Talks of J&K demographic change baseless: Amit Shah
Union home minister Amit Shah on Sunday dismissed the talk of demographic change in Jammu & Kashmir as baseless and assured a delegation of a newly-formed party in the Union Territory that it will have a better domicile policy than other parts of the country and that there will be no discrimination in implementing Central laws in the region.
In his interaction with a Jammu & Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) delegation in New Delhi, Shah emphasised interests of all sections will be taken care of. “The home minister assured the delegation that Jammu & Kashmir will have a better domicile policy than other states in the country and said that a reasonable Economic Development Policy will be drafted soon after widespread consultation,’’ the statement said.
The nullification of the constitutional provisions in August to strip Jammu & Kashmir of its special status, which prevented non-residents from buying land and taking up jobs in the region, has triggered concerns about demographic changes in the erstwhile state.
The government is working on formulating a domicile law, which will spell out the protections to be granted to locals, said an official on condition of anonymity. “Discussions on finalising the law are at an advanced stage,” the official added.
Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari, who led the delegation, confirmed a domicile law to protect jobs and land rights was coming soon. “There is no question of anyone snatching away our lands or jobs,” he said. “We are going back satisfied,” Bukhari said. He added they have assurances from both Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom they met on Saturday, and Shah.
HT in January reported the Centre was working on a domicile policy to protect land rights in J&K. Among the options under consideration was a mandatory requirement of 15-year residency in the region as the eligibility for government jobs and owning land there. Sale of agricultural land to outsiders is not allowed in some states and Union Territories under their domicile policies.
Several states including Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim enjoy protection through Constitution’s Article 371. The domicile requirements are seen as a way to assure the local population that its rights will be protected.
Modi also engaged the delegation on issues, including concerns over demographic change, on Saturday.
Shah reiterated Modi’s assurance to the delegation that the Centre will work to restore Jammu & Kashmir statehood “at an early opportunity”. “The home minister said this is also good for India’s interest, as the region is a border area,’’ the statement said.
Shah told the delegation that all decisions on the relaxation of restrictions imposed following changes to the region’s constitutional status in August were based on ground realities. “He [Shah] referred to steps like the release of people from preventive detention, restoration of the Internet, relaxation in curfew and added that even political prisoners will be freed in times to come as the main objective of the government is that not a single person should die, be it a common Kashmiri or security personnel,’’ the statement said.
Shah told the delegation that an industrial policy will be announced for economic development and a land bank has been created in the region.
The JKAP’s formation and release of some detained political leaders, including Farooq Abdullah last week, have been seen as a possible prelude to the initiation of a political process in the erstwhile state.