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'J&K Kashmiri Hindu Shrines Management Bill’
4 yrs after introduction, Bill sent to Select Committee
2 Bills passed, 2 introduced
JAMMU, Apr 5: Four years after its introduction in the J&K legislature, the state government on the last day of budget session today brought much hyped 'J&K Kashmiri Hindu Shrines and Religious Places (Management and Regulation) Bill (LA Bill No 11 of 2009) out of cold storage.’ The government put it for consideration and passage in the Legislative Assembly yet only to refer it to Select Committee.

It happened when after debate, the Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Mir Saifullah, who had moved the bill, too noticed some “justified technical lacunae” as pointed out by JKNPP MLA Harsh Dev Singh. Recommending that there was justification for the bill to be referred to select committee in the wake of “technical lacunae”, Saifullah left it to the Speaker to take a final call on this issue.

Speaker Mubarak Gul said the bill should not be passed in haste and it should not leave any scope for confusion, hence it should be referred to the select committee.

Earlier in the debate, none opposed it, all welcomed it. However there was almost vertical division among the participant speakers vis-à-vis its (Bill’s) passage as it was or it should be sent to select committee.

The contention of former lot was that the amendments if needed could be inserted later on after its passage which had already been delayed a lot.

The premise of argument of those (National Conference-Congress members) in favour of referring it to select committee was that given its serious nature, it should have been widely discussed with all the stakeholders. “Particularly it should specify the role of majority community, which played a great role in the protection of these shrines and religious places in the absence of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir,” they argued.

National Conference MLA Javed Dar stated that the bill would remain incomplete if those from majority community were not involved in the process. “This is a serious issue and it involves lot of aspects. But it did not specify the role of majority community i.e., Kashmiri Muslims, there it should be referred to select committee.”

To this suggestion, CPI (M) MLA M Y Tarigami had a prickly poser, “This is not done. Have Hindus any role in the constitution of Waqf Boards? What role you are talking about? Kashmiri Pandits, who are integral part of Kashmir society, migrated in unfortunate circumstances. If there’s a consensus on one point amongst all of us, the people of Kashmir, it is that we all want to maintain our composite culture intact.”

At this point of time, the Speaker Mubarak Gul intervened, clarifying Javed Dar’s point, “He did not say that they (Kashmiri Muslims) should have participation in governance of shrines.”

However, Tarigami continued, “We’ve a rich pluralistic culture nurtured by great souls like Lal Ded, Noor-ul-Islam. Why we should have any doubts on Kashmiri Pandits, who, since 2009 have been demanding that they want to maintain, preserve their shrines and other religious places. Why this demand should not be conceded. We should allow them to have that. To deny them or delay it further, won’t be a justice. Kashmiri Muslims believe in pluralistic culture and want to get united. Recently the Chief Minister himself said that every Kashmiri Muslim is not a terrorist. So I will say – don’t hold it further.”

Then Javed Dar further rose to explain his point, “We’re not against this Bill, we only want to say that the majority population in Kashmir is that of Kashmiri Muslims. The security/protection to the shrines, religious places cannot be provided by police or other security forces. If these structures are safe in Kashmir, particularly in rural areas, it is because of them (Kashmiri Muslims). They’ve protected them putting even their life at stake. I just want that their role should be specified. The role of Kashmiri Muslims should be explained in the Bill as their sentiments are associated with them. Hence, I suggested for referring it to the Select Committee!”

NC MLA Dr Mustafa Kamal hailed the bill, which he said, the Kashmiri Pandits had been demanding for long, yet in the same breath, he too endorsed Javed’s point.

“Javed raised a pertinent point vis-à-vis Kashmiri Muslims’ involvement in the management of shrines. This would only ensure better management helping the communities to sort out issues of varied nature viz., the use of road, area around and the timing etc to avoid any scope of conflict during the processions, festivals etc., amongst themselves in a cordial manner. None is seeking a role or advocating interference in the religious affairs,” Kamal said.

To elucidate his point further, he recalled the quote of his father Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah.

“Sheikh Sahib used to say, the minority and majority communities should keep their relations cordial as they have to bank on each other in the times of crisis. In Kashmir, Muslims are in majority and in Jammu, they are in minority. The majority at both the places came to the rescue of minority in crisis. The majority protected the temples and other structures of minority in its absence there similarly majority in Jammu sheltered the Muslims who fled the turbulent Valley. Fauj Nahin Bacha Sakti Unhein, (forces cannot defend them), it was proved when the migration took place despite the heavy presence of forces. Therefore, the Bill should be referred to Select Committee to remove all the existing lacunae in it and evolve a Board like Dharmarth Trust,” he said.

Kamal also pointed out that Kheer Bhawani temple was under Dharmarth Trust. He said that the Bill complete in all respects would be helpful in demolishing propaganda of damaged temples in the Kashmir.

JKNPP member Harsh Dev Singh rued delay in bringing this bill yet said that it had good provisions aimed at preservation of temples which lacked maintenance. “The provisions are good that the government would conduct a survey which would be published in the Government gazette as well. Though the government is bringing a shrine board yet there’s no provision for financial support from the government side. What’s the government role? What about the encroachments? The government is constituting a private committee or Board but is silent about its rights. How they (private persons) would remove encroachments,” he said.

Referring to another point, Harsh questioned, “For survey, the government was appointing special officers? What’s about their salary? Since it will involve financial provisions, where is the financial memorandum?”

MLA Jammu West Prof Chaman Lal Gupta too criticized delay in bringing this bill for passage yet in the same breath, he expressed his apprehensions.

“The Bill seems to be dividing Hindu society as well. Kashmiri Hindus are not different they too are part of same Hindu society,” he said and suggested that the proposed age of member of management board should be 21 and 35 years should be deleted.

He pointed towards another ‘grey area’ in the bill, “The Bill does not encompass all the temples in Kashmir. Shankaracharya temple and Kheer Bhawani are managed by Dharmarth Trust. Similarly I’m the chairman of Hanumanji temple at Lal Chowk. Many shrines are encroached, some on the other side of LoC like Sharda Peeth could not be recovered,” Chaman said.

He also contested Kamal’s point that the temples were not damaged and it was a mere propaganda. “Kamal Sahib is wrong. Many temples are damaged. Had everything been all right, well, the Bill would have not been required. There were many temples in the PoK as well which now no more exist. Nevertheless till the time Pandits won’t be there to take care of their shrines and religious places, they could not be protected. These paper horses cannot protect the temples or shrines. They were forced to flee. To ensure the protection of temples, the Kashmiri Pandits’ return and rehabilitation is imperative,” Chaman added.

Ashwani Sharma too rued that the Bill was kept pending for the last four years though the shrines and religious places were in dilapidated condition. He supported the contention of Harsh that the financial support from the government was imperative for their repairs.

“The bill has already delayed a lot. Not yet again there’s a demand for referring it to the select committee. If there are certain apprehensions, they can be addressed later through amendments. Pass it in its present form,” Ashwani said.

MLA Langate Abdul Rashid Engineer hailed the bill and in the same breath contested Chaman’s points stating that encroachments would have been there but they were not deliberate.

“For 25 years, if the owners are not there, the encroachments are possible. But in majority of the cases, it is the majority community, which has protected and preserved these religious structures like Bhaderkali temple in my constituency. The Kashmiri Muslims and not Pandits are taking care of it, protecting it. As far as Kashmiri Muslims’ approach towards Pandits’ return is concerned, at Kheer Bhawani, the Hurriyat leaders like Mirwaiz and Syel Ali Shah Geelani go to meet Pandits every year. They renew their appeals to return them. Even the government would not have appealed to them so many times and with the same intense vigour and compassion,” Engineer said.

He added that Kashmiri Pandits should return to their roots. “Aakhri Goli Tak Wait Nahin Kar Sakte…(They should not wait till the end of violence in the Valley). They are part of us and always welcome. Kashmir belongs to them too so they can come anytime. They will be welcomed with open arms. I will say – Come back and live like we’re living, share our pains and ecstasies. Woh Hamare Kashmiri Bhai Hain.. Agar Woh Kashmiri Hain To Unhein Bhi Goli Khana Hoga, Jail Jaana Hoga…..we’ll have to suffer together. One lakh Kashmiris have already died. Tell us what else we can do to cajole them,” Engineer asked.


Congress MLA Ashok Kumar, National Conference MLA Peer Afaq too participated in the debate and sought that the bill should be referred to Select Committee to make it exhaustive and complete with the viewpoint of all stakeholders.

Besides this bill, four other Bills were moved in the Lower House today, out of them two were passed, two were allowed to be introduced.

The LA Bill No. 13 of 2013 which pertains to amend the Jammu and Kashmir Hindu Marriage Act, 1980 (IV of 1980) and the Jammu and Kashmir Christian Marriage and Divorce Act, 1957 (III of 1957) was moved by the Minister for Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs, Mir Saifullah and passed by the House with voice vote.

Before that the minister agreed to insert the amendments suggested by the JKNPP MLA Harsh Dev Singh while framing the rules. The amendments pertained to compulsory registration of marriages.

The Bill No. 14 of 2013 pertains to amendment in the Jammu and Kashmir Value Added Tax Act, 2005 was moved by the Minister for Finance, A R Rather and passed by the House without any amendment.

The LA Bill No. 16 of 2013, which was moved by the Minister for Law & Parliamentary Affairs, Mir Saifullah pertains to establishment of Dehi Adalats at the grass-root level for the purposes of providing access to justice to the citizens at their doorsteps and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of social, economic or other disabilities and for matters connected therewith.

The House allowed the introduction of the Bill.

The LA Bill No. 15 of 2013 which pertains to amend the Ranbir Penal Code, Samvat 1989, the Code of Criminal Procedure, Samvat, 1989 and the Evidence Act, Samvat 1977 was moved by the Minister for Law & Parliamentary Affairs, Mir Saifullah. The House allowed introducing the Bill.

News Updated at : Friday, April 5, 2013
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4 yrs after introduction, Bill sent to Select Committee
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