Will boycott local polls unless assured protection for Article 35A: National Conference

Days after National Conference appealed the people to vote in the upcoming municipal and Panchayat elections, the party Wednesday said it will not participate the elections unless the government of India and the state government assure protection for Article 35A.
President of NC, Farooq Abdullah announced the decision after chairing a meeting of the core group, the party’s highest decision making body in which challenges to article 35A were also discussed.

“The core group unanimously decided that National Conference will not participate in these (Panchayat and ULB) elections unless and until government of India and state government clear their position in this regard and take effective steps for protection of Article 35A in and outside the courts,” Abdullah told reporters at the party headquarter here.
A case based on a bunch of petitions in the Supreme Court of India challenging the special constitutional provision has caused extreme anxiety across J&K.
Last week the SC deferred hearing the case to January 2019, citing the polls scheduled in October and November, and political disturbances in Kashmir.

On Sunday, Abdullah had urged people to participate in the polls, saying boycotting the elections wouldn’t help anybody, denouncing militants and separatist leadership for asking people to boycott the exercise.
In an apparent U-turn on Wednesday, Abdullah however said the NC core group felt the decision to go for polls was taken in a hurried manner and without taking into consideration prevailing situation created by “powers that be by unnecessarily fiddling” with Article 35A that secures exclusive citizen rights for permanent residents of J&K.
On August 31, the state administration council headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik approved conduct of 4-phased municipal polls from October 1 to October 15 and 8-phased Panchayat elections from November 8 to December 4.
Both Panchayat and ULB polls have been postponed on several occasions in the past, owing to “unfavorable” situation in the Valley, particularly in south Kashmir which has been on the boil since killing of top Hizb commander Burhan Wani in July 2016.
Panchayat polls are overdue since July 2016 and the ULB elections haven’t been held since 2010.
Abdullah, who represents Srinagar in the Parliament, said the core group had a detailed discussion about prevailing situation in the state.
“It was felt that any tinkering with Art 35 A would prove disastrous not only for our state but for the entire country,” Abdullah said, reading from a party statement, and questioned role of the state and union governments on Article 35A in the Supreme Court.
It was “clearly against wishes and aspirations of the state’s people”, the NC president said.
Article 35A empowers J&K legislature to define permanent residents of the state.
If the provision is done away with, citizens of J&K will lose all exclusive rights under the state subject law like right to property, right to employment and right to settlement.
Abdullah said his party resolved to fight tooth and nail all “sinister attempts” aimed at interfering in any manner with constitutional guarantees to J&K.

“Such attempts if allowed shall strike at the very basis of relationship between state and union government,” Abdullah said.

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