NEW YORK - Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir denied women from the state inheritance rights and this was a "serious human rights violation" that no one spoke about but human rights has become a "global buzzword" following the revocation of the temporary constitutional provision.
She said that Article 370 denied fundamental rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Delivering a lecture on the 'Indian Economy: Challenges and Prospects' organised by the Deepak and Neera Raj Center on Indian Economic Policies at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, she was asked about the economic loss in Jammu and Kashmir following the lockdown put in place after Article 370 was revoked.
"So, a temporary Article 370, which till now denied women of the state their inheritance, which denied the Scheduled Castes of the state a constitutional right for affirmative action, which denied every tribal what positive and affirmative action gave them of the Indian Constitution is now, after the removal of Article 370, which is a temporary article, going to enable us to provide all that to everybody," Sitharaman said amid a round of applause from the audience at Columbia University on Tuesday.
"Denying a woman inheritance from her father, for instance, just because she married somebody else from somewhere outside of her state was also a serious human rights violation, about which none of us spoke till now. Remove Article 370 (and) human rights becomes a global buzzword? Where were we when women have been all these years denied property rights, where were we when Scheduled Castes were denied affirmative action."
"So I think if people are worried about the economy of Jammu and Kashmir, they should be happy for it now because at least everybody will get the same facility, and as much investment for the development of state as it's available for the rest of the states of India," she said to a huge applause by the audience.
On August 5, the Centre abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated the state into Union territories.
Among those attending the lecture Director at the Raj Center and former NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya, professor and eminent economist Jagdish Bhagwati and India's Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty, as well as Columbia student and faculty and members of the Indian-American community.
Sitharaman asserted that except probably for the first week after the removal of Article 370, "I don't understand what is meant by lockdown. There was nothing imposed. There was never a protest for which a firing or a shootout should happen, nothing of that happened later."
She pointed out that the apple farmers in the state could collect all their produce from their farms and keep it ready to be bought by agents or the government.
"Like never before, the entire product, if anything, has been purchased by private or the public entrepreneurs. Apple in this season is the biggest economy for Jammu and Kahmir," she said
She emphasised that internet and related operations were curtailed and stressed that "it's no secret as to why it had to be curtailed considering the way in which Pakistan has been interfering with Jammu and Kashmir.
"How, in fact, payments have been given for people who were stone pelters. Stone pelters majority of the time were school going fellows. Money was paid to them. So on the internet, we have to take measures, just so that it doesn't really lead to amplification of rumour mongering and so on."
She said the economy, newspapers and "everything were doing their routine business. Of course, there was a lot of monitoring by the security forces because we didn't want anything going wrong, people being hit or convoys being hit."
About 99 per cent areas in Jammu and Kashmir are free from restrictions on the movement of people.
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