NC, Cong Sabotage Passage Of Kashmiri Hindu Shrines Bill

NC, Cong Sabotage Passage Of Kashmiri Hindu Shrines Bill

5 April 2013
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Taken up for consideration and passing after four years, the National Conference and Congress members once again sabotaged the passing of Kashmiri Hindu Shrines and Religious Places (Management and Regulation) Bill by proposing that it should be referred to the Select Committee for what they called “flaws and lacunas” in the legislation. The Government readily accepted the “stage managed proposal” of Alliance members and referred the bill to the Select Committee. “The bill has been dumped deliberately. First, it was not taken up for passing for four long years. It was taken up for passing on last day of budget session in the Assembly today and referred to the Select Committee. We don’t think it would come back. It is gone forever. The Government has deliberately done this for twin purposes-one they were least interested in setting up the Shrine Board and second they didn’t want to annoy certain influential persons, who were benefiting from the earnings of the religious places,” political observers said after the hearing the Government decision to refer the bill to the Select Committee. CPM MLA MY Tarigami vociferously supported passing of the bill and strongly countered National Conference MLA and former Minister Javed Dar, who wanted that role of Muslims should also be defined in the Shrine Board. “Have you given representation to Kashmiri Pandits in the Wakaf Board”? Mr Tarigami asked. The BJP breakaway group, National Panthers Party and Jammu State Morcha also wanted the bill to be passed but ultimately the National Conference-Congress Alliance prevailed and the bill was referred to the Select Committee. Worthwhile to mention here that it was Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, who as a Leader of Opposition in the tenure of PDP-Congress coalition Government, first brought a private member’s bill on management and protection of Hindu shrines and religious places in the Kashmir Valley. Mr Rather, though present in the House during debate on the bill, also maintained mysterious silence over its passing and didn’t utter a single word in favour of the bill. As soon as the bill, which proposed establishment of Kashmiri Hindu Shrine Board for management and regulation of Hindu shrines and religious places, was taken up for consideration and passing in the Assembly, Congress MLA from Ramban Ashok Kumar just proposed that the bill should be handed over to the Select Committee (SC). Mr Kumar, in his one-minute speech, cited no reason for his demand excepting that the SC would have a fresh look on the bill for thorough scrutiny. He was followed by National Conference MLA Peer Afaq, who spoke just for half a minute saying the Kashmiri Pandits had also held strike in Porbandar, Gujarat for the bill. He said the bill should be handed over to the Select Committee. Javed Dar (NC) said there had been no mention of Muslims role in the bill. “Role of the Muslims should be defined. They should be taken into confidence. There are many flaws in the bill. Moreover, there is no time today for debate as being Friday, we have to go for the prayers,” Mr Dar said endorsing the demand for handing over bill to the Select Committee. CPM MLA MY Tarigami said he wanted to hail the Government from the core of his heart for making a good beginning by bringing the bill for passing in the House but the proposal to refer it to the Select Committee is not acceptable. “I’m surprised why no lacuna, drawback or any flaw in the legislation was detected during past four years when the bill remained pending after introduction in 2009. The members, who are looking shortfalls in the bill, today, surprise me. What the Selection Committee would do?” he asked. Referring to Javed Dar’s demand for defining role of Muslims in the bill, Mr Tarigami wanted to know whether he favour inclusion of Kashmiri Pandits in the Wakaf Board. “This is a specific bill. Kashmiri Pandits are integral part of Kashmiri culture. From Delhi to Kashmir, there is consensus that Lal Ded and Sheikh-ul-Alam traditions and teachings should be protected and followed in Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah upheld those historic traditions,” Mr Tarigami said. Declaring that it would be grave injustice to send the bill to Select Committee, he said: “we must concede the right of Kashmiri Pandits and pass the bill.” Veteran NC leader and former Minister Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamaal said there were some small issues, which were required to be looked into. Saying that the Army couldn’t stop migration of Kashmiri Pandits, Dr Kamaal said small issues like taking out processions, use of parks etc can be resolved only by involving the Muslims in it. Supporting the bill, he also favoured that it should be handed over to the Select Committee. BJP breakaway group leader Prof Chaman Lal Gupta regretted that the bill has been brought for passing after four years. Supporting the bill, Prof Gupta said the shrines of Kashmiri Pandits were in worst condition with no proper protection to them. He said the Kashmiri Pandits would return to their homes, if the Government wanted to take them back sincerely. NPP leader Harshdev Singh regretted that no financial support from the Government to the Shrine Board has been proposed in the bill. The Board should be given sufficient fundings, he said and asked: “how the Board would be empowered to remove encroachments from the religious places”? JSM MLA Ashwani Sharma, supporting passage of the bill, said the shrine of Kashmiri Pandits were not in good condition. Opposing the demand for sending the bill to the Select Committee, Mr Sharma said it should be passed now and amendments, if any required, can be adopted later. “The Kashmiri Pandits were awaiting passage of the bill for years together. Already, much delay has been caused. The bill must be passed today,” he said. Mr Sharma also sought financial support from the Government to the proposed Shrine Board. Independent MLA Engineer Abdul Rashid observed that encroachments were natural if there were no owners for 25 years. “The Muslims would give protection to the Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley but they would have to face PSA, stoning and go to jails like us,” Mr Rashid said and supported passage of the bill. Aijaz Jan (NC) also called for referring the bill to the Select Committee without giving any reason for it. NPP MLA Balwant Singh Mankotia supported the bill and wanted to know from the Law Minister where was the financial memorandum (in the bill)? In his reply to the bill, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Saifullah Mir tried to give some justification for referring the bill to the Select Committee. He said removal of encroachments, no ban on Government servant for being members of the Shrine Board and keeping age of members at 21 from 35 were some “valid points” for referring the bill to the Select Committee. Moreover, Mr Mir added, there were not only the shrines of Kashmiri Pandits but other Hindus in the Kashmir Valley. He said the Shrine Board would generate its fundings through offerings. “There are some points, which required discussions and deliberations to make it a foolproof law,” Saifullah said proposing that the bill be referred to the Select Committee. Speaker Mubarak Gul said it was a sensitive bill with which religious issues were attached. “It shouldn’t be passed in haste,” he said. On the motion moved by the Law Minister, the House voted for handing over the bill to the Select Committee. Mr Tarigami and Jammu based MLAs of BJP breakaway group, NPP and JSM opposed the motion. The bill proposed constitution of the Kashmiri Hindu Shrine Board comprising two official members to be nominated by the Government and 10 members to be elected in the prescribed manner. The members of the first Board were proposed to be nominated by the Government for a period of one year or till elections were conducted. It was proposed to be a body corporate. The Board was scheduled to have president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, assistant secretary and assistant treasurer. The Board was proposed to have powers and duties that included administer, manage and regulate the Kashmiri Hindu shrine and preserve, protest, administer and use the properties notified after a survey. “It has to manage and administer the endowment fund in accordance with provisions of the Act, utilise fund for upliftment of Kashmiri Hindus in the State, make provisions for relief to indigent and the destitute, undertake development activities for welfare of Kashmiri Hindus and take other activities, which it deemed necessary. The Board was to be supported by a Management Committee in every district of Kashmir province comprising nine elected members each. “The bill sought to provide better management, protection and governance of Kashmiri Hindu Shrines and Religious Places and their endowments including the lands and buildings attached or appurtenant thereto in the Kashmir province excepting districts of Leh and Kargil. “Due to disturbed conditions in the Kashmir Valley in 1990, the majority of Kashmiri Hindus left the Valley and the Hindu shrines remained unattended. There are complaints that properties of these shrines have been encroached and most of them are in deteriorated conditions,” a statement attached to the bill said. The bill provided for survey of Kashmiri Hindu shrine in the Valley, publication of their properties in the Government gazette, constitution and composition of the Governing Board, powers and duties of the Board and constitution of Management Committee in every district and their powers and functions.