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J&K Council adjourned without vote on women's rights bill,
NC expels Council Chair shortly after

Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar | March 12, 2004 05:32 IST
Last Updated: March 12, 2004 05:39 IST

The debate over whether or not the controversial Permanent Residence (disqualification) Bill should be put to vote or handed over to a house select committee remains to be decided after J&K Legislative Council Chairman Abdul Rashid Dar adjourned the state legislative council sine die.


The bill, which bars J&K women who marry outsiders from becoming permanent residents and losing their property rights, was tabled by the state law minister Muzzafar Hussain Baig late this afternoon after the upper house met in the winter capital Jammu. The ruling alliance partner Congress had requested that the Bill be handed over to a house select committee for a thorough discussion following widespread protests by various political parties and women's groups.


Both the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) favoured voting on the bill. Both parties later blamed each other for blocking the passage of the Bill with PDP alleging that the council chairman Dar who belongs to NC used the power of the chair seeking two thirds majority in the house to pass the bill.


The state law minister however said that the legislation was "aimed at safeguarding the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and upholding the special status of the state as guaranteed under Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

Following the adjournment, the Opposition National Conference expelled Dar from the party. The party also submitted a notice of no-confidence against Dar, but the Secretary of the Council refused to receive it.


Dar, one of the most senior leaders of the NC, was nominated to the Council by the party. "We have expelled Dar from the primary membership of the NC tonight. This has been conveyed to him," party chief Omar Abdullah said. "Dar failed to do justice to his chair. He was biased. He pre-judged things and absolutely violated the Chairman's conduct."


 "The state subject law was invoked by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927 on the insistence of Dogra and Pundit Sabhas to protect the distinct ethnic identity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir," Baig said in defence of the bill. Replying to a six and a half hour long debate in the Council, Baig strongly pleaded for the passage of the Bill by simple majority of the house.


Launching a scathing attack on the critics of the bill, he said that "unfortunately a disinformation campaign has been launched against it only to score points on the political front keeping in mind the upcoming parliamentary elections".

The law minister made it clear that the "Bill was not gender biased and if it was discriminatory against any section it was men". He also lashed out at the various women rights activists "blowing the issue out of proportion by raising the bogey of women rights on Women's Day. "Why do they keep quiet when women in Kashmir are raped or when

mothers are devastated by disappearance of their children?" he questioned.


Meanwhile, Mehbooba Mufti, the head of the PDP which heads the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir, said though the party was "unhappy over the decision of the Council Chairman, we are relieved that the bill was not rejected as had been desired by the National Conference."


"The NC's design and conspiracy to engineer rejection of the bill has been foiled," she said. "The bill and the amendments are with the Council and will be taken care of later."     The bill will now come up after elections, she added.

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