Srinagar, Aug 30: Unprecedented shutdown ahead of Friday’s hearing in the Supreme Court on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of Article 35A of the Constitution that guarantees special privileges to Jammu and Kashmir crippled life across Kashmir Valley.
Kashmir capital Srinagar and other parts woke up to deserted roads and markets as businesses and shops were closed and public transport remained off the roads amid heavy deployment of forces in restive areas. Even Auto Rickshaws were not seen on the roads while shikaras in Dal Lake lay moored in the jetties.
Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have called for the two-day shutdown on Thursday and Friday across the state, blaming “the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) of attempts to change the demography of the state.
The strike call was supported by many organisations, including trade, travel and tourism bodies and civil society members, who have also threatened mass protests.
Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was placed under house arrest last night to prevent him from leading any protests in support of Article 35-A, said a spokesman. Syed Ali Geelani continues to remain under house detention. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik and Chairman Peoples Political Party Hilal Ahmed War have gone into hiding.
Reports said that contingents of paramilitary forces were deployed at various sensitive points in Srinagar particularly old city areas.
Train services remain suspended across Kashmir, keeping in view of the shutdown call.
“We have suspended all trains between Srinagar-Budgam-in central Kashmir to Baramulla in north Kashmir today,” a Railway official said adding that on Friday as well trains will not chug across Kashmir Valley.
Peaceful protest rallies amid shutdown were organized by locals under different banners across Kashmir Valley. Peaceful protests in support of Article 35A were staged in Srinagar, Kangan, Ganderbal, Budgam, Baramulla and other parts of Valley.
Besides Srinagar, unprecedented shutdown was observed in Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama, Anantnag, Baramulla, Bandipora, Kupwara, Tral, Awantipora, Pampore, Beerwah, Magam, Khansahab, Khag, Kangan, Tangmarg, Pakharpora and other parts of Valley.
Industrialists Association of Khunmoh held a protest demonstration near Ghanta Ghar Lal Chowk Srinagar against the attempts to abrogate the Article 35-A. Scores of Industrialists association of Khunmoh members assembled near the Ganta Ghar in Lal Chowk holding placards and banners and registered their protest against attempts to abrogate the Article 35-A. The protesting industrialists demanded the immediate dismissal of the petition challenging the validity of Article 35-A in Constitution of India.
A protest demonstration under the banner of Traders Union Kangan in which Jamia Auqwaf Kangan, Civil society Kangan and the representatives of other organization participated was staged in Central Kashmir’s Kangan town. The protesters demanded that Article 35-A should be safeguarded at any cost.
On Friday, the Supreme Court will hear a clutch of petitions against the Article 35A, which empowers the Jammu and Kashmir’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them. Governor administration in the state has asked the Supreme Court to defer the hearing, citing upcoming panchayat and urban local body elections.
Since August 1, there have been repeated protests in the state against any change in Article 35A and Article 370, with the state’s main political parties such as the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party taking to the streets. Senior Congress leaders in the state have also warned of a massive agitation if Article 35A is tweaked.
While Article 370 of the Constitution grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Article 35A disallows people from the rest of India from buying or owning immovable property in the state, settle permanently, or get state government jobs.