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PM Modi, Omar Spar Over Separate J&K PM: What Does History Say?

Omar Abdullah’s remarks on a separate J&K PM drew a sharp reaction from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Published
India
3 min read
Omar Abdullah’s remarks on a separate J&K PM drew a sharp reaction from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
i

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah's remarks – saying that Jammu and Kashmir could again have a separate prime minister and President – drew a sharp reaction from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Addressing an election rally in Hyderabad on Monday, 1 April, PM Modi said that National Conference had stated that there ‘should’ be a separate prime minister for Kashmir.

“Two prime ministers for Hindustan? Do you agree with it? Congress has to answer and all the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ partners have to answer. What are the reasons and how dare he say that,” he said.

“You want take the country back to 1953?” Modi added, as per PTI. “Till Modi is there, you will not succeed in your conspiracies. Modi is standing as a wall between the country's enemies and people of the country.”

But Modi’s response seemed to twist Abdullah’s comment by stripping it of its context.

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What Exactly Did Abdullah Say?

Addressing a public meet at Bandipora in north Kashmir, Abdullah had said that Jammu and Kashmir's accession with the Union of India was accomplished in lieu of “various constitutional safeguards for the state”.

He said that if these are tampered with, the entire scheme of accession will be under question.

Abdullah was referring to the heated exchange between the ruling dispensation and the state parties over Article 35A and Article 370, that provide Jammu and Kashmir with certain special privileges.

Recently, BJP President Amit Shah had declared that abolishing Article 370, 35A was one of the agendas of the party. He had also said that doing so could resolve the Kashmir conflict.

Abdullah, responding to the BJP’s stance, said that “after 70 years, certain forces that are inimical to the state's special status, are trying to backtrack from the conditions”.

This, he said, would initiate a debate on the fundamentals of accession.

"We won't allow any more assails on our special status. On the contrary, we will strive to get back what was infringed upon. We will work towards getting back the coveted posts of 'Sadr-e-Riyasat' and prime minister for our state," the NC vice-president said.

"Article 370 and Article 35A are the articles of faith for us," he added.

Can J&K Have a Separate PM?

Before an amendment was made to the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir on 30 May 1965, the head of the state was known as the prime minister or Wazir-e-Azam, as opposed to the chief minister.

Removing Article 35A, 370 would mean that the entire scheme of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession will once again be brought under question.

GENESIS OF ARTICLE 35A

Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad, on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet.

Article 35A empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state legislature to define who are the state’s “permanent residents”. It also lets the state legislature decide what special rights and privileges permanent residents will have.

The provision added by the Presidential order prohibits non-permanent residents from settling permanently in the state, buying or acquiring immovable property – meaning houses and land. It also prohibits non-permanent residents from getting government jobs, being eligible for scholarships or basically being eligible for any form of aid from the government.

The article was based on the 1952 Delhi Agreement, signed by the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the then prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah.

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ARTICLE 35A AND ARTICLE 370

Article 370 gives the state of Jammu and Kashmir autonomous status. Before it became a part of India, J&K was a princely state that operated under British suzerainty.

This meant that the ruler controlled the state except for aspects of defence, foreign affairs and communication, which the British would control.

When J&K acceded to India, it only did so under the condition that this arrangement will continue. This was why Article 370 came into effect in 1949.

Thus, making any changes to or removing Article 35A and 370 would null-and-void the constitutional amendments made post 1954. Hence restoring the post of prime minister of the state.

(With inputs from PTI)

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