Article 35A Again

Hurriyat has called for shutdown on Wednesday and Thursday against the apprehended revocation of the Article 35A which is being heard by the Supreme Court in the period from February 12 to 14. Though Governor's administration has pleaded to the court that the matter be postponed till  an elected government is in place in the state, it has done little to calm the nerves. Six petitions are challenging the validity of the Article 35A. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is hearing the matter. He  had posted the matter for hearing in January 2019 but it could not be taken up.

The hearing has brought the issue back to the centre stage in Kashmir. It has put Kashmir on edge again and set to tip into fresh turmoil. So far, the adjournment of the case has only offered temporary breathers but hasn't addressed the apprehensions which have since only further deepened. Fresh hearing is making Kashmir go through a familiar scene again. Civil society groups have mobilized to resist any change. In a statement, Kashmir Economic Alliance has warned of a catastrophe in Kashmir should the law be tinkered with by the court. And again mainstream political parties have also cautioned against any change or revocation of the law. This has created a broad across-the-board alignment on the issue.

There are also voices which support the abrogation of the Article 35A but they are confined to Jammu and a part of Ladakh. Among the political parties, the BJP is the leading voice supporting the repeal of the crucial constitutional safeguard arguing it is ultra-vires of the constitution as it was applied directly through a presidential order and not enacted by the parliament.

But a predominant majority of the state opposes removal or any tinkering with the law. And the anxiety runs so deep that any adverse decision could throw the state into disorder.  What has reinforced the unease is that the centre has refused to defend the law in the court and the Governor led state government isn’t expected to be in a position to put up the best defence.

A sense of suspense looms large.The majority of the people of the state believe that the attempt to abrogate the constitutional provision is designed to alter the demographic character of the state. The implications of an adverse judgement will thus be horrific.  It confronts the majority of the people of the state with an existential challenge. Here is hoping that the Supreme Court is seized of the extraordinary nature of the case and what its decision could entail for the country and J&K. Here is hoping that the all-important law is left untouched. Only in such an approach to the law lie the seeds of a future reconciliation and resolution of Kashmir.  


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