The Jammu and Kashmir government asserted on Sunday that it had sought adjournment of a hearing on the contentious Article 35A in the Supreme Court. “Our stand is clear on it. We have requested the Supreme Court to defer the hearing,” Rohit Kansal, the newly appointed spokesperson of the governor’s administration in the state, said.
Seeking to quell panic and protests in the Valley sparked by rumours of an ordinance to repeal the Article, a crackdown against separatists and deployment of additional troops, Governor Satya Pal Malik also issued a statement saying the induction of additional forces should be seen only in the context of coming elections.
Replying to a question on whether there was a change in stand of the governor’s administration on Article 35A, Kansal said it remained the same, that only an elected government could take a stand on it before the Supreme Court, which is hearing a bunch of petitions challenging its validity. On February 11, the J&K government’s counsel had sought the Supreme Court’s permission to circulate a letter among the contesting parties for adjourning the coming hearing on pleas challenging the Article, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of the state, saying there was no “elected government” in the state.
Kansal also urged people of the state not to pay heed to rumours and panic. “In the past few days several rumours have been circulated and panic messages disseminated. Most of these have been based on unsubstantiated or exaggerated pieces of information,” he said.
In his appeal to the people, Malik said more troops had been deployed as “after the Pulwama incident, the security concerns have become much higher, with the possibility of terrorist organisations increasing their activities against candidates and voters”, and appealed to people not to believe in rumours that are “creating an atmosphere of fear”.
The appeal followed a meeting of the State Administrative Council held under his chairmanship where the Governor was informed that additional troops were needed as general elections were imminent. The official statement from the Raj Bhawan cited the recent urban local body and panchayat elections held under the watch of over 400 additional companies of central police forces, adding, “Death threats were given by terrorist organisations to anyone planning to contest the election… Candidates were asked to go with their coffins to file nominations… Voters were also threatened with severe consequences.”
The statement said that the forces had been brought in at this time to allow them to familiarise themselves with the situation before the elections, and that more troops would be brought in in the coming weeks.
On the rationing of petrol and diesel, leading to long lines in the Valley, Malik said the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, had ordered it so as to conserve whatever was available for emergency purposes, with the supply of petroleum and other products to the Valley hit due to the National Highway remaining shut due to snow and the blockage called by protesters. “The availability of petrol in the Valley is adequate for just one day and that of diesel for four days. There is no stock of LPG,” his statement said, adding that they were taking measures to retrieve the situation.
The Raj Bhawan cited the same reason for the instructions to hospitals to increase availability of medicines.
On the safety of Kashmiris residing outside the state, some of whom have come under attack, the Governor noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given clear directions to state governments in this regard. While over 22,000 Kashmiris are studying outside the state, Malik added, the number of students injured in such incidents was not even in single digits. He accused the media of “playing up a few scattered incidents”, leading to “fear and anxiety among parents”.
Claiming that “exaggerated reporting has led to unnecessary excessive reactions in the Kashmir Valley”, he said, “It is necessary for everyone to avoid fear-mongering and not worsen matters.”