Kashmir Indepth

Apni Party delegation led by Altaf Bukhari meets PM

There will be no demographic change in J&K: PM

Suhial Khan

NEW DELHI, March 14: A delegation of Jammu Kashmir Apni Party led by its president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Saturday.

The delegation comprised of 24 party leaders including Ghulam Hassan Mir, Mohammad Dilawar Mir, Aijaz Ahmad Khan, Choudhary Zulfikar Ali, Rafi Ahmad Mir, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, Zaffar Manhas, Vijay Bakaya, Vikram Malhotra, Manjeet Singh, Mumtaz Ahmad Khan, Javed Hassan Beigh, Usman Majeed, Choudhary Qamar Hussain, Raja Manzoor, Shoiab Lone, Abdul Majeed Padder, Abdul Rahim Rather, Syed Asghar Ali, Javaid Mirchal, Noor Mohammad Sheikh, Yawar Ahmad Mir and Kamal Arora.

The meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere witnessing an exchange of purpose oriented ideas and opinions on socio-economic and political developments that have a direct bearing on Jammu and Kashmir.

Later a memorandum was presented to the Prime Minister highlighting the urgent demands of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.  Calling for immediate confidence building measures, the delegation emphasized on fulfillment of the promises made by the country’s leadership on the floor of Parliament.

The Prime Minster assured the delegation that there will be no demographic change as apprehended by the people in Jammu and Kashmir. Mr. Modi said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir shall witness an equitable development and there will be no discrimination on the basis of religion or region in the same.

He further promised that steps would be taken to restore mutual trust and confidence among the people of Jammu and Kashmir. And among the major steps, he said, domicile law on land and jobs for residents of Jammu and Kashmir will be coming soon.

Similarly, the Prime Minister reiterated his commitment on restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir after the delimitation process is over. Mr. Modi said that the delimitation exercise would be conducted purely on the basis of merit and there shall be no political interference in the same.

On the functional autonomy of J&K Bank, the prime minister assured that he would ensure the pristine glory of the Bank is restored by making it autonomous in its functioning in coming days. The Prime Minister also assured full support of the Government of India to make Jammu and Kashmir a peaceful and prosperous region in the world.

The main issues, on which threadbare discussions were held during the meeting include:

Demographic Changes

The apprehensions and misunderstanding with regard to demographic transformation in Jammu and Kashmir need to be dispelled by the country’s top leadership especially the Hon’ble Prime Minister, himself.

The gulf between people of Kashmir and people in Jammu need to be reduced with a promise and purposeful assurance by the country’s top leadership that there shall be no discrimination in development and opportunities on the basis of region or religion.

Majority community of J&K is apprehensive of disempowerment and isolation. These misgivings need to be removed.

Restoration of Statehood

People of Jammu and Kashmir had not realized essence of Statehood until August 5, 019. Statehood is a reference to the glorious past and a privilege for solidification of the idea of pluralism and respectful coexistence in Jammu and Kashmir like any other State.

For keeping up this spirit and allowing a cultural mosaic to continue, restoration of Statehood including establishment of a Legislative Council should be done as per the commitment of the country’s top leadership on the floor of Parliament.

Domicile Rights on Land and Jobs

The August 5 decisions have left indelible marks on the psyche of the people of Jammu and Kashmir especially with regard to their domicile rights for: employment under Government services; acquisition of immovable property; settlement in the State and, of course, defining such residents.

A tangible legal and constitutional mechanism needs to be put in place to safeguard these privileges of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This can also include that no domicile certificate shall be issued in favour of a person till the completion of minimum 25 years as a resident of Jammu and Kashmir. The period of 25 years shall be considered post 31st of October 2019.

Delimitation Process on Merit

The process of delimitation is being viewed as a politically motivated exercise in Jammu and Kashmir.

The rumours that adjustment of boundaries and description of the extent of parliamentary constituencies has been thrust to pit Jammu against Kashmir for some political mileage!

This serious issues needs to be addressed by increasing the seats proportionately based on a rationale and not arbitrarily.

 Release of Detainees

All detainees under preventive detention including two former CM’s be released as the life has almost returned to normal and all apprehensions regarding law and order subsided.

A compassionate policy be framed regarding detainees jailed under PSA. A compassionate and lenient review of cases of PSA can be confidence building measure.

Special Economic Package

The tourism, agriculture, horticulture, transport and industrial sectors are reeling under tremendous distress. Absence of a practicable mechanism to support the stakeholders of these sectors is still missing.

The central government needs to go for a liberal economic package to boost all these sectors of economy of Jammu and Kashmir.

Besides, immediate relief in the shape of Fiscal Incentives, Interest Subvention, tax exemptions to other sectors, loan waivers like Kisan Credit loans can be major confidence building measure. 

J&K Bank’s functional autonomy

J&K has lost its pristine glory. Currently it is being run as a government treasury. The Bank should be operated in a professional manner with negligible political or bureaucratic interference. The loan settlement process, stopped by this bank since last seven months, be immediately resumed.

Similarly, for a serious revival of J&K’s shattered economy, the Bank should go for advances for its’ clientele especially the businessmen, shopkeepers, traders, manufacturers, industrialists, hoteliers, orchardists, farmers, transporters, houseboat owners, tour and travel operators and all other allied sectors of economy. This will provide a sigh of relief for a major section of the society in J&K.

Youth Policy

Youth in J&K are extremely alienated due to multiple reasons. This alienation makes most of them an easy fodder for those who wanted to foment trouble in the region.

We cannot afford loss of another generation which otherwise can be addressed with a meaningful engagement with the youth and their aspirations.  Need of the hour is a comprehensive youth policy be framed and implemented in letter and spirit.

Return of Pandits

Kashmiri Pandits are an inseparable part of Jammu & Kashmir’s pluralistic ethos. Unfortunately, living like refugees in their own country, they have been demanding rehabilitation with dignity.

The central government should make special efforts to ensure that Kashmiri Pandits return to the land of their ancestors with full dignity and an assured livelihood. The policy in this regard needs to be implemented taking the other communities on board.

Employment Package

First of all age relaxation clause for J&K youth appearing for UPSC and other competitive exams be restored. Public Service Commission be made functional.  The alarming unemployment issue in J&K need to be addressed with a comprehensive and a result oriented package at an earliest.

Administrative Inertia

The functioning of J&K administration needs to be clean and impartial and above all professional then only it can instil some confidence among the people of Jammu and Kashmir especially the youth.

Such type of administrative set up is missing in J&K. A major part of the J&K administration is either inept or have no zeal to identify with the distress and anguish prevalent among the masses. This perpetual administrative inertia needs to be addressed on priority.  

Hassle Free Connectivity

Dilapidated condition of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway—being the Valley’s only land connection with rest of the country, has been a source of perpetual distress for the people of the region especially during winters.

A major portion of this highway is landslide prone, slippery and dangerous. The Highway needs to be developed urgently and till that work is accomplished, Dakota services should be a permanent feature for a hassle free connectivity between Jammu and Srinagar.  

Besides the civil aviation ministry needs to put a cap on airfare from Jammu-Srinagar and vice versa and Jammu & Kashmir with rest of the country. This will not only boost and promote the tourism sector but will also provide a sigh of relief to the people of J&K who suffer immensely because of exorbitant airfares.

Selective enforcement of central laws

The tribal population and traditional forest dwellers in Jammu and Kashmir are facing immense hardships and persecution in absence of legal safeguards. Selective enforcement of central laws in Jammu and Kashmir especially after August 5, 2019 decisions, is highly regrettable.

Like non applicability of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 in Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Abrogation of Article 370 is not only unjustifiable but without any rationale.

The Forest Rights Act, applicable across the country except for Jammu and Kashmir, would not only protect tribal population and other forest dwellers against forced displacements, eviction but will ensure their other rights as well, which include grazing rights, access to water resources and access to forest products.

The Government of India should fulfill its commitment with the tribal and socio-economically marginalized forest dwellers and enforce the Forest Rights Act in J&K without any further delay.

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