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Eighth Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

December 02'



Romeet K WATT


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  I N S I D E   T R A C K 

Jammu: Denial, delay, and dereliction

Romeet K WATT

Jammu, the winter-capital of the State of Jammu & Kashmir has always had lame-duck status in the given political dispensation, and time and again, one way or the other, the region has been made to play second fiddle to the State administrations’, headed by individuals belonging to the Valley. Of late, a thousands dreams came crashing down for the people of Jammu region, when the candidature of Ghulam Nabi Azad - who belongs to the Doda region in Jammu  - for the top-post was withdrawn in favour of Valley based chief of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mufti Sayeed.


The extensively reported denunciation of the ‘statehood’ for the Jammu region by way of trounce of BJP, and Jammu State Morcha candidates in the concluded elections is a classic example of how media present the J&K predicament before the Indian public. This is part of the pattern cultivated by the power-that-be all over the world in such situations: Circumvent certain facts and obfuscate others; then manufacture ‘facts’ which form a narrow system of ideas and beliefs. It is imperative that things be put in an appropriate perspective.


Two important points: First, the defeat of the BJP does in no way bring about the denunciation of the demand for a separate state; or more realistically, the devolution of powers to Jammu under an autonomous regional council - as has been the demand of the sizable section of populace, though the denial, delay, and dereliction on the issue has made a sizable section to venture into an aggressive mode, demanding statehood for the Jammu region. 


Second, these demands are in no way communal, as we have been led to believe. Should that have been the case, the people of Jammu, irrespective of their political affiliations and religious denominations would not have supported the candidature of a Muslim candidate - Ghulam Nabi Azad – for the top post. The coalescing of the secular character of Jammu is the most noteworthy effect of the elections. It was this strength that facilitated Jammu to claim for the, first time, the post of Chief Ministership.


As long as one can remember, it has always been the State of J&K. In other words it was never in dispute that J&K consisted of three distinct geographical and ethnic regions – Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. Jammu, without doubt is an essential ingredient, and has played a crucial role in past one and a half decade of turmoil, to act as a deterrent to the overt and covert manoeuvres of the separatists in the Valley. It goes to the credit of the people of this historical city, who have stood tall, despite all odds, and given a befitting reply to the separatists and secessionist elements, which are hell bent upon destroying the secular fabric of the state.


However in view of the dispense of populace in various regions of the State, and influence of the sustained disingenuous propaganda unleashed from across the border to foment trouble, the carving out of a separate state from within the State of J&K may not be a prudent option. This demand, needless to say, is laden with dangerous consequences. Secularism along with the strengthening of the federal set-up only can make certain Jammu's unity and share in political command. Moreover, a secular and responsive Jammu is in the first interests of the Kashmir Valley. 


The essential count, which needs to be done to protect Jammu area from being nibbled away, is to make certain that Jammu stays on a level keel, politically speaking. For decades, there has been talk of regional autonomy for various ethnic constituents of J&K and it is this claim of Jammu, which has been articulated most, time and again. Balraj Puri who has been active in State politics for over four decades has been the chief character, along with Hari Om, of this point of view. He has even put this perspective in black and white expansively, and a sizable section of the populace not only in Jammu region but other parts such as Ladakh, and ethnic Kashmiri Pundits, have openly advocated the stand. It is imperative that in the larger interest of the State, Jammu and Kashmir regions devise and formulate a mechanism to function as ‘equal partners.’


A rational study is indicative that Kashmir acquires the lion’s share in the political, and as well as the administrative domain. The Central endowments made to the State, have in the past not been disseminated equally between the three regions, depriving Jammu and Ladakh of the ways and means to make progress evenly with Valley. Kashmir which has a land area of 15,853 sq km, and inhabits less than half of the State’s population, returns 46 legislators to the 87 – member Legislative Assembly, the Jammu region, in contrast, spread over 26,293 sq km and with a population more or less equivalent to Kashmir, has the right to return only 37 legislators. 


This political disparity in the dispensation is another major cause of resentment for the people of Jammu. Between 1966 and 1981, the State Government set up with much fun fare three commissions to placate the Jammu populace: Gajendragadkar Commission (1967), Kadri Commission (1972) and Sikri Commission (1979). While the first two were to look out the grievances of the Jammuites and propose measures to resolve the regional one-sidedness, the Sikri Panel, was to scrutinize the demand for formation of more districts in the Jammu region. The subsequent regimes never implemented the recommendations of these Commissions, and reduced the findings to the ‘historical dustbin.’


On May 9, 1995, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act was enacted, and subsequently, Autonomous Hill Council at Leh, was set up in September 1995. One does not see any reason as to why the same arrangement cannot be worked out for the people of Jammu. Autonomous Council will go a long way in facilitating the discharge of responsibility of economic, regional, cultural, social, and political development in a fair, transparent, and judicious way for all the three regions. This alone will facilitate a process wherein all the three regions have equal opportunity of development and participation in the political affairs of the State. Balraj Puri has rightly pointed out the need to reinforce the fabric of the existing federal constitutional set-up of the State by decentralising political power through a five-tier set up (at State, regional, district, block and panchayat levels).


The greatest intrinsic merit of this argument is that in the given state of affairs, which are increasing becoming laced with communalism, regional characteristics can offer some kind of an alternative rallying point. Therefore regional autonomy appears as viable solution to the genuine aspirations of Jammu and Ladakh. More so it also, broadly speaking, offers a way out to the estrangement of Valley from the Indian mainstream.

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