Saying the best way to hug and embrace Kashmiris is to assure them that their constitutional rights will be honoured and strengthened, the ex-panches and sarpanches of Jammu and Kashmir met in Srinagar on Thursday to voice their concern over the fears of abrogation of Article 35-A. “The best way to hug and embrace Kashmiris is to restore their dignity and identity and to assure them again that all the constitutional rights given to them in Indian constitution will be honoured and strengthened,” said Shafiq Mir, Chairman of the All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference.
Mir was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent speech from Red Fort that Kashmir issues can be resolved not through “goli or gali” but through embracing the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “We will fight any move aimed at eroding the special status of the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Around 500 former panches and srapanches, from both Kashmir and Jammu provinces, met in Srinagar on Thursday for one-day convention. The main focus of the convention was Article 35-A. “We are against any move that tinkers with it (Article 35-A). Ninety percent of the people of Jammu and Kashmir are against it,” said Mohammad Aslam Kohli, an ex-sarpanch, who had come from Surnakote in Rajouri. “It (litigation on Article 35-A) is a big conspiracy. If they tried to play with it, we will not hesitate to go against the government”.
Kohli, who is a Gujjar leader and represented Kalakattar as sarpanch, said the people of Poonch will fight with full vigour against any move to remove Article 35-A. “They (GoI) have been giving step motherly treatment to us. But still we didn’t react. We would not disturb anybody and nobody should disturb us,” he said. “But if they tried any move, we fill fight with our lives. It (removal of Article 35-A) will destroy our culture and change our demography”.
While passing a resolution at the daylong convention, the former panchayat members of the state sought personal intervention of Prime Minister Modi with assurance that all the “constitutional rights guaranteed to them will be protected and strengthened”.
“Everyone present at the convention said that the Article 35-A should not be tampered with and that nobody should dare to change the special status of the state,” said Fayaz Ahmad Khanday, a former sarpanch from Banihal in Jammu. “The non-Muslim panches from Jammu said they are more worried about the Article 35-A as they would be the first to face its consequences”.