Article 35A hearing: Protests were held to defend the constitutional provision across Kashmir on Sunday.
Srinagar: The Supreme Court today adjourned hearing of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Article 35-A, which gives special rights and privileges to people of Jammu and Kashmir, and fixed August 27 as the next date. The matter was to be heard by a three-judge bench, but since Justice DY Chandrachud wasn't available, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said a two-judge can't hear it. Article 35A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, bars people from outside Jammu and Kashmir to acquire any immovable property in the state and gives special privileges to residents in jobs and scholarships. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has warned that fiddling with the state's special status would have "catastrophic ramifications" for the entire country. After separatists called for a two-day bandh starting Sunday in support of Article 35A, streets in Kashmir remained deserted, markets were closed and public transport was off the road. The Amarnath Yatra was also suspended.
On Day 1 of the complete strike -- called by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik -- Amarnath Yatra was suspended as a precautionary measure. Hundreds of pilgrims camping in Jammu to join the yatra to the 3,880 metre high holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir were not allowed from the Bhagwati Nagar base camp, the officials said.
Protests were held to defend the constitutional provision. Traders marched and held a sit-in near Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) at Lal Chowk. Similar rallies were held in Zadibal, Karfali Mohalla, Rainawari, Anchaar, Dalgate, Rambagh, Khanyar and Parimpora.
Minor stone throwing incidents were reported from some parts, but miscreants were chased away by the security forces. No one was hurt in the brief clashes, police said.
The state government had applied for adjournment of the hearing of the petitions, including the one filed by an NGO 'We the Citizens', which has links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in view of the "ongoing preparations for the upcoming panchayat and urban local body and municipal elections in the state".
Protests have been going on across Kashmir over the last few days with mainstream parties like the National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also holding rallies in support of Article 35-A.
"Protecting Article35A is a tacit acceptance that J&K's future lies within the Constitution of India otherwise how would it matter if it were struck down or diluted?" tweeted National Conference's Omar Abdullah.
Mehbooba Mufti said that people cutting across party lines and other affiliations are united in their fight against dilution of Article 35A. "As I have already stated before, fiddling with J-K's special status will have catastrophic ramifications for the entire country."
"My father, former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, took great pride in the special status that J&K enjoys under Article 370. He would often mention that while people of the state have made great sacrifices for larger goals, we need to safeguard what we already have," the PDP president wrote on Twitter.
The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the BJP, however, said the party was open to a debate on the issue. "The BJP is open to a debate with anyone or any political party on whether or not Article 35A is in the interest of the people of the state. We are extending an open invitation," the state BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi told reporters on Saturday.
He said Article 35A has acted as an obstacle in the state's development because it did not allow outside investment. The youth are not getting the jobs, he said. "The continuation of Article 35A will not have any benefit for the state. The central government has pumped crores of rupees into the state over the last 70 years but the development has not been as it should have been," he said.