Mufti Forced To Defer 'anti-woman' Bill
8 March 2004
The Times of India
Jammu: A major crisis loomed large over Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's government as deferred its decision to pass a draconian bill that will deprive Kashmiri women of their permanent resident status. Early on Monday, one of its coalition partners threatened to withdraw its support over the passage of the bill. The leader of the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), Professor Bhim Singh, today said that he was seriously considering the option of walking out of the government over the issue. The women's wing of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, staged a demonstration in the streets in protest against the possible passage of the bill, while the Congress has summoned its representatives in state to the Indian capital to take stock and possibly reassess its decision to go along with the legislation. Singh described the Bill as being 'tantamount to the worst violation of human rights.' He said that his Panthers Party would agitate so that the women of Jammu and Kashmir were not deprived of the Permanent Residents Status (PRS) in case they married a non-state subject. Women, irrespective of their communities, have joined hands to assert their rights on the issue in the entire state. The National Conference, the largest opposition party in the assembly having 28 MLAs, accused the government with working to erode the 'special status' of the State guaranteed under Article 370 of the Constitution. However, the state's Finance, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, defended the decision saying gender justice had to be kept in mind before drafting any legislation. The bill was meant to give a legislative form to an executive order that was struck down by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on October 7, 2002 . The Bill was the last item in the Legislative Council's schedule.