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Govt intends to ensure equality to J&K residents with rest of country: officials

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 05-08-2019 16:55 IST | Created: 05-08-2019 16:55 IST
Govt intends to ensure equality to J&K residents with rest of country: officials

Undeterred by "threats" of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, the Narendra Modi government decided to do away with Article 370 to ensure equality to residents of the state, officials said. Under Article 35A, many communities like refugees of West Pakistan, Balmiki community and descendants of Gorkha soldiers, who have been living in the state for decades, do not enjoy the same status as Kashmiri people, they said.

It was time to repeal Article 370 and Article 35A, they said. There are apprehensions of violence being instigated in the Kashmir Valley when the nation takes recourse to such action, but "that cannot, and must not, deter the state" from preserving the right to equality, enshrined in the Constitution, an official said on the condition of anonymity.

"We must remember that in the US, the North went to war with the South over the issue of human rights and Abraham Lincoln won the day. For the good of the people of India and for the residents of J&K, Article 35A must be repealed forthwith as it will pave the way for the development of the state and its total integration with the union," he said. In a memorandum to Home Minister Amit Shah and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Jammu and Kashmir People's Forum presented cases of the communities whose fundamental rights have been "legally" snatched like the right to property, right to vote, right to employment, right to marriage by choice, right to higher education, right to be a member of a panchayat or a cooperative society and right to avail bank loans, he said.

These communities are refugees from Pakistan-occupied areas of Jammu and Kashmir who were forced to live and settle outside the state after they crossed over to Jammu in 1947, the official said. They also include Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs who were forcibly pushed out of the Kashmir Valley; West Pakistan refugees who migrated to adjoining Jammu in 1947 and families displaced due to regular firing along the LoC.

The official also cited the case of members of Balmiki community who were persuaded by Sheikh Abdullah to migrate from Punjab to the state to undertake scavenging of night soil, descendants of Gorkha soldiers of the Maharaja's Army and women of the state who married men from other states. He said their children too were denied all rights, while no such provision existed for men who marry non-state subjects, making it a gender issue.

Except for the exiled Pandit families and the people of Ladakh, all other communities mentioned in this list have been denied the status of permanent residents or state subjects because of Article 6 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, which draws its powers from Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, he said. "It is time to give justice to the victims of Article 35A. These are the women of the state who choose life partners from outside the state and in doing so, lose the right for their progeny to be state citizens," he said.

He said the Balmikis, the sanitation workers, have no hope for their children other than to remain in this profession, regardless of their academic accomplishments. "The Gorkhas who have lived here since the 18th century and are denied citizenship rights till date. Such abuse of human rights must end in a free and democratic India," the official added.



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