Prof Hari Om
The immediate fall-out of the ongoing secessionist movement in the Valley is the growing demand for a separate State of Jammu/reorganization of the State of Jammu & Kashmir. The demand unambiguously points to the consciousness of the danger of being submerged under the rising clamour for “azadi”, plebiscite, restoration of pre-1953 position and self-rule or India-Pakistan joint-control over the State. It also points to their dwindling faith in New Delhi. The reason: The Union Government seems determined to go extra miles in the already highly developed, prosperous and over-powered Kashmir to appease and please the Kashmiri leadership and throw in the lot of the people of Jammu province and Ladakh with Kashmir.
The people of Jammu and Ladakh have been told, and are still being told by elements in the political class and establishment that Kashmir is within India because Jammu province and Cold-Desert and Ladakh are attached to it, and, if Kashmir is to be retained, Jammu and Ladakh have to sacrifice their legitimate politico-economic and social interests in favour of the Valley. The 1952 parleys between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah on the political status of Jammu & Kashmir vis-à-vis India; the 1975 Indira-Sheikh Abdullah Accord under which the deflated Sheikh Abdullah and votary of plebiscite was brought back to power in Jammu & Kashmir; the 1987 Rajiv Gandhi-Farooq Abdullah Accord on power-sharing; and the Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party March 2015 Agenda of Alliance prove this point: All these agreements were made to strike a deal with the Kashmiri leadership over the heads of the people of Jammu and the people of Ladakh, all Mongolite.
The nationalists as they were and are, the people of these two discriminated against and utterly neglected regions have so far accepted this argument and have suffered happily and silently in the hope that Kashmir would one day join the national mainstream. But this arrangement has been rendered ineffective by their failure to secure even fundamental concessions like proper delimitation of the assembly constituencies, adequate representation of the Jammu and Ladakhi youth in the employment sector and technical and professional institutions and so on.
The political domination of the Kashmir Valley over Jammu and Ladakh is evident from the fact that the Chief Minister is always from the Kashmir Valley or a Kashmiri Muslim and so is the leadership of the major political parties like the Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party and the National Conference. Jammu and Ladakh are also poorly represented in the State Secretariat. Their share in the Civil Secretariat is just negligible. While about 25 per cent officials in the Jammu province are from the Kashmir Valley, employees from Jammu province do not constitute even 1 per cent of the total in Kashmir. The fact of the matter is that while the number of employees from Kashmir working in government and semi-government establishments is more than 3.5 lakh, the number of employees from Jammu province is not even one lakh.
Such under-representation is evident in other spheres also. Jammu province returns two members to the Lok Sabha and Kashmir three despite the fact that Kashmir is inferior to Jammu province both in terms of land area and voters. Similarly, Kashmir returns 46 members to the assembly, Jammu only 37. Jammu province is two-time that of Kashmir and bulk of Jammu province is hilly, mountainous and inaccessible.
No attention is paid to develop tourism in Jammu province. About 90 per cent of the state’s tourism budget is spent in the Valley every year, even though tourists who come to Jammu are “25 times” more than those going to Kashmir. Power generation, too, is grossly neglected in Jammu. Chenani in Jammu is the only (state) power plant producing a paltry 22 MW. The rest of the State power plants, namely Upper Jhelum, Lower Jhelum, Sindh. Mohra and Ganderwal, etc, are in the Valley, producing more than 300 MW. While only Rs 10 crore were spent on the Chenani project years ago, Rs 500 crores were spent on the Kashmir plants. The same story of neglect is true of roads also. The road density km/sq km in Kashmir and Jammu is approximately 310.4 and 138.7, respectively.
The net result is widespread discontent, frustration and dissatisfaction. The sacrifices of the people of Jammu province and Ladakh have gone down the drain. The grim situation prevailing in Kashmir at present eloquently proves this point. The anti-Jammu and anti-Ladakh and separatist psyche of the Kashmiri leadership, coupled with the New Delhi’s policy of appeasement, has denied the people of Jammu province and Trans-Himalayan Ladakh their due share in the State’s political processes. Consequently, they have suffered on all the four fronts – political, administrative, social and economic.
But now, when the political future of Jammu province and Ladakh is at stake, when the senior BJP leaders like Yashwant Sinha are openly and unambiguously urging the Union Government to negotiate with the subversives without ascertaining the views of the Dogras of Jammu and Ladakhis, when certain human rights associations and their leaders have almost joined the secessionists in denouncing the policy of New Delhi, the people of Jammu and Ladakh can hardly be expected to view such developments like silent spectators.
The gross discrimination against Jammu province and Ladakh has assumed alarming proportions, threatening the regions’ very identity. Nearly all those who matter seem determined to ignore both these regions yet again in their desperate bid to placate the Kashmiri leadership and militants, forgetting the fate of the earlier agreements when the principle of protection of minorities, which include the Hindus, the Sikhs and Buddhists, was applied in the wrong way and when anti-national and pro-Pakistan elements are trying to disturb the communal amity in the Jammu province in the name of religion or in the name of Kashmiri alienation.
The people of Jammu province and Ladakh region have the right to express their opinion on the kind of political set-up they want. They are within their rights to oppose any plebiscite and the restoration of the pre-1953 political arrangement or self-rule.
The statesmanship demands a holistic approach to the issues facing different people inhabiting different regions of the State. The Union Government would do well to realise that the causes of alienation in Kashmir are deeper and this can be seen from the demands being put forth by Kashmiri leaders of all hues. To ignore this reality and to continue to cling to the same old policy of incremental concessions to Kashmir would further complicate the already rather complex situation in the sensitive border State. The only course left is to deal with Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh separately so that a right message goes that New Delhi means business.
One thing is absolutely clear: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh cannot be maintained as one political unit.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper