Prez nod to J-K Reorganisation Bill

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Two UTs to come into existence on Oct 31 ** Left leaders barred from entering Kashmir

NEW DELHI, Aug 9 (PTI):President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday gave assent to a legislation for bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, and two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — will come into existence on October 31.

October 31 happens to be the birth anniversary of the country’s first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who was instrumental in the merger of about 565 princely states into the Union of India following Independence.

The Parliament had earlier this week given its nod to the legislation for bifurcating the state, a bold and far-reaching decision that seeks to redraw the map and future of a region at the centre of a protracted militancy movement.

The President has given assent to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, a Home ministry official said.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (a) of section 2 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 (34 of 2019), the Central Government hereby appoints the 31st day of October, 2019, as the appointed day for the purposes of the said Act,” a home ministry notification said.

Three days after the far-reaching decision to abrogate the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcate the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a nearly 40-minute televised address to the nation on Thursday, sought to assuage concerns of the people saying Jammu and Kashmir will not remain Union Territory for long.

“As Jammu and Kashmir will see more and more development, I do not think it will remain Union Territory for long. Ladakh will remain a Union Territory,” Modi said.

According to the legislation, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislature like Puducherry and Ladakh will be a UT like Chandigarh, without legislature.

In both the Union Territories, key subjects such as law and order will be with the Centre.

The UT of Jammu and Kashmir will have a Lieutenant Governor and the maximum strength of its assembly will be 107, which will be enhanced to 114 after a delimitation exercise. Twenty-four seats of the Assembly will continue to remain vacant as they fall under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

The current effective strength of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly is 87, including four seats falling in Ladakh region, which will now be a separate UT without a legislature.

The UT of Ladakh will have Kargil and Leh districts. The Act said Jammu and Kashmir UT will have reservation in the assembly seats.

The Lieutenant Governor of the successor UT of J-K may nominate two members to the Legislative Assembly to give representation to women, if in his opinion, women are “not adequately” represented in the Legislative Assembly.

It also said that the Lok Sabha will have five seats from the UT of J-K, while from Ladakh the Lower House of Parliament will have one seat.

Left leaders sent back: Meanwhile, the Left parties hit out at the government on Friday after CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI chief D Raja were barred from entering Kashmir, saying if the situation was normal, why the two leaders were stopped at the Srinagar airport.

Speaking at a briefing here after being sent back, Yechury recalled former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous statement — “Jamhuriyat, Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat” and said that it was an irony that the BJP forgot their own PM’s advise on solving the problem in the Valley.

“We were in judicial and police custody. They had an order in my name which they showed me and said that we had to go back by the same flight we came on. We refused and sat there for four hours. We had given them prior information about our visit. There was no reason to detain us.

“The real truth of Jammu and Kashmir is not out. If all is well, then why were we stopped?” asked Yechury.

Yechury and Raja had both written to governor Satya Pal Malik on Thursday informing him of their visit and requesting him to facilitate their entry.

“Both of us had written to the Jammu and Kashmir governor requesting him that there should be no hurdles for our visit. The situation is tense in the state and we could feel it even at the airport. The people had the right to know what is happening there. India doesn’t belong to BJP. We have the right to go anywhere in the country,” said Raja.

Both the leaders said that Kashmir is a part of India and so are Kashmiris and one is not possible without the other.

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