SRINAGAR A 48-hour shutdown called by Joint Resistance Leadership ahead of the hearing in Supreme Court on bunch of petitions challenging the validity of the Article 35A of the Constitution brought life to a standstill in Kashmir Valley and parts of Jammu region on Thursday.
Shops and other business establishments remained closed and all types of transport were off the roads across the Valley and most parts of Muslim-majority Chenab valley and Pirpanjal region of Jammu including Doda, Bhaderwah, Banihal, Thathri, Gandoh and Kishtwar on the first day of the two-day shutdown..
At Banihal, a protest rally was organized and protesters vowed to defend the Article 35A at any cost.
Also, all educational institutions were closed and most government offices were locked or recorded thin attendance of employees.
Train services have been suspended by the authorities as a precautionary measure and internet services also remained off in southern districts of the Valley for the second consecutive day amid high tensions set off by the killing of two militants including a top commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and of four policemen in a firefight and a militant attack, respectively.
Amid exemplary shutdown, reports said that there were protest demonstrations at Bandipora, Panzla Baramulla, Handwara, Tral, Baramulla besides Parimpora and Ghanta Ghar Lal Chowk here. The protesters vowed to defend the Article 35A.
Restrictions were imposed within the jurisdiction of five police stations including MR Gunj, Khanyar, Rainawari, Nowhatta, Safa Kadal besides Maisuma and Kral Khud.
At places, small protests were held including by traders over what they alleged is onslaught against the Article 35A.
The call for the two-day strike from Thursday was issued by Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), the alliance of separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik and the same was endorsed by various political, social, religious and trade organizations and civil society groups.
In view of the strike call and rising tensions ahead of the hearing on Article 35A case in SC, weddings and other social events, board and university examinations and even some official functions scheduled from Thursday to Saturday in the Valley have been cancelled or rearranged.
Article 35A guarantees special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and thereby prohibiting non-permanent residents from permanent settlement and from acquiring immovable properties, government jobs and scholarships in the State. The provision also empowers the state legislature to define such permanent residents and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents.
It was added to the Constitution through a Presidential Order in 1954 issued by the then President in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 370 of the Constitution, with the concurrence of the Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 guarantees a special status to Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Union.
However, a petition seeking removal of Article 35A is currently pending before a three-judge bench of the SC. An NGO, We the Citizens, believed to be an RSS think-tank, challenged 35A in the SC in 2014 on grounds that it was not added to the Constitution through amendment under Article 368 and that it was never presented before Parliament, and came into effect immediately.
The apex court will hear the bunch of petitions challenging the Article 35A on Friday. According to the cause list released by the SC registry, the case figuring at serial number 18 among the cases listed on Friday will be heard by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
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