Facing The Article 35A Challenge


On Monday, a rumour about scrapping of the Article 35A triggered an instantaneous shutdown, protests and stone pelting in parts of Kashmir. There were reports of clashes between protesters and security forces in  Shopian, Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, Baramulla and the parts of Srinagar. Students of many colleges also joined the protests. Scores of protesters were injured in clashes, some hit by pellets. All that had happened was a fresh petition against the all-important constitutional provision was filed in Supreme Court and the court adjourned the hearing on it. Now the clutch of petitions challenging the Article 35A that grants special citizenship rights to the people of J&K will be heard on August 31. But Monday’s spontaneous shutdown and protests presaged what is likely to happen to Kashmir if the Article 35A was tinkered with. This is what  Hurriyat has also underlined  in its statement, warning the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi about the dangers of doing away with the state subject law. “This was a clear message that Kashmiris are in no way going to take this assault lying down and are ready to make every sacrifice to safeguard their identity and the disputed status of their state,” the JRL comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik  said in their joint statement. But it seems nothing is forcing New Delhi to wake up to the gravity of the situation.

Despite the pervading deep sense of apprehension and foreboding in the air, the centre has not deemed it worth its while to reassure the people of the Valley. Now that the Valley seems on the verge of yet another unrest, it is time the centre speaks. But,  as of now, there’s little clarity on what is going to happen. True, last year Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s did say that the centre will not go against the sentiments of the people of Kashmir on Article 35A. But that assurance has so far not been carried forward.

Similarly, the mainstream political class in the state is doing disproportionately little considering the extraordinary nature of the situation. Mainstream parties are more or less content with a rhetorical support to the sentiment on the ground. None of them has held a major protest attended by their top leaders, let alone a major public rally against the possible move. Of course, National Conference and the PDP have chosen to defend the law at the Supreme Court through their respective lawyers. But they have sorely lacked in articulating and representing the fear and restlessness that has gripped the Valley. Not doing so exposes them as the practitioners of a self-serving power politics. The need now is for the mainstream political class to close ranks and become an active part of the movement to protect the Article 35A.



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