Jammu- Amid unprecedented surety arrangements, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah arrived here on Monday on a three-day visit of Jammu and Kashmir.
Shah arrived in the evening and was received at the airport by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Union minister Jitendra Singh, among others. The home minister is scheduled to meet various delegations, including those representing the Gujjar, Bakerwal and Pahari communities during his visit, officials said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to Paharis, a long-pending demand of the community mostly residing in Rajouri and Poonch in the Jammu region and Baramulla in north Kashmir, where Shah is scheduled to address public rallies over the next two days.
Gujjars and Bakerwals have expressed resentment over the proposed inclusion of Paharis in the ST category.
There is massive enthusiasm among the Paharis in anticipation of a major announcement from the home minister but at the same time, the Gujjars and the Bakerwals, apprehending dilution of the ST status, have come out to express their resentment against the proposed move.
Hundreds of Gujjar and Bakerwal college students gathered here and staged a peaceful march to oppose the likely inclusion of the Pahari-speaking people in the ST category.
The STs have been granted 10 per cent reservation in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly for the first time after a recent delimitation exercise. Nine seats have been reserved for the STs, while seven are reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SCs).
Gujjars and Bakerwals also staged a protest in Shopian district of south Kashmir, threatening to intensify the agitation if Paharis are given the ST status.
Welcoming the visit of the home minister, the Jammu and Kashmir Gujjar Bakerwals Organisations Coordination Committee appreciated the steps taken by the BJP-led Centre for the betterment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in general and that of the STs in particular.
“For the last 30 years, no central or state government implemented the law relating to the STs in Jammu and Kashmir. It is the current government that provided political reservation and implemented the Forest Rights Act in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” convenor of the committee Anwar Choudhary told reporters here.
However, he appealed to Shah to allay the apprehensions that the ST status of the Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gadis and Sippis shall not be diluted by including any other section of people from Jammu and Kashmir in the category.
Senior BJP leader Arshad Choudhary, who is from the Gujjar community, said the demand of the Paharis for the ST status is “spurious and unjustifiable”, and said the tribals got the ST status after decades of relentless struggle and secured 10 per cent reservation in jobs and education.
“The conspirators are all out to jeopardise the legitimate rights and interests of the tribals and render them unreal and ineffective socially, educationally, economically and politically, and create a pre-1991-like situation, and all this is utterly unacceptable to us,” he said.
The speculation over the likely announcement of ST status to Paharis has also sparked off a political row within the National Conference.
Taking head-on with his party, senior NC leader and former lawmaker Kafeel ur Rehman has urged the people to attend Shah’s rally and demonstrate the collective strength of Pahari community.
Another NC leader Mushtaq Bukahri and several others have quit the party only to come out in open to support the BJP on the issue of granting ST status to Paharis.
Former Deputy Chief Minister, Muzafar Baig has also appealed the members of Pahari community to attend Shah’s Baramulla rally.
Meanwhile, security has been tightened across Jammu and Kashmir for the three-day visit of the Home Minister, officials said.
Officials on Monday said a multi-tier security arrangement has been put in place for the Union Home minister’s visit and drones are being used for aerial surveillance as well.
The checking on Jammu-Poonch and Srinagar-Baramulla highways has been intensified, while additional police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed to keep a close watch on the situation, they said.
“Police and CRPF personnel have been deployed at several places in Srinagar as well as elsewhere in the Valley as part of the security measures,” an official said.
Patrolling has been intensified at many places, especially on the Srinagar-Baramulla-Kupwara highway, the official added.
“High-resolution camera-equipped drones are keeping a vigil at many locations and are aiding the security forces in maintaining surveillance,” the official said.
Director General of Police Dilbag Singh, who visited both the venues last week, said attempts are being made by terrorist and their handlers to disrupt peace in Jammu and Kashmir but all necessary security arrangements are in place for the high-profile visit and
“… to sabotage the VIP visit or any such activity that sends a positive message to the people, the terrorists and their handlers across the border try to show that all is not well (on the security front),” the police chief had said here on Sunday.
Terrorists had on Sunday attacked a security forces team in Pulwama district of the Union territory, killing a special police officer (SPO) and injuring a CRPF jawan,
Twin blasts had ripped apart two parked buses in Udhampur district of Jammu region within eight hours during the intervening night of September 28 and 29, and injured two persons.
Also, a former militant was arrested and five improvised explosive devices including three sticky bombs had been seized.
However, the DGP said by and large things were improving with each passing day and they have tried to hit the terror ecosystem on various fronts as a result of which the security scenario is much better today than it was four years back.
“There is a drastic change in the overall security situation in J&K as born out by facts and figures and not based on mere claims…a very large number of successful operations have been conducted,” he had said.
Officials said Additional Director General of Police, Jammu Zone, Mukesh Singh visited Rajouri this morning and reviewed the security arrangements at a high-level meeting on the eve of the home minister’s rally.
Officials said security has also been intensified in Jammu and the holy town of Katra, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Reasi district.
Shah is scheduled to visit the shrine and offer his prayers on the last day of the Navratra festival on Tuesday before leaving for Rajouri to address the rally, the officials said.
They said the Home Minister is likely to meet several delegations including those from Gujjar and Bakerwal besides meeting some senior BJP leaders, shortly after his arrival here.
He will also inaugurate and lay the foundation stone for development works in the Jammu region after returning from Rajouri.
The Home Minister is scheduled to leave for Kashmir on Tuesday evening and will address the public rally at Baramulla on Wednesday.
The BJP’s J-K president, Ravinder Raina, said Shah’s rallies will be “historic”.
“These will be the biggest rallies in the history of Rajouri-Poonch and north Kashmir,” he said.
Asked whether Shah will make any announcement about assembly elections in J-K, Raina said deciding the poll schedule was the prerogative of the Election Commission of India, but the BJP was ready for elections.
“Elections will happen. … It is the job of the ECI (to announce the poll schedule). But the BJP is ready for the polls,” he said.
Shah will also inaugurate and lay the foundation of several developmental works in Srinagar besides chairing a high-level security review meeting along with Lt Governor Manoj Sinha on Wednesday.
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