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PoliticsIndiaQuota in Kashmir: What policy announcement by Amit Shah means

Quota in Kashmir: What policy announcement by Amit Shah means

Still avoiding any mention of Pandits or Hindus in the context of the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A, Union Home Minister Amit Shah today declared at Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir that the Pahari community, besides the Gujjars and Bakarwals, will soon enjoy a quota in education and jobs as Scheduled Tribe (ST). But he did add "minorities" along with these three classes, which can only mean Pandits in the context of the valley, albeit not legally.

If the Paharis get the status of a Scheduled Tribe, it will be the first instance of a linguistic group earning reservations in India. 

The union government will have to amend the Reservations Act in the parliament for that. "The commission (set up by the lieutenant governor) has sent the report and recommended for Gujjar, Bakarwal and Pahari communities. It will be given soon," Shah said at a that marked the start of the BJP's campaign for the next Jammu and Kashmir likely in 2023.

The home minister said that such quota became possible only after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 was struck down. "Now, minorities, Dalits, tribals, Paharis here will get their rights."

Quota conundrum 

Population of Paharis in the union territory is estimated to be around 6 lakh, of whom 55% are Hindus and the rest Muslim.

But the Gujjar and Bakarwal communities — who have 10% quota already — have been resenting status to Paharis, saying that Muslims and Hindus from privileged classes should not be get quota on the basis of language alone.

The home minister said existing Scheduled Tribes "will not lose anything". He claimed that "some people" tried to "instigate" Gujjars and Bakerwals, but "the people saw through their designs".

Shah urged crowds to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the move on 5 August 2019, when Article 35A and Article 370, constitutional provisions that gave some autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, were hollowed out.

Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two UTs — Ladakh was thus separated — of which Jammu and Kashmir can have an elected assembly. Its first elections are likely early next year as the process of demarcating constituencies and finalising voter rolls is almost finished.

The union home minister said, "I want to appeal to you to free Jammu and Kashmir from the clutches of three families that ruled here." He did not namethe families, though the of the Muftis and National Conference of the Abdullahs have been his targets, as have been the Gandhis of the Indian National Congress.

Jammu and Kashmir, the state that was, last had an elected government in 2018, in which the BJP was a junior partner and Mehbooba Mufti of the was chief minister. The National Conference was once BJP's partner at the union government too (the NDA during Atal Bihari Vajpayee rule).

The union home minister said "power is now with 30,000 people who were elected to panchayats and district councils through fair elections" underlining that village-level elections had already been held. "Earlier, all money sent by the union government for development was usurped by a few, but now everything is spent on welfare."

Shah claimed that the security situation is "far better" now due to the "strong action" taken against terrorists by the Modi government.

Mehbooba Mufti has said the BJP's claims belie facts on the ground. "it is just dividing communities by using reservation," she has alleged.

Merit in Mufti's allegation

The quota for Paharis should be seen as socio-economic to Hindus, as the Gujjars in the valley and Bakarwals are largely Muslim. While Pandits are not likely to avail of the quota, appearing as 'minority' candidates, the quota will offer Dalits and OBCs among the migrant labourers a firm footing.

As Pandits are in a hopeless minority, they will be safe from Islamic terrorist attacks only if they live with other Hindus who are from other parts of the country. These Hindus, in turn, will be inclined to stay in the valley only if they enjoy security as well as stability.

While this quota gives them economic stability, they get social stability from the revised domicile status. Now, any non-Kashmiri who has stayed on in the valley for 15 years can live on in the previously -dominated region.

This changing demography of the valley is the reason separatists and terrorists panicked and launched a targeted attack on Hindus — Pandits as well as migrant labourers — to intimidate the Indian administration and force it to return to the discriminatory pre-2019 regime.

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