Congress asks if ‘jizya tax’ imposed on Vaishno Devi pilgrims

New Delhi (IANS) The Congress on Monday slammed the decision of the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir to impose service tax on helicopter flight tickets to the Vaishno Devi shrine and asked if it was “jizya tax”.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the helicopter service was used mostly by those who were not in a position to climb up to the shrine on foot.

“Drunk with power, the PDP-BJP government does not realise that ordinary families book air tickets for aged parents, physically challenged and children largely as also those having medical problems, who cannot undertake the 26-km track but are keen to have ‘darshan’,” he said.

Singhvi said the state government decided to impose 12.5 percent tax on every helicopter ticket through a notification issued earlier this month.

“Is it a jizya tax?” he asked.

He said an “obnoxious reason” given was the desire of the state government to reduce the number of pilgrims.

He said the number of pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine has already come down from 93 lakh in 2013 to 78 lakh in 2014 “on account of such bizarre and obnoxious policy of the PDP-BJP government”.

Terming the levy “unfair”, Singhvi demanded that it should be immediately withdrawn.

According to historical accounts, jizya tax was imposed on Hindus during the reign of Mughal emperor Aurangazeb.

Singhvi also said the people of Jammu and Kashmir were feeling betrayed over trust posed by them in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Peoples Democratic Party during the assembly polls.

Referring to the floods in the state last year, Singhvi said: “We call upon the prime minister to understand the pains and suffering of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and provide a comprehensive and rehabilitation package.”

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