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Center leaves J&K suspense alive as Parliament adjourns sine die

Parliament. Jammu and Kashmir Bills
Two factors are seen as potential reasons for holding up these Bills. Firstly, there have been wide ranging protests by the Gujjar community to oppose the inclusion of Pahari people in the list of STs. This was not only much to chagrin of BJP but also a potential strategic question. Secondly, the ongoing case -In Re: Article 370 -in the Supreme Court could also have forced a re-think or reasonable wait. In any case, the holding up of Bills has a direct impact on the timeline for Assembly elections
Center leaves J&K suspense alive as Parliament adjourns sine die

Jammu: As a tumultuous monsoon session of the Parliament adjourns sine die, the government’s afterthoughts on four politically sensitive Bills pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir hints at possibility of a new policy approach which may be in the making.

The introduction of these Bills, which fitted Bhartiya Janta Party’s post August 5, 2019, political and social re-engineering, was a potential indicator of Centre’s willingness to hold elections to Jammu and Kashmir Assembly by or before the Lok Sabha polls due to be held early next year. As the Parliament adjourns sine die without taking up these Bills, a fresh wave of uncertainty has returned to the erstwhile State whose ‘status’ is also currently under examination at the Supreme Court of India.

Amid concerns and anxieties in Jammu and Kashmir, the government had introduced four Bills on July 26, 2023, in both Houses of the Parliament with following titles: “The Jammu and Kashmir Re-organisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023”; “The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023”, “The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023” and “The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Castes Order (Amendment) Bill, 2023”. The first two Bills, in the order listed above, were piloted by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the third by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the fourth by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

These four Bills pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir were among 26 total Bills introduced by the government in the just concluded monsoon session of the Parliament. Of these 26 Bills, only 12 have been passed in both Houses of Parliament and 14 in only Rajya Sabha. The two Houses also passed two more Bills which were introduced in the Budget session of Parliament earlier in the year.

The Parliament nod to one of the four Jammu and Kashmir related Bills (The Jammu and Kashmir Re-organisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023), which pertained to increasing three seats in Legislative Assembly to be filled in by members of Kashmiri migrants and PoJK refugees through nomination, could have enabled the Election Commission to decide timeline for the Assembly elections. With Delimitation and summary review of electoral rolls having been completed in 2022, the amendment in the Reorganisation Act to make space for the nominated seats, as recommended by Delimitation Commission in its final award, was the last formality left for holding elections to the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. Despite high expectations, the Center has, surprisingly, dragged feet on this legislation as a possible last-minute afterthought.

The other three Bills seeking to expand and restructure the ambit and scope of reservations in the Scheduled Tribe, Scheduled Caste and Other Backward Classes categories had potential of creating large swathes of goodwill for the Bhartiya Janta Party. Even as the critical voices outnumbered the size of supporting groups, these proposals were in line with the BJP’s ongoing efforts of engineering the identities to create a new political and social landscape that compliments the post 2019 outlook of Jammu and Kashmir.

In one of the four Bills -The Constitution (Jammu and Kashmir) Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill -Home Minister Amit Shah was personally invested. Based on the recommendations of Justice G.D. Sharma Commission, this Bill sought to include a set of new communities in the list of Scheduled Tribes. Even as four communities were to be included in the ST list, the Pahari speaking people influenced the larger politics of it.

At least at three largely attended public meetings in Jammu and Kashmir during his two visits in 2021 and 2022, the Home Minister made categoric commitment to have the Pahari speaking people included in the list of STs. He also entertained delegations from the community in New Delhi to further firm up the link of top community leaders with the BJP.

Since the Gujjar community was staunchly and uncompromisingly opposed to the inclusion of Paharis in the list of STs, the Home Minister took personal interest in receiving at least three delegations from the community to assure them of the protection of their rights. Therefore, this Bill was not just another piece of legislation but a high decibel political note which was though piloted by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs but steered by Home Minister Amit Shah.

Introduced on July 26, these Bills were listed for discussion and passage on August 1, 2023. However, much to the surprise of everyone, the Bills were not taken up.

As the Parliament adjourns sine die, the Bills stay alive as property of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to be taken up in the next session. However, this deepens the suspense in Jammu and Kashmir as another wave uncertainly sets in about the Assembly elections.

The next session of the Parliament is in December, which means any possibility of Assembly elections has to be seen in the next year. The Dispatch spoke to two people aware of the parliamentary proceedings and they were of the unanimous opinion that the government will consider legislating these Bills through ordinance as they rest pending consideration before Parliament.

Two factors are seen as potential reasons for holding up these Bills. Firstly, there have been wide ranging protests by the Gujjar community to oppose the inclusion of Pahari people in the list of STs. This was not only much to chagrin of BJP but also a potential strategic question. Secondly, the ongoing case -In Re: Article 370 -in the Supreme Court could also have forced a re-think or reasonable wait.

Meanwhile, in the just concluded monsoon session of the Parliament, Jammu and Kashmir affairs figured prominently in the speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. Modi and Shah extensively commented on Jammu and Kashmir while responding to the ‘no confidence’ motion on Thursday and Wednesday respectively.

The relevant Jammu and Kashmir related excerpts from the speeches of the Prime Minister and Home Minister are reproduced below:

Prime Minister Modi in Lok Sabha, Thursday

Narendra Modi speaking on Jammu and Kashmir

The Congress trusted Hurriyat Conference, separatists and those who carried Pakistan’s flags but not our armed forces and people of Kashmir Valley, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday as he launched a scathing attack on the grand old party for questioning surgical and air strikes.

“When Kashmir was burning day and night in the fire of terrorism, the then Congress Government didn’t trust the people of Kashmir. Instead, they trusted Hurriyat Conference, separatists and even those who used to carry Pakistan’s flags,” the Prime Minister said, while replying to debate on no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha.

India carried out surgical strikes on terrorism and then air strikes but the Congress had no faith in the India Army but the enemy’s conspiracies, Modi said.

“Whenever someone says anything wrong about India, the Opposition immediately trusts. When someone defamed India, they just enjoyed it. They had no faith in Indian vaccines but had faith in foreign vaccines. They trusted Pakistan, but not India. They had no trust in the capabilities of the Indian people,” the Prime Minister said.

“That is why people’s feelings of no-confidence in the congress is very deep, ” He added.

Home Minister Shah in Lok Sabha, Wednesday

Home Minister Amit Shah on Jammu and Kashmir

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday ruled out any dialogue with Pakistan as well as the Hurriyat Conference, but said the government can hold talks with the youth of the Kashmir valley, even as he maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is heading towards normalcy with no stone pelting, no burial processions for militants and steep decline in all kind of violence.

Intervening in the debate on the no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha, Shah also said that the now-scrapped Article 370 was the result of the alleged wrong policy of the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the historic decision to completely merge Jammu and Kashmir with rest of the country after abrogating the Article 370,” he said.

Shah referred to a report of an NGO which favoured talks with Hurriyat Conference, Jamaat and Pakistan.

“We will neither hold talks with the Hurriyat, nor with the Jamiat nor with Pakistan. We will hold talks only with the youth of the Valley,” he said.

“The present Government has imposed restrictions on Hurriyat Conference and Jamiat and sacked supporters of terror from Government services. Now, no one joins burial processions of the militants as the militants are buried where they are killed.

“The situation in Kashmir has changed since 2014 due to the Government’s policies. We have worked towards making Kashmir terrorism-free” he said.

Referring to Article 370 of the Constitution of India which was abrogated by Narendra Modi Government on August 5, 2019, Shah said: “The reforming decision on Kashmir was taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Article 370 was a mistake of Jawahar Lal Nehru which was abrogated by this great Parliament”.

With this, he asserted, two flags and two Constitutions in Jammu and Kashmir were gone and Prime Minister Narendra Modi ensured complete integration of J&K with the country.

Shah said the Modi government has ended the practice of darbar move, abolished the Lakhanpur toll tax and worked for the development of Dalits and Adivasis living in Jammu and Kashmir and gave sanitation workers their rights.

The Union Home Minister said that Lakhanpur toll tax, the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir, where party ideologue Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was arrested in 1953 and which was a thorn in the hearts of crores of BJP workers, has been removed.

“The Opposition parties used to say that if Article 370 is removed, there will be bloodbath in Jammu and Kashmir. But today no one has the courage to throw stones. This is the Narendra Modi Government,” he said.

“The policies and decisions taken by Narendra Modi-led BJP Government at the Centre have improvised situation in Jammu and Kashmir during past few years. There was no reservation for Dalits, tribals and people from the backward classes. The work of getting them reservation was done by the Narendra Modi Government. There were safai karamcharis who were living in Jammu and Kashmir for seven generations, since the Mughal era, but were not getting domicile certificates. The West Pakistani refugees were not getting domicile. Narendra Modi ensured that all of them got domicile certificates,” Shah said.

The home minister said over 40,000 people lost lives in Jammu and Kashmir due to terrorism but the situation improved to a great extent after Article 370, which gave the erstwhile state special status, was abrogated.

Citing figures on restoration of normalcy in the Valley, Shah said that during last nine years of the UPA rule and the nine years of the Modi Government, there has been a 68% decrease in terrorist incidents, 72% fall in deaths of civilian and security forces personnel combined, 82% reduction in civilian deaths and a 56% fall in the deaths of security personnel.

He added that 1.82 lakh tourists have visited Jammu and Kashmir last year.

Lauding the role of Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) in tackling militancy, the Home Minister said for the first time after 1990, the JKP has been playing an active role in facing the situation.

Hitting out at parties that call themselves democratic, the Home Minister said three families had ruled over Jammu and Kashmir including Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and Gandhis – but did not get Panchayat polls conducted in the erstwhile State.

“It was because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Panchayat elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018 and 4483 Sarpanchs and 35,000 Panchs were elected leading to democracy at grassroots level.

Shah said temples have been given protection. A law has been brought to give back property to Hindus. A high security jail has also been set up, he added.

He said cinema halls were opened in Kashmir after 33 years and night shows and Shikara festival began too.

“After 33 years, theatres have started functioning in Kashmir and night shows are being run. Muharram procession was also taken out after over three decades. All this is possible because of Narendra Modi Government,” Shah said.

He added that Tourism, Film, Houseboat and Industrial Policies have been framed in Jammu and Kashmir and 20,000 Government jobs are being given to the youth.



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Center leaves J&K suspense alive as Parliament adjourns sine die

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Zafar Choudhary

A journalist since 1999, Zafar Choudhary is also a policy analyst and author. An alumni of the London School of Economics, his book ‘Kashmir Conflict and Muslims of Jammu’ addresses a critical gap in scholarship on Kashmir. Zafar is founder and editor of The Dispatch