J-K shutdown over Article 35A kicks in today, govt suspends Amarnath Yatra
The ongoing Amarnath Yatra from Jammu to the cave shrine in the Kashmir Valley is being temporarily suspended as Kashmir readies for a two-day separatist-called shutdown ahead of the Supreme Court hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the validity of Article 35 A of the Constitution.
The protest shutdown was called to support Article 35A that gives special powers to the state legislature.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) had given the call for a shutdown on Sunday and Monday across the state. The strike call is being supported by organisations across the spectrum, which have threatened to launch a mass agitation if the article is removed by the court.
Authorities said the pilgrimage is being suspended on Sunday and Monday. According to the police, no pilgrim was allowed to move from the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in Jammu.
Further, special check posts have been set up in Udhampur and Ramban to ensure that the movement of pilgrims does not take place on the Jammu-Srinagar highway which passes through these two districts.
However, pilgrims camped at the Baltal and Pahalgam base camps in the Valley will continue to perform the yatra, officials said. Over 2.71 lakh pilgrims have performed the pilgrimage this year since it opened on June 28.
Article 35A of the Constitution gives special rights to Jammu and Kashmir’s permanent residents. It disallows people from outside the state from buying or owning immovable property there, settle permanently, or avail themselves of state-sponsored scholarship schemes. It also forbids the J&K government from hiring people who are non-permanent residents.
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.
The Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association has already filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court to defend the constitutional provision that allows the state legislature to define ‘permanent residents’ and confers special rights on them. The bar’s team is already in New Delhi.
For the past three days, protests have been organised by various groups in different parts of the Valley as people fear that efforts are being made to remove the Article. Posters and video clips issued by separatists and social organisations have been making the rounds on social media, explaining Article 35A’s importance and dangers if it is repealed.
(With agency inputs)