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Unrest in Valley ahead of Article 35A hearing in Supreme Court

The petitions challenge Article 35 A of the Constitution, which empowers the Jammu and Kashmir’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2019 09:58 IST
Ashiq Hussain
Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Valley,Article 35A,Supreme Court
Amidst fears of war between India and Pakistan, following the Pulwama attack, people in the Kashmir valley also fear that Article 35 A may be abrogated.(HT FILE)

The mood in the Kashmir valley was one of dread ahead of the Supreme Court’s hearing of challenges to Article 35 A, which gives special rights to the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

The petitions challenge Article 35 A of the Constitution, which empowers the Jammu and Kashmir’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them.

The state’s mainstream regional parties and separatist organisations all believe , despite their other differences, that the Article should stay. “Everybody is anxious. We are a Muslim majority state and if the law goes, our demography will change,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, 30, a government employee in Srinagar.

“That is why if the law is revoked people will come out on roads. It will be a do or die situation” he added, riffing off graffiti drawn all over the valley.

Amidst fears of war between India and Pakistan, following a terror attack on a CRPF convoy by a local terrorist owing allegiance to the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, people in the valley also fear that Article 35 A may be abrogated.

On Friday, the home ministry allotted around 100 companies of central forces to the state to maintain law and order and the local administration took a number of decisions over stocking of essentials. The same day, there were mass arrests of separatists, and lots of flight movements.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah articulated the sense of dread of the average Kashmiri.

“Our government issued strange orders; one after another order about oil pumps, ration stores and then stocking medicines… What was the preparation for? If something was left unsaid that was filled by police order saying that all policemen should be ready for the situation,” he said, addressing the media at party headquarters in Srinagar. A big hotel has reportedly been acquired as HQ of security forces, he added.

Abdullah said the situation would turn worse than it is in Arunachal Pradesh, if the central government tinkers with Article 35 A in J&K.

The North Eastern state is in the grip of violence after a committee recommended the grant of permanent residency certificates (PRC) to six communities that are not part of the Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribes list.

Another former chief minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti said any attempt to change Article 370, which gives a degree of autonomy to the state, and Article 35 A will “undermine and nullify the very contract that legitimizes J&K’s accession with India”.

Rohit Kansal, the official spokesman of the government, had assured people that the state government’s position in the Supreme Court — seeking adjournment till an elected government is in place — stands.

First Published: Feb 26, 2019 06:16 IST