The BJP on Monday reiterated its commitment to repeal Article 370, which given Jammu and Kashmir a special status, and Article 35A, 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 35A, which it said was “discriminatory” against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir.
“We believe that Article 35A 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.
The party has always advocated abrogation of Article 370 and has also been speaking against Article 35A, but its renewed pitch during elections assumes significance.
Both Houses of Parliament would need to support such moves and Shah had recently said his party may get a majority in the Rajya Sabha next year.
Kashmir-based parties are vehemently opposed to any attempt to scrap Article 370 and Article 35A. The Congress in its manifesto has promised to maintain the constitutional status quo on the matter.
The National Conference, its arch rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and new entrant People’s Conference led by Sajad Gani Lone have been talking about protection of Articles 35A and 370 in their rallies in the run-up to the polling which is scheduled to begin on April 11, latching on to Shah’s remarks that Article 35A will be repealed by 2020.
Their leaders have been saying that the Article 35A is a matter of faith and dignity for the people of the state through which the Constitution of India guarantees to safeguard the special identity and unique status of Jammu & Kashmir.
Some leaders have also said that all northeastern states and even Himachal Pradesh have laws prohibiting non-locals from purchasing land, but it was only J&K’s special status that was always talked about.
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 were forced to leave the valley in 1990s due to eruption of terrorism.
The BJP also said its government will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and Chhamb.
In its manifesto, the BJP also underscored its commitment to enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, on which it was forced to go slow following widespread opposition from North East states.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the bill is necessary for protection of individuals of religious minority communities from neighbouring countries escaping persecution.
Referring to protests in north eastern estates against the bill, he said his party, if voted back to power, will make all efforts to clarify the issues to those who have expressed apprehensions regarding the legislation.
“We reiterate our commitment to protect the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of North-East. Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs escaping persecution from India’s neighbouring countries will be given citizenship in India,” he said.
Many in the North East region believe that such a law will threaten their cultural identity as a large number of immigrants living there will be accorded citizenship.