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Kashmir politicians angry after Centre announces move to amend J&K Reservation Act

The Cabinet has also approved Constitution amendments to give benefit of promotion in service to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes population in the state, and extend the reservation of up to 10% in educational institutions and public employment to “economically weaker sections” among the general category people in J&K

SP Sharma | Jammu |

With the Union cabinet clearing an ordinance granting 3 per cent in government jobs set to bring residents of Jammu division living along the International Border (IB) with Pakistan on par with those living in the villages along the Line of Control (LoC), the move promises to remove a long standing discrimination faced by the beneficiaries until now. The decision to amend the J&K Reservation Act has however irked Kashmir politicians.

The Union cabinet’s decision late Thursday evening has brought cheers for a population of about 3 lakh living in 385 villages in the border areas of Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts. Though such reservation was provided by the state government to residents of LoC and Line of Actual Control (LAC) villages but was denied to those living along the IB.

However, the Centre’s decision to remove the discrimination by amending the J&K Reservation Act has caused anger among the Kashmir-centric politicians who have started questioning the authority of the Centre to take the step in the absence of an elected government in Jammu and Kashmir.

Reacting to the decision, former chief minister and National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah said on Twitter the NC would consult eminent lawyers to see how best it could challenge the “blatantly unconstitutional order” in court.

“The government means an elected government. President cannot seek concurrence of Governor who is a representative or agent of President. Same will apply even where only consent is required,” he said.

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti too reacted strongly to the decision. “Ostensibly, using the Govs office seems to be a sinister move to further disempower the state. This will not be tolerated & the entire state will fight against this criminal and illegal move of GoI,” she tweeted.

The Centre’s move is also being seen as a pre-election sop for residents of IB villages who had been for the past several years feeling discriminated vis-a-vis those of the LoC and LAC.

The Centre through a Presidential Order also applied to J&K the 77th Constitutional Amendment to provide reservation in promotion to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government service.

Another Presidential Order last evening, the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, was also applied to J&K to give the benefit of 10% reservation to economically weaker sections among the general category people.

These steps were recommended to the Centre by the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik.

In a bid to remove apprehensions, an official spokesman clarified that the amendments would not affect permanent residents of the state. The amendments do not bring West Pakistan refugees under the scope of permanent residency. In the case of IB, only permanent residents of the state will get benefits of this extension of reservation benefits as applicable to LOC residents.