J&K: State’s reorganisation a national imperative
by Hari Om on 20 Mar 2010 5 Comments

The National Conference-Congress coalition government is conducting itself in a most irresponsible manner and in a fashion that accords preferential treatment to Kashmir at all levels and in all spheres. Most of its actions are not just separatist and militant-friendly, but also provocative, anti-Jammu, and anti-women. The situation has now climaxed to the point where the ruling clique not only rejects in no time the nation-centric, state-centric and refugee-friendly Private Members’ Bills, but also promptly admits Private Members’ Bills which are retrograde and communal in nature and implications.


The dictatorial ruling coalition has shamelessly and arrogantly rejected the Private Members’ Bills which sought to bring the life of the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly at par with Legislative Assemblies in other states of the Union; which sought citizenship rights for refugees from West Pakistan (all Hindus, mostly members of the depressed and oppressed Scheduled Caste communities) and reservation of seats for refugees from Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir; and which sought constitution of a Delimitation Commission so that the under-represented people of Jammu province obtain their due share in the state legislature.


Yet Congress and National Conference rejected all these well-intentioned Private Members’ Bills to pander to communal forces in the Kashmir Valley. These Bills were rejected in the ongoing Assembly session. The role played by the Jammu-based Congress and National Conference ministers and legislators, without exception, was similar to that played by the Kashmir-based ministers and legislators, without any exception.


The National Conference-Congress ruling coalition accepted in no time that divisive, anti-democratic and rabidly anti-women Private Member’s Bill (Jammu & Kashmir Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Bill) that seeks to deprive the daughters of the state of their citizenship rights in case they marry persons of their own choice outside the state or non-State Subjects.


It allowed People’s Democratic Party MLC Murtaza Khan to introduce the obnoxious Bill in the Legislative Council on the 100th International Women’s Day (March 8) and established that all three formations are united against the daughters of Jammu & Kashmir and could go to any extent to pander to extremist, reactionary and fundamentalist forces in Kashmir.


It is a fact that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar sought to cultivate PDP’s backward-looking and essentially pro-Pakistan leadership by taking the Congress party on board before Murtaza Khan was allowed to move the anti-daughters’ Bill? It is now reported that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took a personal interest in the matter and directed the Congress in writing that its ministers must not oppose the introduction of that pernicious Bill, which has caused widespread resentment across Jammu province and attracted the attention of the deeply concerned Indian nation.


This is not the first time that Congress, National Conference, PDP, CPI-M and similar backward-looking Kashmir-based outfits have joined hands to defeat the integrationists, the people of Jammu and several communities (refugees from West Pakistan and refugees from PoK) which have been seeking justice since 1947.


They did the same during the January-February 2007 budget session. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was then leading a rag-tag coalition. A brief reflection on what the ruling coalition and main opposition National Conference did in the Assembly during the budget session of 2007 will show what these parties actually stood for. Hence, a reference here to their attitude to at least eight Private Members’ Bills.


One, the Panthers Party, a coalition partner, moved a Private Member’s Bill in the Assembly seeking support of the House in favour of the suggestion that there should be only one flag for the state. In effect, the Bill highlighted the significance of the national flag and wanted all political parties to adopt the same so that the provisions concerning the state flag were repealed and the national flag reigned supreme in Jammu & Kashmir as is the case with other states of the Union. All coalition partners, without exception, and the opposition National Conference summarily rejected this landmark Private Member’s Bill, which simply aimed at integrating the state with the rest of the country or bringing the state at par with other states.


Two, it may sound unbelievable and ridiculous, but it is a fact that all the coalition partners, with the exception of the Panthers Party, adopted in no time a Private Member’s Bill moved by the opposition National Conference! The Bill provided for one-year imprisonment for those who did not show respect to the state flag. The National Conference moved the Bill to counter the BJP’s one-flag (national flag) and one-constitution (Indian Constitution) slogan.


The defeat of the Private Member’s Bill on national flag and adoption of the Bill on punishment to those not showing “due” respect to the state flag and the unqualified supported extended by the ruling parties, including Congress, to the Valley-based outfits was a big surprise.


Three, a BJP legislator moved a Private Member’s Bill seeking citizenship rights for the refugees from West Pakistan, numbering approximately 100,000. He made a passionate plea to the House that his Bill needed to be passed as those hapless refugees had been denied their fundamental rights, including right to own immovable property in the state, right to contest elections to the Assembly and local bodies, right to franchise, right to equality, right to higher and professional education, right to bank loans, right to obtain jobs in the state government and so on, but with no result. The ruling Congress and other parties, barring the Panthers Party and Jammu State Morcha, opposed the Bill tooth and nail. The result was the collapse of the Bill.


The opposition of the ruling Congress to the Bill was beyond comprehension considering the fact that Manmohan Singh (Prime Minister), Lal Krishna Advani (former Deputy Prime Minister), Inder Kumar Gujral (former Prime Minister), Jagmohan (former Governor and Union Minister), Arun Shourie (former Union Minister), to mention only a few, are all refugees from Pakistan.


That Congress, PDP, People’s Democratic Forum, National Conference and CPI-M joined hands and got the Bill defeated only indicated their lack of commitment to the human rights of refugees from West Pakistan, as also their willingness to go with those in Kashmir who were opposed to these refugees on the ground that their empowerment would change the demographic profile of Assembly segments in Jammu province and increase its representation in the legislature.


It would be appropriate to mention that the attitude of the Kashmiri Muslim leadership to Muslim refugees was different; it was highly positive and accommodating. In 1952, the Valley’s ruling elite not only settled a number of Uighur Muslim families from Xinjiang region of China in the Eidgah area of Srinagar, but also granted these refugees all citizenship rights. The Kashmiri Muslim leadership adopted the same attitude towards several Tibetan Muslim families which migrated to the Valley during the Chinese annexation of Buddhist Tibet. All these families were settled in the same area with full citizenship rights.


The contradiction in the attitude of the Kashmiri Muslim leadership and its supporters in Jammu towards Hindu refugees and Muslim refugees should clear all the cobwebs of confusion and establish that the state’s ruling elite and main opposition party are anti-minorities and communal.


Four, the Panthers Party moved another Private Member’s Bill, seeking incorporation of the words “secularism” and “socialism” in the preamble of the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution. The upshot of its whole argument was that “since the preamble of the Indian Constitution contained these two words, the same needed to be incorporated in the State Constitution”. The Bill failed to carry conviction. The ruling Congress, its coalition partners, including the Left parties, plus the opposition National Conference, rejected it out-of-hand, thus indicating their negative approach to or contempt for the cardinal principles of secularism and socialism.


Five, the Panthers Party moved yet another Private Member’s Bill in the Assembly in the same session, to ensure parity between Kashmir and Jammu in representation in the Assembly. The Bill proposed that Jammu province and Kashmir division each be divided into 52 Assembly segments so that Jammu’s age-old grievance was redressed. But the ruling Congress, which had won most of the seats from this region in 2002, like the PDP, National Conference, CPI-M and People’s Democratic Forum, all repudiated outright this Bill. Congress’ opposition to the Bill was surprising considering the fact that its core constituency was Jammu, especially its Hindu-dominated areas, which return as many as 25 legislators to the Assembly.


Six, the National Conference sprang a surprise in the Assembly when it moved a Private Member’s Bill seeking protection of the temples and shrines of Kashmiri Hindus. All coalition partners, excluding the Panthers Party, BJP and Jammu State Morcha, joined hands and ensured the defeat of the Bill. It is hardly necessary to catalogue the reasons behind the opposition of the ruling coalition to the Bill. Everything is self-explanatory.


Seven, the National Conference moved another Private Member’s Bill on the need to adopt Shariat laws. While the ruling coalition and Panthers Party extended unqualified support to this Bill, the BJP and Jammu State Morcha opposed it. PDP ideologue and Deputy Chief Minister Muzzaffar Hussain Baig expressed some reservations, but ultimately voted for the Bill. The Bill was passed in no time.


Eight, the Panthers Party moved one more Private Member’s Bill, seeking reduction in the life of the Assembly from six to five years, to bring it at par with other Assemblies in the country. The Bill was defeated in no time. Congress veteran and then Health Minister Mangat Ram Sharma made a mockery of himself and his party when he said in the Assembly that the Bill, if adopted, would mean “reduction in the pension of the legislators”. Opposing the Bill, he said: “Six years’ term benefits the legislators”.


The National Conference and PDP, on the other hand, opposed the Bill saying “Jammu & Kashmir enjoys a special status within the Union, and hence the life of the Assembly has to be six years”. It may be noted that it was the National Conference, a staunch supporter of greater autonomy and critic of Central laws, which in 1977 adopted the Central legislation enhancing the life of the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies from five to six years – legislation which the Janata Party Government repealed. Indira Gandhi Government had enhanced the life of the Lok Sabha during the Emergency.


The unqualified support of the ruling coalition and National Conference to Private Members’ Bills which had the potential of widening further the already wide gulf between the state and New Delhi and bitter opposition to those which had the ingredients of bringing the state closer to New Delhi, secularizing the polity, empowering refugees from West Pakistan and dispensing justice to Jammu province, all demonstrated their perverted thinking. The message was that they stood for a system different from that in vogue in the rest of the country.


Hence what the ruling coalition of National Conference-Congress, and main opposition PDP did in the ongoing Assembly session to the state, nation and refugee-centric Private Members’ Bills and anti-daughters’ Private Member’s Bill, should not surprise anyone. The ruling coalition and opposition PDP were expected to pander to communal and regressive forces in Kashmir and they did it throwing to the wind all democratic and secular norms. They vindicated their stand that they shall never allow mainstream politics to flourish in Jammu & Kashmir and that they want a dispensation that is primitive, medievalist, exclusivist and anti-minorities (read Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Gujjar and Shiite Muslims).


The Kashmiri Muslim leadership and its touts in Jammu province have been giving a particular slant to the process of legislation in the state. They have also been putting forth political demands ranging from greater autonomy to self-rule to merger with Pakistan to complete independence from India to India-Pakistan joint-control over the Indian Jammu & Kashmir to the introduction of Pakistani currency along with Indian currency in the state to economic independence and what not. In other words, the Kashmiri Muslim leadership and its opportunist Jammu-based agents are seeking separation of the state on religious grounds.


The people of Jammu and Ladakh, barring a few exceptions like the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus, are vehemently opposed to the demands being raised by the Kashmiri Muslim leadership. They are for full integration into India. They abhor the idea of the state getting more autonomy as any such concession would not only hasten the process of the state’s segregation from India, but would also enslave them and ruined them socially, culturally, politically and economically.           


What is the alternative available to these minorities to protect themselves against exclusion by a particular section of Kashmiri Muslims and integrate them with the rest of the nation? The only alternative is separation of Jammu from Kashmir.


The people of Jammu province need segregation not just because their political aspirations, needs and compulsions are different from those of the Kashmiri Muslim leadership. They need separation from Kashmir for the gross discrimination in all spheres. Jammu gets only crumbs, notwithstanding the fact that it is the backbone of Kashmir’s economy and contributes more than 70 per cent revenue to the state’s exchequer annually.       


The representation of the people of Jammu province in the Assembly, civil secretariat, service sector and professional institutions is far less as compared to Kashmir. Their representation is inadequate, despite the fact that the population of Jammu province is more. A fair census would prove it. Still Kashmir returns 46 members to the Assembly and Jammu only 37.


Moreover, the number of voters in Jammu province is more compared to Kashmir. That is why the Government does not set up a new Delimitation Commission. A rational delimitation of Assembly constituencies or delimitation on the basis of laid down criteria – population / voters, land area, nature of terrain and accessibility – would mean more seats to Jammu. Since the Kashmiri Muslim leadership wants to retain control over state polity, it consistently rejects the demand in Jammu for appointment of a Delimitation Commission. In fact, it has virtually debarred the concerned authorities to delimit Assembly constituencies de novo till 2036, and amended the Representation of People’s Act to this effect.


The representation of the people of Jammu province, Hindus and Muslims included, in the civil secretariat, service sector and professional institutions is negligible. The rate of unemployment in Jammu is over 69 per cent, as against less than 30 per cent in Kashmir. In the civil secretariat, according to government reports, there were 1,715 employees in 2007 (including gazetted, non-gazetted and fourth class employees). The number of Gazetted officers was 199. The share of Kashmir was 118 (56 per cent) and that of Jammu 81 (44 per cent). As for non-gazetted officers, it was 1,041 (767 or 73.67 per cent from Kashmir and 274 or 26.23 per cent from Jammu). The number of fourth class employees was 363 (256 or 70.52 per cent from Kashmir and 107 or 29.48 per cent from Jammu).     


The percentage of Jammu youth in state-run professional colleges has continuously dwindled. In state-run medical colleges it fell from 60 per cent in 1990 to 52 per cent in 1991 to 38 per cent in 1994 to 36 per cent in 1995 to 20 per cent in 1997 to 17 per cent in 1998 (Report of the Committee set up by the Government of Jammu & Kashmir, January 13, 1998, p. 4).


The report of the Task Force (Development of Jammu & Kashmir Growth Generating Initiatives, Govt of India, New Delhi, Nov. 2006, p. 14), constituted by the Prime Minister in 2006 shows that the total road length in Kashmir, which has an area less than 16,000 sq km, was 7,129 kilometers in 2006. in contrast, the road length in Jammu province with an area almost two times that of Kashmir was 4,571 kilometers. In other words, road density km/sq km in Kashmir and Jammu was 310.4 and 138.7, respectively. Remember, the terrain of Jammu province is highly treacherous and the bulk of its area is inaccessible.


Chenani in Jammu province is the only state power plant with an installed capacity of 25 MW. The remaining state power plants with an installed capacity of 335.36 MW are in Kashmir Valley, besides a number of gas turbines.


These are only a few of several similar glaring instances of discrimination against Jammu. The attitude of the Kashmiri Muslim leadership and its Jammu-based collaborators is no different as far as allocation of funds for development of agriculture, sericulture, horticulture, tourism, industry, healthcare and educational facilities, etc, is concerned. It is Kashmir which takes away everything.


Jammu province is also ignored at the time of allocation of funds. To cite one example, in the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Five-Year Plans, the share of Jammu in irrigation sector was Rs 91.14 crores, Rs. 112.79 crores, Rs. 267.76 crores and Rs 282.54 crores, respectively. In contrast, the share of Kashmir was Rs. 136.64 crores, Rs. 210.05 crores, Rs. 446.42 crores and Rs. 365.35 crores, respectively. Thus the agrarian community of Jammu suffers owing to lack of irrigation facilities.                 


A most recent example of discrimination: the state government disbursed money to the tune of Rs 364.07 lakh to revive and make functional 31 sick industrial units in Kashmir during 2009-2010. What did Jammu get? A paltry Rs 2.29 lakh – to one sick industrial unit in Jammu, overlooking the fact that most of the industrial units are located in this province and a bulk of them are sick.


And what did the concerned minister, who belongs to Jammu and is a devout National Conference man, say while defending the government? He said his ministry could not disburse money for the revival of sick industrials units in the region as their cases were incomplete. In fact, the Industry Minister told the Assembly on March 12, 2010: “In respect of the remaining (6) cases, the requisite formalities are incomplete due to which disbursement could not be made”.


It is thus clear that the story of Jammu is one of gross neglect in all spheres. It is also clear that the people of Jammu province have nothing in common with the Kashmiri Muslim leadership. They must be separated from Kashmir so that they become part of the national mainstream. Their separation would not only empower them and meet their political aspirations, but would also limit the area of contention and strife to the small Kashmir Valley.


Such a reorganization of the state would enable New Delhi to deal with Kashmir and address its problems within the Indian Constitution, taking into consideration the needs, aspirations and compulsions of the internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus, symbols of Indian civilization in the Valley.


New Delhi would do well to remember that the patience of the people of Jammu is ending and ending very fast. The people of Jammu willingly sacrificed their legitimate socio-economic and political interests for the national cause in order to induce the separatist and communal Kashmiri Muslim leadership to join the national mainstream, but their sacrifices have gone down the drain. They are now refusing to accept the position of servitude and subordination any longer.


They indicated their nationalist resolve in 2008 by ensuring the collapse of the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led government on the Amarnath land issue, and they are reiterating their same national and rational stand by opposing tooth and nail the anti-daughters’ bill.


The sooner New Delhi takes cognizance of this hard reality the better. In other words, New Delhi should direct the state government to adopt forthwith a resolution on the state’s reorganization on regional, as opposed to religious, lines. Even otherwise, the state has to be trifurcated and the Kashmir Valley bifurcated taking into account the irreconcilable contradictions between the Kashmiri Muslim leaders of all varieties, and all others. Separation of Jammu from Kashmir and the state’s reorganization is the national requirement.


The author is Chair Professor, Gulab Singh Chair, Jammu University, Jammu 

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