Panchayat Members’ Protest Reignites Debate On ‘abuse’ Of Article 370

Panchayat Members’ Protest Reignites Debate On ‘abuse’ Of Article 370

9 November 2013
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Dinesh Malhotra

Jammu: Vimla Devi, a popular woman sarpanch of Gaghwal Panchayat in Kathua district, has reason to blame the state’s ruling class for “brazenly abusing” its special status as the ruling National Conference (NC) continues to cite Article 370 for not extending the 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution to J&K. “It is very unfortunate that the ruling elite of J&K are raking up the issue of special status to deprive constitutional rights to elected panchayat members,” said Vimla Devi, who was adjudged Best Sarpanch two years back. Vimla Devi was among those panchayat members who created uproar during the Panchayat Conference addressed by All India Congress Committee vice-president Rahul Gandhi at Jammu on November 6. Most sarpanches who had protested there had accused the ruling party of taking the excuse of Article 370 to debar them from their constitutional rights. “Article 370 has become an instrument to undermine democratic institutions in J&K. Successive state governments have brazenly abused this Article to deprive the people of their constitutional rights,” said BJP state president Jugal Kishore Sharma. He dared supporters of Article 370 to a public debate on the benefit of this special status. “Except protecting the interests of the ruling class, Article 370 is of no use to the masses,” he said and added that this Article had rather become an obstacle in overall socio-economic growth. The state unit of the BSP has already started a campaign against “abuse” of Article 370. “It is result of the abuse of Article 370 that West Pakistani refugees are denied constitutional rights and other backward classes (OBCs) are deprived of their reservation rights in J&K,” pointed out Tulsi Dass Langeh, the party’s state president. Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh has already generated a debate on special status to the state.