Amendment Bill and frustrated opposition

By K.N. Pandita

Rajya Sabha has passed the Amendment to the Statistics Data Bill for Jammu and Kashmir, which was earlier passed by the Lok Sabha in April this year. Despite the criticism and reservations of the opposition parties particularly the Congress and CPI the bill was passed.

A close study of the debate on the amendment in the Rajya Sabha reveals that the Congress is chasing extraneous interests that go against the spirit of nationalism. It reveals how ambivalent Congress has been in regard to its Kashmir policy. Any Kashmiri worth his salt will endorse the duplicity of the opposition.

The leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha has thrown to winds the subtle nuances of a parliamentary debate and taken recourse to veiled threats and intimidations, which only belittle rather than enhance his profile. It is unfortunate that seasoned politicians should speak like a novice about the complex history of Kashmir problem.

It has become the culture with the opposition to resort to claptrap like “Kashmir a sensitive region” or “Article 370 a holy cow”, or “grave consequences if J&K government is not taken into confidence” etc. These are outdated and obsolete cliché that have no takers among the new and inquisitive generation of Indians and even of Kashmiris.

The tantrum that BJP has “different views on Article 370” is meaningless. Congress should remember that the originator of Article 370, Pandit Nehru had said about it that “ghiste ghiste ghis jaega”. All that the BJP says about Article 370 today is precisely what Nehru had foretold; BJP says that time has come “yeh ghis gaya hai”. Any Congressman worth his salt and true to ideology and loyal to Nehruvian policy should have been demanding erosion of Article 370 and not sticking to it like a leech. In this context Congressites are carrying forward the agenda of Kashmir separatists and not their mentor and leader Jawaharlal Nehru.

The opposition leader has pontificated “to understand the sensitivity of the matter, warning that otherwise it will have to face the consequences” This is less a threatening but more an indirect prompting of Kashmir separatists to make the Statistics Data bill an issue for resumption of public unrest in J&K only to satisfy its sadist penchant.

The real problem in Kashmir is not of the people but of their leadership of all hues wearing a mask of ambivalence and using the double speak as is evident from the threats exuded by the leader of opposition on the floor of the house. Kashmir is the creation of Congress and the story of Congress in Kashmir is the story of betrayals, dismissals, impositions, accords and their trivializing, horse trading, floor crossing all shrouded in mystery and suspicion. Above all, it is a sordid story of lending overt and covert support to dynastic rule in Kashmir that finds resonance in its own example.

In 2008, Congress regime passed the Statistics Data Bill but kept J&K out of it. Why? Obviously, because of Article 370 and special status. That is fine. But when the State Assembly passed the bill for greater autonomy why did the Congress regime put it in the cold store and showed scant respect for the State Legislative Assembly and Article 370 and Special Status by which it is now swearing while opposing the Amendment Bill?

In 2010, the State Assembly passed a bill by virtue of which some areas cannot be reached to make entries in the Statistics Data. This bill does not allow the Centre as well to reach those areas. The question is firstly, by disallowing access to some areas of Statistics, the State government deliberately deprives sections of population from reaping the benefits of development. Secondly, it violated the Right to Information Act, and in the totality, it is tantamount to violation of civic and political rights of the people. Evidently, there is something ugly which the State government wants to hide. Therefore the State government is neither a transparent government nor a welfare government; its action is akin to arbitrary dispensation.

According to the statement of objects and reason of the bill, “the amendments proposed in the bill, inter alia, seek to extend the Statistics Act 2008, to the state of Jammu and Kashmir in so far as it relates to any Statistical survey relating to any matter falling under any of the entries specified in List I (Union List) or List III (Concurrent List) in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution as applicable to that state.” This clarifies two things: one is that there is absolutely no infringement of constitutional rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with or without Article 370, and secondly, the Amendment Bill aims meting out equitable justice to all Indian citizens and regions of the country including J&K. If the argument is that Article 370 of the Constitution should govern Centre’s policy towards J&K in each and every walk of life then by the same token the Centre is not bound to provide financial assistance to the State for developmental projects in commensuration with the criterion applied to other States of the Union.

As regards “sensitivity” of the J&K Sate, what does “sensitivity” mean? The opposition should explain. As far as we understand, this State is very sensitive to the ambivalence and double-speak of its leaders within the State and their stooges and beneficiaries outside the State. If the people were not emotive, their deemed sympathizers would not be able to play with their sentiments. The Statistics Bill is simple and forthright in the interests of the people of the State. After all, plans and projects are built on the statistical data available to policy planners. If the date is deficient ultimately people are to suffer the loss. The NDA government does not want any section and segment of society to suffer on any count. When we say of India moving forward we meant that all the states in Indian Union are moving forward. How can the move forward become meaningful if all states do not keep pace with the times?

In final analysis, the opposition in the opposition should revisit its responsibility to the nation and conduct debates on national issues of great importance with seriousness and serenity. It should come out of the syndrome of a party frustrated by adverse verdict of the people in democratic arrangement. It has to come out of the culture of vendetta and rivalry and weightless assertions.

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