BJP Has Seats For Kashmiri Pandits

27 November 2014
The Indian Express
Bashaarat Masood

Srinagar: The BJP's vision document for Jammu & Kashmir makes no mention of Article 370, a provision whose repeal it was once stressing. It promises voting rights to refugees from Pakistan, reservation of three assembly seats in Kashmir valley for Pandits, and of five seats for refugees from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir from the 24 kept vacant for PoK. Other promises include property rights to the children of women married outside the state, and revival of Hindu religious and cultural ethos in Kashmir. The BJP has of late softened its stand on Article 370, which grants the state a special status, with several leaders saying public opinion will be consulted first. Asked about the absence of a mention, state-in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna said, 'We are fighting these elections on the issue of development.' For Kashmiri Pandits, the BJP vows to 'initiate the process of justice and honorable re-settlement of Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir valley', and to create liveable conditions in Jammu and elsewhere until rehabilitation is completed in the valley. On refugees, it promises to 'settle the genuine claims of 1947 refugees from PoK; give compensation to refugees of 1965 and 1971 and all border migrants,' and to 'grant citizenship rights, including right to vote in assembly and local body elections, right to property, right to higher and technical education, right to state government jobs to refugees from west Pakistan'. Largely centred on Jammu, it promises Dogra certificates to people of that region. The promise was once made by the NC-Congress but the coalition backtracked after protests from Kashmir. The document promises to develop tourism in J&K on the lines of Switzerland, and 'to initiate steps for the resumption of pilgrimage to Sharda Temple and make provisions for a Sharda University, as also the inclusion of Devnagri as an alternative script for Kashmiri language'.