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Kashmir comes together to protest Centre’s stand on Article 35A

Kashmir communities have come together to protest Centre’s decision to not defend Article 35A, which empowers the state to decide who are ‘permanent residents’. They have warned of an agitation soon

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Haroon Reshi

Kashmir’s business community and civil society have joined hands to protest against what they call the “attempted onslaught on our hereditary state subject law”.

Article 35A of the Indian constitution, that empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state's legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents, is under challenge in the Supreme Court of Indian. An NGO We The Citizens, reportedly backed by the RSS, had filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2014, seeking the revocation of the law. The hearing of the case has now been fixed on August 6.

The Union government has declined to defend Jammu and Kashmir state in the apex court, putting the law seriously under threat. “This matter is related to the life and death of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and we all are ready to spill our blood to safeguard this law,” said Dr Mubeen Shah, a leader of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) and Haji Yasin Khan, president Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), at a crowded press conference in Srinagar on Monday, July 30.

The representatives of as many as 27 organisations, including business chambers and federations, transporters, tourism fraternity unions, and people from academia and other social, religious and cultural organisations, were present at the press conference.

They warned of an agitation in case Article 35A is removed or tinkered with. Article 35A of constitution, commonly called the state subject law, prevents outsiders from purchasing any immovable property in J&K state. Due to this law, no outsider can apply for a state government job and for a scholarship in any state government organisation.

The law has been implemented in the state since 1927, when the state, including the parts presently under occupation of Pakistan and China, was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh.

The representatives of 27 organisations, including business chambers, transporters, tourism fraternity unions, and people from academia and other social, religious and cultural organisations in Kashmir warned of an agitation, in case Article 35A is removed or tinkered with. They have also supported the strike call given by the Joint Resistance Leadership group on August 5, 6

“Our state subject laws have been under attack ever since a PIL that challenges the validity of Article 35A of Indian constitution was filed by RSS backed NGO We the Citizens and admitted by the Supreme Court,” said Shah.

In 1954, the Article 35A was enacted in the Constitution of India through a presidential order to assure the people of the state that New Delhi had no intention to harm the demography and Muslim majority character of J&K.

“Petitions were filed by different groups and individuals to challenge this Act. However all such petitions would get dismissed before their admission by the Supreme Court only because of the prompt and appropriate defence by successive governments in New Delhi. However, this time a situation has risen when Government of India has bizarrely declined to defend their own provision of the Constitution as it has not filed any counter to the said PIL. This speaks volumes about the complicity of GoI in the attempt of removing or tinkering with Article 35A,” said Shah.

“We wish to inform the general public that if the said Article is removed or tinkered with, then the rights of original citizens of Jammu and Kashmir on their immovable property and other such rights would be taken away and all Indians would be afforded a right to establish their settlements in the length and breadth of the state, pushing away the original citizens. It is pertinent to say that the devious purpose behind this PIL is to change the demographic character of Jammu and Kashmir and alter the nature of dispute that is internationally recognised,” they said.

The business community and the civil society warned against any attempt to change the law. “Let us make it amply clear that the hereditary state subject law of Jammu and Kashmir shall be protected at any cost and no tampering with this law would ever be tolerated. The powers that be are hereby put on notice to take all necessary steps to get the nefarious PIL filed by this RSS-backed NGO dismissed at the earliest in order to save themselves from its political ramifications and consequences.”

Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), a group of leaders comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik, has already given a two-day strike call in Kashmir Valley on August 5 and 6.

The business and civil society has extended its support to the call.

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