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Streets Silent And No Public Debates In Kashmir Unlike Past As SC Takes Up Petitions On Article 370

The Supreme Court’s current hearings on Article 370 petitions have been distinguished by total stillness in Kashmir. In contrast, shutdowns and seminars were held whenever the Supreme Court considered Article 35A petitions in 2018.

Unlike in the past, there has been no public debate or seminar in Kashmir since the Supreme Court heard the petitions three days ago. The streets are hushed, and people are avoiding commenting on the problem. Indeed, local dailies have avoided any discussion on Article 370, which was weakened by the Centre in 2019 and resulted in the end of J&K’s seven-decade-long special status.

“We don’t feel safe commenting about the subject. All are closely watching the hearings but I fear holding an opinion may land me in trouble,” a leading newspaper columnist told on condition of anonymity. The columnist has stopped writing on the subject since 2019.

In 2018, Kashmir experienced repeated shutdowns on the days the Supreme Court was hearing petitions challenging Article 35A of the Constitution, which authorized the J&K Assembly to define “permanent residents” and their exclusive rights over property and employment. Separatists, who had previously distanced themselves from the issue, have also called for a two-day strike on August 26 and 27 of this year.

“Kashmir has grown hopeless in the last four years,” claimed a well-known public speaker and teacher who did not want to be identified. “Hopelessness has given way to indifference.”

People in Kashmir were stunned into silence in 2019, according to many Valley observers. “There is an element of shock, fear and surveillance in Kashmir, which has rare parallels in the past. Above all, the abrupt and unexpected action (of 2019) stunned people in Kashmir,” another public speaker and writer said.

Meanwhile, the live link to the Supreme Court hearing the Article 370 petitions was widely circulated on social media, especially WhatsApp, by locals. On YouTube, the live stream of the first day of hearings had almost 43,000 views.

Unlike the streets, regional parties in J&K such as the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been vociferous in their requests to reverse the August 5, 2019 measures.

According to a PDP spokeswoman, the party has “invited all like-minded individuals to participate in a rally on August 5 in Srinagar.”

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