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Sajjad Lone Demands ST status for Pahari Community in J&K

Anees Zargar |
The former social welfare minister during the PDP-BJP coalition government between 2014-18 said that the demand for Paharis to be included in the ST category is valid.
Sajad Lone Demands ST status for Pahari Community in J&K

Image Courtesy: The Kashmir Press

Srinagar: The J&K Peoples Conference leader Sajjad Lone on Friday demanded the inclusion of the Pahari community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) status while arguing that granting them the reservation is a "matter of right and not a matter of charity."

The former social welfare minister during the PDP-BJP coalition government between 2014-18 said that the demand for Paharis to be included in the ST category is valid.

"It is inconceivable to exclude a huge section of the society from all walks of life. In the context of reservation for electoral seats, they can't even contest from nine ST seats despite having a sizeable Pahari population," Lone said in a statement.

Lone warned that the failure to fulfil the demand of the Pahari community and debarring them from contesting would have 'far-reaching consequences' and prove to be the "mother of all disasters".

"I take pride in the fact that during my tenure as Social welfare minister in the previous government, I had the opportunity of tabling the reservation as a backward community for the Paharis. That bill was not passed. The honourable governor retained it. However, the next governor endorsed the bill, and it became a law. That I thought was a monumental moment - a humble start in rectifying the wrongs against the Pahari community. Granting ST status is a natural evolution. And if anything, it is delayed justice," he said.

Lone's advocacy coincides with the work of the Delimitation Commission, constituted by the government to demarcate new constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. The commission presented fresh draft proposals earlier in February, suggesting changes in the Parliamentary and Assembly seats that many argued were drastic. The political parties in the region except BJP have rejected the recommendations from the panel, claiming them to be "disempowering."

In its initial draft, the panel proposed seven additional Assembly seats for Jammu and Kashmir, six in the Jammu division and one in Kashmir valley. The commission proposed a reservation of nine seats for STs and seven seats for the Scheduled Caste (SC) community. The Paharis, a social minority community in Kashmir, have been battling for the ST status for decades following assurances from successive governments in the erstwhile state of J&K.

Earlier this week on Tuesday, a prominent National Conference leader from Pir Panjal region, Syed Mushtaq Ahmed Bukhari, resigned from the party after alleging that he was asked to stop his fight for ST status to Paharis.

"For me, there can be no compromise on demand for ST status for Paharis, hence this decision. They, with whom we've spent over forty years, are negating our cause, so how can we still stay with them? This is hurtful for me too, but I've no choice, and I've resigned," the former minister was quoted as saying.

Following Bukhari's remarks, in its statement, NC insisted it has been strongly pleading for the grant of ST status to Paharis without "disturbing" the reservation already granted to other communities.

"NC will ensure that the interests of any community are not harmed, and it was with this intent the recommendation had been made for the grant of ST status to Pahari speaking people in a way that it does not clash with the interests of other segments of society already brought under the reserved categories of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes," the statement read.

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