Kashmir to observe 2-day strike next week for safeguarding Constitution

Traders, civil society, separatist leaders, even former CM Mufti are calling for people to protest during Kashmir Bandh on August 5 and 6,<b> </b>amid fears of abrogation of Article 35A of the constitution

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Haroon Reshi

For the first time, a valley-wide hartal is expected on August 5 and 6 in Kashmir, not against, but in favour of safeguarding the Indian Constitution, which otherwise, separatist leaders have always refused to adhere to. The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), a group of top three separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhamad Yasin Malik, have called for a complete shut-down in the Valley, against attempts to tinker with Article 35A of the Constitution.

Not just separatist leaders, everyone from the business community and civil society are also protesting against the ‘attempt’ to abrogate the law regarding Jammu and Kashmir state. Recently, as many as 27 trade bodies joined the hands to support the protest against what they call the “attempted onslaught on our hereditary state subject law”. The trade bodies also announced their support to the JRL call for Kashmir Bandh on August 5 and 6. Even former Chief Mehbooba Mufti has called for people to unite in protest.

“My father took great pride in the special status that J&K enjoys under Article 370. He would often mention that while people of the state have made great sacrifices for larger goals, we need to safeguard what we already have. Today people cutting across party lines and other affiliations are united in their fight against any dilution of Article 35 A. As I have already stated before, fiddling with J&K’s special status will have catastrophic ramifications for the entire country,” tweeted Mufti on Friday, August 3.

Article 35A gives the Jammu and Kashmir state legislature the power to define the “permanent residents” of the state and provide them with special rights and privileges, is under challenge in Supreme Court of India, since 2014, when an RSS-backed NGO ‘We the Citizens’ filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to challenge it, seeking the revocation of the law. The hearing of the case has now been fixed on August 6.

If the Supreme Court issues an order asking for revocation of Article 35A, people from any part of India, for the first time, will get right to settle down in Jammu and Kashmir. They will also get the right to government jobs and right to vote in the state.

In this particular case, Modi Government has refused to defend Article 35A in the Supreme Court. The government, in fact, seems to be in favour of abrogation of the law, as it did not file an affidavit to support the law in Supreme Court. Instead, the attorney general, last year, told the Court that the government wants a “larger debate” on the issue. This attitude of the Central government has Kashmiris scared, and they have joined to protect Article 35A.

Normally, the separatist leaders in Kashmir avoid using the term ‘Indian Constitution’ while talking about the Kashmir issue. But these days, everybody seems to be worried about the protection of the Constitution

Separatist leaders who always refused to obey Indian constitution, are now demanding its protection

Pertinently, Kashmiri separatist leaders have always refused to obey Indian constitution and have been refusing to talk with the government under the ambit of the constitution, forcing several Indian leaders to avoid the word “Indian constitution” while referring to dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue.

In 2003, when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Kashmir to announce talks offer to the Hurriyat and Pakistan in a rally in Srinagar, he tactfully, in his 12-minute speech, repeated the word “dialogue” more than a dozen times but did not refer to the Constitution. When journalists asked him that if the proposed talks will be under the ambit of the Constitution of India, Vajpayee was prompt to respond, “talks will be held within the ambit of humanity”.

Back home, he explained to Parliament that "issues can be resolved if we are guided by three principles of Insaniyat (Humanism), Jamhooriyat (Democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Kashmir's age-old legacy of amity)."

In August 2010, then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, on an occasion also restrained himself from referring to the Constitution while talking about dialogue to resolve the Kashmir issue. He said Kashmir was a “Unique” problem that needs a "unique solution".

Normally, the separatist leaders in Kashmir avoid using the term ‘Indian Constitution’ while talking about the Kashmir issue. But these days, everybody seems to be worried about the protection of the Constitution. The ongoing protests by the separatists and civil society in Kashmir and the proposed hartal on August 5 and 6 is precisely to demand that “don’t tinker with the Constitution of India.”

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