Pandemonium over contentious issues in J&K assembly

Srinagar (21 January, 2017): Wide spectrum of issues ranging from 2016 summer unrest to the controversial domicile certificates being issued to West Pakistan Refugees (WPR) in J&K, to return of the Kashmiri Pandits resonated the budget session currently underway in Jammu (January 2 to February 4) during the past one week.

Pandemonium broke out in the Assembly (January 16) over the ruling coalition partner BJP’s ‘opposition’ to compensation for the families of youth killed during the summer unrest in the Valley. The issue rocked the Assembly after members from the opposition National Conference and Congress stormed the Well and asked the government to come out clear on the matter. BJP, that shares power with PDP, passed a resolution, a day earlier, saying that it would oppose any move of the state government that “encourages anti-national elements and demoralizes nationalistic forces”.

In response to a question by MLA Gulzar Ahmad Wani, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is also Jammu and Kashmir’s Home Minister, said in a written reply in the Legislative Assembly (January 20), that the government is compiling and collecting the details of persons who lost their lives or received injuries during action by the security forces during the uprising in Kashmir last year to provide them the ex-gratia relief or compensation. Mufti had earlier (January 9)announced relief and rehabilitation measures for the 2016 unrest victims and had announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the deceased and had also reiterated to explore possibility to provide jobs to the families of the deceased in extreme cases.

Earlier, the government’s refusal to order a judicial probe into the killings during the 2016 unrest triggered protests from the opposition in the Assembly (January 9) with lawmakers repeatedly storming the Well and exchanging blows with opposition MLAs. They demanded a judicial probe into the killings. The Chief Minister, in her address, said that the government will set up district-level Special Investigation Teams to probe the killings during last year’s unrest in the Valley. The Chief Minister further said in the House that 370 persons related to 2016 unrest were in detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) while 138 were in judicial/police custody. The government will review PSA detentions of the youth who are not chronic stone-pelters, she added.

Grant of domicile certificates to WPRs (what government calls identity certificates) also created furore in the Assembly (January 17) with opposition lawmakers asking the government to come clean on the issue while the ruling coalition partner BJP demanded citizenship rights for them. The issuance of domicile certificates to the refugees has triggered a row in Kashmir with the separatists who allege that the decision was aimed at changing the demography of the state.

“They should be sent back to Pakistan or settled in some other state. They are not state subjects and there is no question of allowing their settlement here because J&K is a disputed territory,” reacted independent legislator, Er. Sheikh Abdul Rashid. Angered by his remarks, independent lawmaker from Jammu Pawan Gupta said, “Those who are demanding that WPRs be sent to Pakistan should themselves be packed off to Pakistan.”

Secrets of the Kashmir Valley

The government has not given State Subject Certificate to any of WPRs, replied Minister for Revenue, Basharat Bukhari in the House (January 17).

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister in a written reply to a query raised by the BJP MLA Rajesh Gupta in the question hour session of the Legislative Assembly (January 11) said that 4088 missing persons/militants were still in Pakistan/PoK while 377 ex-militants have returned via Nepal and Bangladesh since 2010.  The reply added that these youth were not entitled to any benefit under 2010 Rehabilitation Policy since they didn’t return via approved routes. The four routes approved for return of ex-militants under the policy included JCP Wagah/Attari, Salamabad/Chakkan-da-Bagh crossing on the Line of Control (LoC) and through the Indira Gandhi International Airport. “No youth has been able to return via approved routes since the inception of policy due to inexplicable reason,” the reply added.

The Assembly unanimously passed a resolution (January 19) for the return of the Kashmiri Pandits and others who have migrated after the eruption of militancy in late 1980s.

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