SRI NAGAR: Kashmiris are waiting with bated breath for August 6, when the Supreme Court will start hearing petitions challenging the validity of Article 35-A, which grants special privileges to the residents of the state.
It’s an issue which had united Kashmiris of all hues: The separatists, mainstream politicians, religious leaders, traders, civil society members, transporters, and shikarawalas have all vowed to protect the State subject law. Even Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs have joined these protests.
“Any attempts to abrogate Article 35-A will lead to widespread protests and have disastrous consequence,” said Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries chief Javid Ahmad Tenga. The mainstream parties National Conference, Congress and PDP, have also opposed any assault on Article 35-A. Although state unit of CPI(M), Kashmir lawyers’ body and senior Congress leader Tariq Hamid Karra have filed petitions in apex court in support of the law, there is general concern that the court may dilute the law as the Centre has not opposed the petitions filed against Article 35-A and the state is under Governor’s rule.
Daily protests in favour of Article 35-A are being held in Valley. Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have warned of massive agitation if Article 35-A is scrapped/ diluted. In order to build pressure, the separatist leaders have called for two-day shutdown in Kashmir on August 5 and 6. The strike call has received widespread support.
“We have asked our cadres and activists to be ready for all out mass agitation if any tinkering with Article 35-A was allowed,” said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Senior NC leader Nasir Aslam Wani said any abrogation and repeal of Article 35-A would re-open question of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India and invalidate the constitutional bridge that connects the state to rest of the country.
No one would be allowed to tinker with Article 370 and 35-A, agreed State Congress vice president Ghulam Nabi Monga. PDP chief and former CM Mehbooba Mufti is on record saying there would be no one in Kashmir to carry the Indian flag if Article 35-A was tinkered with.
Special rights to J&K residents
Article 35-A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by an order of then President Rajendra Prasad. It was specifically devised to grant protection to state subject laws that had already been defined under the Maharaja’s rule and notified in 1927 and 1932. It defines special privileges enjoyed by permanent residents of J&K in matters related to employment, acquisition of immovable property, settlements and scholarships. As per the law, no ‘outsider’ can be granted state subject rights, purchase property or claim government jobs in the state. There are fears that if the law is repealed or diluted, outsiders would be settled in J&K.