114 seats, migrant quota cleared for J&K Assembly

Lok Sabha passes Bill; Amit Shah says reservation of seats for those displaced in the 1990s will ensure that the voice of the community is heard loud and clear in the new House

December 06, 2023 08:37 pm | Updated 11:31 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the former legislation seeking to reserve seats for “Kashmiri migrants, people displaced from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir [PoK] and Scheduled Tribes” in the yet-to-be constituted 114-seat J&K Assembly.

Responding to statements made by Opposition members that reading down of Article 370 of the Constitution in J&K could not put an end to terrorism, Union Home Minister Amit Shah asserted that he never claimed so.

He said a “zero-terror” plan, formulated three years ago, will be “100 % implemented” by 2026 in J&K as he was sure that Narendra Modi government will return to power in 2024.

Mr. Shah said former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made “historical blunders” by taking the Kashmir issue to the United Nations and agreeing to ceasefire when the Army was winning the war.

Congress members walked out of the House as Mr. Shah blamed India’s first PM for the “two blunders,” which he said brought suffering to the people of J&K. The members returned later but none of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) members joined them during the walkout.

Mr. Shah said if Nehru had taken the right steps, a large chunk of territory would not have been ceded, and PoK would have been part of India. He added that he supported the term “Nehruvian blunder” as they were not mere mistakes. He quoted a letter written by Nehru where he admits that agreeing to a ceasefire was a mistake.

After their walkout, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Bhartruhari Mahtab mocked the Congress members saying the Home Minister should also talk about the “Himalayan blunder”, a reference to Nehru’s actions leading up to the war with China in 1962. Mr. Shah quipped that his comments on the two blunders had already upset the Opposition benches and if he had used the phrase “Himalayan blunder”, they would have resigned.

Mr. Shah was replying to a debate on the two Bills passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

The Reorganisation Bill increases the total number of seats in J&K Assembly from 107 to 114, with reservation of nine seats for Scheduled Tribes for the first time. The increase is based on the report of the Delimitation Commission. It also empowers the Lieutenant-Governor to nominate three members in the Assembly - two members from the Kashmiri migrant community including one woman, and the third member being a representative of people from PoK who took refuge in India following the wars with Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1971.

The J&K Reservation Bill seeks to replace the term “weak and underprivileged classes (social castes)“ in the J&K Reservation Act, 2004 to “other backward classes” as declared by the Union Territory. The 2004 Act pertains to reservation in appointment and admission in professional institutions for the members of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, and other socially and educationally backward classes.

Mr. Shah was responding to Congress member Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s statement that though terror attacks have dipped in the Kashmir Valley, such incidents have increased across Pir Panjal in the Jammu region which have resulted in the killing of 23 security force personnel between April and November 2023 alone.

Mr. Shah said, “They are connecting terrorism with Article 370. Nobody said that after Article 370 is gone, terrorism will stop in Kashmir. I had said that after Article 370 is scrapped, there is going to be a sharp drop in spread of separatist ideology, the root cause.... Subsequently terrorism will end too. A zero-terror plan is in action for the past three years. By 2026 the plan will be 100% implemented, as I am sure Modi ji will come back to power.”

He said the reservation of seats for Kashmiri migrants, who were displaced from their own homes in the 1990s, will ensure that the voice of the community is heard “loud and clear in the J&K Assembly” and if any such crisis arises in future, they are able to stop it.

Mr. Shah said that the Opposition’s contention that the law cannot be amended as the principal Act passed on August 5, 2019 is under challenge in the Supreme Court does not hold ground as the apex court never stayed the implementation of the Act. He said there is “status quo”.

He said “people who vacation in England” will never be able to acknowledge the changes on the ground in J&K. “There were no theatres in Kashmir. In 2021, the first theatre started in Kashmir after 30 years. More than 100 movies have been filmed in Kashmir since 2019 and banks have received loan applications for opening of 100 movie theatres,” he said.

He said incidents of terrorism, infiltration, and stone-pelting have seen a sharp decline since 2019. He did not answer to the pointed questions from Opposition members on when Assembly election will be held in J&K or when the Statehood will be restored.

The Special Status of J&K under Article 370 of the Constitution was read down by Parliament in August 2019 and the former State was split into two Union Territories - J&K and Ladakh.

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