The ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday said that it would oppose any initiative to set up a ‘Sainik colony’ for serving and retired servicemen in the Valley even as government sent a fresh reminder to Deputy commissioners of Srinagar and Budgam.
This has raked up a fresh controversy in the state. Dr Mehboob Beg said that his party would stick to its earlier stand of not allowing Sanik colony in the Valley, which would allow the non-state soldiers, who have served in Kashmir, and their families, to settle in the Valley. Beg said allowing a Sainik colony in Srinagar for the non-state subjects would be a clear violation of the state’s Constitution.
“Only yesterday, CM Mehbooba Mufti told people in Anantnag that when we swear by the Constitution of the state, we also respect and work for strengthening the Indian Constitution. Respecting Indian Constitution also means opposing any move to settle any non-state subject trooper or ex-servicemen in Jammu and Kashmir. That would be a clear violation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (under Article 370 of Indian Constitution,” Beg said.
The Rajya Sainik Board (RSB) in 2012 had floated a proposal of setting up a residential cluster for serving and ex-servicemen in one of its meetings. Governor N N Vohra, who heads the board, approved the proposal and when the state came under his rule, he expedited the process of setting up of the ‘Sainik colony,’ early this year.
The state’s home department, headed by the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, last year had identified a plot of 173 kanals near Humhama for the ‘Sainik Colony’ in Humhama area, on the outskirts of Srinagar.
“My party (PDP) stands clear on this issue, any move by anyone to settle the non-resident soldiers, even if they have served here for 26 years, would be opposed by us. I don’t want to comment on the Governor’s decision and why he wanted to expedite matter, when he ruled the state,” Beg added.
The move to settle the soldiers in Kashmir was vehemently opposed by the National Conference and Hurriyat leaders. But a senior official in the state home department said on Friday that the government of India was committed to building the cluster of colonies for the soldiers, who has served in the state during the worst years of insurgency.
He, however, did not specify if it was meant for state or non-state subjects. “The Centre is serious about this proposal. The land is a state subject that is the reason there has been a delay. It won’t be a challenge to the state’s special statues because this would be undertaken under a lease agreement,” the officer, who did not wish to be named said.
According to the proposal cleared by Governor Vohra, a commissioned officer would be allotted 11 marlas of land, a junior commissioned officer 8 marlas and a soldier of the subordinate rank 5 marlas of land. Initially, almost 40 retired Kashmiri Pandit officers, who had served in the state and outside along with 300 soldiers, had applied for the plots.
BJP Parliamentarian and RSS man, Tarun Vijay, had submitted a proposal to the Narendra Modi-led government, demanding settlement rights for soldiers in the Valley, who have served a minimum of three years. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said the “matter had been forwarded” to the state government since land was a state subject.
BJP spokesperson Khalid Jehangir said that his party’s stand is clear — the colony should be developed for the soldiers and their families. “There is a misunderstanding that this colony is meant for soldiers from outside the state, but it is not. In fact, the state government should expedite the matter and allow the board to come up with the colony soon,” said Jehangir.