SRINAGAR: Next month’s Supreme Court hearing of the Article 35A case has again struck a consensus of mainstream as well as pro-freedom organisations for safeguarding the constitutional provision that accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. The top court is expected to hear the arguments in the case on August 6.
Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq raised the issue from the pulpit of Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid Mosque in Srinagar, saying people are “cautiously” and “carefully” watching the events aimed to “change the demography of the state”.
“The agenda behind this petition is no secret and is well known. It is the plan of BJP and RSS to do away with hereditary state subject laws of the state and flood the Valley with people from India,” Mirwaiz said.
“This is being done so that J&K can be fully integrated and assimilated with India and to undermine the disputed nature of Kashmir which people will fight in the streets and resist it forcefully,” he said. Mirwaiz warned, “The resulting consequences will entirely be the responsibility of those who will force people to take drastic steps.”
After the Bharatiya Janata Party divorced the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), the PDP asked Governor N N Vohra, who is now heading the state, to “defend the case with the same strength” as during their regime.
“The state has a strong case. There is hardly anything left in our special status if Article 35A is tampered with,” it said.
Similarly, the National Conference (NC) also expects the governor to defend the case so that the article is not tampered with.
“We believe that the governor must defend it strongly. Otherwise there would be disastrous consequences which will affect the state and the country as well,” said NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar.
In July 2014, a rightwing-affiliated non-government organisation, ‘We the Citizens’, filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of this article on the grounds of its having been inserted into the Indian Constitution through a presidential order rather than after complying with the elaborate procedure prescribed under Article 368 of the Indian Constitution.
Subsequent to this petition, three more classes of persons have joined the chorus by filing separate petitions challenging the validity of this article on different grounds, one being that it “denies property right to a woman and her children marrying a person from outside the state”.
Similarly, West Pakistan refugees have challenged Article 35A on grounds of discrimination in spheres like acquisition of property and service and voting rights.
The court has clubbed all these petitions with the main petition filed by the NGO. In effect, the court will not only have to decide the validity of the article on procedural aspect but also decide that the article doesn’t violate the fundamental rights of Indian citizens enshrined in Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Last year, when the case came up for hearing in the court, the Government of India decided not to support the PDP-led state government’s stand seeking dismissal of the petition. On the other hand, the ruling BJP has been pushing for abrogation of Article 35A for a complete merger of J&K with the Union of India.