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May 26, 2024
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Article 370 repeal: Jammu rejoices, Kashmir seethes in anger

The BJP government’s move to repeal Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir has evoked mixed response in the state.

While majority of the people across Jammu felt that justice has finally been done, the sentiment in Kashmir’s was of despondency, anger and despair.

In an announcement with massive repercussions for Jammu and Kashmir, home minister Amit Shah announced in Rajya Sabha on Monday that the government has decided to repeal Article 370 of the Constitution which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

President of the J&K High Court Bar Association, advocate Abhinav Sharma said, “The resolution is yet to be ratified by Parliament but undoubtedly a positive development which is in the interest of the nation and the people of the state.”

Pradesh Congress chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir said the central government has “choked throats and stifled voices of the people of J&K.” “Numbers are on their side and BJP today succeeded in accomplishing its core ideology of ‘one nation, one constitution and one symbol’ but it is not the right way to rule hearts. It would have been good, had the BJP taken the people of the state on board,” he said.

Mir said that he was not sure about the long term repercussions of the decision taken by the BJP government. “We are not a dictatorship but a democracy. This is not the way. The voices of dissent are always there but it would have been good, had the BJP government left it for the state assembly to decide,” he asserted.

Former education minister and Panthers Party chairman Harsh Dev Singh was furious. “What have they done to us? They downgraded us from being a state to union territory. We had no objections had the government given Kashmir and Ladakh status of union territories but why did they decide to make Jammu region a UT,” he asked.

Singh questioned why the people of Jammu region were being punished all the time.

Advocate Sheikh Shakeel, a prominent member of the J&K Bar said that the oneness of the state has been disturbed. “The unique identity of the state has been shattered. The decision is against the aspirations of the people and against the constitutional mandate,” he said and described it an “unconstitutional” act of the BJP government.

Former MLC of the PDP, Firdous Tak who belongs to Kishtwar district said, “This is second invasion of J&K after 1947 when Pak raiders invaded us. After Pak raids, a historical decision was taken by the then Dogra ruler of state, who acceded Jammu and Kashmir to the union of India. This time we have been attacked, raided and robbed by a country, which we have been calling ours for the past over 70 years.”

The members of the Valmiki community who were brought to Jammu after local sweepers went on a strike in 1957 were elated after the Centre’s decision. In 1957, they were assured by then Prime Minister of J&, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed that they will be given permanent resident status and other privileges, six decades on they continue to work as sweepers (safai karamcharis) who have not been given citizenship rights.

Community leader Gharu Bhatti said, “We are distributing sweets. Finally, we have become citizens of the state today. Our sisters and daughters in the community, who had earned post-graduation degrees, but were not considered for government jobs except for sanitation jobs are relieved today. Now, they can also hope of getting jobs and lead a dignified life.”

Sushma Sharma, a banker, said the abrogation of Article 370 will end the gross discrimination faced by the women of the state. “Their children and husbands were denied citizenship rights. But for permanent resident men, even when abroad, their wives and children were automatically given those rights,” she said.

Labha Ram Gandhi, the chairman of West Pak Refugees Action Committee 1947, who represents nearly 1.25 lakh West Pak refugees, belonging to scheduled caste and backward classes, said it was end to a long-drawn struggle.

“We were not considered residents of the state. Since 1947, no jobs and no admission in professional courses were given to our children. Even PM’s welfare schemes were denied to us. We thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah,” he said.

The West Pak Refugees fled Sialkot in Pakistan during Partition and settled in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts where seventy years on they were denied citizenship rights to vote in Assembly elections.

According to official data, there were 5,764 families of WPRs comprising 47,915 people, who had migrated from West Pakistan in 1947.

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