Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state secretary and in-charge of ST and Muslim Morcha Gulam Ali Khatana on Tuesday accused the Kashmir-based leadership of the Congress, National Conference and other regional parties for exploiting Gujjars, Shias, Paharis, backward classes, people living below poverty line (BPL) and other marginalised sections of the society "at the behest of Article 370" for the last six decades.
"The participation of thousands of Muslims from various ethnic groups from every district of the state in the December 1 Lalkar rally has sent shock waves among Kashmir-based leaders. They all were happy to hear from Narendra Modi himself that he knew about the Gujjar-Bakerwals, and applauded when he linked the word 'Gurjar' with Gujarat," he added.
"The Kashmir-based leaders should know that these marginalised sections are no more their chained labourers," he said.
He said nearly five lakh nomadic Gujjar-Bakerwals were living in "miserable conditions under open skies, without clean drinking water or schools, no benefits from Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act (MNREGA) or National Rural Health Misson (NRHM), ration cards, and no idea of the BPL scheme".
He also accused the NC-Congress government of mortgaging their "centuries-old pastures and dhokes (green meadows) and selling them to corrupt elements, resulting in loss of their rich culture".
He alleged that the government was taking "hundreds of crores of rupees" for the development of these sections of the society, but diverting it under Article 370.
Khatana accused the Gujjar, Pahari, Shia and other leaders in the NC-Congress and other Kashmir-based regional parties of working at the dictates of their political bosses, compromising the interests and causes of their own communities.
"The self-proclaimed leaders of these communities are playing into the hands of the clever politicians, without realising that they are harming the prospects of their communities, which is unfortunate. These leaders should shed their love for the Kashmir-centric dispensation and devote their time to their own communities," he added.