Kashmir Opposition To Target Government On Rights Abuses

24 February 2009
Indo-Asian News Service

Jammu: Human rights abuses in Kashmir Valley and alleged discrimination against Jammu region are the two main issues on which opposition parties are expected to take on the government during the budget session of the assembly beginning Wednesday. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by its president Mehbooba Mufti, is all set to target the government on the issue of human rights. The killing of two youths in the north Kashmir town of Sopore by Indian Army soldiers last week has given a strong plank to the PDP to take on the National Conference-Congress coalition government in the state. “We will raise this issue with vigour. Human rights are most important to us,” Murtaza Khan, a party leader, said. The party also proposes to introduce a bill calling for scrapping of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), according to party spokesman Basharat Bukhari, also a member of the assembly. The AFSPA confers special powers to the security forces in Kashmir to shoot anyone suspected to be a terrorist or helping terrorists. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on the other hand, is preparing to raise the issue of discrimination against the Jammu region, where it won 11 seats in the house of 87 in the November-December assembly polls. “The Jammu region is neglected in all matters and we are duty bound to raise this issue and seek an end to this policy of discrimination perpetuated by successive state governments,” said BJP leader Chaman Lal Gupta. “Jammu has 37 seats despite having more area, population, while the Kashmir Valley has 46,” Chaman Lal pointed out and observed: “This is the biggest discrimination with the region. It must end.” Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, which has three members in the house, will also rake up the issue of discrimination against the Jammu region, according to Balwant Singh Mankotia, a party MLA.