In a first sign of revolt in rightwing Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) over it favouring scrapping Article 35-A, the BJP MLA from R S Pura, Gagan Bhagat opposed abrogation of the State residency law and warned that if the law was scrapped, Jammuites would take up guns and pelt stones.
Speaking during a public meeting in R S Pura, Bhagat said, “Kashmiris are united on Article 35A and oppose its abrogation. Everyone in Kashmir is opposing scrapping of Article 35A, which grants special privileges to residents of the State”.
He told people that President of India in 1954 had given special rights under Article 35A to Jammu and Kashmir like Maharaja Hari Singh had given them by.
The BJP MLA said Article 35A bars non-state subjects from employment, purchase of property and land in the State. “If a girl from state marries outside, her husband cannot claim property in J&K”.
He said Maharaja had given special residency rights to people of Jammu and Kashmir because he knew Jammuities are simple and innocent people. “We (Dogras) cannot even compete with Bihari people”.
Taking a different line from party, Bhagat favoured continuation of Article 35A in the State.
“Sometimes, we have to speak differently from party with which we are affiliated. The BJP wants to revoke the law because they would prefer 300 parliamentary seats from across the country. Even if Jammuities don’t vote for them, it won’t affect the party,” he said.
He said if Article 35A was scrapped, people in Jammu would be worst hit.
“In case, this law is scrapped, Jammu people will not get employment. Leave aside government jobs, you will not be able to get private jobs. You will not get land because land prices will increase manifold and the price will be out of reach of Jammu people,” the BJP MLA said.
He said the non-state subjects, who are working under Jammuites, would become their bosses if special rights are revoked.
Bhagat said since Kashmir is witnessing militancy, people from outside would prefer to purchase land and property in Jammu. “In that case, Jammu will be badly affected in absence of special status. The non-state subjects will settle here and become the owner of the land. Dogras will lose their identity”.
The BJP MLA said when Jammu people would lose jobs and business due to scrapping of Article 35A, people would pick up guns and pet stones. “You will see stone pelting in Jammu region also”.
He said he would campaign across Jammu division to spread awareness among people about Article 35A and Article 370 and their benefits to the people of Jammu specially.
Taking a dig t BJP, Bhagat said the rightwing party does not have guts to revoke Article 35 A or Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir.
“Why they have not revoked it in last five years when they are in rule in Delhi? Presently, there is Governor rule in Jammu and Kashmir. And it means Government of India has direct control over the State then why they have not revoked it,” he said.
The BJP MLA praised Kashmiris for opposing abrogation of Article 35A.
“Kashmiri people are fighting for their rights. They are also fighting war of Jammu people,” he said.
Bhagat said youth in Kashmir did not take gun in a day.
“If a youth don’t have job, cannot do any work or he has to repeatedly report before the police or sometimes army picks up them, at the end he has only one option i.e. to pick up arms. This was the reason why youth picked up guns in Kashmir.”
Later talking to a TV channel, BJP MLA said earlier they were not opposing the policies against special status because it was a mere political slogan.
“Now when serious challenge is being posed to special status by using Supreme Court, time has come for people to stand-up and tell the truth about Article 35A,” he said.
“I think Dogras will be wiped out if Article 35A is abrogated,” he said.
Describing Articles 370 and 35A as “shields”, Bhagat said the people in Kashmir were aware of the “pros and cons” of the provision and were “fighting our battle as well”. “However, people in Jammu don’t know about its ill effects. Time has come to debate among the people on the issue.”
When asked if BJP takes action against him, he said, “Even if I am thrown out of party, I will continue to fight for rights of Dogras. I am talking about rights of Dogras.”
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 35A, which permits only the subjects of Jammu and Kashmir to buy property in the state.
On August 6, the 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.