Protests against attempts to ‘abrogate” Article 35A, which provides special status to Jammu and Kashmir, today reached Dal Lake where first-of-its-kind shikara rally was held.
The hot Sunday afternoon proved to be quite an unsual one for the tourist hub of Dal Lake as hundreds of holiday-makers and locals beelined the Bouvlevard road to witness the shikara protest rally.
As more than 300 shikaras, covered with banners reading “Save Article 35-A” rowed in unison cruising waters of the Dal, cheering onlookers took photographs and waved at the traders and boatmen, who were part of the rally protesting against efforts to “abrogate” Article 35-A.
The rally was jointly held by Shikara owners and workers association and a faction of Kashmir Economic Alliance to safeguard the special status.
Standing firm on deck of the shikaras, the protestors shouted slogans “Save Article 35-A” and waved back at the spectators whose numbers also swelled as the rally progressed. Earlier during noon time, traders and boatmen had gathered near Dalgate to lodge their protest and later rowed in shikaras in a rally to Zabarwan Park.
Addressing mediapersons, KEA co-chairman, Farooq Ahmad Dar said efforts are being made outside the state to abrogate of Article 35-A. Dar said GST was also a “direct attack” on fiscal autonomy.
“GST took away our fiscal autonomy and will diluted the special status of J&K. The government of India is implementing agenda of the RSS. Efforts are being made to do away with Article 370 which gives JK special status in the country” Dar said.
Dar said KEA will create mass awareness regarding the impact of abrogation of Article 35-A among common people and will “intensify protests if tinkering with the special status continues,”.
“The wound inflicted on the state’s autonomy through extension of GST is still fresh as another new machination has been launched to question the validity of Article 35-A now,” Dar said.
A heavy deployment of police was witnessed on the banks of Dal Lake, however, the protest rally was allowed to move ahead smoothly.
Wali Muhammad Bhat, president of Shikara association said “abrogation to Article 35-A will have a cascading impact on the situation in Kashmir.”
“It is a well thought plot to first question the validity of this article so that it is abrogated. By making changes to special status the government will be playing with fire as situation can flare up and we can have a grimmer scenario than last year,” Bhat said.
Several tourists, who were witnessing the shikara rally, said it was their first experience to watch such protest. “I clicked several pictures and uploaded them of social networking sites. My personal opinion is that if Jammu and Kashmir has been promised a special status, it must continue enjoying that,” said Rajesh Bhardwaj, a tourist from Delhi.
Another tourist Ravi Kumar from Uttar Pradesh said some media organisations are portraying a “ wrong picture” of Kashmir.
“Demands of people to retain special status is justified. Kashmir is a paradise on earth and any sort of tinkering with its special status will open floodgates for investors who will care only about having access to land and not show any empathy with the people who have already suffered a lot,” said Kumar