JAMMU: A large section of residents in this Hindu-dominated town are angered with the revocation of Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
In a big triumph for the government, both the Houses of the Parliament last week passed the JamKashmirmu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, and adopted the resolution to scrap Article 370 and Article 35A, paving way for bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories (UTs) - Jammu and Kashmir with an Assembly and Ladakh sans one.
However, many residents of Jammu say the striking down of Article 370 has downgraded the status of Jammu region from a state to a Union Territory.
Secondly, they feel the move will now allow illegal immigrants, largely from Myanmar, and the nearly 12 lakh migratory labourers from Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, to become entitled for permanent resident certificates, which so far only the native residents of the state had the privilege to acquire.
"People were demanding state status for Jammu. Now the Central government has downgraded its status by declaring it as a Union Territory. Is this justice for the locals," asked octogenarian Sita Ram Khajuria, who has been settled in Jammu since his childhood.
He said the local BJP leadership, which too was perplexed with this decision, was just hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to save their face. "Article 370, which has been revoked now, was diluted in the real sense so many times in the past. The Congress leadership in the state did this diplomatically by using leaders of Kashmir in diluting its provisions in 1962, 1964 and 1965.
"In April 1965, even the late Mufti Mohammad supported the Congress government led by G.M. Sadiq for amending the state Constitution that empowered the President of India to nominate the head of the state (Governor) from among anyone in India. The Constitution amendment, in fact, diluted the true spirit of Article 370," Khajuria explained.
Representatives of the local hospitality industry rue that the security build-up with the scrapping of Article 370 and the jamming the internet and mobile connectivity have badly dented their business. "These days the occupancy in most of the hotels in Jammu is less than 10 per cent. Normally, the hotels have more than 50 per cent occupancy this time of the year," hotelier Dinesh Gupta told IANS.
He said the government has created fear-psychosis among the tourists by converting the town into a cantonment. "Also, suspending the Amarnath pilgrimage following revealation by the Army that they have recovered multiple weapons belonging to Pakistan Army from the Amarnath route has led to the cancellation of more than 50 per cent of the bookings in each hotel," Gupta added.
Balwinder Sharma, cashier at the south Indian food chain Sagar Ratna, said that daily sales in the eating joint has been reduced to merely Rs 3,000-Rs 4,000 from Rs 20,000 earlier. "There is no online delivery from the restaurant since August 5 (when Article 370 was scrapped) owing to jamming of mobile phone and wireless internet connections across the town," he said.
Another resident and Sikh Intellectual Circle Chairman Narinder Singh Khalsa said the BJP was just befooling the locals in the name of Article 370. "The BJP in the centre has failed on all fronts. Now they are just trying to divert the public's attention from the country's grim economic scenario by propagating that people of Jammu and Kashmir will benefit from the abrogation of Article 370," he said.
"We the people of Jammu will suffer because of this decision that was taken in a totally undemocratic manner, because people from outside the state will now be lured to Jammu to buy land in the guise of setting up an industrial unit or a tourist resort," Khalsa added.
Contrary to him, pathologist Sumedha Mengi said that earlier there were fewer opportunities for medical students belonging to the state. "Earlier, the students were entitled to compete in medical examinations for colleges located within the state along with two other colleges -- PGI in Chandigarh and AIIMS in New Delhi. With the scrapping of Article 370, they will get the opportunity to get admissions at the all-India level," she said.
The local unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants some restrictions to be put in place in the state on the purchase of land by "outsiders" as well as their appointments in government jobs. "We want a safeguard like a domicile certificate so as to protect the interests of the locals with respect to land and state jobs," senior BJP leader and legislator Nirmal Singh said.