By deferring the hearing of the petitions against Article 35-A of Indian constitution till August 27 by the Supreme Court, the anger and resentment in Jammu and Kashmir has not only deepened further but spread in the far and wide of the state as well. The protest shutdown call by the separatist leadership had massive response beyond the valley. Rajouri, Poonch, Banihal, Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Bhadarwah and dozens other smaller segments in Jammu region sided with the valley by observing shutdown and holding protest demonstrations on the issue. The majority of the people across the state have shown extreme degree of unity and demonstrated common concern if the top court diluted Article 35-A. The Constitutional provision gives special rights to Jammu and Kashmir’s permanent residents. It disallows people from outside the state from buying or owning immovable property there, settle permanently, or avail themselves of state-sponsored scholarship schemes. It also forbids the J&K government from hiring people who are non-permanent residents. The common refrain is that there should be no tinkering with Article and the petitions should be dismissed to restore the confidence of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Former chief minister and PDP chairperson Mahbooba Mufti has rightly said that delaying is no solution. The petition should rather be dismissed. However, it is the separatist leadership that leads the way. It is, however, sad to note that at a time when all sections of the society have joined together to defend the individuality of the state, National Conference is trying to play the spoilers. NC vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah projected himself in poor light when he tried to push the separatist leadership to wall by taunting them that defending Article 35-A amounted to accepting Indian constitution. Omar appears to have got frustrated by having been pushed to the sidelines of the scene. This made him to take to twitter to demonstrate his frustration. Whatever the reason, his remark, however, is seen as an attempt to damaging the common cause of the people of the state. National Conference has an inherent problem to go against the people’s aspirations. Right from 1947 till date, the party’s history is full of treasonous conduct on crucial occasions. One does not know whether they do it by design but the truth is that they have a character problem.
Separatists, however, have asked the people to get ready for a decisive problem. It is in the interest of all the pro India groups to show solidarity with the overall sentiment of the people of the state. “Azadi” may not be the slogan of every resident of Jammu and Kashmir but the special status of the state under Indian constitution is close to heart of every citizen here. The silence of Jammu Bar Association is quite meaningful in this regard. The Bar, which has historically remained anti-Kashmir, has maintained discreet silence over the issue. However, 300 lawyers associated with the Bar have signed a petition in favor of the continuation of the Article 35-A. Some sections in BJP too have expressed their anger against the attempts of repealing 35-A. A senior BJP leader, Rajesh Gupta has publicly come in support of the continuation of 35-A arguing that repealing the constitutional provision would open gates for outsiders to settle in Jammu that would have adverse impact on the economy and job opportunities in the region. That makes the issue Jammu and Kashmir versus New Delhi. The people in power at the centre should understand the emotions of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with regard to the state’s individual character. Saner voices at national level, who have some knowledge of politics and power in Kashmir, too have warned of the threats involved in tampering with Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Some newspapers have editorially commented that India would have no legal claim on Kashmir if Article 370 is removed. It would be in India’s national interest that the central government listens to saner voices and BJP which is ruling at the centre should think beyond the arithmetic of election gains.