The separatist groups' protest against any tinkering with Article 35A, which bars outsiders from purchasing land or getting government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir, has somehow pushed them in a narrative trap in which they have ended up defending a law that is part of the Constitution of India, something which the Hurriyat leadership never considered sacrosanct. The Supreme Court of India will be hearing petitions challenging the validity of Article 35A on 6 August.
“The fact is that the petitions challenging the special status are part of a well-planned assault on Kashmiri culture that will change the very definition of the Kashmir dispute,” says Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who led a protest on Friday afternoon in downtown area of Srinagar against the possible abrogation of the article.
Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq addressing a protest rally in Srinagar. PTi
Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq addressing a protest rally in Srinagar. PTi
"It (Article 35A) is part of our identity and any tinkering with it is an assault on the people of Kashmir, be they Muslims Hindus, Sikhs or Christians," he said.
However, mainstream politicians argue that the Article 35A is part of the Indian constitution and the separatist leaders, who have been striving for "Azadi" shouldn’t play politics over it.
“It is the demand of those who swear by the Constitution of India and have time and again defended it by taking the oath of the Constitution of India and strived to work for it by participating in the governance process,” senior National Conference leader and MLA, Ali Mohammad Sagar, said.
With the state government sleeping over the matter, the National Conference on Friday filed an intervention plea in the Supreme Court, seeking to be included as respondents in the petition challenging Article 35A.
“We filed the intervention plea in the Supreme Court in reiteration of our commitment to fight against all machinations aimed at fiddling with the State’s special status and unique political identity. National Conference will fight this battle from the forefront and will do everything necessary to safeguard the state’s special status and political rights," said Nasir Aslam Wani, provincial president, National Conference, after the plea was filed in New Delhi.
The separatists groups have called for a two-day strike to highlight the issue and have been taking out protests since last week. On Friday, both Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz led protests against what they called “India’s larger design to change the demography of the Muslims majority Jammu and Kashmir".
The separatists have warned the Centre of large scale protests in case Article 35A, which is coming up for hearing on 6 August, is touched. Already, around 30 trade bodies across Kashmir have warned that any addition or deletion of the article will have long term repercussions.