Amid intense pressure from BJP leadership on scrapping of Article 370 (granting special status to J&K) and 35A (which prohibits outsiders from purchasing land and property in J&K) and upping the ante and rhetoric by state politicians on the state subject law, the common man in militancy-hit Kashmir is apprehensive and worried about the next move of the saffron party in case it comes to power again at the centre.
They feel that the threat to two Articles of the Constitution is real and warn that any tinkering will lead to a catastrophe in the state, which is already witnessing a surge in militancy since 2016, and the flames would spread to other parts of the country as well.
Mohammad Shafi, a boatman in the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar, said removal of Articles 35A and 370 will set the entire J&K on fire. It will unite people of the state and cutting across party affiliations and ideologies, people will join hands and come out on the streets with whatever means to fight its abrogation.
“For us, Article 35A and 370 is our honour and we cannot allow anybody to touch it. Its removal will have a devastating fallout in the state. It will lead to bloodshed,” he said.
An elderly boatman, Ghulam Mohammad Mattoo, said the threat to Article 370 and Article 35A is real.
“PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are giving frequent statements against J&K’s special status. The threat is real and imminent,” he said.
Mattoo said, “If Article 370 is removed, our relationship with India will end. It means Kashmir will become Azad (free). India will have to remove its troops from the state.”
“The situation will get out of hand and nobody knows where it will stop and how many will be killed. Kashmir will turn into ruins if this law is withdrawn.,” he said.
A barbeque seller, Abdur Rashid opined that if Article 370 or 35A was removed, it would create lot of problems for the people.
“We have got a special identity because of Article 370 and 35A. If these are removed, then what will be left? It will push the state to uncertainty. The rich people and businessmen from the country will buy land in the state at higher rates. And people in Kashmir will be rendered landless and homeless in their own state. J&K will turn into another Palestine. There will be no jobs for locals and it will lead rise in poverty,” he said.
A postgraduate commerce student of the University of Kashmir, Aadil Ahmad said, on one hand, PM Modi is talking about embracing Kashmiris and on the other hand there’s the talk of removing State’s special status, which is the only bridge between J&K and India.
“There will be no comprised on Articles 35A and 370. It is not only dear to the Kashmiris but to people of Jammu and Ladakh as well,” he said.
Feeling that the threat to special status is imminent, Aadil warned that removal of Articles 35A and 370 would lead to devastation. “The BJP leaders should not resort to vote bank politics on this sensitive issue. Even talk of abrogation of the state’s special status will further add to alienation among people,” he said.
“If it is removed as is being advocated by BJP leaders, it will bring destruction and more bloodshed to J&K. If we will lose our special identity, then it will be a fight for our honour and everybody will come out on roads and blood will be spilt,” he said.
He hoped good sense would prevail. “The BJP government should take decisions as per ground reality and refrain from taking decisions, which will result in bloodshed, adding to our woes,” Aadil said.
He added if Article 370 is removed, there will be unrest as Kashmir will be “Azad”. He said the country won’t be detached from the Kashmir fallout if Article 370 is withdrawn. “Countries have disintegrated because of non-existence of social justice”.
Article 370 and Article 35A has become the focal point of every conversation among the Kashmiris nowadays. Businessman Ghulam Mohammad said everybody in Valley is concerned as Articles 370 and 35A safeguard our identity and special status.
“If our identity is attacked, there will be a mass movement,” he said.
Instrument of Accession
Former Head and Dean Department of Law, School of Legal Studies Central University of Kashmir, Dr Sheikh Showket said clause 7 of J&K’s Accession signed by then Maharaja Hari Singh and then Governor General of India Mountbatten on October 27, 1947 reads, “Nothing in the instrument shall be deemed to commit me in any way to acceptance of any future Constitution of India or to fetter my discretion to enter into arrangements with government of India under any such future constitution”.
He said any tinkering with Article 370 will throw open every issue related to Accession and legitimacy of Accession.
“If it is removed, our relations would be the same as it was before the Instrument of Accession was signed between the princely state of J&K and India,” he said.
Playing with fire
Taking a dig at BJP leadership, he said, “They are playing with fire. Given the fact that J&K is facing over three decades militancy, it is listed as disputed territory in the UN and presence of UN peacekeepers in the State, I don’t think it will be so easy for them to remove it.”
“They want to keep it boiling the way they want to keep the Babri Masjid issue boiling,” he added.
Even students are worried that abrogation of special status may lead to further bloodshed.
Deeba Ashraf, the law student of the University of Kashmir, said, “Being a law student, I believe Article 370 cannot be abrogated because we need the Constituent Assembly for its abrogation, which no longer exists. Article 370 acts as a bridge between India and J&K and if it is scrapped, it means removing the bridge.”
She added, “It will snatch our land and property, jobs, scholars, etc. It will increase poverty and unemployment.”
Babar Mansoor, a media student at the University of Kashmir said, “If Article 370 is abrogated, it means constitutionally, J&K will become an autonomous princely state as it was before 1947.”