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Mehbooba defends controversial bill

Onkar Singh in New Delhi | March 09, 2004 14:54 IST

Mehbooba Mufti has strongly defended the Jammu and Kashmir government's controversial bill that seeks to deny property rights to Kashmiri women who have married someone from outside the state.

The bill was deferred after widespread opposition, including from the Congress, which is an alliance partner of the ruling People's Democratic Party of which Mehbooba Mufti is the president.

The bill has now been referred to a select committee of the state legislature.

Mehbooba Mufti told rediff.com that Union Minister for Law and Justice Arun Jaitley was "deliberately misleading" the people against the bill.

"What we had done was merely to reintroduce the bill in the House, which seeks to protect the rights of the state subjects over their properties. This bill was introduced by the late Maharaja Hari Singh at the instance of the Kashmiri Pandits and Dogras of Jammu who felt that outsiders married their women in order to grab their properties," she said.

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Asked why the bill was introduced when a similar bill was struck down as unconstitutional by the Jammu and Kashmir high court, she said, "The three judge bench judgment was not unanimous. The earlier law was struck down 2-1."

All parties, she said, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress and Panther's Party had given their assent to the bill before it was introduced.

"But unfortunately soon after it was passed by the Lower House these parties backtracked on the issue and started opposing it because of their hidden agenda," she alleged.

Asked to specify the hidden agenda, she said the BJP and some other parties are trying their 'level best' for the trifurcation of the state.

"Lot of women who have been married outside the state have not lost their jobs and they continue to work as before. But you cannot expect the children of the women marrying outside to be made state subjects. Because once the woman gets married and goes off to another state then she belongs to that place only. This is the tradition," she said.

"Yes, in case of a divorcee and a widow we could come up with some solution. Only a handful of people from Jammu are engineering trouble. Ask the Kashmiri women. They are all for this law because their rights are protected by the Shariat," she added.

She accused 'communal parties' like the BJP for whipping up sentiments against the bill of in order to convert it into a poll issue.

"When talks are going on between the Government of India and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference some vested interests are trying to convert the bill into controversy and make it a poll plank," she said.

She regretted that even secular parties like the Congress and CPI-M have fallen into the "trap of the BJP" by asking for repealing the bill.

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