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Amit Shah kicks off BJP’s poll campaign in J&K with ST status for 8 lakh Paharis

Amit Shah addresses rally in Rajouri, promises reservation to Gujjars, Bakarwals and Paharis

Union Home Minister Amit Shah today formally announced the granting of Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Paharis in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

J&K’s 8 lakh Pahari population is now entitled to a reservation quota in education and government jobs which is currently limited to the Gujjars and Bakerwals and some economically backward areas in the Union Territory.

With his rally at Rajouri, Shah has virtually triggered his party’s campaign for the forthcoming Assembly elections in the UT. On the third and the last day of his tour, on Wednesday, he is scheduled to address another rally at Baramulla in Kashmir.

Addressing a massive gathering of people at Rajouri in the Jammu province on Tuesday, Shah made it clear that the government would accept the recommendations of the commission set up by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sharma and necessary amendments would be made in the law to include the Paharis in the ST category.  He dispelled the impression that Gujjars would lose out a share of their reservation to the Paharis.

Shah said that the recommendations of the Justice Sharma Commission for including the Paharis in the ST status would be accepted. Gujjars, Bakerwals and Paharis would be the beneficiaries, he said and clarified that the Gujjars would lose “not even one percent” of the current reservation.

Showering praises on the residents of the Paharis-dominated districts of Poonch and Rajouri, Shah said that the ST status would be in recognition of their sacrifices for fighting the country’s enemies and guarding its borders alongside the armed forces. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to grant ST status equally to the Gujjars, Bakerwals and Paharis immediately after completion of the administrative formalities”, Shah announced.

Shah said that the Modi Government has been able to extend the benefits of India’s democracy and development to the socially and economically backward people and areas of Jammu and Kashmir mainly because of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A. He reiterated that all these benefits had been monopolised and kept unto themselves by the “three dynasties which ruled Jammu and Kashmir for 70 years”.

“When we wanted to remove Article 370 and 35-A, we were threatened with massive bloodshed. Some said streams of blood would flow. Some said Pir Panjal would be on fire. Where are those naysayers today? Do they see this ocean of humanity in Rajouri? Do they watch this enthusiasm?” Shah said, evoking applause from his audiences. He said that his rally at Rajouri was the Modi government’s answer to all naysayers and critics of the abrogation of Article 370.

He said that only the three particular dynasties—in an oblique reference to National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and Congress—had reaped the fruits of Indian democracy and development while millions of the helpless people had languished in poverty.

“In a significant decision, Narendra Modi uprooted and threw away Article 370 and 35-A. Had he not removed it, there would have been no (Sharma) Commission, no reservation to Gujjars, Bakerwals and Paharis. No benefits to Dalits and scavengers. There would have been no Minority Act in Jammu and Kashmir. Modi ji made it all possible after abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August 2019”, Shah asserted.

Shah said that the Modi government had taken democracy to the grassroots in Jammu and Kashmir by completing the process of the three-tyre system of Panchayati Raj Institutions and holding elections for Urban Local Bodies. “Previously, power was limited to just 87 MLAs, 6 MPs and 3 dynasties. Now it has gone down to 30,000 people’s representatives”, Shah said.

Shah counted the flow of tourists to J&K among the results of peace and abrogation of Article 370. He said that for the first in history as many as 1.62 crore tourists had visited J&K from January to September in a year, in 2022. “Do you see that stone pelting anywhere today? Modi ji took away stones from the hands of the valley’s youths and gave them laptops”, he said.

He counted a large number of the developmental projects which had been executed or started by his government in the UT. He said that his government had earmarked Rs 1,337 crore for four-laning of Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch highway which was currently under execution.