Lok Sabha endorses Centre’s decisions on Kashmir

A momentous occasion in our Parliamentary democracy, says PM

Published - August 06, 2019 11:13 pm IST - New Delhi

 Sounds of silence:  A milkman goes about his work in Jammu on Tuesday.

Sounds of silence: A milkman goes about his work in Jammu on Tuesday.

The Centre’s decisions setting new terms of engagement with Jammu and Kashmir — by reorganising it as Union Territories, ending its special status under Article 370 and 35 (A) and extending to it all the provisions of the Constitution — were endorsed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday after a debate that lasted close to seven hours.

The Lok Sabha approved a resolution abrogating special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and a Bill for splitting the State into two Union Territories. The resolution was adopted by the House with 351 members voting in its support and 72 against it, while one member abstained.

The Bill to create the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh was passed by 370 votes in favour and 70 against. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House.

The resolution and the Bill were approved by the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

‘No talks with Hurriyat’

Replying to the debate, Home Minister Amit Shah assured the House that the government could restore full Statehood to Jammu and Kashmir if the situation improved and expressed its willingness to engage with the local population. “We don’t want to talk to the Hurriyat, but we are ready to speak to the people of Kashmir,” he said, adding that the security forces would not be moved out of the Valley until the situation became fully normal.

Mr. Shah also asserted that the Centre’s decision did not impact in any way India’s claim over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), and the government would continue to do so.

Mr. Modi termed the passage of the resolution and the Bill “a momentous occasion in our Parliamentary democracy” .

“For years, vested interest groups who believed in emotional blackmail never cared for people’s empowerment. J&K is now free from their shackles. A new dawn, better tomorrow awaits!” Mr. Modi said in a series of tweets and saluted the people of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla adjourned the House sine die (indefinitely) after the resolution and the Bill were passed. They will become law with President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent.

The Constitutional order amending the provisions of Article 370 and the bills — to create J&K and Ladakh as union territories and extend reservation benefits to certain sections — was passed by a division votes.

Fact check: What is true and what isn’t on J&K, Article 370

Removal of the special provisions according special status to J&K under Article 370 was supported by 351 members, 72 voted against it and one member abstained. In case of the J&K re-organisation bill, the government managed 370 votes in his favour.

BJP ally, Janata Dal (United), and Trinamool Congress didn’t take part in the debate and walked out of the House. However, several Opposition parties including Telugu Desam Party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Biju Janata Dal among others supported the government.

During his reply, Mr Shah asserted that the special provisions under Article 370 denied basic rights to minorities (non-Muslims) in the Kashmir valley. He said if the families of Dr. Manmohan Singh or Inder Kumar Gujral had settled in Kashmir instead of Punjab, they could not have become Prime Ministers.

“Minorities don’t have voting rights,” he said and added, “”This is not a historical blunder but we are rectifying the historical blunder”.

The Home Minister said Article 370 allowed Pakistan to spread terrorism in J&K that has seen 41,900 deaths since 1989. “Do we still want to follow the same path that we have so far followed or should we try something new?”he asked in response to remarks made by Congress leader Shashi Thaoor.

Explained | State, Union Territory, and Union Territory with a Legislative Assembly

Mr Tharoor, had earlier commented that though the armed forces had met with success in dealing with terrorists, the Centre’s move may actually now allow them to cite “a new injustice’ and give a foothold to terror outfits group Al Qaeeda and ISIS.

The Home Minister also asserted that the Centre wouldn’t alter different sections under Article 371 that guarantees special provisions to several North Eastern States like Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya among others.

When several Opposition MPs questioned where was fellow member and National Conference (NC) Farooq Abdullah, Mr. Shah replied: “Farooq Abdullah ji is not under house arrest. If he doesn’t want to come out of his house I can’t put a gun to his head and make him come out”.

Hitting back at the Congress for questioning the manner in which the the Modi government bifurcated J&K, Mr. Shah charged the Congress of splitting Andhra Pradesh even after the Assembly of undivided Andhra Pradesh rejected the resolution to create Telangana with two-third majority.

Bifurcation of Kashmir arbitrary: Opposition

The House witnessed sharp exchanges between Opposition and Treasury benches through the day over a range of issues including how India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru handled the accession of J&K.

When many speakers from the Treasury benches including union minister Jitender Singh (who represents Udhampur Lok Sabha seat) maintained that Art. 370 ensured prosperity only to ‘three political families’ and was inserted at the instance of Nehru, Mr. Tharoor countered that it was done with the concurrence of the then Home Minister Sardar Patel.

Mr. Modi was given a rousing welcome with loud chants of Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Vande Mataram when he walked into the House just before Mr Shah started replying to the debate.

( With PTI inputs )

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