Mainstream, separatists up in arms

Move To Undermine State’s Special Status: Legal Experts

UMER MAQBOOL

Srinagar, Jan 7: A claim made by Revenue Minister Raman Bhalla that Jammu and Kashmir Government will go for constitutional amendment in the upcoming legislature session to grant Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCs) to West Pakistan refugees has created ripples in the state’s political circles, with mainstream parties including the ruling National Conference expressing “surprise” over the “sudden” announcement.
The separatists, on the other hand, termed the proposed move a conspiracy to tinker with the Muslim majority character of the State. The legal experts said that “permanent settlement of non- state subjects would be a direct assault on special position of J&K”.
On Sunday, Bhalla was quoted as saying that the State Government will bring necessary amendment in the constitution to grant PRCs to the refugees.
Ruling National Conference while expressing ignorance over Bhalla’s announcement said that any such move will be met with vociferous opposition.
“Jammu and Kashmir has a special identity and state subject rights for its residents is the soul of this uniqueness. Any attempt to grant  state subject rights  to West Pakistan refugees would be taken as  direct  assault on our identity especially Muslim majority character of the State ,” senior National Conference (NC) leader and Member Parliament Dr Mehboob Beg said.
Beg, who had opposed in Parliament granting the refugees, presently living in Jammu, state subject rights in J&K said: “The refugees should be settled in any party of the country but not in JK”.
“It is not only attack on Muslims of JK but also an attack on the rights of Dogras of Jammu and Buddhists of Ladakh,” he added.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked the State Government to come clear on the issue. “This is a very important but sensitive issue. The Government must come out precisely what they want to do. It is an issue larger than the scope of a single minister,” PDP chief spokesman Naeem Akthar told Greater Kashmir.
“The issue has to be tackled with compassion and care,” he said.
Meanwhile, the separatist groups warned the State Government of serious consequences if they go ahead with the plan.
“From 1947, Government of India is pursuing policies aimed at changing the demography of the State. But we will not allow them to succeed in their designs,” Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said.
Mirwaiz added that attempts of demographic engineering would have serious ramifications and Government of India as well as the State Government should keep in mind that infringing with special character of JK is unacceptable to its residents.
The Hurriyat Conference (G) also reacted sharply to the announcement of Bhalla saying that they will mobilize public opinion over the issue.
“This is a very serious issue and linked with disputed nature of Kashmir. In 1947, lakhs of Muslims were massacred in Jammu and now they have employed new tactics to fulfill their design of reducing Muslims into minority,” spokesman of the amalgam, Ayaz Akbar said.
Legal experts argue the move will have disastrous implications vis-à-vis State’s constitutional and legal position.
“If any attempt is made to amend the constitution and undo the Maharaja’s notification of 1927, it will be a blunder on part of the State Government as it will undermine autonomous character of JK,” High Court lawyer Riyaz Khawar said.
At present, refugees from Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK) who are categorized as internally displaced persons have state subject rights while as refugees from Western Pakistan don’t possess such rights. The latter cannot vote or participate in any state elections, but can exercise their franchise in parliament polls on virtue of being Indian citizens.
The genesis of the State Subject law lies in notification dated 20th April, 1927 No. 1-L/84 issued by Maharaja Hari Singh. The definition of State Subject has been sanctioned by Maharaja vide Private Secretary’s letter No.2354 dated 31 January, 1927 to the Revenue Member of Council.
It is pertinent to mention here that in October 2002, the full bench of the High Court in a case, State of Jammu and Kashmir vs Dr Sushila Sawhney, said that daughter of a permanent resident of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will not lose status as permanent resident of the State on marriage with a person who is not permanent resident of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Later, the state Government went for appeal in the Supreme Court against the judgment. However, the PDP Government in 2004 withdrew the appeal and moved a Bill in the Legislative Assembly seeking disqualification of a woman marrying a non-state subject.
Although the Bill was passed in the Legislative Assembly but it hit a roadblock in Legislative Council with the then Chairman Abdul Rashid Dar adjourning the House sine die without putting the Bill to vote. National Conference then expelled Dar for ‘sabotaging’ passage of the Bill.
But the party virtually dumped the Bill after coming into power in 2009.

Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 8 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST




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