Restore J&K statehood by year-end: Rashtra Manch

Restore J&K statehood by year-end, demands Yashwant Sinha's Rashtra Manch

It also appealed to the leaders of all non-BJP parties to show solidarity with the legitimate democratic demands

Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha. Credit: PTI Photo

Rashtra Manch, a group of politicians and eminent citizens headed by former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, on Wednesday demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announce in his Independence Day speech restoration of full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir by this year-end. The faction urged the non-BJP parties to press for it followed by free and fair elections there.

Sinha, who is currently a vice-president in Trinamool Congress and had led two delegation visits to Jammu and Kashmir in 2017 and 2019 in his independent capacity to assess the ground situation and suggest measures to bring normalcy in the state, also said that the Supreme Court should expedite hearing on revocation of Article 370, and its verdict should be binding as he maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral and inseparable part of India and separatism, terrorism and communal politics are common enemies, which must be fought unitedly.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Sinha-headed Manch said it is "seriously concerned" over the situation following the "questionable actions" of the Union Government on August 5, 2019, when the government annulled Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution, which provided a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and protected the rights and privileges of its "permanent residents". Simultaneously, the state itself was bifurcated into two parts, both of which — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — were downgraded into two Union Territories.

"These actions, and the utterly undemocratic manner in which they were taken, have caused a deep sense of hurt, humiliation and betrayal in the minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi government took these decisions without any consultation with the people, who are the principal stakeholders in a democracy, and with their elected representatives. It also denied them basic constitutional rights for a prolonged period of time," the Manch alleged.

It also rued that all the leaders of political parties in Kashmir, who have repeatedly pledged their allegiance to India, were detained for a prolonged period as if they are anti-national and a threat to public safety.

"Even today people and their representatives are unable to exercise their basic rights of holding meetings or expressing their views freely. We deem this situation to be unacceptable in a free and democratic India," the Manch said.

The forum, which has Sudheendra Kulkarni and Shahid Siddiqui as convenors, also alleged that far from fulfilling the promise of attracting new investments and accelerating development, Modi government’s actions have "caused losses worth tens of thousands of crores to the economy of Jammu and Kashmir". "Lakhs of youth have lost employment and there has been a worrisome increase in death by suicides among young people''.

It alleged that all the rationalisations given by the government to justify its drastic actions, and all the promises of ushering in a ‘Naya Jammu and Kashmir’ have proved to be "hollow".

"The people of the rest of India — especially, leaders of the non-BJP political parties — cannot sit quietly when our sisters and brothers in Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral and inseparable part of India, are in pain," the Manch said, making a slew of demands.

Flagging that Jammu and Kashmir is a border state, which directly bears the brunt of any deterioration in India’s relations with two large neighbours -- Pakistan and China -- the Manch felt that the ongoing developments in Afghanistan are also a matter of grave concern since these could have a negative effect on peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

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"Therefore, the government must act with extreme care and alacrity so as to prevent anti-India forces from exploiting the situation of ‘Dil ki Doori’ and ‘Dilli ki Doori’," it said.

It also appealed to the leaders of all non-BJP parties to show solidarity with the legitimate democratic demands and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir both in and outside Parliament.

Manch President Sinha had led a visit of a separate civil society panel to Jammu and Kashmir in October 2016 after which he had called for banning the use of pellet guns by security forces and later in a report in January 2017 after a second visit to the Valley, he suggested improving the human rights situation in the state and initiating talks with all including the separatist groups. 

The delegation under the banner of 'Concerned Citizens Group’ again visited the Valley in November 2019, three months after the state lost its special status. The Manch, in its statement on Wednesday, flagged that more than two years have passed since the government took the decisions on Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019.