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Article 35-A: Indian SC defers hearing to January 2019 as IOK shuts down


News Analysis |

The Supreme Court on Friday deferred to January 2019 the hearing over a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35-A that empowers the J&K government to define the state’s permanent residents and their rights. The Centre and State urged the court to hear the matter only after the local body elections scheduled for December in the state.

On Thursday, the Kashmir Valley and parts of Jammu region observed a complete shutdown to protest against any “tampering” with the special constitutional rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The Joint Resistance Leadership, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and Yasin Malik, gave the call for the shutdown that will be observed today as well.

The relations between the two countries have been in a downward spiral since massive protests for independence in IOK that have been met with brutal Indian repression.

Earlier in the first week of August, the apex court had deferred the hearing in the matter to the last week of August after both the Centre and Centre-ruled J&K administration sought an adjournment of proceedings, citing ongoing preparations for local body polls.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar adjourned the hearing, saying a three-judge bench needs to decide whether it should be referred to a Constitution Bench. “Let the matter be listed before a three-judge bench in the week commencing August 27 to determine whether it should be heard by a Constitution Bench or not,” the judges said.

The provisions of Article 35-A bars Indian citizens, other than those who are permanent residents of J&K, from seeking employment, settling in the state, acquiring immovable properties or undertaking any trade or business if the state makes any law to that effect and it cannot be challenged before any court.

Read more: Article 35-A: Court’s move could be problematic for Indo-Pak relations

Following the adjournment of the hearing the matter, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said, “Even though the deferment of hearing on Article 35 A is not a solution, it has brought interim relief to the people of JK. But with uncertainty looming over its status, it has unleashed a wave of anxiety and panic amongst the people of J & K.”

Many see the hand of Hindutva groups behind the move. Analysts see this as the first step towards the total abrogation of the Article 370 of which 35-A is a part. In case this happens, Indian Occupied Kashmir will lose its special status as a separate territory under Indian constitution and become open to moves like demographic engineering & territorial dismemberment.

IOK’s ruling coalition collapsed in June as the BJP ended support to the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The state has been left under Governor’s rule for the fourth time since 2008 and eighth time since 1977.

The latest wave, which ignited after the death of a local popular rebel, Burhan Wani, in 2016, has captured the attention of a global audience.

While the above move has become divisive within India, it will also unleash a host of problems for the new government in Pakistan. The relations between the two countries have been in a downward spiral since massive protests for independence in IOK that have been met with brutal Indian repression. The new Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced in his victory speech that Pakistan is ready to improve its ties with India.

“If they take one step towards us, we will take two, but at least (we) need a start,” 65-year-old Khan had stressed in his first public address after leading his party to victory in the general elections held on 25th July. He, however, had also reiterated that India and Pakistan should resolve their dispute over the divided Kashmir region through talks. According to sources, Imran’s offer was appreciated by government circles inside India who asked for a delay in talks till the Indian elections scheduled in 2019.

Read more: Is India committing war crimes in Occupied Kashmir?

The region of Kashmir is a flashpoint between the two nuclear-armed powers of South Asia. The dispute began when during the partition of the British occupied subcontinent, the refusal of the area’s hereditary ruler Hari Singh to comply with his people’s wishes led to a rebellion. Faced with losing his fiefdom to a people’s army aided by tribesman from across the border, the ruler acquiesced to India in return for military aid. This led to a war between newly found India and Pakistan and later on the division of Kashmir into Azad Kashmir and IOK.

However, Indian militarization was unable to break the will of the Kashmiri populace desiring self-determination. Despite agreeing to a UN-supervised plebiscite, India has not fulfilled its promise, instead, it turned Kashmir into the most militarized zone on Earth.
Since its occupation, IOK has faced wave after wave of unrest caused by the local campaign for self-determination to which New Delhi has largely responded with more and more brutality. The latest wave, which ignited after the death of a local popular rebel, Burhan Wani, in 2016, has captured the attention of a global audience.

Read more: Indian Occupied Kashmir burns as killings increase

However, any attempt by Islamabad to mend fences with New Delhi will be faced with peril if India tries to abrogate the special status of IOK. Already the new government has been embroiled in a tussle with India over the treatment of former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu. Sidhu had recently visited Pakistan to attend Prime Minister Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony, was criticized in India for hugging General Bajwa during the oath-taking ceremony.

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