Srinagar: In a bold demonstration of solidarity with Kashmir on the issue of Article 35A, a complete shutdown was observed in Doda, Bhaderwah and Kishtwar regions of the Chenab Valley on Saturday. The Anjuman Islamia Bhaderwah, Markazi Seerat Committee Doda, Anjuman Islamia Gandoh, Masjid Committee Thathri, and Majlis-e-Shoura Kishtwar had called for a complete shutdown in the region. In Kashmir, the call for shutdown was given by the joint resistance leadership of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik.
The strike was unanimously supported by all sections of society, with traders terming it “a matter of life and death for people of Kashmir”.
Kashmir University and the state Board of School Education (BOSE) had postponed all examinations scheduled for Saturday. The Northern Railways suspended train services across Kashmir for the day.
Both public and private transport was off the roads in Srinagar and Budgam districts, where banks, shops, business establishments, schools, colleges and universities were all closed. Government offices saw thin attendance.
There was no report of any protest in the two districts.
“It (scrapping of Article 35A) is an attack not only on Muslims of J&K but Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians alike,” said a youth who had come from Budgam to a Srinagar hospital. “This strike has showed India that Kashmiris will save whatever is left (of the state’s special status).”
President of the Anjuman Islamia Bhadarwah, Pervaiz Ahmed Shaikh, said that “questioning the special status of J&K will put a question mark on the accession (of J&K with India) itself.”
Reports coming from north Kashmir said that a complete shutdown was observed in Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora districts.
A senior journalist based in Baramulla asserted, “It was an unprecedented shutdown in the district. Observers claim they have never seen such defiance.”
Roads wore a deserted look and business establishments were completely shut in Baramulla. Students stayed home as all educational institutions were closed.
Areas close to the Line of Control (LoC) also witnessed a strike. Reports said that routine life was completely disrupted in Uri, Boniyar and adjoining areas near the LoC.
Reports coming from south Kashmir said that no business took place in any of the four districts.
Roads in Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian districts were deserted and people mostly stayed home, busying themselves in discussions on the politics around Article 35A.
Clashes erupted in Trichal village of Pulwama after government forces launched a cordon-and-search-operation there. Police said they had “inputs about the presence of militants in the village”. Youth took to the streets and pelted the government forces with stones to disrupt their operation. The forces responded by firing teargas shells, which intensified the clashes.
Kashmir-based businessmen have said that they are ready to face bullets to protect the “special status” of Jammu and Kashmir.
Article 35A, inserted in the Indian Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954, protects Jammu and Kashmir’s state subject laws that had already been notified under the Maharaja’s rule in 1927 and 1932.
The Supreme Court has constituted a three-judge bench to hear a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A. The bench will hear arguments in the first week of September and a deadline of six weeks has been set for the petition’s final disposal.