Problem in Kashmir: Not unique, Mr Chidambaram
by Hari Om on 05 Feb 2011 2 Comments

It is good that Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has been in Jammu for two days for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation as it prevails in the state. One hopes he will adopt a holistic approach to the issues facing the state and give inputs to the Prime Minister based on his assessment. As Union Home Minister he would know his responsibilities.


But it is time for concerned Indians to bring to his notice certain ground realities in the state so he is able to properly diagnose what ails the State of Jammu and Kashmir. There are several realities that need consideration in order to arrive at the right conclusion and devise mechanisms to end the turmoil in Kashmir, meet the legitimate needs, urges and compulsions of the people outside the troubled Valley, and strengthen the nation and national unity. Some of the most notable realities are as follows:-


-        It is dangerous to describe the problem in Kashmir as the Kashmir problem. Actually, it is a problem in Kashmir – a problem created by certain communal forces in Kashmir who continue to pin faith in the pernicious two-nation theory which divided India on communal lines and caused bloodshed and displacement of population in 1947 on an unprecedented scale.


-        Kashmir is not a unique problem. Nor is the geography of Kashmir unique. Nor is the history of Kashmir unique. The problem in Kashmir is patently communal. It has been accentuated by those who advocate and practice exclusivist, primitive, backward-looking and regressive ideology and do not consider Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India. Pakistan’s involvement in everything that happens in the state is knee-deep. It would be dangerous to say that solutions which are applicable to problems facing other parts of the country cannot be replicated in Jammu and Kashmir. Such an approach makes the vested interests in Kashmir believe that Kashmiri Muslims are a race apart and gives them the license to propagate that the political status of Jammu & Kashmir has still not been determined or that the state is still an unsettled issue. The problem in Kashmir is confined to a few pockets in the Valley and the followers and leaders of a particular sect (well-entrenched, powerful and rich Sunni sect) are behind all the troubles in Kashmir.


-        Kashmir is the most prosperous region in the country in every respect, in terms of road connectivity, infrastructure development, power generation, share in vital service sector, representation in the Assembly and Parliament, roads, bridges, flyovers, educational and professional institutions, civic amenities, industrial development, tourism, means of communications, developmental funds… Till date not a single Kashmiri has died of hunger or cold. Per capita meat consumption in Kashmir is highest in the world. Per capita expenditure on woolen clothes in Kashmir is highest in the world. There is not a single Kashmiri Muslim without a roof. The per capita Central assistance in Kashmir is highest, at least ten times more as compared to backward Bihar.


-        Kashmir has been ruling the state since October 1947, when the state acceded to India as per the constitutional law on the subject. In other words, the office of Chief Minister has become the sole preserve of Kashmir. It is Kashmir that holds all portfolios with political weight and funds. They enjoy the loaves and fishes of office, with the people of Jammu and Ladakh only entitled to crumbs.


-        The people of Jammu and Ladakh are conspicuous by their absence in Kashmir. Yet a large number of Kashmiris, all non-Hindus, have made Jammu their other home. They have occupied nearly 20 percent of jobs in government and semi-government institutions in Jammu province. Similar is the story in educational and professional institutions in Jammu province.


-        New Delhi has all along given Kashmir preferential treatment and made humiliating and invidious distinctions between Kashmir and other parts of the state. New Delhi till date has concluded several truces with the Kashmiri leadership over Kashmir, but the Kashmiri leadership, instead of reciprocating these gestures, has never reformed or reciprocated any goodwill gesture. On the contrary, the Kashmiri leadership treats these goodwill gestures as signs of weakness and continues to make more and more demands, all aimed at driving the state away from mainstream politics. To be precise, the special status granted to Kashmir at the behest of the sectarian Kashmiri leadership has only emboldened them to demand more, even separation or dispensation outside the Indian constitutional framework.


-        The NC-led coalition government in the state has utterly failed to discharge its constitutional obligations towards the state and the country. On the contrary, the NC and similar Kashmir-based outfits have been openly challenging the accession with India. Instead of appreciating the role of the dedicated, committed and highly disciplined Army and paramilitary forces, all Kashmiri leaders have been painting the Indian Constitution, Indian Army, indeed everything Indian, black, holding them responsible for the so-called alienation of Kashmiri Muslims and demanding withdrawal of India from Kashmir. The fact of the matter is that the ruling elite and main opposition PDP are always at the beck and call of subversives and communal forces.


-        The plight of the people of Jammu and Ladakh is miserable. They have no say whatever in governance of the state, being condemned as third grade subjects whose life is minus political and economic aspirations. They are also dubbed as communal, reactionary, fundamentalist, and even anti-Kashmiri Muslim. Their only crime is that they consistently demand justice and advocate the need for full integration with India. The life of the over three-lakh displaced Kashmiri Hindus has become veritable hell. They want to go back to their homes and hearths, but the Kashmiri leadership, which is highly intolerant, doesn’t allow them to come back. It says it would welcome the displaced Kashmiri Hindus if they join their rabidly anti-India movement. The refugees from West Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Jammu and Kashmir, whose number is nearly 1.5 million and who live in Jammu, have been living in wretched conditions. They are suffering, crying for justice, for citizenship rights, but there is none to listen and mitigate their hardships. The people of Jammu and Ladakh and these refugees constitute more than half the state’s population and inhabit more than 98 percent of the state’s land area. They are most neglected and persecuted lot. If anyone in the state is feeling alienated from India, it is these neglected sections of society.


There are several other realities in the state. One hopes the Home Minister would look all these facts in the face and not go by those who have always distorted facts and history and hoodwinked New Delhi by feeding wrong information and fudged figures. The Home Minister would do well to remember that the bottom-line of the Kashmiri leadership is secession.


The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research

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