A first: Amit Shah promises reservation for linguistic group in J&K
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday announced that the Gujjar, Bakarwal and Pahari communities in Jammu and Kashmir will get reservation benefits in accordance with the recommendations of the Justice Sharma Commission which examined the issue of quota. He said this while addressing a rally organised in this town, situated at the foothills of the Pir Panjal mountain range along the Indo-Pak border, to mark the start of the BJP’s campaign for elections likely next year.
Shah’s move is seen as an attempt to increase BJP’s support base in J&K. Reports say it will be the first instance of a linguistic group (Paharis) being awarded reservation in India.
Shah also said there would be no decline in ST quota of Gujjars, Bakarwals and Paharis and everyone will get their share. He said the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 had paved the way for providing reservation benefits to the deprived sections of the society in Jammu and Kashmir. “The Justice Sharma Commission has recommended that Paharis, Bakerwal and Gujjars should be included for ST quota benefits. These recommendations have been received and soon after completion of legal procedure, Gujjars, Bakarwals and Paharis will get the reservation benefits,” he said.
Gujjars, Bakarwals comprise third largest ethnic group
The home minister said some people have tried to instigate the Gujjars and Bakarwals in the name of ST status being given to Paharis, but the people have foiled their design. There have been reports of protests by the Gujjars and Bakarwals in Jammu and Shopian in Kashmir recently against the move to grant ST status to the Paharis.
The Gujjars and Bakarwals constitute 40 per cent of the population in the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch. Paharis also live in the same area but they are numerically small. The Gujjars and Bakerwals are the third largest ethnic group in Jammu and Kashmir after Kashmiris and Dogras.
Since April 1991, they have enjoyed benefits of 10 per cent quota for the Scheduled Tribes (STs) in jobs and educational institutions. The Paharis are also seeking same benefits, which was opposed by the Gujjar and Bakarwals. Since January 2020, the Paharis have been getting 4 per cent quota benefits in jobs and educational institutions in Jammu and Kashmir following a change of rules by the Union Territory administration. This was also opposed by the Gujjars and Bakarwals, saying they get benefits under other categories such as OBC, EWS.
‘Delimitation as per norms’
Coming down heavily on the Opposition in Jammu and Kashmir, Shah said earlier just three political families used to rule the erstwhile state, but now power is with 30,000 people who were elected to panchayats and district councils through fair elections. Referring to the possibility of holding assembly elections, he said delimitation exercise was carried out before holding the Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Delimitation was necessary before polls as earlier delimitation was not as per norms. Now, the delimitation has been done as per norms and there is increase in no of seats in hilly areas like Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar,” he said. Shah said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised elections after abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019. Modi had held local body polls and handed over the power to the 30,000 elected representatives of local bodies, he said.
“Earlier power was with three families, 87 MLAs, 6 MPs. With abrogation of Article 35-A and 370, all downtrodden societies including Paharis in Jammu and Kashmir are getting or going to get their rights,” he said. The home minister said tribal reservation has become possible in Jammu and Kashmir only after abrogation of Article 35-A and 370. He alleged that those who ruled Jammu and Kashmir for 70 years “wanted to keep Paharis crushed and pushed their voice. Now it is the turn of Paharis to get their right in Jammu and Kashmir.” Shah said the development of Jammu and Kashmir is Modi’s priority.
“Earlier, all money sent by the Centre for development was usurped by a few, but now everything is spent on people’s welfare,” he said. “I want to appeal to you to free Jammu and Kashmir from the clutches of these three families and to make hands of Modi strong for betterment and welfare of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. Shah did not take names of the three families.
‘Security situation in the Valley is better’
He also said security situation in Jammu and Kashmir is far better now than earlier due to the strong action taken against terrorists by the Modi government. “As a result, the death toll of security forces has come down from 1,200 every year to 136 this year,” he said.
Shah said there were 4,766 terror incidents from 2006-2013 in Jammu and Kashmir during the Congress rule but the number has come down to 721 in 2019-22. “Today’s rally is a befitting reply to those who used to say that there would be blood bath if Article 370 is abrogated,” he said. The home minister said Modi snatched stones from the hands of stone pelters in Kashmir and handed them laptops and jobs and this has resulted an end to stone-pelting. “The decline in number of deaths of security forces shows that Jammu and Kashmir is in safe hands now,” he said, adding the Modi government has started strong drive against terrorism, stone-pelters and Hurriyat conference.
He also appreciated the Union territory administrations’ decision to announce a holiday on the occasion the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh, the erstwhile rule of Jammu and Kashmir, who signed the instrument of accession. On the last day of Navratri, the home minister paid obeisance at Mata Vaishnoo Devi temple and and prayed for peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Shah also praised the people living in Rajouri and Poonch who are “standing like rocks for security of India” and entire country salutes them. “Paharis, Gujjars and Bakarwals always stood for country whenever there was risk on India. Mountains of Rajouri and Poonch are guardians of LoC of India,” he said.
(With Agency inputs)