Valley braces for unrest over Article 35A

The Hurriyat as well as mainstream opposition parties, including the Congress and CPM, are bracing to oppose any move to scrap or dilute Article 35A of the Constitution.
Though separatist factions and mainly the Hurriyat groups have called for complete shutdown to protest against any “fiddling” with Article 35A by a larger SC bench, the mainstream combine, led by former CM and MP Farooq Abdullah of the National conference, warned the Centre of dangerous consequences if it even tried to dilute the Article.
Article 35A offers special privileges to state subjects of J&K in matters related to employment, acquisition of immovable property, settlements and scholarships in relation to Article 370 of the Constitution.
Last month, a petition was filed by Delhi-based NGO ‘We the Citizens’ demanding that Article 35A be repealed because of its “unconstitutional” character.
Attorney general K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had told court that given the “sensitive” nature of the issue, the Centre wanted a “larger debate” on it.
He also said that the matter be referred to a larger bench given the constitutional issues involved; the court agreed, saying a three-judge bench would hear the matter in six weeks (which is to be completed end August).
In July 2015, the division bench of J&K high court, comprising Justice Muzaffar Attar and Justice A M Magrey, enumerated the importance of Article 35A and said this law, which has been applied to J&K, clarifies the already-existing constitutional and legal position and does not extend something new to the state.
The court had observed that Article 35A was only a clarificatory provision to clear the issue of constitutional position obtaining in the rest of country in contrast to J&K.
“The power of Parliament to make laws in respect of J&K is circumscribed and it can make laws for it only where permitted by the state and not otherwise, and that too in accordance with the mechanism prescribed by Article 370 of the Constitution of India,” the court said, emphasizing that the Constitution could not apply, by its own force, to J&K.
Meanwhile, the Hurriyat’s Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik of JKLF called for ‘Kashmir Bandh’ on 12 August against proposed abrogation of Article 35A. In a hard hitting statement, Farooq, who chaired a joint meeting of all state opposition parties, including Congress and CPM, warned the Centre saying if Article 35A was repealed, it would lead to an uprising “far stronger” than the 2008 Amarnath land row.
“Don’t forget when that Amarnath land row happened, overnight people rose. The abrogation of Article 35A would lead to far greater revolt than Amarnath land row,” Farooq said, adding, “I wonder whether government would be able to hold that.”
He termed the meeting as important for making people understand that abrogation of Article 35 A would affect all three regions — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Farooq recalled Mehbooba Mufti had once said she would quit as CM if 35A was removed. Abdullah slammed the BJP and RSS. “Their agenda is to erode the autonomous structure of the state,” he said.