The foreign envoys on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir were given a first-hand account of the positive impact on people’s lives after the revocation of Article 370 from the erstwhile state in August 2019. The envoys met with several public representatives, community leaders and residents of the Union Territory’s winter capital of Jammu on Thursday.
“I told them how it was grossly discriminatory against women of Jammu and Kashmir, who after marrying men from other states were denied their right to ancestral property and how they used to lose their citizenship of J&K,” said Vandana, a woman Sarpanch from Nagbani.
24 foreign envoys from several countries in the European Union including the French ambassador Emmanuel Lenain, EU ambassador Ugo Astuto, were part of the delegation that also included the envoys for Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and several other South American and African countries. The delegation was given an opportunity to assess the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir first hand over two days of meetings with a cross section of the society apart from the administration and the security apparatus. This was the third such visit organised by the government in its bid to dispel “misinformation” after the revocation of Article 370, which earlier governed the region.
In Jammu, the envoys met woman sarpanches, Jammu Mayor, members of West Pak Refugees Action Committee, Valmiki community and others.
“They sought to know about revocation of Article 370 and we told them that we are very happy over its revocation because it was a stumbling block in development and it was highly discriminatory against the people of the UT,” said Vandana.
“We told them how the three-tier Panchayati raj system is helping the poor immensely and ensuring development at the grass roots level,” said another woman Sarpanch, Anjali Sharma from Mathwar. She said they also told the envoys how Pakistan has been peddling lies at the international forum to mislead the world community over Jammu and Kashmir.
The Central government has maintained that the revocation of Article 370 was done to end discrimination against people of Jammu and Kashmir and the ‘dynastic’ rule which had prevented the growth of the region. The envoys visit, the ministry of external affairs said on Thursday, was an opportunity to witness, first-hand, “Jammu and Kashmir’s march on the path of inclusive development and the dynamism in the grassroots democratic institutions.”
“On behalf of my community, I told the envoys about what had been happening to us during all these 73 years. I told them that for the first time, we voted in the district development council (DDC) elections and that earlier, when Article 370 existed, we were deprived of our basic right to vote in the assembly elections,” said Sukhdev Singh Manhas, vice president, West Pak Refugees Action Committee.
We also told them how our children were not considered for government jobs, professional courses and didn’t have the right to property here, Singh added.
Jammu Mayor Chander Mohan Gupta said, “I told them how elections to local bodies could be held and the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution could be implemented in J&K only after the revocation of Article 370.”
Akash Kumar and Manisha from the Valmiki community told the envoys of the “worst kind of slavery” their community faced due to successive Kashmir centric governments and how Article 370 deprived them of voting rights, jobs and property.
“We told them how under Article 370, we only got jobs as sweepers in the municipal bodies irrespective of our educational qualifications,” said Manisha.