Protests in J&K over Article 35A hearing in Apex court need govt. attention

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The Supreme Court is now hearing a clutch of pleas for deleting the Article 35A that deals with the special status given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The major parties of the Valley, the Congress, National Conference, People’s Democratic Party are of the view that the Article is the base on which the state was merged with the Indian Union just after Independence and it cannot be removed. They asserted that the Article is the part and parcel of the salient features of the constitution which cannot be changed. In view of the agreement done by the Indian Union with the ruler of the state Maharaja Hari Singh, the constituent assembly inserted the Article 370 and Article 35A which deal with the status of the state and the constitutional rights of the people of the state. The princely state was given the option by the British rulers either to remain independent, or join India or Pakistan. Though it was a Muslim majority state, but on the advice of Shaik Abdullah, his confidant and a popular leader, the ruler opted to merge with India. This provoked Pakistan which attacked the state in the guise of tribal assault. Thus it is still the bone of contention between India and Pakistan.

Against this background, the BJP since its inception has been opposing the special status to the state. Now the Supreme Court will decide the matter once and for all. The people of the Valley are so sensitive that at the beginning of the hearing, they started protests. On August 27, scores of protesters were injured in clashes with the security forces. Schools and markets remained closed in different parts of the Valley. The feelings of the people with regard to these Articles are very strong. And this should be an eye opener for the authorities. The Jammu and Kashmir government is still to file an affidavit in the court. The reports said the counter-affidavit was prepared by the former Advocate General of the state and it defended the Article 35. Now the government was finalizing the same and it would be submitted in the court. The present Advocate General D C Raina said there was no change in the government stand. He said it would be submitted to the court very soon.

Following the fall of the PDP-BJP government, the state is being ruled by the centre and in a major decision the government of India changed the Governor. N Vohra was replaced by Satya Pal Malik and this change is being hailed by many quarters. It is reported that there is a vast difference between the two Governors to deal with the militancy and the street protests by the stone pelters. The death of some civilians in the Army firing also provoked strong protests by the people. As a matter of fact, the hearing of the Article 35A should be put off till the elected government comes to power. The former Governor took this stand. However, Malik’s views on the Article are still to be known. In any case, the sentiments of the people should not be ignored.

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