Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given “100 per cent” assurance that he would back the Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party 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 on Friday.
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 on Thursday.
The state BJP, an alliance partner in the state government, had upped the ante with its spokesperson Virendra Gupta saying on Thursday 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 on Thursday that its law officers would be presenting legal aspects related to Article 35A only and would refrain from joining the case.