Parliament nod to end J&K special status, bifurcate state

Parliament nod to end J&K special status, bifurcate state


New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) In a historic development, Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday lost its special status and was bifurcated, as Parliament approved a resolution ending applicability of Article 370 of the Constitution to the state and passed a bill to create two Union Territories - Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. After the bifurcation, Jammu and Kashmir will now be a Union Territory with an Assembly, which Home Minister Amit Shah was a "temporary" measure and full statehood could be restored after normalcy returns there. The Bill, providing for bifurcation, was passed with over 350 members voting in its favor, a day after the Rajya Sabha approved the legislation. Replying to the debate on Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, 2019, Shah said the government was correcting a "historical blunder" after 70 years as the Article 370 stopped Jammu and Kashmir's full integration with the country. Asserting that the decision has been taken for the welfare of the Valley, he said that the state is most dear to the government. "People of the Valley are our own. We want to embrace them because they have given the maximum sacrifice and faced the maximum pain. Over 41,00 people of the state have been killed since 1989 only because of Section 370. "What did we get from Article 370? It gave unemployment and kept far from education. It only encouraged separatism pressed by Pakistan," he said, adding it also prevented democracy. Shah also assured that whatever mistakes were done by previous governments will not be repeated. The measures received support of many non-NDA parties, including the BJD, the YSR Congress, the TDP and the BSP. However, the Congress, the DMK, the NCP, the RSP and the SP opposed it. Amid uproarious discussion, the JD-U and the SP followed the Trinamool Congress in walking out of the House. The Trinamool earlier trooped out of the House saying it did not want to be part of the Bill, neither in opposition nor in support. In his reply, the Home Minister said: "I want to state that J&K is an inalienable part of India. There are no two versions about that. "Parliament is the highest and fully competent body to make laws and bring resolutions regarding a state of India including J&K. There can be no question to this power of the Parliament." Shah said that for 70 years, people of India have harbored this aspiration in their hearts that Kashmir must be an integral part. "Article 370 was the only roadblock to realize this goal. I thank Prime Minister for this historic step to remove this roadblock for ever." Leader of Congress Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury raised the issue of how the Centre can take this step unilaterally when Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and when the matter is pending in UN. To this, Shah challenged the opposition to clarify their stand on whether they support United Nation's meditation in Kashmir. The opposition in a way has questioned the competence of the Parliament by raising this point, he said. Shah also sought to remind the opposition who took the Kashmir matter to UN and who brought a unilateral ceasefire in 1948? "Had our forces given a free hand to deal with the situation, PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) would have been a part of India today." Introducing the resolutions and the Bill in the House, Shah said that the House has been witness to many historical moments and today once again, is witness to a golden day when J&K is truly brought into India's fold. He also said: "I want to assure the people of J&K that the status of the state would be restored once the situation normalizes. Secondly, PoK and Aksai Chin are an inalienable part of J&K and the seats are still part of the legislature". He assured the House that J&K would have a legislative assembly with elected representatives and clarified "it is a misnomer that the administration would be run by the Centre". On the difference between Articles 370 and 371, Shah said: "Article 370 was originally a temporary provision. Because of article 370, the laws of Union of India did not apply to J&K, corruption and terrorism flourished there. Article 371 relates to special provisions to special clauses favoring development to backward regions in some states. "Why would the Government repeal Article 371 and why is the opposition equating articles 370 and 371?". Further, Shah clarified that Naga Accord and Article 370 have no relation. Regarding troop deployment and no internet facilities in J&K currently, Shah said there is no reason other than preventing nefarious elements from instigating violence in the state and no one can stop the government from taking precautionary measures to protect peace. He made it clear that the government would never talk with separatist elements and those who back cross-border terrorism, but only those "committed for peace and development". On the state legislature not being consulted, he took on the opposition on the division of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, saying that the proposal was rejected by the state Assembly by two-thirds majority, but even then the government of the time went ahead with the division without consulting all political parties. He said removing Article 370 has no communal agenda as a number of communities and religious groups are resident of J&K that are affected equally. "Repealing article 370 is not a historic blunder, rather it is historic step to correct this historic blunder. Such bold steps are not taken for vote-bank but for the betterment of people of J&K," Shah said. He said that those who favor Article 370 are in opposition to the Prevention of Child Marriage Act which could not be applied to J&K due to it as well as many other acts. "Only by repealing this provision, we can bring the people to the mainstream. J&K is the heaven on earth and I assure everyone that it would continue to remain so when all the laws of Union of India become applicable to the state," he said.

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