Article 35A: Tension in J&K ahead of hearing

Kashmiri muslims shout anti-Indian slogans during a demonstration against attempts by the NGO 'We the Citizens' and individual citizens to revoke article 35A and 370, in downtown Srinagar. AFP.

Tension is growing in Kashmir amid fears that Supreme Court on Monday may revoke Article 35-A, a law which bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in Jammu and Kashmir.

Separatists, mainstream parties, including regional National Conference and PDP, traders, lawyers, civil society members and residents in the restive region have threatened a massive protest in case the apex court revokes the law.

Ahead of the August 6 hearing on petitions challenging Article 35-A in Supreme Court, separatists have called a two day strike in the Valley. On the first day of the strike on Sunday, life in the Valley came to a standstill. 

While police have launched a crackdown on separatists and detained top leadership, the NC and PDP have been protesting on streets demanding protection to the constitutional provision that defines citizenship and other rights enjoyed exclusively by state subjects.

The NC, which carried protest marches across Kashmir on Saturday, vowed to defend Article 35-A. Carrying banners and placards which read “If there are no Articles 35A and 370, then there is no Accession” the party leaders and members carried protest rallies in several areas of Kashmir.

“Today all parties, whether from mainstream or separatist groups, are out on roads to give a clear warning that we will not allow any fiddling with Article 35-A,” party general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar, said

The separatist trio Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have warned to the government of India that Kashmiris “will not take this attack on them lying low. 

“Any and every attempt made at changing the demographic nature of the state will be stiffly resisted. They (New Delhi) can kill us or detain us, but we won't succumb to pressure tactics. We are ready to sacrifice our lives and face detentions to safeguard people's interests and the disputed nature of the state,” they said in a statement.

Senior advocate Zaffar Shah, who will defend Article 35-A on behalf of Kashmir Bar Association at Supreme Court says the law is the identity of Kashmir. “This constitutional provision protects four things: state subject, right to property in the state, employment and scholarships. If any change is made to the law, people will lose these rights,” he said.

Shah said if the law is abrogated, “it will affect the rights of people and the constitutional history of Kashmir dispute that is recognised by United Nations.”

However, BJP state president Ravinder Raina said the party wants abrogation of Article 35A as “it impedes the development of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“Some politicians and Kashmir-based parties are communalising the issue of Article 35-A because they want the sentiment of separatism to remains alive in the state,” he said.

The state government, which is currently led by Governor N N Vohra, has filed an application before the Registrar of the Supreme Court, informing that it is going to seek adjournment of the hearing of the petition in view of the “ongoing preparations for the upcoming panchayat and urban local body and municipal elections in the state.”

In 2014, a little known Delhi based NGO "We the Citizens" filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking that Article 35-A should be abrogated while arguing that the provision was “unconstitutional” and approved without any debate in the Parliament.

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Article 35A: Tension in J&K ahead of hearing

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