Scrapping of Article 35A: A Pandit, Buddhist and Sikh from J&K on what it means to them

The Supreme Court is finally hearing the petition challenging Article 35(A) - which guarantees special rights to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir - from February 26-28. 

Published: 26th February 2019 01:36 PM  |   Last Updated: 05th August 2019 11:24 AM   |  A+A-

jammu and kashmir

Security personnel stands guard during restrictions and strike called by separatists after the killing of PhD scholar-turned-Hizbul Mujahideen commander Manaan Bashir Wani. (Photo| PTI)

Online Desk

On Monday, the entire Kashmir wore a deserted look, as if the streets were mourning, something the people living in the Valley are accustomed to.

The Valley has been volatile since a suicide bomber rammed his car into a CRPF convoy, killing 40 troopers, but ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on Article 35(A), there has been a new sense of unease on the heavily militarised streets.

Following a series of adjournments, the Supreme Court is finally hearing the petition challenging Article 35(A) - which guarantees special rights to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir - from February 26-28. 

While state political leaders such as Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Sajjad Lone warned the Centre of violent consequences if the law is abrogated, BJP leaders have been keen to revoke it. 

BJP leaders have often criticised the law, calling it one of the causes for the deepening political gap between Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country.

"Nobody knew that 35 (A) existed prior to 2015. The majority of people in the state feel that the Centre shouldn't touch this article. And if it's revoked, the people of Jammu will face more issues than Kashmiris," says Jagmohan Singh Raina, All Party Sikh coordination Committee chief.

Many locals consider the article to be sacred, etched into their emotions, the only thing that binds 1.2 crore people of the state. "The government is playing with the sentiments of the people," adds Raina. 

If the article is abrogated, the fear of violent repercussions looms large among the people of another minority community in Kashmir. 

"Rumours are doing the rounds and people in the Valley are stocking up rations, fearing a shutdown for the next two-three months. I never felt insecure even in 1990 when I fought the militants, but today I am threatened by the possible repercussions that abrogating the article might bring," says Sanjay Tickoo, leader of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti.

Tickoo is one of the very few Kashmiri Pandits who, during the exodus of his community in 1990, fought and stayed back in his land. "The BJP wants to show that they were successful in abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution prior to the polls. If someone wants to live in the Valley, they will face problems. Not from the majority community but because of the difficult terrain. The govt of India has failed to calm the sentiments of Kashmiris, especially youth," Tickoo added. 

The article was inducted into the Indian Constitution through a President's order in 1954 and was never tabled in Parliament. However, the order was passed according to the powers given to the President under Article 370, which can't be amended. "In any event as the issue requires interpretations of various constitutional provisions, let there be no interim order," J&K government counsel Rakesh Dwivedi appealed before the bench.

In 2014, the NGO "We the citizens" moved the Supreme Court, challenging the Permanent Residents Law on the grounds that it was not added to the Constitution through an amendment. Later in 2018, two Kashmiri women challenged it on the grounds that the "flawed law" bars children of women married outside the state from inheriting land.

"It is a special right given to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and any action which has to be taken should be by the state assembly. The central government or Parliament shouldn't be given the power to decide for the state," said Stanzin Lhadon, a student from Leh.

For the two lakh Buddhists living in Leh, the article is not only about job security and land rights, but also about preserving their age-old culture. "We are a minority community which holds our culture close to our heart. The heritage has been preserved for so long only because of article 35-A. Revoking it will be a disaster," Lhadon added.

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