Demonstrators throw stones towards Indian police during clashes after the Eid prayer in Srinagar. Reuters
Resmi Sivaram / Agencies
The new home minister at the Centre, Amit Shah, has moved swiftly to enforce the agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its political mentor Rashtreeya Swayamsevak Sangh. Shah, who replaced Rajnath Singh at Home, has virtually become the power centre in Delhi though technically Singh remains the number two man. On Tuesday, Shah chaired a meeting attended by senior ministers like Nirmala Sitaraman and S. Jaishanker, sparking speculation that he has grabbed the number two spot.
As soon as he got down to work at the ministry on Friday, Shah focused on the Kashmir plan — a plan to bring the troubled state under the grip of the BJP and finish off extremist forces.
His main agenda is to install a BJP government in the state which is under President’s rule. The move is to reorganise state Assembly constituencies with the idea of increasing representation from the Hindu areas of Jammu-Kashmir.
Jammu has 37 seats in the 87-strong Assembly, while Muslim majority Kashmir Valley has 46. Four seats are kept for Ladakh, while 24 seats are in reserve for the Pakistan-administered part of the state. In effect, however, the 24 never come into an election. The delimitation will see a number of reserved seats too, meaning they will have legislators who are strictly Hindus.
The BJP thinks Jammu representation can go up to 45 plus considering the population and area. Shah has already held extensive discussions with officials and the top ministers about details of the plan, called ‘Mission 44 plus.’ Shah’s ministry has discussed the appointment of a delimitation commission to study the constituencies and come up with its recommendations. The commission will take into account rhe population and area of different regions of the state before making the proposals.
The BJP wants to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pundits to their homeland. It also wants the special status article 370 removed. The party need not have to depend on the state legislature for their plans as the governor runs the state. However, it wants to ensure that the Assembly remains within its grip as a hostile regime in JK can in the future dump the plan.
A panel could soon be appointed to reorganise constituencies.
The move has drawn ire in Jammu-Kashmir. Mainstream parties reacted with anger, calling it an obvious attempt to “inflict another emotional partition” on the state “on communal lines.” Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “Distressed to hear about GoI’s (Government of India) plan to redraw assembly constituencies in J&K. Forced delimitation is an obvious attempt to inflict another emotional partition of the state on communal lines.
Instead of allowing old wounds to heal, GoI is inflicting pain on Kashmiris.” National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said: “My party would oppose tooth and nail any attempt to make changes without a mandate from the people of the state. The freeze on delimitation was applied to J&K and was done to bring the state in line with the rest of the country. The same was challenged & upheld in both the High Court of J&K & the Supreme Court.” Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement president Shah Faesal said: “If the idea is to meet the growing demands of the population, if the idea is to give a certain kind of balance to three regions, we believe that the state legislature and the people of the state are the best stakeholders to take that decision.” Meanwhile, With eradication of terrorism from Jammu and Kashmir being the focus of new Shah, the Centre has issued a list of top 10 terrorists operating in the state who need to be eliminated.
The list includes wanted terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizbul Mujahideen and Al Badr based on inputs shared with the Ministry by Jammu and Kashmir Police, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Intelligence Bureau (IB).
Six of the top 10 militants named in the the list belong to Hizbul Mujahideen, two from JeM, and one each from LeT and Al Badr terrorist organisation. LeTs commander Wasim Ahmed alias Osama, active in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district, and chief Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo alias Mohammed Bin Qasim are mentioned on the top of the list.
Hizbul Mujahideen’s Anantnag district commander Mohammad Asraf Khan, Baramulla district commander Mehraj-ud-Din, cadre of Srinagar Dr Saifulla, Pulwama district commander Arshad-ul-Haq and Ajaj Ahmad Malik, probably appointed as Kupwara district commander, are in the list.
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Officials earlier said three persons had died in the mishap, while four others were shifted to a hospital. With four more casualties, the death toll had increased to seven the victims included two women.