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J&K to release political prisoners, make life easy for common folk

The coalition of People’s Democratic Party, Congress Party, smaller parties and independents due to take over reins of government in Jammu and Kashmir state has cobbled together an impressive “Common Minimum Programme” (CMP), which if implemented, would solve most of the state’ s problems.

The common minimum programme’ s objective is to heal the physical, psychological and emotional wounds, restore rule of law, take forward the political process begun by the recent elections.

The coalition’ s mission statement includes requesting the Government of India to initiate and hold “ sincerely and seriously,” wide-ranging consultations and dialogue without preconditions with members of legislature and other segments of Kashmiri public opinion to evolve a consensus on restoration of peace and honour.

The coalition has decided to release all political prisoners as well as other offenders whose stay in jails prior to sentencing exceeds the usual jail term awarded for such offences.

POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act), a piece of legislation fiercely opposed by opposition leaders and liberal sections of society, but rushed through by the anti-Muslim Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), would not be implemented by the state.

The coalition is of the opinion that there are enough laws in the sate to deal with militancy. Hence there is no need for a law like POTA.

The coalition has decided to investigate all cases of custodial killings, that is killings which took place after the arrest of a person by the police and security forces. Violations of human rights shall be investigated and persons found responsible for the excesses brought to book.

The CMP stresses the return of all Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) to their homes, and regards their safety and their complete rehabilitation as a priority.

For people living close to the Line of Control, whose life is disturbed every time there is a rise in tension, the coaltition envisages permanent shelters and relocation to safer areas in more troublesome cases.

To improve accountability, the coalition will create an institution to investigate complaints against the chief minister, ministers, members of the legislative assembly other influential people. Its head will be appointed by the chief minister in consultation with chief justice of the state and leader of the opposition in the legislative assembly.

The coalition government will give full powers to Leh Autonomous Hill Council (in Buddhist-dominated part of Ladakh) and has mooted a similar council for Kargil (the Muslim-dominated area of Ladakh).

The CMP says the coalition government will help the Centre in stopping and fighting cross-border terrorism.

Backward communities like Gujjars and Gaddis will get special attention for development and welfare, and Pahari-speaking people will get Scheduled Tribe status which will allow them to benefit from reservations for weaker sections in education and jobs..

Welfare and rehabilitation of people affected by militancy is a central idea in the CMP, so is the empowerment of the masses through decentralisation under Panchayati Raj (village government) institutions. Welfare and rehabilitation will include families of militants who were earlier barred from such benefits.

In short, the coalition has a perfect recipe for solving the long-suffering state’ s immediate problems, provided the CMP is implemented.

The Common Minimum Programme for the Congress-PDP coalition government

03 Nov 2002

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