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Rajya Sabha discussion on J&K Budget turns into debate on ‘Kashmir Files’, opposition slams BJP

Opposition MPs accused BJP govt of failing to make way for return of Pandits to Kashmir in 7 years in power. Ruling party's MPs also hit back with numerous barbs.

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New Delhi: What was supposed to be a discussion about the Jammu and Kashmir Budget in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday turned into a debate on Vivek Agnihotri’s film The Kashmir Files, with Opposition members accusing the BJP government of failing to make way for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley despite having had more than seven years to do so.

The debate started when Congress MP Vivek Tankha raised the issue of the Budget being discussed without there being any legislature in J&K to represent local interests. He then changed the subject to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits and said he would introduce a Private Member’s Bill for the rehabilitation of the community.

“I want to know how many Kashmiri Pandits returned to Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370,” Tankha said. “I am bringing a Private Member’s Bill for rehabilitation of Pandits.” He also said that “restoration of democracy” should be initiated in Kashmir as soon as possible.

Leaders from other parties, including Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Manoj Kumar Jha of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), also spoke along similar lines. BJP MPs, however, also had counters at the ready, and some also defended against criticism of the film.

Also Read: Looking beyond ‘Kashmir Files’, catharsis & closure need justice, for all cases of mass injustice

‘BJP speeches more dangerous than The Kashmir Files’

Accusing the Union government of playing politics in the name of Kashmiri Pandits, Ram Gopal Yadav said: “You have been in government for the last seven years… How many Kashmiri Pandits have you rehabilitated? Those who are opposing The Kashmir Files are forgetting that the speeches of BJP leaders are more dangerous and effective.”

Yadav also criticised the delimitation proposal for J&K, which he said “favoured Jammu” — by giving it more seats — despite the population of Kashmir being greater. “Now, responsibility lies with you for early election. You can’t escape from responsibility,” he said.

Manoj Jha, meanwhile, alleged that the government was using The Kashmir Files to “play politics in north India”.

“I saw no concern in the government’s eyes about Kashmir [where] the scale of alienation has aggravated and increased. I have also watched The Kashmir Files, but Bharat Mata has experienced many other wounds, like the Partition of 1947, the 1984 Sikh massacre, the 2002 Gujarat riots,” Jha said.

“Only remembering Kashmiri Pandit atrocities will not do justice and heal wounds of other tragic incidents,” he added.

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi also emphasised that Kashmiri Pandits were far from receiving justice. Referring to an earlier written reply to her from Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai, she said that only 17 per cent of the homes intended to be built for the Pandits’ return had been constructed.

In a reference to the Budget for the police in Jammu and Kashmir, Nadimul Haque of the Trinamool Congress said the union territory has become a “police state” where gross human rights violations have been taking place for three years and press freedoms have been curtailed. “Only narrative management is going on in Kashmir,” he said.

‘House not debating Kashmir Budget, but making film review’

BJP MP Anil Jain retorted to the opposition leaders’ statements by claiming that those who pursued the “politics of appeasement” in Kashmir had no right to question the “truth” shown in The Kashmir Files, and dropped in a jibe about Jawaharlal Nehru being more interested in “friendship with Pakistan” than in Kashmir.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Deputy Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, added that the House was not debating the J&K Budget, but was instead “making a review” of The Kashmir Files.

He alleged that “two political families” were guilty of causing problems in Kashmir. He denied that there were human rights violations and said that instead “human rights’ protection of armed forces” had instead improved.

Sudhanshu Trivedi, who is also a BJP spokesperson, said that while in Uttar Pradesh, bulldozers had been rolled out to mow down criminals, in Kashmir, a “vacuum cleaner” had been set in motion to eliminate “extremists”.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Also Read: In all the ‘halla’ over Kashmir Files, Pandits in Valley will be forgotten once again


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