Kashmir braces for shutdown ahead of SC hearing on Article 35A, Protests held in Kashmir, Poonch, Rajouri, Kishtwar

Kashmir is bracing for street protests and a two-day strike amid fears that Article 35A, which bars outsiders from owning property or getting jobs in the restive state, will be repealed when the Supreme Court hears a petition on Monday.

Trade groups, civil society and other social organisations have come together with separatists and political parties amid fears that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is planning to revoke the provision in an attempt to change the state’s demography.

Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) have given call for a two-day shutdown on Sunday and Monday across the state. The strike call has been supported by organisations across the spectrum, which have threatened to launch a mass agitation if the article is removed by the court.

Posters and video clips issued by separatists and social organisations explaining Article 35A’s importance and dangers if it is repealed have been making rounds on social media.

For the past three days, protests have been organised by various groups in different parts of the Valley as people fear that efforts are being made to remove the Article.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik led a protest demonstration at Residency Road in Srinagar soon after culmination of Friday prayers. Protestors carrying placards shouted pro-freedom slogans and warned of serious consequences if Article 35A is removed.

“No court whether in India or in Pakistan has any jurisdiction to take decisions that can in any way affect the disputed status of J&K as its original citizens are yet to exercise the right to determine their final dispensation as promised by the UN and backed by India and Pakistan,’’ Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said after chairing a high-level meeting to discuss the issue.

“Any attempt to change the demographic character of J&K and its disputed nature is intolerable. Our cadres and activists along with people are ready for all-out mass agitation if any tinkering with 35A is allowed under a legal garb,’’ he added.

Kashmir Economic Alliance, an amalgam of various trade and industrial bodies, has also said that people are ready for any sacrifice. “For safeguarding our rights we are even ready to give our blood. The attempts are being made to remove Article 35A through court and we are not going to tolerate it,’’ the alliance’s chairperson Yasin Khan said.

The Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association has already filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court to defend the constitutional provision that allows the state legislature to define ‘permanent residents’ and confers special rights on them. The bar’s team is already in New Delhi.

Officials aware of the development said governor NN Vohra had also sought a deferment of the hearing and has taken up the issue with Union home minister Rajnath Singh. He has urged the Centre to defer the hearing until an elected government is back in the state.

While Article 370 of the Constitution grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Article 35A gives special rights to Jammu and Kashmir’s permanent residents. It disallows people from outside the state from buying or owning immovable property there, settle permanently, or avail themselves of state-sponsored scholarship schemes. It also forbids the J&K government from hiring people who are non-permanent residents.

Four petitions — three clubbed with the main one filed by NGO We The Citizens — have challenged Article 35A’s legality on the grounds that it was never presented before Parliament and was implemented on the President’s orders in 1954. Under the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954, the provision appears as an “appendix” in the Constitution and not an amendment.

Meanwhile the Chenab Valley Traders Association Kishtwar today warned of mass protests against any attempt to tinker with Article 35-A. The Association also called for Kishtwar bandh on August 5 and 6.

While addressing a press conference at Dak Banglow, Kishtwar, chairman of Chenab Valley Traders Association, Ishtiyaq Hussain Waza said that abolition of Article 35-A of the constitution would lead to the end of state subject laws in Jammu and Kashmir.

He said that abrogation of the Article 35-A would adversely impact the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir.
“If this is scrapped by the Supreme Court, it will end state subject laws. People from other states will buy property here, avail educational scholarships for their children, relief material and bag government jobs in our state,” said Association president, Mansoor Ahmed Mattoo.

The Association members said that business community is fully prepared and will launch agitation to safeguard the constitutional positioning of the state. They alleged that some vested interested groups are trying to disturb the peace in our state by raising such issues like the Article-35 A.

They also called for Kishtwar bandh on 5th and 6th of this month and appealed to the people of Kishtwar to allow smooth conduct of Machail Yatra during the shutdown call.