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BJP’s manifesto brings all Kashmiri parties on same page

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Abrogation of Art 370, 35 A…

Srinagar, Apr 08: The BJP's manifesto promising abrogation of Article 370, that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Monday brought state political parties together, with the National Conference saying it will pave way for "freedom" from India and the PDP warning them to stop "playing with fire".

Arch-rivals National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) talked in almost identical terms after the BJP unveiled its manifesto in which the party promised abrogation of Article 370 and annulment of Article 35-A of the Constitution, that allows the state's legislature to define permanent residents.

NC patron Farooq Abdullah, who is the party's candidate from the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, said abrogating Article 370 will pave the way for "freedom" for people.

"They talk of abrogating Article 370. If you do that, the accession will also not stand. I swear by Allah, I think this is the wish of Almighty, we will get freedom from them," he said at an election rally here.

The Srinagar Lok Sabha seat goes to polls on April 18.

The former chief minister said there would not be anyone to hoist the national flag in Kashmir if Article 370 is abrogated. "Let them do it, we will see. I will see who is ready to hoist their flag here. So don't do such things that break our hearts. Try joining the hearts, not breaking them," he warned.

Attacking the BJP leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Abdullah said, "When you do an election rally do speak a few words of love for Jammu and Kashmir.

"Yes, we are a Muslim-majority state and there is no doubt about that. Try as much as you want but you can't change it. You think by removing Article 35-A, you will usurp our rights. Will we take this lying down? We will fight it," he added.

The NC president said the special residency laws were brought in by then Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, in 1927 as a safeguard for Dogras so that their numbers were not diluted by influx of population from other parts of India.

"Do you know what is Article 35-A? It gives you (people of state) the right to this place. Nobody from outside can buy land here or apply for jobs. This was kept by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927 so that the population of Dogras does not fall. It was not as much for us as much for them (Dogras). What do they want? Will they bring people from outside and settle them here to dilute our numbers?" he asked.

NC vice president Omar Abdullah used the BJP manifesto to hit out at Governor Satya Pal Malik.

"Recently J&K Governor claimed there was no threat to Art 370 & 35-A and that parties like mine were only using them to drum up fear in the elections. I hope his colleagues in the BJP send him a copy of their manifesto," he tweeted.

The PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, whose party was an ally of the BJP till June last year, was more vitriolic in her attack of the erstwhile alliance partner. She said the Indian Constitution will not be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir if Article 370 was abrogated as promised by the BJP in its election manifesto.

"The state is already on a heap of explosives and we saw a glimpse of it in Pulwama. If the BJP does not stop making such statements and give up such intentions, it will not only burn the state but the entire region.

"So my warning to the BJP is to stop playing with fire. There is explosive in Jammu and Kashmir. If you will light a spark, everything will go up in flames, there will be no Jammu and Kashmir or India left," she added.

Mufti said that if Article 370 is abrogated "you will free the state from country as well. I have said many times that Article 370 links the state with the country. When you break this bridge, India loses its legitimacy over the state. It becomes an occupational force."

Responding to reports that a PIL has been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking a ban on PDP and NC presidents contesting the Lok Sabha elections, Mufti said "Why waste time in court? Wait for the BJP to scrap Article 370. It will automatically debar us from fighting elections since Indian Constitution won't be applicable to the state anymore."

Mufti, who is contesting from the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, also quoted a famous couplet of Urdu poet Allama Iqbal which reads, "Na samjho gay tou mit jaouge aye Hindustan walo; Tumhari dastaan tak bhi na hogi dastaano main (O people of Hindustan, if you don't understand, you will perish, and your story will be erased from history)".

She said the BJP has failed on several fronts, be it unemployment, farmer issues or price-rise. "Now they are looking for issues which they can use to garner votes," she added.

People's Conference led by Sajad Gani Lone, also warned of disaster, saying, "Article 370 and 35-A are sacred. The only space for movement in this regard is reversal of the erosions. Any other reckless thought or comment seeking removal is a disaster".

The IAS-turned-politician Shah Faesal said in a tweet that all residents of Kashmir "will switch the time of our watches 15 mins away from IST the moment something happens to Section 35A by BJP".

CPM leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami slammed the Modi government, saying its biggest achievement "has been to push Kashmir into cycles of violence. Any attempt to abrogate Articles 370 and 35-A will have unimaginable repercussions."

He claimed that the BJP's threat of abrogation of the provisions was a way of hiding from real issues and hoodwinking people.

Tarigami said an examination of the BJP's 2014 manifesto reveals that all the promises, including providing two crore jobs per year, doubling the income of farmers and other promises, have proved a "hoax".

"The promise of abrogation of Article 370 and annulling Article 35-A in its election manifesto is another exercise by the BJP to hoodwink the voters ahead of the general election," Tarigami said.

The communist leader said the only achievement of the BJP in the past five years has been "dividing society through hate campaigns".

"The BJP has failed to deliver on all the promises and is now trying to rake up those issues which are divisive aimed at polarising the society further," the CPI(M) leader said.

He alleged that the BJP has pushed Kashmir into the lap of the cycles of violence.

"It has resulting in huge number of deaths of civilians and security forces personnel. The situation in Kashmir has reached to a point that authorities had to ban the movement of civilian traffic on national highway for two days a week. Such a mindless order can only have serious repercussions," he added.

Tarigami said Article 370 was in the basic structure of the Indian Constitution providing a constitutional basis for the relationship of J&K with the Union.

"The CPI(M) has filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court against the removal of Article 370 and Article 35-A as it is the lifeline of state's relation with the Union.

"Erosion of Article 370 has already weakened the relation of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India. Any attempt to abrogate it will be disastrous and will have unimaginable repercussions," he said.

The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the Congress also hit out at the BJP over the issue, saying the special status granted to the state under the Constitution was "permanent and irrevocable" and cannot be diluted.

Jammu and Kashmir Congress Committee president G A Mir said the BJP is "misleading" people over the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A and other sensitive issues for electoral gains.

"Special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir is permanent and irrevocable. It cannot be diluted," he said at an election rally in south Kashmir.

Mir reiterated Congress' commitment to safeguard the special status granted to the state.

"The matter of the fact is that the BJP will lose upcoming Lok Sabha elections miserably and it is desperate to woo the voters by exploiting them on sensitive issues," he said and termed the BJP manifesto a "bundle of lies".

Earlier, BJP on Monday reiterated its commitment to repeal Article 370, which gives Jammu and Kashmir a special status, and Article 35-A, which allows the state's legislature to define permanent residents, and pledged in its manifesto to work towards ensuring return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley.

Stating that the party is committed to overcome all obstacles that come in the way of the state's development and to provide adequate financial resources to all its regions, the BJP said in its manifesto that its position since the erstwhile Jan Sangh days has been for abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

The saffron party also said it is committed to annulling Article 35-A, which it said was "discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir”.

"We believe that Article 35-A is an obstacle in the development of the state," the BJP said in its manifesto titled 'Sankalp Patra', released here by top party leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party president Amit Shah.

In its manifesto, the BJP also said it will take all steps to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for all residents of the state and make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits, who left the Valley in 1990s after the eruption of militancy.

The BJP also said its government will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan-administered-Kashmir and Chhamb.

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