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Don’t tinker with Article 35A, warn separatists and political parties in Kashmir

Top separatist leaders of Kashmir on Sunday called for strikes on August 5 and 6 in Jammu and Kashmir and warned of launching a “mass agitation of hitting and occupying streets” if any tinkering with 35A is allowed to take place under the garb of legality.

india Updated: Jul 30, 2018 16:36 IST
Ashiq Hussain
Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Article 35A,Kashmir,Separatists
Paramilitary troopers stand guard as pedestrians walk along a road during restrictions in Srinagar.(AFP File Photo)

Political parties and separatists have warned against ‘tinkering’ with Article 35A of the Constitution that guarantees special privileges to Jammu and Kashmir amid a rising sense of unease ahead of a hearing in the Supreme Court on August 6 on petitions challenging the validity of the law.

National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was quoted by a local news agency on Sunday as saying at a public function in Srinagar, “National Conference has rendered innumerable sacrifices to fight for the unity, integrity and dignity of Jammu and Kashmir and will continue to thwart all attempts to erode the state’s special status. We will fight against all ploys to assault Article 35A and won’t allow the powers that be fiddle with our political status and honour”.

Senior Congress leader Tariq Hameed Karra on Saturday warned of a massive agitation if Article 35A was fiddled with. “We will launch statewide agitation and will go for jail bharo,” he said.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday urged separatists and mainstream parties to join hands to defend Articles 35 A and 370. During the PDP-BJP rule, Mehbooba had promised to defend the Article 35 A in the apex court.

Top separatist leaders of Kashmir on Sunday called for strikes on August 5 and 6 in the state and warned of launching a “mass agitation of hitting and occupying streets”. Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) met at Geelani’s residence on Sunday and deliberated on the “serious challenge” posed to Article 35A in the Supreme Court.

“The attempt to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir and insidiously destroy its disputed nature has always been on the agenda of BJP/RSS and the challenge to 35A in the Indian Supreme Court is a serious part of that plan,” JRL said in a statement after the meet.

The leaders said that the plan meant “Kashmiris will become a minority in their own land” and “will be pushed to the margins”.

While Article 370 of the Constitution grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Article 35A disallows people from the rest of India from buying or owning immovable property in the state, settle permanently, or get state government jobs.

JRL said that they have been in touch with “all segments of society including the legal fraternity, traders, civil society members, academia and others and there is complete unanimity and cohesion among all with regard to resisting and fighting this serious assault together”.

A group of civil society members have also called for a state-wide shutdown on August 6 to protest “onslaught” on Article 35A and Article 370.

Four petitions – three clubbed with the main one filed by NGO We The Citizens – have challenged Article 35A’s legality on the grounds that it was never presented before Parliament and was implemented on the President’s orders in 1954. Under the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954, the provision appears as an “appendix” in the Constitution and not an amendment.

On May 5, the apex court posted the hearing for August 6 after the Centre told the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra to defer the hearing because that the central government’s interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma was in talks with elected representatives of the state, political parties, different organisations and residents of Jammu and Kashmir to resolve the matter. Last month, the Centre decided it won’t file any ‘counter-affidavit’ on Article 35A.

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 08:10 IST