New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday assured a delegation from Jammu and Kashmir that the communication clampdown in the Valley will be lifted in 15 days. Shah, who met village heads, also announced Rs 2 lakh insurance for all panchs and sarpanchs.
"We had a good meeting with the Home Minister, he assured us about our concerns," Manoj Pandita, a sarpanch from Pulwama told CNN News18. "On the communication blockade, we have been that it will be lifted in 10-15 days."
Shah reportedly told the representatives that the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, which was earlier scrapped by abrogating Article 370, will be returned as soon as possible. "Your fight is against terrorism, so is ours," he told the delegation, adding that block-level election process will begin at the earliest.
Shah, Ministers of State for Home Nityanad Rai and GK Reddy, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Jitender Singh, and home ministry officials met three separate delegations of Kashmiris comprising village heads, apple growers and citizens. Issues of statehood, communication, and insurance cover for the panch and sarpanch were raised in the meeting.
Mir Junaid from Kupwara's Langate said he raised the issue of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir and received a positive response.
"I told the Home Minister that people are expecting statehood to be restored on a priority basis. Shah said he has given that commitment on the floor of the House and that statehood will be provided as soon as normalcy is restored in the Valley," he said.
Zubair, a panch from Srinagar, said he asked Shah for life insurance and security cover for all elected village heads. "We took a huge risk in fighting the local elections. We asked for a Rs 2 lakh insurance cover and the minister assured us that. He also assured security cover," he said.
Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir were held last year after a gap of six years.
A few of the delegation members expressed concern about the land rights of people after Article 35A was scrapped.
"People even in Jammu region are worried about what will happen to our land rights, which were secured under Article 35A. We have raised our concerns and have been told that our rights will be protected, but the focus right now is to ensure law and order," Babita, who came to meet Shah from Jammu, told CNN-News18.
Another delegation member, who refused to be identified, said the restrictions have hampered business. "We had concerns about the rate at which our products are being sold. Transport has become a huge problem for perishable goods like apples. This lockdown is not good," he said.
Singh, however, assured the delegation members that the restrictions are temporary. "Today we have assured panchs over the security cover, but soon the situation in the Valley will be so peaceful that security won't be required at all," he said.
Singh added that the village heads who met Shah are the real leaders of Kashmir and will provide an alternative to the "discredited current crop".
As part of his Sampark Abhiyan, Shah is expected to meet more Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri leaders over the next few days to spread government message about Kashmir.
Mobile services and internet, including BSNL's broadband and private leased-line internet, were snapped on August 5 after the Centre scrapped provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated the state into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh.
The move has led to a harrowing time for residents of the Valley, who have been unable to contact their loved ones. Emotions and anxiety have run high, with people being forced to stand in serpentine queues to speak to their kin.
The government, however, has justified the move, with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar saying the steps were needed to cut off communication between “terrorists and their masters”.
In an interview with 'Politico' in Brussels, Jaishankar said, “It wasn’t possible to stop communications between militants without an impact on all of Kashmir. How do I cut off communication between the terrorists and their masters on the one hand, but keep the internet open for other people? I would be delighted to know.”
Earlier, J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik justified the Centre’s decision to suspend landline and mobile phone services and Internet in the Valley, saying the move was helping save lives.
“Jammu and Kashmir has not witnessed a single killing in 10 days. If no communication helps saves lives, what is the harm?” Malik said.
“In all the crises that happened in Kashmir in the past, at least 50 people used to die in the first week itself. Our attitude is such that there should be no loss of human lives. 10 din telephone nahi honge, nahi honge, lekin hum bahut jaldi sab wapas kar denge (let there be no mobile phones for 10 days, we will ensure normalcy very soon),” he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Shah meets Ex-J&K Governor
New Delhi: Amit Shah and the BJP's working president JP Nadda met former Jammu and Kashmir governor Jagmohan on Tuesday as part of its 'sampark abhiyan' to reach out to leading members of society over the Centre's move to revoke provisions of Article 370. Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan accompanied Shah and Nadda to the meeting.
The BJP has embarked on a month-long exercise to seek people's support on the decision to end Jammu and Kashmir's special status, with its leaders and workers asked to fan out across the country to hold meetings.
Jagmohan, 91, is known for his hardline stand on the Kashmir issue. He was also a minister in the first BJP-led NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
(With inputs from PTI)