Kashmir shuts down ahead of Supreme Court hearing on Article 35-A (Photo Source: PTI)
Normal life in Kashmir came to a standstill on Sunday on a call for shutdown by separatists, who have been protesting the government's alleged move to tamper with Article 35-A, which prevents non-locals from buying and owning any immovable property in the state.
The large-scale protest came a day before the Supreme Court's crucial hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of Article 35-A, a presidential order mandated back in 1954.
Though Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar woke up to desolate roads with all kinds of transport and business establishment remained closed, no untoward incident has been reported from across the valley so far.
The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) called for a two-day strike as the fear that special status of Jammu and Kashmir's will be revoked through a legal route has been mongering across the state.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik from the JRL accused the BJP and RSS of attempting to change the demography” of the state. A sit-in was also organised by traders in the city-centre against any change in the special status of the state.
A Delhi-based NGO, We the Citizens filed a petition, claiming that the state's special status, granted by Article 35-A and Article 370 of the Constitution, discriminate against neighbouring citizens from across the country.
Article 370 of the Constitution grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, while Article 35A empowers the state legislature to define the state’s “permanent residents” and their special rights and privileges.
Meanwhile, the state government has filed an application before the apex court, asking it to defer the hearing in view of the "ongoing preparations for the upcoming Panchayat and urban local body and municipal elections in the state".
Separatists, on the other hand, warned of launching a "mass agitation of hitting and occupying streets" if Article 35-A is 'tinkered' under a legal garb.
Amidst this rising tension across the valley, large numbers of security personnel have been deployed at vulnerable places to maintain the law and order.
Various organisations, including Bar Association, transporters and traders' bodies have extended their support to the shutdown call of the JRL.
Protests have been held across the length and breadth of Kashmir since August 1 with mainstream parties like the National Conference and PDP holding rallies in support of continuing Article 35-A.