J&K to get statehood at appropriate time: Amit Shah
The Centre will grant full statehood to the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) at an “appropriate time”, home minister Amit Shah said in the Lok Sabha on Saturday, stressing that this government had done more for the region since the nullification of its special status in August 2019 than those who ruled it for decades.
J&K has been a top priority of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government since it came to power at the Centre in 2014, Shah said. He added that devolution of power took place there after the government nullified Article 370, which granted special privileges to the erstwhile state, and said the move will hurt dynastic politics.
“We should not do politics on Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. There are several issues over which politics can be done. These are sensitive places and people have suffered a lot. We need to assuage their feelings,” he said, replying to a discussion on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill.
He also rejected the Opposition’s charge that the proposed law negates the hopes of the region getting back statehood.
The bill to merge the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) cadre of all-India services officers with the Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre was later passed by the Lok Sabha by a voice vote. The bill has already been green-lighted by the Rajya Sabha. It replaces an ordinance issued last month.
“I am piloting the bill. I have introduced it...Don’t impose your apprehensions on the people of J&K…This bill has nothing to do with J&K statehood. The region will be granted statehood at an appropriate time,” Shah told the Opposition that has spoken out against the move to nullify Article 370.
Targeting opposition parties, especially the Congress, he said Article 370 was a temporary provision but they continued with it for 70 years for the sake of “vote bank politics” before the Modi government nullified it on August 5, 2019, and bifurcated J&K into two Union Territories – J&K with a legislative assembly and Ladakh without one.
“Who pressured you to continue with it for years?...This government does not believe in vote bank politics. This government takes decisions that will benefit the nation,” Shah said. He wondered what the ruling NDA’s predecessors, who were now asking questions about development in the region, had done for J&K since Independence.
Shah also stressed that the panchayati raj system was in place in J&K after the Article 370 move and cited the successful conduct of local polls. “Even our rivals could not allege any wrongdoing in these polls, which were conducted fairly and peacefully,” he said.
“Now people chosen by the masses will rule Jammu and Kashmir, not those born to kings and queens,” Shah added, launching a scathing criticism of “three families” that dominated politics in J&K for long. He did not name any party in this context, but was apparently referring to the Congress, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded Shah’s address and also praised finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s “comprehensive” reply in the Lok Sabha to a discussion on the Union Budget. “A wonderful speech by Home Minister Shri Amit Shah in the Lok Sabha. Extensive in detail and rich in content, it highlights our efforts for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh,” he tweeted.
In Kashmir, Shah’s remarks drew sharp reactions. “HM’s allegations that J&K was run by three families pales in comparison to the country being run by ‘hum do humaray do’,” former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said on Twitter, referring to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s charge that the country was being run by and for four people.
NC spokesperson Imran Dar said the government gave no reason behind downgrading the erstwhile state to a UT. “Even now they gave no justification as to why they are delaying the return to statehood. At the same time, the disempowerment of J&K continues…They are bringing legislation after legislation to disempower the state,” he said of the move to merge the J&K cadre with the AGMUT cadre.
J&K Congress vice-president Ghulam Nabi Monga said the government never consulted people before doing away with the statehood. “It had never happened in the history that a state was downgraded. The decision was against the will of people of J&K…The home minister should now fix a time line for the restoration of statehood,” Monga said.
Back in the Lok Sabha, Shah said work on two All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the region had begun, and the Kashmir Valley will be connected to the railways by 2022. He said the government expected that around 25,000 government jobs will be created in J&K by next year.
The home minister also gave the assurance to the people of J&K that “no one will lose their land” and that the government had sufficient land for development works.
Replying to All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi, Shah said the decision to restore 4G services in the region last week after 18 months was not taken under pressure of any foreign government.
“…The (Congress-led) United Progressive Alliance government is gone. This is Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party government. The nation makes it decisions. Parliament makes its decisions. No one can pressure us,” he said.
Authorities restricted the 4G services to buy some time and make sure rumours were not being spread (after the Article 370 move), Shah added.
Criticising Owaisi, he said the AIMIM leader was creating a divide between Hindu and Muslim officers. Participating in the discussion earlier, Owaisi said the bill will further alienate Muslims and Kashmir. He also sought to know about the number of youngsters from the Valley arrested under the Public Security Act (PSA).
Congress floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said local officers should be posted in J&K and accused the Centre of nullifying Article 370 “without preparation”. “This government is facing a trust deficit there. There is a lot of trust deficit and I suggest that posting local officers to the largest extent will be good for Jammu and Kashmir administration,” he said.
Shah later explained that states such as Mizoram, Goa and Arunachal Pradesh are part of the AGMUT cadre and the Opposition’s concerns on the bill were unfounded.
(With agency inputs)