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Our Supreme Court petition makes an incredibly strong case: Omar Abdullah on legal fight against nullification of Article 370

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Former chief minister Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference (NC) has vowed to fight the nullification of the Constitution’s Article 370 that stripped Jammu & Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status last year legally, politically and peacefully.

Constitution’s Article 35A, which empowered the state legislature to define permanent residents for government jobs and property ownership, was also removed last year when the state was split into two federally-run territories.

“Our petition [before the Supreme Court] makes an incredibly strong case on a simple point: a governor cannot assume the powers of an assembly, and an assembly cannot assume the powers of a constituent assembly. Because if an assembly can assume the power of a constituent assembly, tomorrow what stops a state in the North-east that has a simmering discontent from converting their assembly into a constituent assembly and then saying, ‘I have the constituent assembly’s powers as demonstrated by J&K [Jammu & Kashmir] and therefore I am redrawing our relationship with the rest of India’,” said NC leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah in a joint interview to HT with Farooq Abdullah.

Jammu & Kashmir’s special status allowed it to have a separate constitution and flag. A constituent assembly drafted the erstwhile state’s constitution in the 1950s.

Omar Abdullah argued there is a fundamental flaw in what New Delhi did on August 5, 2019, when the process for the constitutional changes to Jammu & Kashmir’s status began. “You can wish away the merit of our case politically, but not legally. The government’s case is all political and emotional. If J&K has suffered, it is not because of its special status but because of militancy. Either militancy is the product of Pakistan or it is the product of Article 370. How can it be both? When we talk to people on the Gupkar Declaration, we will make an emotional argument. Let us see where it takes us.”

The declaration of major regional parties last year pledged to fight against the constitutional changes together.

Omar Abdullah underlined they are a mainstream political party and will fight using legal means at their disposal. “…one is the power that the Constitution gives us to challenge the decisions in the court; and the second is forums available, including Parliament, media, social media, and public meetings.”

Omar Abdullah said NC’s three Parliament members will take the voices of region’s people to the highest platform of democracy. “We are not a party that has ever subscribed to violence as a means of achieving our ends. In fact, if anything, the NC has always been the victim of violence.”

Farooq Abdullah cited his government’s dismissal in 1984 when Jagmohan was sent as governor to remove him. “He [Jagmohan] told Indira Gandhi [the then prime minister] that Farooq Abdullah would put the state to fire. I said I do not want the blood of people on my hands. I believe that today also. I will fight for their rights even if it takes my life but I am not going to take their lives.”

The political environment in Jammu & Kashmir is in flux again a year after the nullification and bifurcation of the erstwhile state. Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah are at the heart of the churning following their release from detention.

Farooq Abdullah last week emerged as the pivot in the formation of a conglomerate of the Valley’s six parties that has posed the first challenge to the Centre by reaffirming commitment to the Gupkar Declaration.


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