In the midst of a quarrel over the exodus of Pandits, the LS approves the J&K budget.
The Jammu and Kashmir Budget 2022-23 was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday amid much acrimony and blame trading between the Treasury and Opposition benches over the flight of Kashmir Pandits from the Kashmir Valley in the 1990s.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman used strong language to accuse Congress of abandoning the state's minority Pandit population; the Opposition afterward staged a walkout when MPs were not permitted to intervene when the accusations were made.
The opposition has already protested to the bill being debated without first being distributed to them. However, the Minister's approach to the problem of Kashmiri Pandits inflamed the situation even further. Responding to the debate on the Budget for Jammu and Kashmir, Ms Sitharaman slammed the Congress for a series of tweets issued by its Kerala unit about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in the 1990s, an issue brought to light by the release of the film "Kashmir Files" and mentioned by several Lok Sabha members during the debate. While BJP MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal from Ladakh and Janata Dal (U) MP Sunil Kumar Pintu demanded that the film be tax-free,
On Sunday, the Kerala Congress said in a series of tweets with the hashtag #KashmirFilesvsTruth, "After the terrorist assaults, instead of providing Pandits security, BJP's Governor Jagmohan asked them to transfer to Jammu." "A huge number of Pandit families felt unsafe and fled the valley in dread."
Ms. Sitharaman attacked the Congress, claiming that a series of tweets by the Congress claimed that Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley on their own, rather than being compelled to do so.
"Our party's (Congress') belief is that it was not because of terrorism, but because of the lure of cash benefits and land offers in Delhi....another belief is that there is a long war between separatists and those who stand for India," she said, citing a series of tweets. She further stated that Congress was an ally of the government at the time of the evacuation and that the then-Chief Minister allowed people to fend for themselves as terrorism was on the rise.
She further said that during a previous Congress rule, a Prime Minister met a separatist who had supposedly killed an Indian airforce officer and that the same separatist afterward admitted to a foreign TV channel that he had killed an IAF officer.
MPs from the Congress, NCP, TMC, and National Conference stormed out of Lok Sabha in protest over Ms Sitharaman's charge and the Lok Sabha Speaker's refusal to allow Opposition MPs to intervene.
Following the walkout, the House cleared the Budget for Jammu & Kashmir totaling Rs.1.42 lakh crore, as well as Supplementary Demands for Grants totaling Rs.18,860.32 crore for the Union Territory.
Ms. Sitharaman stated that normalcy was restored after the abolition of Jammu and Kashmir's special status, whereas it had previously been a sham.
In August 2019, the government repealed many aspects of Article 370, thereby ending Jammu and Kashmir's unique status. "Jammu and Kashmir were not normal under Article 370...there was fake normalcy previous to Article 370 abrogation....there is no fake normalcy post abrogation," she remarked. She went on to say that after Article 370 was repealed, 890 central laws were applicable in Jammu and Kashmir.
Ms. Sitharaman stated that 40,000 projects in Jammu and Kashmir were completed in 2021-22, and connectivity in the Union Territory is developing. The Union Territory has seen a 90% reduction in ceasefires, down from 900 in 2020 to 98 in 2021, she added, adding that terrorism has been limited and infiltration has decreased dramatically. In terms of investment, she claims that the investor-friendly Jammu and Kashmir campaign has paid dividends. "Investment bids worth Rs 44,177 crore have already been received." "The employment potential is 1.80 lakh...the majority of the investment requests are from abroad," she said.