New Delhi: The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is “normal” and the people there are “happy” over the abrogation of Article 370 provisions as they will now get benefits and entitlements on par with citizens of rest of the country, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar has said.
In an interaction with PTI journalists, he also asserted that there have been no restrictions on media and that all newspapers are being published in the Valley without any difficulty.
The minister also rejected the opposition’s charge that the BJP was using the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status as a poll plank in the run-up to assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra.
“Article 370 has caught the imagination of people. The people are welcoming it all over the country. So what can you do, all sections of the society [have welcomed it],” he said.
Asked about the situation in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 provisions, he said the situation remains “good” and it is “normal”.
“People in the Valley are supporting the government’s move. They are welcoming the move because it will benefit them,” he said.
Javadekar said people in Jammu and Kashmir will now get benefits of all the government schemes that were not available them prior to abrogation of the Article 370.
Under Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the state had the right to its own decision making process for several key subjects except very few including defence, communications and foreign affairs. Various central laws were not applicable to the state.
“Under Right to Education, 25 per cent students from economically weaker sections get admission. It was not applicable to J&K, but now it will be applicable,” he said.
People of Jammu and Kashmir did not get benefits under various schemes for OBCs (other backward class), but they will get it now. Similarly, people from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had no political reservation but they will get it now, Javadekar said.
“The home minister gave a list of 126 laws that did not apply in Kashmir but are now all applicable there. People are getting benefit out of it and therefore they are happy. All the central schemes are now operational in the Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh,” he said.
He said that Pakistan was able to fuel separatism in the last 50-60 years in Jammu and Kashmir because of the Article 370.
“It was due to this provision that separatism and terrorism increased. Now both are over,” he added.
The minister also asserted that there are no restrictions on the media in the state and journalists are free to visit the region and see the situation for themselves.
He dismissed criticism by a section of the international media over alleged rights violations in Kashmir.
“The country’s media has to put out the truth,” he said, adding criticism by the Indian media matters.
He also rejected suggestions that children were not attending schools, asserting that students were present in both government and private schools.
“Only in eight police station areas, you have [section] 144, otherwise there is nothing. These are the first two months when there have been no incidents of firing and there was no casualty or death of civilians,” Javadekar said.
On concerns over media freedom in Kashmir, he said media freedom in India was attacked only once during the Emergency.
“We were angry. The whole nation fought for it. Then the press freedom came in its original form only because of our fight. We were in jail for 16 months for press, organisational and speech freedom. As far as Kashmir is concerned there is no case like that,” he asserted.
“Kashmir is open to all [TV news] channels, all newspapers. They are going to all the places. Only [areas under] eight police stations have Section 144 [of the CrPC]. Otherwise, there are no restrictions. Every communication is working. All news papers are published everyday,” the minister said.
He said the only issue was of mobile connectivity for which he cited Supreme Court’s observation that national security precedes everything.
Asked whether there is any timeline for release of political detainees in Kashmir, he did not give a direct reply. “The Home Minister keeps informing us,” he said.
On August 5, the Centre announced the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.