Monday, January 23, 2012

NCM writes to govt

In a bid to safeguard interests of pandits and other minorities in Jammu and Kashmir, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has written to the government to amend the NCM Act to make it applicable to the trouble-torn state as well.

The Commission, which has been taking up the issue with the state administration for a long time, has also written to the state Law Minister, Ali Mohammed Sagar, in this regard.

Copies of the letter have also been submitted to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

"The Commission recommends that J&K consider extension of NCM Act-1992 to the state by making a recommendation to President that an amendment may be made to the Act to make it applicable to the state and by considering enactment of a law for promulgation of J&K Minorities Act along the lines of the model Act developed by this Commission and circulated to all states," the letter said.

The panel also expressed happiness over the state government's contention that it was "not averse" to the benevolent recommendations of the NCM.

NCM chairperson Wajahat Habibullah said the commission wants that minorities in J&K get benefits available to minorities elsewhere and has been regularly interacting with the state government in this regard.

The state government earlier contended that complexity in declaring any group a minority arises from the existence of a peculiar, region-wise and community-wise composition in the state, where no community is in minority in all the three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Leh.

Habibullah, however, felt that the seeming complexity can be resolved through a dynamic combination of the NCM Act 1992.

The National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 that extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir, empowers the panel to look into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights of the minorities and take up such matters with appropriate authorities at the Centre or in the states. It also allows it to make recommendations for effective implementation of safeguards for protection of the interests of minorities by the Central government or state governments.
Currently, only 16 states have minority commissions, and hence it is virtually the NCM which handles such issues there. The NCM has already prepared a model law for setting up minority commissions by the states. In the letter to the Jammu and Kashmir government, the NCM had noted, "because of the territorial limitations of the Act, the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has the largest percentage of national minorities' population in the country is outside the purview of the Act.

"This denial of the provisions of the NCM Act 1992 to large number of citizens, who belong to the minority communties...has been engaging the attention of the Commission and has, indeed, been a cause for concern." After the Commission had sent a proposal to the state government regarding setting up of a state minority commission in August last year, Habibullah also personally discussed the issue with the state Chief Minister and Law Minister.

In its reply to the NCM, the state government informed that the state had constituted a minority commission in February 1984, which did not submit any report and it was finally wound up a few months later.

While pointing out the complexity in declaring any group as minority in the state, the Secretary of the Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Jammu and Kashmir at the same time said that the state government was "not averse to the benevolent recommendations of the NCM".

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