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Sitharaman lashes out at Congress over ‘1991 Pandit massacre’, says BJP brought peace to J&K

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New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Wednesday aggressively defended the Modi government’s handling of the Jammu and Kashmir situation and pointed out that the citizens of the state had been denied human rights for a long time.

Sitharaman talked about the massacre of Kashmiri Pandits and the denial of rights to women, courtesy the special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Narsanhar (massacre) happened in J&K in 1991. Kashmiri Pandits were driven out. Not a word from the Congress members… Where was human rights call then? Kashmiri Pandits don’t have rights?” she asked, while responding to a debate in the Lok Sabha on the J&K budget.

Manish Tiwari, Congress MP intervened and acknowledged that what happened to Kashmiri Pandits was extremely unfortunate and a travesty of justice. He, however, pointed out that, “The government at the centre was a government led by V.P. Singh and supported by the BJP and CPI(M). It was not a Congress government. It happened in 1990.”

Sitharaman countered this by saying the Congress came to power in 1991 but did not do anything to address the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits.

“Why could you not take the Kashmiri Pandits back? Till now, they are languishing outside,” she said,

Sitharaman further pointed out that J&K did not have a human rights commission, a statutory commission for women, or a commission to protect the rights of the backward castes

Women of J&K stood to lose their property if they married outside their state, she said, adding that even panchayat elections did not take place due to the special status.

Sitharaman said many members who participated in the debate spoke with a lot of emotion, and felt that the J&K budget should not be discussed here and should be discussed in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.

She pointed out that this was not the first time that this had happened and went on to list occasions when the budget and appropriation bills of the state were discussed in Parliament between 1991 and 1996.

“We are not doing this for the first time… Now at least it is a union territory,” she said.

Sitharaman also went on to list all that had changed after 5 August in Jammu and Kashmir, as demanded by Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

“There is no corruption now, transparent tendering process is taking place, block development council elections were successfully undertaken,” she said.

She added that due to the efforts of the central government, cement prices had fallen, and businessmen found it easier to approach the centre.

“We made sure that J&K will get justice, there will be a true sense of peace and there will be development.”

In August 2019, the Narendra Modi government revoked Article 370 and split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir (with a state legislature) and Ladakh (without a state legislature).

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