A controversial bill banning inter-district recruitment in Jammu and Kashmir was passed by voice vote amid uproarious scenes in the state legislative assembly on Friday even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) observed a complete shutdown in Jammu to protest its provisions.
The bill that bars applicants from seeking jobs in districts other than their native ones was passed after it was amended to keep eight per cent jobs reserved for the Scheduled Caste community.
The amendment to the bill was moved by Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar, immediately after the House assembled for the day. Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) leader Harshdev Singh and Congress MLA Ashok Kumar had sought the amendment.
The amendment said that eight percent jobs reserved for the Scheduled Caste would stay, but the candidates of other communities would not be eligible for applying for jobs in districts other than their own.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party members were on their feet as they were opposed to the amendment and wanted a blanket ban on inter-district recruitment with no reservation for any category.
Party legislator Zulfikar Choudhary wanted to speak but he was asked by his own senior colleague and former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Beig to sit down. BJP and JKNPP members also stood up shouting slogans.
Amid this uproar, Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone said he would put the bill to a voice vote following which the treasury benches shouted a loud "yes".
"The bill is passed," Lone said.
Infuriated over this, the opposition PDP legislators rushed into the well of the house and created a ruckus by uprooting the mikes. They also entered into scuffles with the assembly secretariat staff.
The Speaker adjourned the House till 3 pm.
Meanwhile, all shops and business establishments were closed and traffic was off the roads in Jammu region amid a shutdown call by the BJP.
While valley-based parties, the National Conference (NC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, favour the ban on inter-district recruitment, Jammu-based parties like the BJP and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party are opposed to it.
Congress, which is a constituent of the ruling alliance in the state, is divided as its Jammu-based legislators are opposed to the ban while those from the valley support it.
Protesters set up road blockades by burning tyres and held noisy demonstrations at several places.
The police, however, cleared one of the main bridges over river Tawi that connects Jammu city with the rest of the country.
Both the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley and Hindu-dominated Jammu region have their own reasons for supporting and opposing the bill.
While the valley feels that inter-district recruitment limits Kashmiri youths' employment opportunities as jobs are reserved for the Scheduled Caste community, the Jammu region feels that the bill seeking to ban such recruitment overturns the constitutional provision of reservation of jobs for the socially marginalised people.
The Scheduled Caste community constitutes about 20 percent of the five million population in Jammu. The state has a population of over 10 million. The community has no presence in the valley where Muslims are in an overwhelming majority, with less than 3,500 Kashmiri Hindus as a microscopic minority.