Cong, PDP Stalled 'Shrines, Temples Bill’: NC

Cong, PDP Stalled 'Shrines, Temples Bill’: NC

18 April 2013
Kashmir Times
Shuchismita

Jammu: In an interesting post-budget session development, the National Conference, drawing flak along with its alliance partner for stalling the passage of much hyped 'J&K Kashmiri Hindu Shrines Management Bill’ in just concluded session of J&K Legislature, is trying to shift responsibility for the same to Congress and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). For the purpose, the party has brought its Minority Cell to the fore to target not just its alliance partner (with which NC is already on war-path on several other issues as well) but the principal opposition party PDP also. NC Minority Cell criticized the Congress for, what it said, “indifference adopted by it (Congress) to support its ally in passing the bill.” It accused Congress as well as PDP of “not extending their support in this context under a design and for their vested interests despite their tall claims that Kashmir without Kashmiri Pandits was incomplete.” No wonder, given this blame-game, the issue has snowballed into yet another controversy pitting two partners against each other via KP leadership of two parties. Refuting NC charges, today Congress minority leadership too sharply hit back and launched a verbal offensive against the partner. Executive Member Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) Chuni Lal Bhat in a press statement accused National Conference leaders of distorting facts “to get undue credit”. Taking an oblique dig at National Conference, he further added that the Kashmiri Pandit community had not forgotten “the role played by various political forces and sections during its exodus.” Bhat also said that the bill had been referred to the select committee after the deliberations in the House and on the suggestion of the Minister concerned. The Bill was brought for consideration and passage in the Legislative Assembly on April 5, the last day of just concluded J&K Legislature Budget session. However it was referred to Select Committee following a long-winded debate on the recommendations of the Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Mir Saifullah after he admitted that there were certain technical lacunae in the Bill moved in the House for passage. Interestingly in the debate, only the National Conference and Congress MLAs had recommended it to be referred to Select Committee. NC side was represented by Javed Dar, Nasir Aslam Wani, Dr Mustafa Kamal, Aijaz Jan and Peer Afaq and Congress was represented by only Ashok Kumar in the debate and it was their unanimous stand that the bill should be referred to Select Committee. The premise of argument of those (National Conference-Congress members) in favour of referring it to select committee was that given its serious nature, it should have been widely discussed with all the stakeholders. “Particularly it should specify the role of majority community, which played a great role in the protection of these shrines and religious places in the absence of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir,” they had argued. Another amusing aspect was that PDP was already boycotting the session and two other Bills moved in its absence on the same day i.e., April 5 were passed by the Lower House. That was the background in which the Bill was referred to Select Committee. However on April 16, the NC Minority Cell came out with a press statement issued on behalf of its publicity secretary T K Koul taking serious note of, what it was described as “indifference adopted by Congress party to support its ally (National Conference) in passing the bill.” As per the press statement, the minority cell of National Conference deliberated on this vital issue of temples bill at a meeting here April 16 evening in which among others MLC Vijay Bakaya, Anil Dhar, former MLC Bhushan Lal Bhat and M.K Yogi were reportedly present. The text of press statement circulated by NC Minority Cell goes as follows: “Hailing the stand of the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that National Conference had no problem in passing the bill on Kashmiri Hindu Shrines and temples in the state legislature, the minority cell of National Conference has taken a serious note of indifference adopted by congress party to support its ally in passing the bill. The minority cell of National Conference deliberated on this vital issue of temples bill at a meeting here last evening in which among others MLC Vijay Bakaya, Anil Dhar, former MLC Bhushan Lal Bhat and M K Yogi were present. The participants in the meeting said that it was the National Conference, which had initially brought the bill in the state Assembly when it was out of power. National Conference always had worked in ensuring that the bill is passed so that there is proper management of temples & shrines of Hindus in the valley. But unfortunately the Congress party & Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) never extended their support in this context despite their tall claims that Kashmir without Kashmiri Pandits is incomplete. The meeting felt that both these parties have vested interests as far as Kashmiri Pandits are concerned. Had these parties followed the objective of ensuring secular ethos in Kashmir, they would have day in and day out worked towards return & rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley and one of the process towards that was to support this bill which was brought by the government in the recent session of the state Assembly The meeting further felt that Kashmiri Pandits in the state and outside must understand the designs of PDP and Congress and unite to build pressure on UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to direct her party MLAs in J&K to get the bill passed in autumn session of state legislature in Srinagar.” Yet another interesting development was that the Union Minister for New Renewable Energy and National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah on April 7 had assured the Kashmiri Pandit community that ‘J&K Kashmiri Hindu Shrines and Religious Places Bill’ would for sure be passed in the September (autumn) session at Srinagar. Farooq had made this commitment, while talking to a delegation of Kashmiri Pandits led by Justice (retired) BL Saraf, on the sidelines of a book release function at Hotel Asia. In informal chat, the delegation had shared its resentment with the Dr Farooq Abdullah that Shrines Bill which was brought in the Legislative Assembly four years after its introduction was still not passed and was referred to Select Committee. Responding to their concern, Farooq had said that he too was equally peeved over this development. He stated that he had raised this issue in the winding up session of two-day National Conference Central Working Committee meeting (on April 7). “I also raised this issue in National Conference CWC meeting today. I criticised this move and I pulled them up on this account. I told them in unequivocal terms that the Shrines Bill must be passed in the September session of J&K Legislature at Srinagar this year. This is my commitment to you,” Farooq had assured the delegation.