Lone, who was a minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government, advised the Centre to not fiddle with the special Constitutional provisions of the state

WITH A clutch of pleas on Article 35A likely to be heard by the Supreme Court later this week, BJP ally and Peoples’ Conference chief Sajad Lone said that any tampering with the special Constitutional character of Jammu and Kashmir would mean “the death of mainstream thought” in the state.

Lone also described the attacks on Kashmiris outside the Valley, following the Pulwama attack, as the “seven darkest days”. He also said that the arrest of the top leadership of Jamat-e-Islami would only help the separatists and provide them with “another set of leadership” for the next three decades.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Lone said: “You have to understand that these are Articles of trust, Articles of dignity. This is how India as a country is perceived here — will it or will it not stand by its promises? It would be the unluckiest day because that would be the death of mainstream thought here. If they (Centre) want to slaughter the mainstream thought, they are most welcome but that is what they will be doing by tinkering with Article 35A.”

Lone, who was a minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government, advised the Centre to not fiddle with the special Constitutional provisions of the state.

”The best thing they (Centre) can do is to keep away. The only earnest thing would be please don’t fiddle with the Constitutional character, don’t even think of doing any changes,” he said. “There is not even an elected government. The Governor’s rule is only for the day-to-day things, an interim arrangement. If you make bigger changes in Governor’s rule, it is not only making a mockery of the promises that the country has made in the last seven decades but also institutional mockery.”

Instead, he said, the Centre should find ways to take remedial measures. “(They should take) structural measures. It would be looking at the changes made to the Constitution in the last 70 years, find the (Constitutional) erosion that have been made. Is there some way to remedy those changes rather than taking them further away?” he said.

Asked about the crackdown on Jamat-e-Islami and Hurriyat, Lone said it has “failed” in the past and would only help the separatists.

”I am of the opinion that it has not worked in the past, it will not work now. It is a tried, tested and failed model. It will never work,” he said. “We have done it in 1990. That was the V P Singh government and Mufti (Mohammad Sayeed) sahib was the Home Minister. The first time they took all the leaders to jails across India was in 1989 or 90. Did it help?”

Describing jails as “training colleges”, Lone said the crackdown would give rise to a new generation of separatist leadership in the Valley. “The first, second, third and fourth line of separatist leadership evolved from those, who were jailed,” he said. “Now they are aged. Now they are taking a big bunch. Now for the next 30 years they will provide another set of leadership. These (jails) are training colleges. You can’t expect them (separatists) to be corrected there”.

Lone, the former separatist who joined the mainstream, said the arrests of Jamat leaders and activists would also result in more violence in Kashmir. “As long as they are within the political spectrum, they are agitating politically… because you see political dissent in J&K is a sacred relic. The other mode of dissent is violence,” he said. “We may not like both forms of dissent — violent or political — but political dissent is still welcome. So if you are going to throw them in jails, it will invariably feed violent dissent.”

Lone termed the attacks on the Kashmiris in different parts of the country as the “darkest seven days”.

”We will have to bear with it for the next 30 years. What has happened today, there will be no reaction now. The real reaction would manifest in terms of alienation, in terms of anger in the coming decades,” he said. “These were the darkest seven days when somebody was attacked because he was a Kashmiri. This has happened for the first time. Now, the welcome thing is that at least the Prime Minister has spoken about it in detail. That is the only silver lining.”

On the panic in the Valley following the arrest of the Jamat leadership and the deployment of additional troops, Lone said the government should “come clear”.

”There is a lot of panic. You don’t have to see these are Kashmiris living here. You have to see that there are children living here, there are wives, old and needy patients, students. How do you put them in a state of ambiguity, in a state of scare,” said Lone. “Whatever clarification has come, it is not enough. But it is good that they have appointed a spokesman who will speak on behalf of the government.”

He also questioned the decisions taken by the J&K administration regarding the Constitutional position of the state.

”I will strictly say that the Governor doesn’t have any mandate to make Constitutional changes. In a democracy, the role of Governor in Governor’s rule is to look at the basic things, not go into deep structural changes,” Lone said. “You can’t change things when people are not represented.”