SRINAGAR: The normal life in Kashmir was affected by the strike called by separatists to protest “attempts” to abrogate Article 35-A, which grants special privileges to residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
The shops, business establishments, petrol pumps and educational institutions in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley remained closed while public transport was off the roads.
The functioning in government offices and banks was badly affected by the strike.
The authorities also imposed curfew-like restrictions in five police station areas of downtown Srinagar to maintain law and order and foil protests.
The police and paramilitary CRPF personnel had placed barricades and concertina wires in the downtown areas to prevent youth from taking to roads and staging demonstrations.
The train services between Banihal and Baramulla in Valley was suspended by authorities as a precautionary measure in view of shutdown called by the separatists.
The separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik had called for shutdown today to protest against “attempts” to abrogate Article 35-A of the constitution, which confers special rights and privileges on permanent residents of J&K and debars non-residents from buying land or property, getting a government job or voting in State Assembly elections.
In 2014, an NGO had filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking the striking down of Article 35-A. The apex court had last month asked the Centre to file a reply within three weeks on the writ petition filed.
The traders under the banner of Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) staged a protest a city centre, here to protest against any attempt to abrogate Article 35-A.
“If Article 35-A is abrogated, Kashmir will witness 2016-like uprising again. Every Kashmiri will take to roads and there will be Valley-wide protests if the State or centre government tries to erode Article 35-A,” KEA acting chairman Farooq Ahmad Dar said.
The separatist leaders said today’s strike proves that people of J&K are against abrogation of special status of the State as “it (abrogation) is aimed to undermine the disputed nature of J&K and change the demographic character of the state”.
In a related development, senior National Conference leader from Jammu and brother of MoS PMO Dr Jitendra Singh, Devender Singh Rana told reporters in Jammu that Jammu division would be worst hit if Article 35-A was abrogated.
He said abrogation of Article 35-A would be economically detrimental to the people of Jammu in particular, as youth would be deprived of jobs and the local business community would suffer due to influx of big business houses and traders from outside the state.
Rana said any attempt to weaken Article 35-A would be detrimental, not only to particular region or community, but the people of all faiths, regions and sub-regions of Jammu and Kashmir.
Questioning the voices in favour of abrogating Article 35-A, he wondered why these are silent over unique status being enjoyed by Nagaland, Mizoram, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Goa etc as per various sub sections (A to G) of Article 371.
The ruling PDP, opposition parties including National Conference and Congress and Kashmir-based independent legislators, separatists, civil society groups, lawyers and traders are opposed to abrogation of Article 35-A and warned that it would have severe consequences.