Srinagar, Aug 4: Jammu and Kashmir’s regional parties – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference – hit the streets on Saturday taking out separate rallies in Srinagar protesting moves to scrap Article 35A of the Constitution which confers special status to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
Moreover, separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) have called for a two-day shutdown on Sunday and Monday across the state.
The protests and call for shutdown come ahead of the August 6 Supreme Court hearing on petitions challenging Article 35A.
Meanwhile, a NDTV report said that intelligence agencies have warned of a possible “revolt” in the police ranks and massive unrest in the state if the Supreme Court passes an “adverse” order on Article 35A.
State government employees, trade unions, business associations, civil society groups and lawyers have threatened to go on protest if the special constitutional position of the state was compromised. For the last one week, there have been series of protests as clamour is growing to retain Article 35A.
Sensing trouble, the Jammu and Kashmir government, which is in the hands of Governor NN Vohra, on Friday approached the top court seeking adjournment of the hearing till local body elections sue in October.
On Saturday, MLA Khanyar Mohammad Sagar led hundred of party workers, carrying banners and placards, from the NC headquarters Nawai-e-Subah to Sher-e-Kashmir park.
One of the banners read, “If there are no Articles 35A and 370, then there is no accession (of Jammu and Kashmir to India)”.
The PDP also took out a rally from its office near the Sher-e-Kashmir park. Led by NC general secretary Nizamuddin Bhat and MLA Khursheed Alam, the protesters marched towards Lal Chowk but were stopped by the police.
The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (NC) also moved the Supreme Court on Friday in support of Article 35A. After the CPI(M)’s Jammu and Kashmir unit, the NC moved the present petition seeking to be heard in the present matter, saying that the Article serves as an important link between the state and the Union and its people and serves to maintain a fine balance of constitutional federalism.
On Friday, over 300 lawyers of Jammu passed a resolution seeking protection of Article 35A of the Constitution.
A statement issued by these lawyers in winter capital Jammu said: “Late Maharaja Hari Singh had executed instrument of Accession with certain conditions which later came out in the shape of Article 35A and Article 370 of the Constitution of India.”
If Article 35A or Article 370 is deleted then accession of state of Jammu and Kashmir with dominion of India gets shaky, they said.
“Article 35A is beneficial for the permanent residents of J&K state and one of the examples of its benefits is the free education from Class 1st up to university level in the state.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the representatives of Kashmiri business community held a silent protest march in Srinagar seeking protection of Article 35A.
Javaid Ahmad Tenga, president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), told reporters during the protest march that the business community would shed its last drop of blood to protect Article 35A.
The apex court is hearing a batch of petitions in the matter, including the one filed by NGO ‘We the Citizens’ seeking quashing of the article, which confers special status to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
The matter is listed for hearing on Monday before a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.
Article 35-A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and denies property rights to a woman who marries a person from outside the state.
The provision, which leads such women from the state to forfeit their right over property, also applies to their heirs.
BJP Says Ready to Debate on Scrapping of Article 35A
The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the BJP on Saturday said the party was open to a debate over Article 35A.
“The BJP is open to a debate with anyone or any political party on whether or not Article 35A is in the interest of the people of the state. We are extending an open invitation,” the state BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi told reporters here.
He said over the last few days, the political climate in the state has heated up over Article 35A and some political parties, especially those active in Kashmir, have taken an “anti-national and anti-people” stand on the issue.
Targeting the National Conference (NC) and the Congress, Sethi said people in the Valley are being misled over Article 35A by being told that it is for their betterment and in the interest of the state.
“The continuation of Article 35A will not have any benefit for the state. The central government has pumped crores of rupees into the state over the last 70 years but the development has not been as it should have been,” he said.
He said Article 35A has acted as an obstacle in the state’s development because it did not allow outside investment.
“Investors do not come here to set up Infrastructure. The youth are not getting the jobs,” he added.
The BJP spokesperson alleged some politicians want to maintain the position for vote bank politics.
(With inputs from agencies)