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Proposed abrogation of Article 35-A: Kashmir Civil society to send a memorandum to UN chief, OIC

Saturday, August 12, 2017
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(Greater Kashmir) - Amid growing clamour against proposed abrogation of Article 35-A, Kashmir’s civil society members on Friday passed a resolution to oppose the move tooth and nail. They decided to send a memorandum to UN secretary-general, all permanent members of UNSC and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation member countries. The civil society members have also decided to hold a silent sit-in protest at Lal Chowk in next few days.

Addressing a roundtable conference on Article-35-A in Srinagar, senior lawyer Zaffar Shah said the writ petition against Article 35-A filed by NGO “We the Citizens” is a “sponsored petition” and Government of India and government of J&K are also a party to the case.

“What 35-A protects is our state subject law and they (NGO and others) are out to declare it as invalid. Government of J&K has filed a short affidavit while government of India has not filed its affidavit in these proceedings. We need to understand why GoI has not filed an affidavit, whether the issue was legal or not. The importance of this affidavit was to know the stand of GoI but since they did not file it, they kept their options open,” Shah said.

“If GoI would have sought dismissal of the petition, it would have been on the same page as government of J&K but at a time when GoI has kept its options open, the matter becomes more serious,” Shah said.

According to Shah, GoI’s not filing the affidavit indicates that it is of the “same ideology as that of the coalition partner (BJP) in the J&K government”.

“This coalition partner has taken an extremely divergent view than what state government view is in the affidavit in the Supreme Court. One of the (BJP) leaders recently said had we not been in coalition, we would have scrapped Article 370. Technically what is left in the Supreme Court now is half the government i.e PDP,” Shah said. 

He said civil society must engage a top lawyer outside the state to counter the petition against Article 35-A. Shah said growing clamour that constitution of J&K be declared as “null and void” is also a matter of great concern.

“We are on a crossroads and need to have a joint stand. Let us not have differences irrespective of likes and dislikes. One thing that Article 35-A protects is our state subject law. This law existed much before 1947 and Article 35-A offers protection to that special status. How come someone now after 60 years questions the provisions of this Article,” Shah said.

Noted academician and political analyst Siddiq Wahid said apart from countering the petition against proposed abrogation of Article 35-A in a legal manner, it is also important to “ fight it politically”. Wahid said time has come for civil society members to hit the streets against “tampering” of the special status.

Political analyst Noor Muhammad Baba said taking Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council into confidence is important as LAHDC is already “suspicious” of the motives of RSS. “Jammu and Ladakh have more at stake, so we need to convince LAHDC and our friends in Jammu that Article 35-A is important,” Baba said.

Former bureaucrat Muhammad Shafi Pandit said, “It is important for the civil society to apprise the political leadership across the divide about the implications and consequences arising from scrapping of Article 35-A.”

“J&K is much talked about as a privileged state but in reality it is the weakest state and we must not let it further weaken. We must kick-start a signature campaign against efforts which are weakening our special status,” he said.

Human rights activist Khuram Parvez said civil society needs to respond to the narrative of New Delhi-based media which is “hell-bent on projecting Kashmiris as regressive”.

“The Delhi based media is projecting that by supporting Article 35-A Kashmiris are being against rights of women etc. This sort of narrative needs to be strongly countered,” Parvez said.

Former Chief Information Commissioner GR Sufi said minorities such as Sikhs should also be included in the fight against efforts being made to scrap Article 35-A.

Political scientist Prof Gull Wani said in the present day society, there are very few “democratic voices in India to speak for Kashmiris” as there has been a “change of character” across India. “We should not build a situation where egos and counter-egos come into place since we don’t have much support from rest of India now,” Wani said.

Among other resolutions passed in the conference was to sensitise people about the grave dangers and consequences of the proposed abrogation by using the services of Imams, Pujaris , Granthis & priests etc in all the districts of the state. It also decided to appeal to the legal luminaries of the state to rise to the occasion and fight the case in Supreme Court and engage the services of competent lawyers if necessary.

The roundtable conference among others was attended by Prof Hameedah Nayeem, Dr Altaf Hussain, Shiekh Showkat Hussain, Prof Nisar Ali, Dr. Shujaat Bukhari, Dr. Javid Iqbal, ZG Muhammad, Shakeel Qalander, Advocate G. N Shaheen, Dr. Mubeen Shah, Siraj Ahmad, Mukhtar Yousuf, Gowhar Geelani, Maajid Hyderi, Syed Niaz Shah, Zarif Ahmad Zarif, Dr Mubarak, Dr Naseer Ahmad Shah, Dr Nazir Ahmad, Javid Bhat, Syed Fazal Illahi and Meraj Din Qureshi.