Indian parliament passes Kashmir bill amid bedlam

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CRPF personnel stand guard during restrictions at Raghunath Bazar in Jammu on Monday. Restrictions and night curfews were imposed in several districts of Jammu and Kashmir as the Valley remained on edge with authorities stepping up security deployment. - PTI

The Rajya Sabha, or upper house, had adopted the resolution on Monday.



By Bikram Vohra

Published: Tue 6 Aug 2019, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Wed 7 Aug 2019, 8:23 PM

India's parliament on Tuesday approved a legislation to bring Kashmir under its direct control which Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed as a new dawn.
The resolution abrogating special status to Jammu and Kashmir given under Article 370 of the Constitution was passed by the Lok Sabha, or lower house, with a 351-72 vote.
The Rajya Sabha, or upper house, had adopted the resolution on Monday. While the Rajya Sabha did the job with consummate ease, bedlam in the Lok Sabha saw the opposition parties led by the Congress tearing into the government ranks largely for making the decision on Articles 35A and 370 without involving them.
Raising his voice over the shrieking and shouting and some shirt-tearing, Home Minister Amit Shah assured the house that Kashmir would not turn into a Kosovo and that a peaceful transition would be guaranteed. To further add zip to a swiftly changing scenario, Shah stated for the record that Article 370 included Pak-administered Kashmir, thereby throwing a gauntlet at Islamabad.
Shah compared the passage of the bill to other historic moments in the nation, adding that the law should be "written with golden words in Indian history".
"The great parliament which has expressed its views on unity and integrity of India so many times today is once again going to deliberate on a bill that will go on to further integrate Jammu and Kashmir to India for many generations ahead," he told the Lok Sabha.
Modi said the move will bring a better tomorrow for people of the Valley, who, he said, will now be free from the shackles of "vested interest groups".
At this juncture, as harsh rains drenched the Indian capital, there was no clarity on when the stringent restrictions will be lifted in the Kashmir Valley. For the fifth day, public movement was severely limited and the bristling military presence intimidating.
While TV channels showed security personnel standing near barbed wire barricades in the otherwise empty streets of Srinagar, travellers returning to New Delhi talked about "intermittent firing" overnight.
Taking part in the parliament debate, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi spoke up against the undemocratic manner in which the issue was rammed through. "National integration isn't furthered by unilaterally tearing apart J&K, imprisoning elected representatives and violating our Constitution. This nation is made by its people, not plots of land," he said. "This abuse of executive power has grave implications for our national security."
There wasn't much joy for Rahul after the party leader in the house, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, further muddied the waters by saying that Kashmir was not an internal matter but a bilateral one - a statement which was met with hoots of derision.
The home minister hit out at his remark, asking the Congress leader to clarify whether it was the official stand of the Congress party.
A number of Congress leaders have gone against the party's stand in parliament on abrogation of the provisions of Article 370. Senior Congress leaders Janardan Dwivedi, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Deepender Hooda voiced support to the government move.
Dwivedi welcomed the abrogation, saying even though it came late, a historical mistake had been corrected.
Scindia said he supported the move on Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and the state's full integration into the Union of India, adding that it was in the interest of the country.
Nationalist Congress Party's Supriya Sule demanded to know where National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was as his seat number 461 was empty. Shah snapped back that "he is neither under detention nor under arrest. He is at his home on his own will".
Taking to a TV channel, Abdullah countered Shah's statement. "There is no written order but we have been placed under house arrest," he said.
"This is a dictatorship, not a democracy." From his house, a confined Abdullah pleaded with the public to stay calm and not take the law in their own hands.
Speaking to a former commissioner in Jammu, the fear expressed was what happens when the gun is lifted.


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