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Secularism in J&K, Congress-style
11/21/2017 10:22:17 PM
Early Times Report

JAMMU, Nov 21: Congress leaders in Jammu & Kashmir, like the NC leaders, are denouncing the PDP-BJP coalition and saying this coalition is promoting communalism and setting one region of the state against another by indulging in politics of polarization. The speeches they made on November 19, the birthday of Late PM Indira Gandhi, were highly critical of the ruling coalition in J&K and the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre.
It may criticize the ruling coalition for political reasons but its own track record doesn't speak high of it. If the ruling coalition has not been pursing secular line and indulging in politics of polarization, it too did nothing when it headed the state between November 2005 and July 2008. A brief reflection on what the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led coalition Government did in the Assembly during the 2007 budget session would show what the Congress actually stood for. A reference here to its attitude to just 5 "Private Member's Bills" is needed.
One, the JKNPP, one of the coalition partners, moved a "Private Member's Bill" in the Assembly seeking support of the House in favour of the suggestion that there should be only one flag for the state.
In effect, the bill highlighted the significance of the national flag and wanted all the political parties to adopt the same so that the provisions concerning the state flag were repealed and the national flag reigned supreme in Jammu and Kashmir as was the case with other states of the Union. All the coalition partners, without any exception, and the opposition NC summarily rejected the landmark "Private Member's Bill", which was simply aimed at integrating the state with the rest of the country or bringing the state on a par with other states.
Two, it may sound unbelievable and ludicrous, but it is a fact that all the coalition partners, with the exception of JKNPP, adopted in no time a "Private Member's Bill", which was moved by the opposition NC. The bill provided for one-year imprisonment for those who would not show the kind of respect the state flag deserves. The NC had moved this bill to counter the BJP's age-old one-flag (national flag) and one-constitution (Indian Constitution) slogan. The defeat of the "Private Member's Bill" on national flag and the adoption of the bill on punishment for those not showing due respect to the state flag and the unqualified support extended by the ruling party to the Valley-based outfits had sprang a big surprise.
Three, the BJP legislator moved a "Private Member's Bill seeking citizenship rights for the refugees from West Pakistan, numbering approximately Rs.1.5 lakh. He made a passionate plea to the House that his bill needed to be passed as these hapless refugees had been denied their fundamental rights, including the right to own immovable property in the state, right to contest election to the Assembly and local bodies, right to franchise, right to equality, right to higher and professional education, right to bank loan, right to obtain jobs under the State Government and so on, but with no result. The ruling party and all other parties, barring the JKNPP and the JSM, opposed the bill tooth and nail. The result was the collapse of the bill.
Four, the JKNPP moved another "Private Member's Bill" seeking incorporation of the words "secularism and socialism" in the preamble of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution. The upshot of its whole argument was that "since the preamble of the Indian Constitution contained these two words, the same needed to be incorporated in the State Constitution so that the state polity was given a secular and socialist orientation". The bill failed to carry conviction. The ruling Congress, its coalition partners, including the Left parties, plus the opposition NC, rejected out-of-hand this bill, thus indicating their negative approach to the cardinal principles of secularism and socialism.
Five, the JKNPP moved yet another "Private Member's Bill" in the Assembly in the same session. It was designed to ensure parity between Kashmir and Jammu as far as their representation in the Assembly was concerned. The bill said that Jammu province and Kashmir division each be divided into 52 Assembly segments so that the Jammu's age-old grievance was redressed. But it was bitterly opposed. The ruling Congress and its coalition partners repudiated outright this bill. The opposition of the Congress to the bill was all the more surprising considering the fact that its core constituency was Jammu province, especially its Hindu-majority areas, which returned as many as 24 members to the Assembly. All this should call the Congress bluff and establish that its opposition to the PDP-led coalition Government is politically motivated.
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