Srinagar: Different delegations including one from Gujjar and Bakerwal minority community in Kashmir met Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday, January 21, and voiced the need for a domicile law and extension of Article 371 for Jammu and Kashmir.
Naqvi arrived in Srinagar earlier on Tuesday, kickstarting the first program at Harwan area in the city’s outskirts. The minority affairs minister spoke with a gathering of about 300 persons, many of whom had arrived at the venue from border areas like Kupwara.
As many as five ministers of a delegation of 36 ministers are visiting Kashmir valley over the next four days and holding over 50 meetings in the region as a part of the first outreach program by the central government after the abrogation of Article 370.
"We had pinned our hopes on various political parties earlier but, none of them delivered and we are giving another chance to this new dispensation. But, primarily our demands are security of jobs and land, and that's what we talked about here today," a leader of one of the delegations, Manzoor Ahmad told NewsClick.
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He said that the communities in Kashmir valley are “united” and any challenge to the rights of people will result in a mass agitation. "There is depression here and our jobs should not go to outsiders. We need a domicile certificate for ourselves. The government should not make another move against people because they will not be able stop people from agitating in the future," he added.
Choudhary Altaf, a resident of Pulwama, who was leading another delegation of Gujjar and Bakerwal community said that the government should avoid any decision against the people of this region. "We are one with regards to security over jobs," he said.
Altaf said that they also requested the minister to implement the central forest laws securing the rights of tribals and nomads immediately in the region.
Naqvi's arrival in Srinagar coincides with the thirtieth anniversary of Gaw Kadal Massacre which resulted in the killing of as many as 50 civilians in Gaw Kadal area of Srinagar. To mark the anniversary, the market in the area observed a shutdown.
Following Naqvi, Communication Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, Minister of State for DefenCe Shripad Naik and Minister of State for Home Affairs GK Reddy are expected to visit Kashmir valley in the next three days.
Jammu and Kashmir slipped into a crisis after the government unilaterally abrogated Article 370 in the region and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two union territories on August 5. A massive clampdown followed with all communication lines severed and mass arrests carried out across the region including lawyers, politicians and activists.
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Many believe the anger in the region is brewing against the government's handling of the region. The government's outreach is aimed to "make people aware" about the "positive impact" of the abrogation of Article 370 that guaranteed special status to the region.
Many believe, the government's outreach is mostly aimed for the people of Jammu division as 50 such programs will be held in Jammu as compared to only eight in the valley. Naqvi, however, claimed that the outreach will continue in Kashmir as well.