Nothing wrong in it, says Law Secy; PDP-BJP govt razing special status brick by brick, says Er Rasheed
Srinagar: The PDP-BJP government will not challenge the extension of the Collection of Statistics Act to Jammu and Kashmir, the government’s Law Secretary Abdul Majeed told Kashmir Reader. “There is no wrong in extension of the central statistical Act to the state and there is no need for the state government to challenge the Act,” he said.
The Rajya Sabha passed an amendment to the Act in July this year that enables the Government of India to directly collect data from Jammu and Kashmir, instead of the earlier dependence on state government agencies. The Indian Parliament’s move is seen by many in Kashmir as one more blow to the special status of the state.
“It was just a mistake when in 2008 the earlier Act (Collection of Statistics Act 2008) was legislated. In the earlier Act there was a ‘legislative vacuum’, which hindered the central government from collecting data from J&K on matters that were in the Union list,” Majeed explained.
To rectify the mistake, he said, the Act was amended by the Indian Parliament this year. The special status of J&K “won’t be threatened,” Majeed said.
“Now they (GoI) will have powers to collect data directly from the state, without any permission from the state government, but only regarding subjects that are in their Constitutional domain. Our own Act – the J&K Collection of Statistics Act 2010 – won’t become obsolete and we will carry our statistical surveys under our own Act,” he said.
When asked about the provisions in the Act that give armed forces the power to ‘assist’ officials in data collection, Majeed said he had not gone through the bill and won’t comment on it. “I will have to check it first before any comment,” he replied.
Now that the Act has been extended to J&K, a number of rules mentioned in Collection of Statistics Rules 2011 will automatically be implemented in J&K. One such rule states that the government’s armed forces will “assist” the statistical officer, designated by the GoI, in collection of statistics in “disturbed areas”, a category that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir comes under.
Legal and political experts in Kashmir have already expressed concerns over this rule that now applies to J&K. The intrusion of government troops in civilian spaces for seeking personal data is the main threat in the already heavily-militarised Valley.
Independent MLA and leader of Awami Ittihad Party (AIP), Er Rasheed, said that by allowing the extension of New Delhi-legislated laws to J&K, the PDP-led government was razing the state’s special status brick by brick.
“Not a bit of resistance is being shown by the current government to New Delhi’s move of snatching our special status. The Act will now give legality to armed forces barging into any house and seeking all kinds of details from whoever they wish,” he said.
Rasheed said that the Act will support New Delhi’s plans to confer J&K citizen status on West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs). “The government was planning to settle them anyhow in J&K and the extension of the Statistics Act has provided them a good chance of manipulating demographic data,” he said.
“Who will counter the claims of GoI if they manipulate the data collected from here? People need to wake up and see the reality,” Rasheed said.
Senior advocate Zaffar Shah said that there will be “high risk of manipulation and fabrication of data” when it is collected by officers designated by the Government of India.
“Even though the GoI had access to a good amount of data here, but with this Act they will have exclusive rights to collect data from citizens here. There will now be more chances of data manipulation,” Shah said.
Given the hostile relations between government forces and people generally in Kashmir, many would be unwilling to reveal personal information to armed troops or to “strangers” sent by New Delhi for the task.
During the debate on the bill in Parliament, leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had warned of trouble in the Valley and suggested that the JK Assembly be consulted on it.
“You should understand the ramifications of the situation that is prevailing there (in Kashmir) for the nearly past three decades. Neither the opposition parties nor the state government were taken into confidence before tabling of the bill in the House. The provisions of the bill may be valid but it should not be imposed without the consent of the state government,” Azad said during the discussion.
PDP vice-president Sartaj Madani refused to comment on the matter. He suggested that the state law minister be contacted for details.
Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, too, refused to comment. “I don’t talk to press,” he said in response to a question.
Minister for Rural Development & Panchayati Raj and Law & Justice, Abdul Haq Khan, who is out of the state, did not respond to repeated phone calls.