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BJP MLA defends Article 35-A

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Jammu, Aug 11: Voicing his dissent over the BJP’s stand on Article 35-A, a party legislator in Jammu today warned that scrapping the constitutional provision with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha election could lead to serious consequences.

Gagan Bhagat, a member of Legislative Assembly from R S Pura constituency, said he had launched a campaign to mobilize public support to safeguard Articles 370 and 35-A, which give special rights and privileges to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

While saying that the people of Kashmir were “fighting our battle”, the BJP leader warned that the people of Jammu will take to arms if Article 35-A is revoked.

He also said “BJP government at the Centre was raking up the issue with an eye on Lok Sabha polls.”

His remarks found mention on former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s Twitter handle today, where she said it was “heartening” that BJP leaders were coming out in support of Article 35-A.

“Today I feel relieved that regardless of political views or affiliations, we are all on the same page as far as protecting the special status of J-K is concerned,” Mufti wrote.

Last month, Bhagat found himself in trouble after the BJP state disciplinary committee recommended his suspension from the party for three months. It also proposed to restrain him from holding official position in the party for one year.

The disciplinary action against Bhagat was taken after an ex-serviceman alleged that the BJP leader had abducted his daughter – a charge the legislator and the woman have denied.

However, Bhagat’s estranged wife Monika Sharma publicly accused him of having an extra-marital affair with the woman.

Describing Articles 370 and 35-A as “shields”, Bhagat said the people in Kashmir Valley were aware of the “pros and cons” of the provision and were “fighting our battle as well”.

“If Article 35-A is tinkered with, the day will not be far when the youth of Jammu will also pick up guns and stones. The BJP is selling dreams and wants to sacrifice the interests of Jammu to achieve its goal of 300 plus (seats) in the upcoming parliamentary elections,” the disgruntled BJP leader said.

A debate over continuing the constitutional provisions has picked up in recent months, after several pleas were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of Article 35-A, which permits only the state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir to own or buy property in the state.

On August 06, the Supreme Court said a three-judge bench would decide whether the pleas should be referred to a five-judge Constitution bench for examining the larger issue of alleged violation of the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution.

The BJP legislator said the Dogras will face the brunt if Article 35-A goes.

Addressing a public meeting, the video of which has gone viral on social media, Bhagat said people of Jammu would be the worst suffers if the Article 35-A was revoked.

“If the Article 35-A is revoked, people of Kashmir won’t suffer as much as Jammuites.  There will be no jobs in Jammu. All the people sitting here will be left jobless. Land prices will skyrocket dramatically and you wouldn’t be able to buy land anymore because people living in Gujarat, Haryana are very rich,” he said.

“We will lose everything – our identity, jobs, business and our land to outsiders. We will be left with no option but to either pick up the gun or stones for our rights.”

He claimed that if Article 35-A is “removed, the BJP will vanish from the state”.

“They are not concerned about the people or eyeing the two parliament seats of Jammu and Kashmir… They want to sacrifice the interests of Jammu to achieve their goal of 300 plus in the next year’s parliamentary elections,” he claimed.

He accused the BJP leadership of using proxies to revoke Article 370 and Article 35-A through the Supreme Court.

“BJP is not the well-wisher of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They are anti-people and anti-scheduled caste. They are playing politics over the vital issues concerning the state,” he said.

The BJP leader said the Kashmiri youth did not pick up the gun in one day. “People in Kashmir didn’t take up gun in one day. If one doesn’t have a job or he can’t own a shop, if one is summoned regularly to police stations, picked up by army, then what option does he have?,” he asked, before quickly adding: “The only option left for him is to pick up arms. This is the cause of militancy in Kashmir”.

“When there are no jobs and if people can’t do their business, then people in Jammu will also pelt stones and pick up gun,” he said.

He also refuted the allegations that Kashmiris got “more jobs” because of bias in the administration.

“Earlier I also had the same thinking (of discrimination with Jammu). But not anymore. People in Kashmir were getting more jobs because of their qualification. Kashmiri people are ahead of us in terms of hard work, jobs, studies,” he said.

“If terrorism spreads to Jammu,” he said, “the BJP would be responsible”.

Referring to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s campaign against people from outside the state, he said a similar situation could develop in Jammu and Kashmir.

“If we will not raise our voice today, there will be a Dogra Andoloan like Navnirman Sena’s (in Maharashtra) in near future,” Bhagat said.

He also dismissed suggestions that he was planning to leave the BJP.

“Why should I leave the party? I am speaking the truth and if they have any problem, let them take action against me. I will not compromise with the rights of people.”