Jammu and Kashmir shuts down to repeal Article 370

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Normal life was hit in Kashmir and parts of Chenab valley in the Jammu region on Saturday due to a separatist-sponsored shutdown to protest the alleged “devious attempts” being made at the behest of Sangh Parivar to abrogate Article 35A and Article 370 of the Constitution that grant special status to J&K.

Shops and other businesses and educational institutions remained closed and public transport stayed off the roads in Kashmir Valley and parts of Kishtwar and Doda districts of Jammu. Rail services in the Valley were also suspended.

The Kashmir University and J&K Board of School Education deferred the examinations scheduled for Saturday.  There was heavy presence of police, the CRPF and other central paramilitary forces in Srinagar and other cities. Separatist leaders were placed under house arrest.

Authorities imposed restrictions on movement of people in five police station areas of  Maharajgunj, Nowhatta, Khanyar, Nowhatta and Rainawari, apprehending violent protests.

The call for the one-day strike was issued by an alliance of key separatist leaders — Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik — against the “Sangh Parivar-backed devious attempts” to fiddle with the special status of J&K.

“These attempts are aimed at changing the demography of the state and dilute its Muslim-majority character,” it alleged. Various other like-minded political, social and religious organisations, besides lawyers’ associations, had endorsed the shutdown call.

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured her that there would be no fiddling with the special status of the state. On Saturday, the Opposition National Conference (NC) said that it did not believe Ms Mufti’s public utterances.

The party accused her of being hand-in-glove with the BJP and other affiliates of the RSS in “concerted efforts” aimed at striking down Article 35A and Article 370.

“Post Ms Mufti’s meeting with the Prime Minister, senior BJP functionaries have made it abundantly clear that they will continue to actively seek ways and means to strike down Article 35A. This has yet again exposed Ms Mufti and her party,” said NC general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar.

BJP’s spokesperson Virendra Gupta had on Friday said in Jammu, “Time has come to bid a farewell to Article 370 and Article 35A as these have created separatist psyche in Jammu and Kashmir.”