The government decision to bury Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh was ratified by Parliament Tuesday when Lok Sabha too gave its go-ahead, clearing the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, with an overwhelming majority of 351-72 and a resolution taking away the special status.
Replying to a debate in Lok Sabha, a day after he secured Rajya Sabha’s approval on the government decision, Union Home Minister Amit Shah ruled out any talks with the separatist Hurriyat Conference and declared that India will continue to claim the territories of Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Aksai Chin.
Hailing the passage of the Bill as a “momentous occasion in our Parliamentary democracy”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present in Lok Sabha, later tweeted: “I salute my sisters and brothers of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh for their courage and resilience. For years, vested interest groups who believed in emotional blackmail never cared for people’s empowerment. J&K is now free from their shackles. A new dawn, better tomorrow awaits!”
Rejecting the Opposition charge that the bifurcation Bill was a violation of the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Shah told Lok Sabha: “Kashmir is an integral part of India, let there be no doubt about it. When I talk of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin are included in it. Don’t you consider PoK a part of Jammu and Kashmir?… I will give my life for it… We are ready to give our lives… As far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, the Parliament of this country has the full right to bring any law or programme for it. No one can stop it from doing so.”
Trying to allay apprehension among members, Shah ruled out talks with the Hurriyat Conference. “We don’t want to talk to Hurriyat, but we ready to speak to the people of Kashmir.” He said the Narendra Modi government will walk the extra mile for the people “who have suffered and lost lives for three decades in Kashmir”.
He said over 41,500 people were killed in Jammu and Kashmir due to militancy since 1989 and blamed Articles 370 and 35A for the problem.
Critical of what he called denial of democratic rights to refugees from Pakistan who had taken shelter in Jammu and Kashmir, he said two men — Inder Kumar Gujral and Manmohan Singh — who had come to Punjab rose to become Prime Ministers of the country, while those who opted for Jammu and Kashmir could not become even become members of municipal committees because of Article 370.
He said 20 lakh refugees in J&K will now get justice, and delimitation (of assembly constituencies) will soon be underway.
Shah said Article 370 was creating doubts over J&K’s relations with India. “This is not a historical blunder but we are rectifying the historical blunder,” he said, dismissing the Opposition charge that the government was committing a mistake.
He rejected the suggestion that abrogation of Article 370 was a “communal agenda” and said the provision in the Constitution was discriminatory and against minorities, women and welfare of the people.
There will be a special package, he said, for people of the region if required. As some Opposition leaders criticised the BJP for “reducing a mighty state into two municipalities with joint secretaries in charge”, Shah said the government had no intention to let J&K and Ladakh remain as UTs. “When situation normalises, at an appropriate time, J&K will regain the state status,” he said, adding that it would not “take 70 years”.
He also said the government will not touch Article 371 that gives special status to many states, mostly those in the north-east region. On the issue of plebiscite in J&K, he said the issue ended the moment Pakistan Army invaded India in 1965.
Shah and BJP members who spoke in the House came down heavily on the Congress and the Valley parties, National Conference and PDP.
BJP leader from J&K and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said the special status was a “miscarriage of history”. Blaming Jawaharlal Nehru for “taking unilateral decisions” on Kashmir without consulting his Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Singh said Parliament has every right to take decisions on the state.
“This Parliament represents 130 crore people in this country. Who could be a bigger stakeholder?” Singh said, rejecting the Opposition charge that the decision was taken without consulting stakeholders in the state.
There was jubilation in the treasury benches and members made combative speeches. When the Prime Minister entered the House, he received a standing ovation from BJP members. The slogans they raised included “Jahan huye balidaan Mookerjee, woh Kashmir hamara hai”, “Vande Matram” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai.” Bhopal MP Pragya Singh Thakur, who was sitting in the last row, was among those who took the lead in raising slogans.