Press Trust of india

Oppn parties demand restoration of J&K’s statehood

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New Delhi: The Congress, TMC and other parties on Monday alleged in Lok Sabha that the government has not been able to achieve the objectives it set out while abrogating Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and demanded the early restoration of statehood.

Speaking during the discussion on the budget for the Union Territory, members of the BJP, JD(U) and others, however, supported the Centre’s efforts in accelerating development in the Union Territory.

Opposition parties also accused the government of not doing enough for the displaced Kashmiri Pandits.

Congress leader Manish Tewari, who initiated the discussion, said that the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir was a cause of concern.

He said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated “extremely noble sentiments” in her budget speech for Jammu and Kashmir but “ground realities are different”.

The Congress MP said that when the government abrogated Article 370 and divided Jammu and Kashmir into Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, it put forward two arguments – that Kashmir’s merging with India will be strengthened as the state will be emotionally integrated, and the development there would be speeded up.

“Today 33 months have passed. Has the government been successful in achieving those objectives? I would like to state that the answer is no,” he said, arguing that the situation is more sensitive than it was in 2019 while citing figures of ceasefire violations.

“Since April 2020, the situation in eastern Ladakh is extremely sensitive. The Chinese army is occupying those lands which India considers its own.

“The situation has become more complex now since 2020 because of factors such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow, the agreement between Russia and China on February 04. All this impacts the border areas of India,” he said.

The Congress leader urged the government to seriously consider the question that whether the steps taken in 2019 have strengthened India’s position in the border areas or its concerns have increased.

Tewari said it was a matter of concern that the involvement of locals in militancy is going up.

He said that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have stated in the House that a decision on Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood will be taken soon, it has not been done.

“Now we are in March 2022, but I want to ask when the government will act on the statements of the prime minister and home minister and when will Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood be restored,” he asked.

Tewari also flagged concerns of political parties over the delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Underlining that the interest of the Sikh community should be safeguarded, Tewari said they should be given representation in the legislature.

The BJP on Monday dared the Congress to announce in Lok Sabha that it would restore Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir if it comes to power.

Intervening in the debate, Minister of State in PMO Jitendra Singh dared the Congress to announce in Lok Sabha that it would restore Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir if it comes to power.

“Does the Congress party have the courage to say that it will restore Article 370 after coming to power…You don’t say that. You want to beat about the bush and want to have it both ways,” he said.

The minister said that Article 370, which was abrogated by the Modi government, “had prevented the implementation of welfare measures like the prohibition of child marriages, prevention of corruption, anti-dowry legislation, right to information and SC/ST reservation.”

Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy said that Jammu and Kashmir budget was about bureaucratic expenditure and not about the development of the Union Territory.

He asserted that it was wrong to abrogate Article 370 and his party continues to oppose the decision “‘which was in pursuance of a slogan of ‘one nation, one symbol and one constitution’ given by Jan Sangh leader Syama Prasad Mukherjee”.

Roy demanded that elections should be held at the earliest in Jammu and Kashmir so that a popular and representative government could assume office.

The law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir has not improved since the abrogation of Article 370, he said, recalling the recent killings of ‘sarpanchs’ by militants.

Supriya Sule (NCP) alleged that the government has not done anything for the displaced Kashmiris in the Budget.

“The government talks a lot about Kashmiri Pandits, but in its budget document, there is no mention about them,” she said adding “if you feel for them, please include them…let’s not live only in a bubble, please deliver”.

She said that the contention of the government that nothing had happened in the last 60 years has become “boring” and now they should come up with some “new dialogue”.

The government had promised thousands of jobs, but nothing has happened at that front also, Sule alleged.

The government should tell what they are going to do for Kashmiri Pandits and discuss their future, she said adding the BJP members should visit the union territory and find out the ground realities.

Raising questions about the Budget, she said the most worrisome number is GDP and debt ratio.

“Why there are so many minuses…Smart city is a failed project,” Sule said.

M S Reddy (YSRCP) said the Modi government has undertaken a lot of development works in Jammu and Kashmir.

Observing that tourism was thriving in Kashmir, he urged the people to visit the Union Territory.

Reddy also said that it was time for Jammu and Kashmir to develop its own sources of revenue as the Centre cannot indefinitely fund development activities in the Union Territory.

JD (U) member Sunil Kumar Pintu said that the Budget will help in promoting the development of the union territory.

“Special package is required to promote tourism in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding now both domestic and foreign investors are showing keenness to invest.

Danish Ali (BSP) also demanded the restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.

“I would urge the government to conduct elections….it should not be blocked by giving the excuse of delimitation,” he said, asking how many Kashmiri Pandits have been rehabilitated by the government after the abrogation of article 370.

Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) suggested an adequate Budget be allocated for dealing with floods in Jammu and Kashmir and the development of rural areas to promote tourism.

Jamyang Tsering Namgyal (BJP) said “after the abrogation of article 370, a new era has begun in Jammu and Kashmir,” adding development is happening at a faster pace and projects are being implemented in different sectors.

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