Clamour For Statehood Grows As Hints About Its Restoration Mount

Unionist parties at a meeting on the eve of August 5, 2019 at senior Abdullah's Gupkar residence.

Srinagar: As the first anniversary of August 5 decisions near clamour for statehood is growing shriller among the mainstream camp in Jammu and Kashmir which was split into two union territories on that day last year.

The sudden surge in demand for statehood, already promised by the Union Home Minister, comes amid reports that the Centre was likely to announce its restoration on August 15.

Omar Hints At Contesting Polls But After Statehood Is Restored

Srinagar- Upset over downgrading of Jammu and Kashmir to the status of a Union Territory following abrogation of Article 370, former chief minister Omar Abdullah on Monday said he will not contest assembly elections till full statehood is restored.

However, Omar, a former union minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, made it clear he would continue to work for his party National Conference(NC) and people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“I have been the leader of the assembly of the state. In its time the most empowered assembly. I cannot and will not be a member of what is now one of the most disempowered assemblies in the country. It’s as simple as that,” Omar, 50, told PTI.

“It is not a threat or blackmail; it’s not a display of me sulking. It’s just a simple acknowledgement that I won’t fight an election to lead the Union Territory assembly which is such a disempowered assembly.”

Strongly critical of the dilution of Article 370 of the Constitution, Omar said many reasons had been given to justify abrogation of the provision that granted special status, and claimed that none of those stand any scrutiny.

Omar, who is the vice president of the NC, was critical of what had been done to Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year, and said his party would oppose it in the Supreme Court.

“We believe in democracy and peaceful opposition.”

The abrogation of Article 370 was supposed to end militancy but the government had been telling the Supreme Court that violence in Jammu and Kashmir was increasing, he said. Similarly, arguments touted such as lack of development and investment due to Article 370 belie facts, he added.

Asked whether his decision not to contest the assembly polls has been discussed with the leadership of his party, Omar replied, “it’s my view and it’s my decision. No one can be forced to fight an election against their will”.

On the delimitation exercise being carried out by the administration of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar said, “NC is and will continue to explore all legal options to deal with the developments and decisions post August 5 last year.”

The elections are likely to be held only after the delimitation exercise is completed in the union territory, which came into existence on October 31 last year. The erstwhile state was split into two union territories–Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

KP Group Seeks Statehood, Special Status For J&K

A migrant Kashmiri Pandit organization on Monday demanded restoration of statehood and special status for the erstwhile state.

The organization called ‘Reconciliation, Relief and Rehabilitation of Migrants’ in a statement issued today demanded the immediate restoration of statehood and special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The organisation led by Kashmiri Pandit Satish Mahaldar said that the Indian constitution ensures the right to equality that extends to individuals, communities, religions, regions and all social and political institutions.

The right to equality does not only ensure non-discrimination on basis of the religion, caste, region or any other social and political sub- categories. Never before a state has been downgraded. This is not done in a democracy. One can’t have a military solution to a political situation and can’t go to war with their own people,” Mahaldar said.

He urged the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and parliamentarians to confer special status to Jammu and Kashmir as a ‘good gesture’ and by understanding the aspiration and the wishes of the people.

“It is not that J&K was the only state with special status. Other states too enjoy special category status. These are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand,” Mahaldar said.

He said a wide range of provisions were available to these 10 states that have been listed under Articles 371, 371-A to 371-H, and 371.

“Similarly, a special category status should be granted to J&K immediately on the basis of sizeable share of tribal population, strategic international borders, economic and infrastructural backwardness, non-viable nature of state finances, discriminated minorities in Kashmir and to deal with the disturbed law and order in some parts of J&K state,” Mahaldar said.

He listed a number of features while seeking restoration of special status to the erstwhile state.

Among them, Mahaldar demanded that the central government bears 90 percent of the state expenditure on all centrally-sponsored schemes and external aid while the rest 10 percent should be given as loan to the state at zero percent rate of interest. He also demanded preferential treatment getting central funds, concession on excise duty to attract industries to the state besides 30 percent of the Centre's gross budget for J&K as conferred to other states

“The state should avail the benefit of debt-swapping and debt relief schemes. J&K state with special category status should be exempted from customs duty, corporate tax, income tax and other taxes to attract investment. J&K state should also have the facility that if they have unspent money in a financial year; it does not lapse and gets carried forward for the next financial year,” Mahaldar said.

He also demanded special status for Kashmiri Pandits, saying that they were cultural and religious minority within the state.

“No one can ignore the demand of statehood and special status to J&K,” he added.

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