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LS nod for J&K Budget amid spat over Pandits’ exodus

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in the Lok Sabha, during the second part of the Budget Session, at Parliament House in New Delhi on March 14, 2022.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in the Lok Sabha, during the second part of the Budget Session, at Parliament House in New Delhi on March 14, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Jammu and Kashmir Budget 2022-23 of around ₹1.42 lakh crores was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday amid much acrimony and trading of accusations between the Treasury and Opposition benches over the exodus of Kashmir Pandits from the Kashmir Valley in the 1990s.

Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman used strong words to accuse the Congress of leaving the minority Pandit community in the State to its own devices; the Opposition later staged a walkout when MPs were not allowed to intervene when the accusations were being made.

The Opposition had already objected to the bill being taken up for discussion without being circulated in advance to them. But the response of the Minister on the issue of Kashmiri Pandits raised the tempers further. Responding to the discussion on the Budget for Jammu and Kashmir, Ms Sitharaman attacked the Congress over a series of tweets issued by its Kerala unit relating to exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley during the 1990s, an issue that has been foregrounded by the release of the film “Kashmir Files” and mentioned by several members of the Lok Sabha during the debate. While BJP MP from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal and Janata Dal (U) MP Sunil Kumar Pintu asked that the film be made tax free across the country, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Danish Ali called for a ban of the film accusing it of inciting feelings of hatred among various communities.

In a series of tweets with the hashtag #KashmirFiles vs truth on Sunday, the Kerala Congress said, “After the terrorist attacks, instead of providing Pandits security, BJP’s Governor Jagmohan asked them to relocate to Jammu. A large number of Pandit families did not feel secure and left the valley in fear.”

Attacking Congress, Ms Sitharaman said, there was series of tweets of Congress saying that Kashmiri Pandit on their own left the Valley and not because they were forced.

“Our party (Congress) belief is that it was not because of terrorism but the movement was due to lure of financial benefit and land offer in Delhi....other belief is there is long battle between separatist and those who stand for India,” she said quoting series of tweets. She also said Congress was an ally to the government of that time when exodus happened and the then Chief Minister left people to fend for themselves when terrorism was on rise.

She also alleged that a Prime Minister during a Congress regime in the past met a separatist who had had allegedly killed an Indian airforce officer and later the same separatist conceded to a foreign TV Channel that he killed an IAF officer.  

MPs of the Congress, NCP, TMC and National Conference walked out of Lok Sabha in proptest against allegation made by the Ms Sitharaman and Lok Sabha Speaker not allowing Opposition MPs to intervene.

After the walkout, the House passed the Budget totalling ₹1.42-lakh-crore for Jammu and Kashmir and also Supplementary Demands for Grants seeking additional spending of ₹18,860.32 crore for the Union Territory.

Ms Sitharaman said normalcy has been achieved after abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir while prior to that it was fake normalcy.

 Government in August 2019 abrogated many provisions of Article 370 resulting in revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. “Jammu and Kashmir was not normal under Article 370...there was fake normalcy prior to abrogation of Article 370....post abrogation there is no fake normalcy,” she said. She added that 890 central laws became applicable in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370.

Ms Sitharaman said 40,000 projects were completed in Jammu and Kashmir in 2021-22 and connectivity in the Union Territory is improving. The Union Territory has witnessed a 90% decrease in ceasefire as it reduced from 900 in 2020 to 98 in 2021, she said, adding, terrorism has been contained and infiltration has declined significantly. With regard to investment, she said, investor friendly Jammu and Kashmir campaign has paid off. “Rs 44,177 crore investment proposals have already been received. Employment potential from that is 1.80 lakh...most of the investment proposals are from outside,” she said.


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Printable version | Jun 17, 2022 2:38:15 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ls-nod-for-jk-budget-amid-spat-over-pandits-exodus/article65225456.ece