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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

J&K polls this year, no compromise on terror: Amit Shah

The home minister, in his reply, blamed the Congress for the situation in the state. On the one hand, the Congress accuses the BJP of trampling on democracy in J&K, and, on the other, when it was in charge, it imposed Article 356 (President’s rule) 93 times out of the 126 times it has been invoked in the state, Shah said.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2019 00:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Union Home Minister Amit Shah speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament in New Delhi on Friday.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament in New Delhi on Friday.(PTI PHOTO.)

The Lok Sabha on Friday passed a statutory resolution extending President’s Rule in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) by six months after home minister Amit Shah, in his first major speech in the House, said assembly elections were likely to be held as early as the end of this year, pledged to eliminate terrorism in the state and launched a frontal attack against the Congress for its handling of the state, which he claimed was responsible for many of today’s problems.

The resolution was approved by a voice vote by the House together with the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which seeks to extend to people living along the international border (IB) in J&K benefits of reservation in direct recruitment and promotions, and admission in professional courses on par with those offered to people living along the Line of Control (LoC).

Congress, the single largest opposition group in the Lok Sabha, opposed the resolution. Congress MP Manish Tewari said the current spell of President’s rule has been the result of the short-lived alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which he said were “incompatible” partners and alleged that the typical Kashmiri’s sense of alienation has increased under the BJP government.

The home minister, in his reply, blamed the Congress for the situation in the state. On the one hand, the Congress accuses the BJP of trampling on democracy in J&K, and, on the other, when it was in charge, it imposed Article 356 (President’s rule) 93 times out of the 126 times it has been invoked in the state, Shah said.He added that the party’s policies had driven a wedge between the people of J&K and the rest of India.

“Today one-third of Kashmir is not with us. Who announced ceasefire when Pakistan encroached in Kashmir after independence and occupied one-third of its territory?, “ he said, referring to first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

“You say we don’t take people into confidence, but Nehru ji did this without taking the then HM (Sardar Patel) into confidence. So Manish ji, don’t teach us history,” Shah said.

“If he had taken Patel into confidence before announcing a ceasefire, Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir would not be there and terrorism would not have existed in Kashmir,” Shah said.

Restoring civilian rule and eliminating terrorism in the troubled state are the top priorities of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, said Shah, who paid a two-day visit to J&K this week, his first since becoming home minister in the second term of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, sworn in on May 30.

“I want to state this clearly -- that restoring democracy is the top priority of the BJP-led government,” said Shah, 54, who will also remain president of the BJP until the completion of organisational elections in January 2020, when he will hand over charge to the party’s working president Jagat Prakash Nadda, “We are committed to eliminating terrorism from its roots in the state”.

Shah warned: “Those who want to break India should have fear in their hearts...they should be scared and their fear will increase further in the coming times.”

J&K has been under direct federal rule, administered by the governor, since the BJP in June 2018 walked out of a coalition government led by Mufti, complaining about increasing radicalisation and violence in the Kashmir Valley. Mufti quit as chief minister immediately; the state assembly was dissolved in November when the PDP, supported by the Congress and arch rival National Conference, staked its claim to forming a new government.

On June 12, the Union cabinet approved the extension of President’s Rule in J&K for six months. The present term of President’s rule in the state is expiring on July 2.

“This House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation dated the 19th December 2018 in respect of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, issued under article 356 of the Constitution by the President, for a further period of six months with effect from July 3, 2019,” the resolution introduced by Shah read.

Shah said it was essential for President’s Rule to be extended for another six months, given the fact that the Election Commission has decided to hold fresh elections in the state later this year.

“Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held at the appropriate time and it is possible that it could be held by the end of this year,” Shah told the Lok Sabha, saying the polls weren’t possible now .

Shah said the law and order situation in J&K has improved under direct federal rule, citing Panchayat and Parliamentary elections that, he said, had been conducted without violence . The government’s “zero tolerance” policy, he said, had worked in hitting at the roots of terrorism.

The Congress opposed the resolution. “The roots of the reason for seeking six-month extension for President’s rule in J&K lie in the incompatible government formed by the BJP and PDP alliance,” the Congress’s Tewari said. “Situation in J&K worsened between 2015 and 2018 when the youth of the state took to the streets.”

Tewari said that it was not in India’s interest to not have an elected government at the helm in J&K and asked why assembly polls hadn’t been held simultaneously with the peaceful Lok Sabha elections in the state — an argument echoed by NK Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) .

“If you have a tough policy against terrorism, we do not oppose it. But there is a need to keep in mind that the fight against terrorism can only be won if people are with you,” Tewari said.

Security forces in J&K have killed more than 120 militants in J&K so far this year in a stepped-up counter-terrorism drive. To be sure, the security forces have suffered their share of fatalities, notably the 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers who were killed in a February 14 suicide car bombing, which prompted India to launch air strikes on a terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot 12 days later.

Before Parliament convened for the day, the BJP issued a three-line whip to all its members in the Lok Sabha, asking them to be present in the House, signalling the importance it attached to the resolution.

In the House, Shah assured MPs that there will be no attempt by the treasury benches to interrupt the discussion on the resolution to extend President’s rule in J&K and asked the Congress to reciprocate. Shah also asked BJP MPs, who were commenting aloud on Tiwari’s speech, to calm down.

The government separately moved the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeking to extend to people along the international border in J&K benefits of reservation. It was the first piece of legislation piloted by Shah.

Shah said that under the law, 43% reservation was offered by the state, 3% set apart for people living along the LoC. The bill provides for an extension of the benefits under the 3% quota to people living along the international border.

The Congress’s Tewari said his party supported “the spirit” of the bill but was opposed to the “manner” in which it was being implemented. He said the bill should have been introduced in the J&K assembly instead.

Shah was in J&K this week to review security arrangements for the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath besides taking stock of the overall situation.

On Friday, officials said the 45-day-long Yatra, which starts on July 1, will be conducted under the surveillance of closed circuit television cameras installed at vantage points. Barriers have been set up on highways, surprise vehicle checks are being conducted, and quick reaction security teams will be deployed, Kathua deputy commissioner Vikas Kundal told reporters.

First Published: Jun 29, 2019 00:06 IST

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