Kashmiri separatists threaten protests if Article 35(A) is repealed


Kashmiri separatist leaders warned on Sunday of widespread protests if the Supreme Court rules in favour of petitions challenging Article 35(A), a law that guarantees special privileges to the restive state.

The top court will hear a petition on Monday filed by Delhi-based NGO, We the Citizens, which wants the state-specific law repealed.

Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik asked people to launch mass protests if court delivers a verdict “against the interests and aspiration of people of state”.

They said any move to tinker with Article 35(A) is a conspiracy against Jammu and Kashmir.

“The conspiracy has been hatched to change the demography of the Muslim-majority state. If the state-subject law is removed or any amendment introduced, people from other states of India will purchase land in Jammu and Kashmir and a Palestine-like situation will arise,” a joint statement said.

“We are watching the developments and soon a programme will be announced for the people.”

The law gives special rights to the state’s permanent residents and disallows people from the rest of India from buying or owning immovable property in Jammu and Kashmir, settle permanently, or avail themselves of state-sponsored scholarship schemes. It also forbids the state government from hiring such people.

There is a demand by organisations outside Jammu and Kashmir for abrogation of Article 35(A) and Article 370, constitutional provisions that guarantee special status to the state.

In July, attorney general KK Venugopal told the court that the BJP-led NDA government won’t file an affidavit but wanted a larger debate on the “very sensitive” matter. The state government sought dismissal of the petition.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh allayed fears and promised in September that the government will not go against the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

But the separatist leadership wasn’t convinced.

“We will safeguard the integrity and special status of the state at any cost … the BJP regime is working to sabotage the referendum process in the state,” alleged the statement on Sunday.

Regional politicians, including National Conference stalwart Farooq Abdullah, too had warned of “mass agitation” if the law is repealed.

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti warned in July that there would be “nobody in the state to hold the Tricolour” if the rights and privileges of its residents were tinkered with.

The statement didn’t go down well with her ally, the BJP’s state unit, which said the law had done “more harm to the state than any other”.

The remarks triggered unease in the Valley. The separatists alleged that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which rules the state with the BJP, has become an “ally of the RSS” and failed to defend Article 35(A).