JEHANGIR ALI | 18 AUGUST, 2015
PDP-BJP Now Cross Swords Over ‘Sainik Colony’ Near Srinagar
Coalition or unequal partners?
SRINAGAR: The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Monday opposed the BJP's initiative of setting up a colony for serving and ex-servicemen in Srinagar who have served over the last 26 years of conflict in the state.
Although the state's home department headed by chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has identified a plot of land in Humhama on the outskirts of Srinagar for the "Sainik Colony", the ruling party's chief spokesperson, Dr Mehboob Beg, said any move to settle non-resident armed personnel will be a violation of the state's constitution.
“It will be totally against the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (under Article 370 of Indian Constitution) if any non-local trooper is settled here permanently. The colony is meant for those troopers and ex-servicemen who are permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir," Dr Beg said.
Veteran Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Geelani, Monday warned of launching an agitation against the proposed move which he termed as an "attempt to harm the special status and disputed nature of Jammu & Kashmir".
"Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally accepted disputed territory whose future is pending. So settling or allotting of land to any Army personal or any citizen of India on this disputed land is the clear violation of the international rules and it has no constitutional or moral justification," Geelani said in a statement.
Geelani's Hurriyat has called a meeting of its advisory council (Majlis-e-Shoora) on August 22 to discuss the issue, "The government will be cautioned that this plan will not be allowed to succeed here in any way and if any land is allotted to any Indian Army personnel in Jammu & Kashmir, we will launch a public movement against that,” the statement said.
The controversy dates back to 2012 when the Sainik Welfare Department floated a proposal of setting up a residential cluster for serving and ex-servicemen in Kashmir Valley. The proposal was cleared by Rajya Sainik Board, headed by J&K's Governor NN Vohra, early this year, after which the state government identified a plot of land measuring 173 kanals near Humhama for the "Sainik Colony".
However, sources said the home department, headed by the chief minister has been going slow on the recommendations of Rajya Sainik Board, fearing a repeat of 2008-Amarnath land agitation that culminated in the fall of the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led PDP-Congress coalition government.
According to the proposal, the land will be leased out to armed personnel for a period of 99 years with about 6,000 serving and retired soldiers so far applying for plots at the colony, proposed on state land behind the Friends Enclave near the main gate of Srinagar Airport.
A report says that the soldiers’ panel, which had identified 173 kanal of land, is contemplating to request the state government to allot entire 416 kanals of land given the enthusiasm shown by the armed personnel for settling in Kashmir.
Last month, the RSS man and BJP's Rajya Sabha member, Tarun Vijay, submitted a proposal to Prime Minister Narendra, demanding settlement rights for soldiers who have served a minimum of three years in the Valley, following which the union defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, forwarded the proposal to the JK government.
However, hitting out at the BJP, Dr Beg, the PDP leader, said that settling Indian troops in Kashmir, raising questions over the credentials of Article 370 and challenging Article 35A of the constitution are all "inconceivable metaphors".
"It is impossible for a non-state subject to settle here or to allot a plot of land to him. There are people living in Jammu and Kashmir who do jobs in Indian Army and they being the permanent residents of the State have right to settle here," Dr Beg said.