided to her will end. Not only this, her children would also be barred from getting any government scholarship or other aid.

What is Article 370?

Article 370 grants autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir and limits the Parliament’s power to make laws concerning the state.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, during his campaigns for the Lok Sabha elections, had promised that the BJP would scrap Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir if it came back to power. The BJP also in its manifesto to 2019 Lok Sabha elections had promised to abrogate Article 370.

If Article 370 is abolished, Parliament would have the power under the Constitution to re-draw the boundary of J&K.

Speculation is rife that recent developments in the valley, including curtailment of Amarnath Yatra and the security build-up, are steps to fulfil the Centre’s promised agenda. Further, the house arrest of former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Omar Abdullah only worsens the fear.