NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A legal restriction that bars non-residents from owning property in India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir is “constitutionally vulnerable” and discriminatory, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday.
Repeal of the measure adopted in 1954 to safeguard the special status of India’s only Muslim-majority state has support from many in the Hindu-dominated region of Jammu, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to hold an election rally.
“It is used as a political shield by many but it hurt the common citizen of the state the most,” Jaitley said in a Facebook post. “It denied them a booming economy, economic activity and jobs.”
The comments come ahead of general elections to be held in phases starting from April 11, at which Modi is seeking re-election. Campaigning is likely to be dominated by issues of national security, and Kashmir in particular.
India and arch-rival Pakistan, which both claim the Himalayan region in full but rule it in part, have said they carried out airstrikes on enemy territory and downed each other’s jets late last month.
The clash followed a suicide attack claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Political leaders in Kashmir, where Indian forces are battling an armed insurgency, have warned that any attempts to revise the constitutional provision, known as 35A, would trigger unrest.
Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Clarence Fernandez