SRINAGAR: Declaring that the special status conferred upon Jammu and Kashmir by Article 35A of the Indian Constitution was a matter of “life and death” for the people, which they will “defend with their blood”, trade and business bodies in Kashmir on Monday threatened a “protest programme” ahead of next month’s hearing on Article 35A in the Supreme Court.
Representatives from a cross-section of society, including from an amalgam of 27 business organisations, and transporters, tourism fraternity, industrialists, academicians and other social, religious and cultural organisations held a joint press conference here in Srinagar against the Supreme Court hearing.
According to the representatives of these organisations, the “state subject laws are under attack” as Article 35A provides a “protective shield” to the state subject laws of Jammu and Kashmir that are in existence since 1927.
“The Article was enacted in the Constitution of India in the year 1954 and since then, several petitions were filed by different groups and individuals to challenge it. But those were dismissed by the appropriate defence put up by the governments in New Delhi at that time,” said Mubeen Shah, former President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
“But this government has bizarrely declined to defend their own provision by not filling any counter affidavit to the said PIL (along with three other PILs that have challenged the constitutionality of Article 35A). This speaks volumes about the design of the BJP government to remove or tinker with it,” Mubeen said.
The representatives said that the purpose behind the PILs is to change the “demographic character” of Jammu and Kashmir and “alter the nature of the dispute” that is internationally recognised.
“We want to inform the people of the state that if Article 35A is removed or tinkered with, then their rights with regard to their immovable property and other such rights would be taken away,” Mubeen said.
“This will pave way for all the citizens of India to come here and have the right to establish their settlements across the length and breadth of the state by pushing away the original citizens,” he added.
The representatives said that the special status would be “protected at any cost” even by the “lives of the citizens” and “no tampering with this law would be tolerated”.
“This is a matter of life and death for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and we are all ready to spill our blood to safeguard this law,” said Mohammed Yasin Khan, President of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation.
The organisations warned the government of “political ramifications” and “consequences” if the “nefarious” PIL by an RSS-backed NGO is not dismissed.
The representatives said they have unanimously charted a strategy and programme to “contest the onslaught”.
“We hereby announce our full support to the call for strike given by the Joint Resistance Leadership on 5th and 6th of August, which is the date of the hearing (in the Supreme Court). We will also initiate our separate protest programmes from tomorrow,” Khan said.
One of the four PILs against Article 35A that the Supreme Court will hear was filed by an RSS-backed NGO, “We the Citizens”. After the admission of this petition, the Supreme Court also took cognizance of three other petitions filed by various groups and individuals. The apex court has clubbed all these petitions with the main petition, and the case is listed for hearing on August 6.
Various mainstream and pro-freedom parties have already “warned” the government of “consequences” if Article 35A is removed or tampered with.