Disquiet over Article 35A

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On Saturday, a complete hartal was observed in Valley and in Pirpanchal and Chenab Valley against the move to scrap the Article 35A. This has galvanized the politics in the state. With the central government refusing to file a counter-affidavit to defend the law, there is a widespread disquiet in Valley about the court’s decision. The general thinking is that the case is part of a larger conspiracy to deprive J&K of its already hollowed-out special constitutional status under Article 370.  The Article 35A is considered as the lynchpin of the state’s special status as it protects the existing Muslim majority character of the state by forbidding the outsiders to settle and buy land in the state. The constitutional safeguards were granted to the state as part of its negotiations to join the Government of India as against Pakistan in 1947.

The anticipated repeal of the Article 35A has even stirred the mainstream political parties into action. The ruling PDP, the opposition National Conference and some other smaller Valley-based parties have made a common cause against “the attempt to scrap it”. Engineer Rashid’s Awami Itihad Party is one of them. On Friday, in a press conference, Rashid had dramatically announced that he will join Hurriyat in response to centre’s moves against Article 35A.  

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has already warned the centre against repeal of the law and cautioned about its detrimental fallout on the mainstream politics in the state. She has said in no uncertain terms that any tinkering with Article 35A will make it difficult for the mainstream “to shoulder the Indian flag” in Kashmir. Other leaders of the party have also openly voiced their dissent.  Though in her meeting with the Prime Minister she got an assurance that the Article 35A will be respected, Kashmir continues to remain sceptical of the outcome of the case in the court.  The central government has so far given little indication that it will defend the law in the court. Instead, the Attorney General of India K K Veenugopal has told the court that the centre wants a larger debate on the Article 35A, something that has caused deep consternation in Kashmir about the centre having  other ideas about the state subject law.

And if at all, it is tinkered with, the fallout could be far-reaching. Jammu and Kashmir will suffer. It will confront the state with an existential challenge and threaten the cultural and religious identity of the people of the state.  There will be a fallout for the entire country as well.  One of the fallouts will be on the mainstream political parties in the state. It will deal a severe blow to their credibility and render them redundant. In the words of one of the senior PDP leaders there will be only one stream in the Valley then. There will be no mainstream. The Supreme Court, however, will be seized with the criticality of the law and we may see a decision that goes in favour of the Article 35A.

 

 

 

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