Amit Shah Says Nobody’s Land Would Be Taken Away In Kashmir
For the first time since the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked on August 5, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on September 3 that “only government land would be used to establish industries, hospitals and educational institutions”.
He told a delegation from Jammu and Kashmir, comprising sarpanches (village heads) and members of civil society groups, that “nobody’s land would be taken away”.
The village heads, who were elected last year, demanded security, with some of them from south Kashmir still living in hotels in Srinagar under police protection as they have not been able to go back to their villages.
Participating in the debate in the Rajya Sabha on August 5, Mr. Shah had said no industry could be set up and tourism could not develop in the State because of restrictions on land purchase due to Articles 370 and 35A. Mr. Shah had moved two Bills to revoke the special status under Article 370 and bifurcate and downgrade the State into two Union Territories. After the revocation of special status, residents from the Kashmir Valley and Jammu have expressed concerns and demanded protection of their land, culture and traditions.
Mr. Shah also assured the delegation that communication services, including Internet, would be restored in the Valley in the next 20-25 days. He promised to begin recruitment for government jobs at the earliest and said the government would ensure merit-based recruitment of at least five aspirants from each village. He reiterated that the statehood would be restored as soon as the situation warranted, and asked the representatives not to believe any rumours.
Mr. Shah met three different groups of representatives, the first such meeting after Article 370 was revoked. The participants were selected by the office of Baseer Khan, the divisional commissioner of Kashmir, and flown to Delhi on Tuesday morning.
Nisar Ahmad Bhat, a sarpanch from Pulwama, said he had been living with his family in Srinagar after he won the elections last year. “The Home Minister told us that the situation is tense so they will not open the phone lines soon. We asked for protection, we are under threat…we go to our village clandestinely,” he added.
Another member of the delegation who did not wish to be identified, said shopkeepers were scared to open their shops.
“People are scared. Some shops used to open in the evening hours, but police came and told them that if they cannot open their shops during the day then they wont be allowed to operate in the evening. This is why civil curfew has been imposed by people,” the member said.
“The meeting with the Home Minister went on for 40 minutes. Most of the sarpanches spoke about micro issues, no one raised the issue of clampdown. The Home Minister told the sarpanches that he will make Kashmir a place where they don’t need security at all,” another member said.
Samir, a businessman said, “I believe in democracy, not gun culture.”