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Agencies warn police revolt, massive unrest  if Article 35-A is abrogated 

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Srinagar, Aug 05: Besides a massive bout of unprecedented political turmoil, intelligence agencies have warned that there could be a “revolt in the police ranks” in Jammu and Kashmir if the Supreme Court passes an “adverse” order on Article 35-A of the Constitution on Monday, NDTV quoted sources as having told it.

The top court will hear a petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Presidential Order of 1954, which defines “permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir”, and bars non-locals from buying and owning land in the state.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police are on the forefront in the fight against militancy, pro-separatists protests and stone-throwing in the Valley. More than 1,600 police personnel have been killed fighting militancy since 1990. But on the issue, top officers are worried about the fallout in case the Supreme Court decides to strike down Article 35-A.

A non-government organisation or NGO, backed by right-wing groups, has challenged Article 35-A, on grounds that it violates fundamental rights of citizens of India including the right to own property and the right to reside and settle in any part of the country.

The petitioner contended that the Constitution of India can be amended only by the Parliament, and Article 35-A was outside the jurisdiction of President of India. The provision in the Constitution was applied to supersede Jammu and Kashmir’s State Subject Law enacted by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927.

Intelligence agencies have written to the State government, warning a revolt in the police ranks if Article 35-A is tinkered with, NDTV quoted the sources as saying.

State government employees, trade unions, business associations, civil society groups and lawyers have threatened to go on protest if the special constitutional position of the state was compromised. For the last one week, there have been a series of protests as clamour is growing to retain Article 35-A.

Sensing trouble, the State government headed by Governor NN Vohra has requested the Supreme Court to delay the case till local body and Panchayat elections due in October. Last year, the Supreme Court deferred hearing of the case after the centre said that the government has appointed an interlocutor to hold negotiations with various stakeholders in the state.

Shesh Paul Vaid, Director General of Police (DGP), admitted that the local police had a view about this emotive issue, and hoped that the state government’s request for delaying the hearing would be accepted by the court.

However, the officer exuded confidence that there would be no revolt in the police.

“Police officers have a view. I am a resident of Jammu and Kashmir and I am also police officer; I have my own views. But what’s my duty, I will always do first,” Vaid was quoted by the channel as saying.

“The state government has requested for deferment and I am sure something positive will come,” he added.

Vaid said the state police were working under the most tumultuous situation and had been a very disciplined force. “I don’t see any possibility [of revolt]. The order of the Supreme Court is respected by all parties and everyone in the country,” he said.

The fear of altering the special status of Jammu and Kashmir is also bringing together separatist groups and mainstream political parties to fight for the common cause. While two regional majors and arch rivals — National Conference (NC)and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have warned massive protests, separatist groups have called for a two-day shutdown on Sunday and Monday.

For the first time, the police are allowing protests and appealed to people for peace. “I am sure people will express their views peacefully and will not take to violence. I am hopeful that things will pass off peacefully,” said Vaid.

Given that the separatists are also fighting to safeguard a provision of the Indian constitution, the police chief said it was “a good change”.

“It’s a very good change. They are fighting for some provision of the Indian constitution,” said Vaid.

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