Srinagar, Normal life in Kashmir and Chenab Valley of Jammu region came to a halt Saturday in the wake of a protest shutdown against the “machinations” to scrap Article 35-A of the Constitution.
The separatists, who had called for the shutdown today, say the attempt to remove Article 35-A is aimed at changing the demography of the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir.
Article 35-A of the Constitution defines the residency laws in Jammu and Kashmir and bars outsiders from buying any immovable property or applying for jobs in the State government.
Owing to the shutdown, schools, colleges, shops, business establishments and private offices remained closed while as the attendance in most government offices was also very thin.
Public transport remained off the roads in most parts of Kashmir, while a few private vehicles and some auto-rickshaws could be seen plying.
Train services also remained suspended. An official said that train services were suspended on Baramulla-Banihal track “as a precautionary measure”.
Authorities had also imposed restrictions on the movement of people in five police station areas of Srinagar — Maharajgunj, Nowhatta, Khanyar, Nowhatta and Rainawari, apprehending violent protests.
The University of Kashmir (KU) and Board of School Education (BOSE) had on Friday postponed all the examinations scheduled for today.
The separatists including chairmen of both factions of Hurriyat Conference – Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik had called for the complete shutdown today.
They said the plea in the Supreme Court of India against Article 35-A was part of plans to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir. They had said the strike was also against the “continuous killing of Kashmiris at the hands of Indian forces”.
In Chenab Valley, Anjuman Islamia Bhadarwah, Markazi Seerat Committee Doda, Anjuman Islamia Gandoh, Masjid Committee Thathri and Majlis-e-Shoura Kishtwar had issued a shutdown call in the region.
Shops, other business establishments and some private schools were closed, however government schools and offices were open and traffic also moved on the roads.
The Kishtwar district also observed a shutdown on the call of Majlis-e-Shoora Kishtwar, an amalgam of local Imams and traders. Reports said that Doda, Gandoh and Thathri also observed complete shutdown.
The Supreme Court had last month asked the Centre to file a reply within three weeks to a writ petition filed by an NGO seeking that Article 35-A be struck down.
The plea said the State government, under the guise of Article 35-A and Article 370, which grants special autonomous status to J&K, has been discriminating against non-residents who are debarred from buying properties, getting a government job or voting in the local elections.
Meanwhile, Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) protested on Saturday against the machinations to abrogate the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Holding placards and shouting slogans, the businessmen and traders assembled at Srinagar’s Press Enclave and held a protest there, before marching to the Clock Tower in Lal Chowk for a sit-in.
Speaking on the occasion, a traders’ leader Farooq Ahmad Dar said “abrogation of special status (Article 35-A) is direct attack on autonomy of the Jammu and Kashmir”.
He alleged that PDP-BJP government is implementing the “agenda of the RSS” and “is hell-bent to do away with Article 370” which gives special status to J&K.
“The wound inflicted on the state’s autonomy through extension of GST is still fresh and now another new machination has been launched to question the validity of Article 35-A,” he said.