Union Home Minister Amit Shah at a meeting with a delegation from J&K’s newly-formed Apni Party in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI)
A DAY after Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to allay fears of a demographic change in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday repeated the assurance to visiting political leaders of Apni Party, a new political alignment of traditionally pro-New Delhi leaders.
“The delegation apprised the Home Minister about apprehensions with regard to demographic change. Responding to issue, the Home Minister dispelled the notion... saying any such changes are against the interests of the country,” Apni Party said in an official release. “He said the perception about demographic change is a figment of imagination which needs to be removed by one and all in the country...”
Shah, in fact, assured the delegation that J&K would get the best domicile policy. “The Home Minister assured the delegation that Jammu and Kashmir will have a better domicile policy than other states in the country and said that a reasonable Economic Development Policy will be drafted soon after widespread consultation. He emphasised that there is no discrimination in implementation of central laws in Jammu and Kashmir and interests of all sections will be taken care of,” a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs said.
Sources said the meeting between the leaders of Apni Party, led by its president Altaf Bukhari, and Home Minister Shah lasted for over two hours. In its memorandum, the party raised 42 points, some of which were responded to by Shah during the discussion.
“He said he has noted the 42 points that we had raised. He said among these points, he will respond to few points right now and the rest within next 10 days,” a senior party leader told The Indian Express. “He said the first thing he wants to tell us is that he requests us to bury this issue of demographic change in the very room where it is being discussed because no one has any such intention. No one in the country can afford to engineer demographic change in Kashmir, nor is such a thing in the interest of the country...”
Shah was accompanied by the Union Home Secretary, IB chief, Additional Secretary Home, Additional Director IB and Joint Secretary Home.
On statehood, Shah said it would be returned soon. “He said the statehood will be restored as soon as is possible. This too is because of our national interest. It is not in the interest of India to have a weak J&K. It’s a border state, it needs to be very strong and it needs to have a strong government,” said another member of the visiting group.
Shah also assured the political leaders that delimitation process in Jammu and Kashmir would be unbiased.
Responding to the demand for releasing of political detainees, Shah told the leaders that they will try to shift the detainees from outside the state to Jammu and Kashmir and promised telephone facility to them so that they can talk to their families.
“Shah said all decisions on relaxations being taken by the Prime Minister and implemented by Home Ministry are based on ground realities and not due to any pressure. He referred to steps like release of people from preventive detention, restoration of Internet, relaxation in curfew and added that even political prisoners will be freed in times to come as the main objective of the government is that not a single person should die, be it a common Kashmiri or security personnel, “ the ministry statement said.
After the meeting, Bukhari told reporters in Delhi: “Yes, we did discuss about the detention of remaining political leaders and others, and the Home Minister said it is a process and we will be releasing them very soon.”
Shah, however, asked the J&K leaders to forget Article 370. “(Article) 370 is gone, that’s now an old story. There is discussion going on outside and the issue is also in the Supreme Court, let’s move ahead of it,” a leader quoted Shah as saying. “I promise you from here that anything that has been given to other states, more will be given to J&K. How will it be done is being looked into. Whatever we have given to other states, you will get more. This is my commitment to you.” —Inputs from ENS, New Delhi