Speculations rife in Kashmir over future of Article 35A as BJP calls urgent meeting; statements of regional leaders fuel panic

  • The central leadership of the BJP has summoned members of the party’s core group in Jammu and Kashmir for an 'urgent meeting' in Delhi on Tuesday.

  • This comes amidst a lot of speculation regarding the deployment of additional forces in the Valley.

  • The central government would do well to take measures to calm the nerves of common Kashmiris.

New Delhi: The central leadership of the BJP has summoned members of the party’s core group in Jammu and Kashmir for an “urgent meeting” in Delhi on Tuesday. This comes amidst a lot of speculation regarding the deployment of additional forces in the Valley.

The deployment of additional forces, the BJP’s urgent meeting, combined with certain other developments, has led to speculations in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in New Delhi circles, about two or three possibilities:

-Is the deployment due to intelligence inputs about a major threat perception of a terrorist attack or other disruptive activities on or before 15 August i.e. Independence Day in the Kashmir valley?

-Is the Centre planning to announce Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir in October-November?

-Is the Centre planning to take the politically significant step of removing Article 35A?

The BJP meeting in Delhi is likely to be chaired by BJP working president JP Nadda and will also be attended by general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh. The possibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah meeting the party’s Jammu and Kashmir unit leaders has not been ruled out.

News reports quoting sources in the BJP state unit said no agenda has been conveyed to them.

 Speculations rife in Kashmir over future of Article 35A as BJP calls urgent meeting; statements of regional leaders fuel panic

Protests against Article 35A in Kashmir. File image. AP

“Going by the hurry in which the meeting is being convened, there seems to be something important — maybe discussions on Article 35A (which empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define permanent residents of the state) or the much-awaited Assembly elections,” a report in The Indian Express quoted a senior party leader in Jammu and Kashmir who did not want to be named. Even the timing of the meeting has not been conveyed to them, this leader pointed out, adding that all of them would reach Delhi on Monday itself so that they are available for the meeting at short notice.

The report also quoted “other party leaders” who ruled out the possibility of discussions on Article 35A. “Why would we take a call on (Article) 35A when the matter is pending before the Supreme Court?,” the report quoted one of the leaders attending the meeting. The leader added,“We will go by the decision of the court”.

Meanwhile, the statements of certain Kashmiri leaders have fueled panic in the region. Instead of being seen as a routine security drill ahead of Independence Day, the deployment of additional forces has been hyped to create a fear psychosis among people in Kashmir.

On Sunday, PDP chief and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti warned the Centre against the revocation of Article 35A, saying any tinkering with the provision would be akin to setting a powder keg on fire. "If any hand tries to touch Article 35A, not only that hand, but that whole body will be burnt to ashes," she said.

It is significant to note here that Mufti lost the recent Lok Sabha election from her traditional constituency of Anantnag by a heavy margin. She is virtually fighting for political survival in the state.

Jammu and Kashmir is presently witnessing a complete restructuring of the typical separatist narrative on which both the Kashmir-centric regional parties, the National Conference and the PDP, have always based their politics. As a result, with the ground virtually slipping from under their feet, leaders of both parties have been giving inflammatory statements these days. Interestingly, regional parties from Jammu and Ladakh areas are largely unaffected by this upheaval.

Mosques under MHA scanner

Besides the deployment of additional forces in Kashmir, one more development has turned into a cause for panic among pro-separatist groups. The Ministry of Home Affairs has put all mosques in Srinagar under the scanner. In a letter to all zones in the city, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Srinagar has asked the Superintendents of Police (SPs) to provide details of all mosques in their respective jurisdictions.

The letter by the SSP reads: "Please provide details of mosques and their management falling within your respective jurisdictions as per enclosed proforma to this office immediately for onward submission to higher authorities."

In the letter, dated 28 July and marked as urgent, the zones are required to submit the information latest by 10 am on 29 July. The required information includes district, details of jurisdiction, name of the mosque and its location, name of the maulvi, and the address and name of the chairman.

The letter was sent to SP, City of South Zone, Hazratbal Zone, North Zone, East Zone and West Zone Srinagar.

This development can be seen in the context of intelligence inputs about a major terrorist attack being planned by Pakistan-backed terror groups. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had visited Kashmir recently and held a meeting of the counter-terrorism grid in the Kashmir Valley. After this assessment by the NSA, the government felt the need for deploying additional troops there, top government sources have revealed.

The separatist-terrorist nexus, which has been considerably weakened in the Valley over the past few years, is also fighting for survival right now. The basis for their very existence in Kashmir has been the fear psychosis that they could instill among the people. The success of Operation All-Out (a focused anti-insurgency campaign by all security forces) is a clear pointer to the silent support of local Kashmiris, because such operations are largely dependent on local intelligence inputs.

To counter the ever-tightening security grid, the over-ground workers (OGWs) of terror groups in Kashmir are now working to create panic among people about the central government’s intentions.

There are reports about Kashmir locals stocking up on dry ration in case of an “emergency situation.” All kinds of rumours are doing the rounds in the region. It is a typical strategy of Kashmir’s terror networks to activate their OGWs to get the rumour-mills working overtime, as is happening now.

The central government would do well to take measures to calm the nerves of common Kashmiris. The Kashmir region has, by and large, started reposing trust in the intentions of Modi 2.0 – especially after home minister Amit Shah’s visit to the Valley. The trust factor needs to grow and sustain itself. Large-scale panic could lead to the undoing of any positive step that the government may be mulling – and that is exactly what the negative forces of Kashmir want.

Updated Date: Jul 29, 2019 19:33:36 IST