SRINAGAR: THE dominant public discourse in Kashmir has shifted from a demand for ‘Azadi’ to the need for safeguarding the privileges granted by Article 35-A of the Indian constitution. The Article defines special privileges enjoyed by the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir in matters related to employment, acquisition of immovable property, settlements and scholarships.
The mainstream political parties, including the National Conference, Congress and Kashmir-based legislators and parties, lawyers, civil society groups and traders are now talking about safeguarding Article 35-A, terming it a matter of“life and death” for the state’s people.
The Supreme Court is hearing a petition filed by an NGO Jammu Kashmir Study Centre, which is seeking abrogation of Article 35-A. The next hearing of the case is on August 29.
Even members of the separatist camp, including hardliner Syed Ali Geelani and moderate Mirwaiz Umar Farooq are keen on safeguarding the Article
On the call of Geelani, Mirwaiz and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik, who spearheaded the five-month long unrest in the Valley last year after Burhan Wani’s killing, observed a shutdown on August 12 demanding the Article’s safeguarding.Not only the separatists, but the opposition National Conference (NC) is also very active on this front.
The NC leaders including former chief ministers, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah have addressed the party workers in Jammu and Srinagar and asserted that scrapping of Article 35-A would have serious consequences.
In fact, the party leaders have been warning the Centre that scrapping of the Article would be more disastrous for the Jammu region from where BJP won all its 25 Assembly seats in the 2014 Kashmir Assembly elections.
Terming it as “religious neutral, regional neutral and caste neutral,” NC’s provincial president Jammu Devender Singh Rana said its applicability is more relevant for Jammu region than for other regions like Kashmir and Ladakh.