The Kashmir question

Article 35A: Is the perceived threat to special status realigning politics in Kashmir?

Arch rivals National Conference and People’s Democratic Party have joined hands to defend Article 35A. But will the unity last?

Fears that Jammu and Kashmir’s special status within the Indian Union could be diluted has had an unusual political effect. It has united the two main Valley-based parties that are arch rivals – the ruling People’s Democratic Party and the opposition National Conference.

Anxieties about special status are not new to Kashmir. This time, they were triggered by a petition in the Supreme Court, challenging Article 35A, a Constitutional provision that allows Jammu and Kashmir to define its “permanent residents”. Essentially, it is intended to preserve the state’s demography by barring “non-residents” from buying land or property. The Supreme Court has also sought the Centre’s response to another plea challenging the validity of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.

On Tuesday, Kashmir watchers were surprised when Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti called on National Conference president Farooq Abdullah.

‘Rising above normal positions’

Ali Mohammad Sagar, a senior National Conference legislator, said the joining of forces was necessary. “These things happen,” Sagar said of Mufti visiting Abdullah. “Sometimes there are crucial issues where there is no other way but to unite and give a united flight.”

Sagar said the matter was not limited to any particular region – read, the Valley – but involved the rights and privileges of people across the state. “Naturally, people are concerned and so are political parties,” he said. “If the PDP is on the same page then they have to practically prove that. They have to prove their concerns are genuine.”

Senior People’s Democratic Party leader Naeem Akhtar said the two parties “agreed upon during the meeting the need for rising above normal political positions in the interests of J&K”.

According to a report in The Indian Express, the chief minister said, “It is a challenge for all political parties in J&K, who swear by the J&K Constitution and the Constitution of India. There is hardly anything left in our special status and if Article 35A is tampered with, we will cease to exist. It will be a death knell to the mainstream here. We will have nothing to tell our people.’’

Last month, Mufti had said there would be “no one to shoulder the Indian flag in the Valley”, if special status was tampered with.

State vs Centre

The threat to Article 35A has consolidated groups beyond the two major rivals. On Monday, the mainstream opposition parties held a meeting, presided by Abdullah, where the politician warned of an uprising. “When it will come to scrapping the Article, you will see this mass of people rising,” he told reporters after the meeting. “Don’t forget when Amarnath land row thing happened, people rose overnight. This Article 35A will be far greater a revolt and I wonder whether they [Government of India] will be able to contain it.” Abdullah also indicated the possibility of a “united front”, Greater Kashmir reported. His stand was endorsed by the senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz.

The agitation has travelled beyond the mainstream fold now. The separatist leaders too have raised their concerns. On Monday, the three prominent separatist leaders, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, called for a shutdown to protest the “ongoing genocide of Kashmiris, onslaught on common people and attempts to change the state subject law in Jammu and Kashmir”. Their joint press statement read: “People of Kashmir will observe a complete shutdown on Saturday [August 12, 2017] and register their protest against these anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmir actions.”

On Tuesday, members of the Kashmir Economic Alliance, a traders’ body, held protests against the “proposed” abrogation of Article 35A. They also shouted slogans against the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax in the state, reported Greater Kashmir.

In July, the Centre had expressed its reservation over responding to a petition in the Supreme Court that calls for declaring Article 35A “unconstitutional”, reported Hindustan Times. The report mentioned that Attorney General KK Venugopal told a bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar that the government was not keen on filing an affidavit, and wanted a “larger debate” on this “very sensitive” matter.

However, a month later, the attorney general said “a conscious decision has been taken not to file any counter-affidavit in this case because the issues which are raised for adjudication are pure questions of law”. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, took to Twitter to express his displeasure.

‘Issue-less politics’

Sunil Sethi, the chief spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, said the matter was being blown out of proportion. “I don’t understand, where is the Centre against Article 370 or 35A?” he asked. “Presently, there is no move by the central government to change or amend Article 370 or 35A, so what is the purpose of this coming together? This absolutely is no issue. It’s issue-less politics being done there.”

On the threat of agitation, Sethi said, “Dr Farooq...wants to influence the judgement of the Supreme Court of India by inciting people which is very bad and contemptuous. That will amount to politicising the institution of the Supreme Court of India.”

He was less critical of the People’s Democratic Party, the BJP’s partner in the state’s ruling alliance. The party’s position was justified because it had only spoken about defending special status, Sethi said. “As far as the Bharatiya Janata Party is concerned, so long as the agenda of alliance is there, we stand for maintaining status quo on Constitutional positions in the state,” he added.

“If the NC or any other political party from Kashmir thinks that the debate in the Supreme Court will not be up to their expectations, they should go and become a party in the petition and argue the case,” Sethi said. “NC can also go, PDP can also go, Congress can also go.”

‘Temporary unity’

Journalist and political commentator Mohammad Syed Malik said although the various parties have taken a similar position, they “may not have taken the same platform”. “The sentiment in the Valley cuts across party lines,” he said. “Therefore, there is a compulsion for every political party to fall in line.”

Malik noted that it was not “long-lasting political unity” being forged but a “strategic unity” for the purpose of defending special status. “This is a very temporary patch when everybody is on the same wavelength,” he said.

As for the possibility of an agitation breaking out, he said, “much will depend on the attitude” of the central government. “We can only react, not act.”

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.


2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.