With the Supreme Court deferring the hearing of the petitions challenging the Article 35A which forbids outsiders to settle in Kashmir, the State has breathed a deep sigh of relief. On August 26, a bench headed by Justice J S Khehar accepted the plea of the Jammu and Kashmir government that the pleas challenging Article 35 A be heard after Diwali. The decision at once relaxed the prevailing tense situation in the Valley. The apprehended repeal of the state subject law had put the Valley on edge. Over the past two weeks the tension had risen to a flashpoint. Barring a few, the opposition parties in Valley have closed ranks. So have social groups. The issue has also created a deep sense of uncertainty in the society at large.
Before the deferment of the hearing, Hurriyat had come out with a protest calendar which culminated with a call for hartal on¬†August 29¬†when the court was supposed to prounounce the judgement. And in case of an adverse judgement, there was a direction to start the agitation. However, the amalgam has now postponed the calendar. But the uncertainty has by no means abated.
The evolving situation has created a moment of reckoning for the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti whose ideologically antithetical coalition with the BJP is being questioned again. She herself has warned of far-reaching political repercussions if the article was tinkered with. However the CM has taken solace from the assurance given to her by no less than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. ‚ÄúThe Prime Minister assured me that the Article 35A will be respected‚ÄĚ, Mehbooba told media after emerging from a meeting with the PM on August 11. But the anxiety didn‚Äôt go away in Valley. For there was no word to support her account from either PMO or the BJP.
Kashmir continues to look forward with a bated breath to the Supreme Court‚Äôs hearing of the petition challenging the continuance of the 63 year old law which bars outsiders from buying land in the state and becoming its citizens. On July 18, a division bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar had referred the petition to a three-judge bench after the Attorney General of India KK Venugopal told the court that the constitutional issues were involved in the case.
Venugopal told the bench that the central government was not keen on filing a counter-affidavit in the case, and wanted a ‚Äúlarger debate‚ÄĚ on the issue. This sent alarm bells ringing in Kashmir with people suspecting that the NDA government wanted the law to go. The fears are not unfounded. Repealing J&K‚Äôs special status has been a part of the core agenda of the Sangh Parivar. And the NGO, ‚ÄėWe the People‚Äô which has filed the petition is alleged to be allied with the Sangh groups.