SRINAGAR:The National Conference’s decision to boycott the upcoming Local Bodies and Panchayat elections has deepened the political uncertainty in Kashmir where insurgency-related violence has set new records since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s charismatic commander Burhan Wani.

Speaking with reporters in Srinagar yesterday, former union minister and National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah had sought assurances that the Centre will protect the Article 35-A which has been challenged by at least five petitioners in the apex court.

“The role of (BJP-led) Centre and the dispensation in J&K before the Supreme court is against the wishes and aspirations of the people of the state. Unless they clear their position in this regard and take effective steps for the protection of Article 35A in and outside court, the NC will not participate in the elections,’’ Abdullah said after the meeting of the party’s core group.

Interestingly, the additional solicitor general, Tushar Mehta, while seeking deferment of the hearing of the case in the court on August 31 till the Urban Local Bodies and Panchayat polls are over, had termed the law, which allows only state subjects to buy land in the state, as “gender discriminatory”.

Under the legislation, while the female state subjects of J&K who get married to non-state subjects are entitled to own property in J&K, her offspring can’t have those rights. At least two petitioners have challenged the legislation on these grounds.

Meanwhile, the move by Dr Farooq has generated a lot of debate on social media. While some netizens termed it as ‘opportunism’, others argued that the former union minister has showed the way for other political parties to follow suit.

Jumping into the controversy, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti called for an all-party meeting to “allay the fears” after the additional solicitor general criticised the law on the day of hearing in the apex court.

The party’s chief spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir didn’t rule out following in the footsteps of National Conference.

“The protection of constitutional provisions including Article 35A which guarantee Jammu and Kashmir’s sovereignty is supreme to us. The argument that the case (Article 35-A) should be deferred till completion of Panchayat and ULB polls has sparked apprehensions that there is a design against Article 35A. There fears need to be allayed first. Holding elections against this backdrop will be a catastrophe,” Mir said.

Violence remains at all time high in Kashmir since the last ten years with over hundred civilians getting killed, a large majority of them during encounters between security forces and militants, of whom over 120 have been killed in the first eight months.

Soon after the change of guard with S P Malik replacing N N Vohra as Governor of the state, the administration approved conducting four-phased municipal polls from October 1 to October 15 and eight-phased Panchayat elections from November 8 to December 4.