Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman called out the discrimination faced by Jammu and Kashmir and the citizens of the region, which the government seeks to address with the proposal to revoke Article 370. The Minister termed it as a ‘historic step’ and added that the true integration and development of Jammu and Kashmir will happen now. She also highlighted the long-term intention of the Jan Sangh and now BJP towards this step, while throwing light on the trouble faced by Women, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and people from Ladakh.
In her address, Sitharaman said that she has been receiving messages praising the government’s decision to ‘enable greater integration of Jammu and Kashmir into the country.’
The Minister termed the step ‘a result of a lot of consultation,’ “Many of the Opposition members asked if we had any consulation, this has been mentioned in the manifesto and is being discussed not just this time, but is being talked about since the Jan Sangh era. Vice-Chancellor Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, he had taken up this cause and lost his life in suspect circumstances. It has been the core belief. To say we popped it out of a hat like a magic rabbit is not right at all.”
She continued, “Haven’t we seen very progressive legislation,some of which from Congress time, like the Panchayat Raj act? Did they get effectively implemented from the same time, as was the rest of the country? No. There had to be a lot of persuasion, in spite of the merit of the issue, to make sure that such progressive legislations for it to be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir."
On the discrimination against women, SC and ST, she said, “The one that all of us have been talking about, the equal right for women, which even today has not been implemented in Jammu and Kashmir. Ladies who are born in Jammu and Kashmir are denied their property rights as they get married to people settled outside of Jammu and Kashmir, which is a gross injustice, which has never been addressed with sincerity, before we took it today. The house didn’t have to see the scenes it saw.”
“As many of us travel to Jammu and Kashmir, we have some of them didn’t have rights, that the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes enjoyed. Why should it start and end with discrimination against women, discrimination against SC, ST. If that is special status, then I don’t think any one of us in the House can be proud of Jammu and Kashmir with inequality written so profoundly written on its face,” she continued.
Sitharaman added, “I thought members would forget the differences they have otherwise ideologically, to say we couldn’t do it, but we’re happy you are doing it, we are with you, to give a message to the entire country. 1994 that was the resolution that was passed in the Lok Sabha about Jammu and Kashmir being an integral part of India, not just Jammu and Kashmir which is an integral part of India, but also that Jammu and Kashmir which is in illegal occupation of Pakistan. If it truly a resolution which was passed unanimously, shouldn’t we keep the letter and spirit of that passing.”
She took a dig at the hype over the sacrosanct ‘special status’ to Jammu and Kashmir. She said, “So neither from the point of view of human rights, neither from equal rights for women, or affirmative action for SCs and STs, do we want to talk about Jammu and Kashmir, but we want to talk about it because we have created this hype that the special status is so sacrosanct that even if it denies human rights, we will be with it.”
The Finance Minister raised the troubles faced by the people in Ladakh, stating, “I’ve heard people in Ladakh, who live in a very large area, where the population is so sparse, have demanded the union territory status because they say we’re too difficult to be administered. We’re heard it over and over again, but we’ve not taken any step.”
She concluded, “Today, I’m glad with what is happening with the House, and later in the Lok Sabha, we will be able to meet the aspiration of every Ladakhi, for a separate Union Territory for them."
Sitharam further stated, “Lastly, I’m glad to say that the Union Territory with the elected legislature for Jammu and Kashmir including parts occupied by Pakistan will take care of Ladakh, from the point of view of the aspirations of people, development."
“Today, we call Kashmir a paradise, and want it to be maintained with its pristine beauty, not one person is willing to invest even to build a hotel there, to receive the tourists, no investments are happening in Jammu and Kashmir unless we take the step, that I’m grateful that the Prime Minister has guided us, and the Home Minister has brought up these amendments, I’m sure that the true development and integration of Kashmir will happen now,” she ended her speech.
(Watch the address above)