Article 35A: Get the strategy right


The Valley has witnessed the heightened political activity over the past two weeks in response to the apprehended repeal of the Article 35A. Both the ruling PDP and the opposition National Conference have openly spoken out against the attempts to fiddle with the state subject law. In fact the two parties despite their deep political differences have informally come together on the issue. In her August 15 message, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that power battles or political ideologies will not be a hindrance if there is a threat to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. “”I assure my fellow citizens that whenever it comes to the identity of Jammu and Kashmir, we are all united,” Mehbooba said in her speech. She thanked National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah for his “fatherly advice”. And she made it known that in future she will again seek the advice of Abdullah in future as J&K is beset with many problems. The CM also expressed faith in the institutions of the country and hoped that the Supreme Court will dismiss a petition that challenges Article 35A of the Constitution.

Similarly,  in recent weeks, the social and cultural groups too have protested the move to tinker with the state’s constitutionally guaranteed special status. On Monday, artists, creative professionals and film makers also took part in the protest. Civil society groups have also held discussions over the issue. Similarly,  Kashmir’s joint separatist leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik have reiterated that any measure to undermine the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir or to change the demographic character of the state would be opposed tooth and nail. In a statement the leaders said that “any step that has a direct bearing on our right to self-determination guaranteed by the India at the UN and ratified by the world body will be resisted by the people”. The argument has been apparently calibrated in response to the argument proffered by the former J&K Chief Omar Abdullah that Hurriyat had no business protesting the Article 35A as it didn’t believe in Indian constitution”. Though Farooq Abdullah has also warned of a public groundswell which will be fiercer than the one that broke out in 2008 over Amarnath land row, there is no doubt that the Kashmiri parties across the mainstream-separatist divide have struggled to formulate a proper response to the prospect of losing Article 35A. This is because PM Modi has completely changed the game. He has brought basic existential questions into play, showing people of J&K what New Delhi can do, should it set out to do it – completely alter the identity and the demographic character of the state, not through military means but an effortless change of a law. It is good that the mainstream and the Hurriyat have woken up to the reality but  their response leaves a lot to desire. For one, there has to be a recognition that should the centre come to repeal the law, there is little in their power that can stop it. So, the strategy has to be about alerting the centre about the move’s detrimental short and long term consequences for the state and the country. For Kashmiris already know about its disastrous fallout.







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