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Something’s Up?

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Is something momentous about to occur in Jammu & Kashmir? The general opinion in political circles is that the Union Government may be thinking in terms of abrogating or changing Article 35A of the Constitution, which provides the state’s legislature the power to define who is a permanent resident of J&K. On Friday, Amarnath Yatris were asked to curtail their visit to the state, ostensibly because of a perceived ‘terrorist threat’. Before that, troops in large numbers were sent to augment the force levels. Some, of course, are merely relieving those returning home from a stint of duty, but locals say that, in totality, the number has been increased considerably. Other indications are the rapidity with which the Government has been empowering itself with various legislations, in particular, by bringing amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act that would allow it to designate individuals as terrorists.
All this has sent shivers up the spines of certain persons. Former Chief Ministers Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference held a meeting with the Prime Minister Modi on Thursday to plead that nothing be done that would worsen the situation in the state, and asked for early assembly elections. According to them, Article 35A was not ‘explicitly’ mentioned, but surely enough hints will have been dropped in the matter. Anyway, everybody knows that the Prime Minister keeps his cards pretty close to his chest.
It is also possible that there are certain persons in J&K from the Hurriyat and some fringe groups who might be in line for being designated as terrorists. Along with the numerous other actions being taken by the government, particularly on tracking down money trails that finance the terrorists, this would help put some overground terrorist sympathisers out of circulation. Others would feel the pressure of the authorities breathing down their necks. (Of course, the developments are being watched eagerly by the legal community in New Delhi in the expectation that high profile appeals in the Supreme Court would keep the cash flow going.)
It is certain that the separatists and their terrorist friends will put in their utmost to resist changes in laws related to J&K, which grant privileges that are fundamentally against the spirit of India’s Constitution. A lot of effort was put in to bring down the PDP-BJP coalition merely because it reduced the dominance of the valley in the exercise of power. By doing so, however, the separatists have forced the Government of India to contemplate harder, more permanent measures! It is up to the ‘mainstream’ political parties of the state to consider what stand they will take regarding the coming events.