Alarming Secessionism in Jammu & Kashmir Assembly
by Hari Om on 23 Sep 2009 9 Comments

Secessionism in Kashmir is not new. The state has been witnessing secessionism since 1846 when Kashmir became part of the Jammu Kingdom under the Treaty of Amritsar. Between 1846 and 1946, the separatist movement in Kashmir was directed against Jammu and its Dogras, and the stated objective of the secessionists was separation of the Valley from Jammu.

After 1947, the objective changed and Jammu was also included in the scheme of Kashmiri separatists and extremists for two basic reasons - Jammu shall be converted into Kashmir’s colony and Jammu’s enormous natural resources, including water, would be exploited to enrich the people of pauper Kashmir and its economy. So the cult of separatism in Kashmir, coupled with violence, should not surprise anyone.

However, what should surprise and alarm everyone in Jammu, Ladakh, and elsewhere in the country, is what transpired in the recent session of the Jammu & Kashmir legislature. The resolutions moved and demands put forth by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) legislators centered round the idea that Kashmir must become independent or semi-independent. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s stand was distressing.

A similar attempt was made in 2000 by the then NC-led government. It misused its brute majority in the Assembly and made it adopt a resolution seeking greater autonomy, virtually bordering on sovereignty, for the state. However, this was an exception. Between 2000 and July 2009, the state witnessed several outfits working day and night for secession, but nothing substantial in this regard happened in the state legislature.

But since then, much water has now flown down the Jhelum. The present Assembly is different from what the state saw in the past, notwithstanding the fact that there were leaders of the stature of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who on occasion were at the helm of affairs and were votaries of independence or semi-independence at least. Today we have a Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council where the votaries of secession from India enjoy unbridled freedom. The ruling elite, which is constitutionally bound to protect the country’s sovereignty, instead of taking them on, defends their anti-India fulminations on the grounds that India is a democratic polity and everyone has the right to say what he stands for or believes in.

None other than Omar Abdullah said so on the floor of the Assembly after opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti told the Assembly that discussion on her self-rule doctrine was her party’s victory. She was absolutely right. It was indeed an opportunity for the PDP leader to rejoice as her party was able to make the Assembly to discuss the state’s secession from India.

What was demanded in the Assembly and Legislative Council by the votaries of secessionism and communalism? And what was the attitude of the Chief Minister? A number of PDP legislators, including the party president, former Deputy Chief Minister and former minister Moulvi Iftikar Hussain Ansari, put forth demands ranging from release of those booked under charges of sedition to withdrawal from the state of all anti-terror laws, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), POTA and Public Safety Act (PSA), to self-rule, to the state’s economic independence, to India-Pakistan joint control over J&K, to abrogation of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, to major concessions to terrorism and extremism, to withdrawal of all Central laws and Central institutions from the state, et al. As for the Chief Minister, he told the Assembly - the PDP enforced the AFSPA; the NC would ensure its withdrawal from the state, and so on.

CPI-M leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami did not lag behind. He urged the Assembly to adopt a resolution asking the Union Government to accept the highly anti-India and highly divisive State Autonomy Committee Report (2000). Similarly, NC leaders, including Najeeb Suhrawardy, Abdul Rahim Rather, Mian Altaf and several of their colleagues from both Kashmir and Jammu, moved resolutions designed to divide Jammu province on communal lines and keep Jammu youth away from the Valley.

I am referring to the Legislative Council resolution on the Hill Council for Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban areas, the so-called Chenab Valley, and the proposal calculated to ban inter-district recruitment, or a proposal conceived to jeopardize the legitimate interests of the extremely backward Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities, or to snatch their share in the service sector or to establish the stranglehold of the Valley youth over all available positions in government and semi-government departments and establishments, located in the Kashmir Valley.

Ironically, the role played by some Kashmir and Jammu-based Congress legislators and ministers was no better, for example, Taj Mohi-ud-Din and Arvinder Singh. While Mohi-ud-Din gave unstinted support to those demanding a ban on inter-district recruitment, Deputy Chairman of Legislative Council Arvinder Singh allowed the likes of Najeeb Suhrawardy to carry the day. How else should one interpret the adoption of the resolution on Hill Council for the otherwise non-existent Chenab Valley?

Similarly, how should one describe the silence of the Congress legislators and ministers over the ulterior move of Kashmir-based legislators against the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities?

Can such things happen anywhere in the country or elsewhere in the world? No. No state worth its name would ever allow secessionists to preach secessionism in the legislature. And, no state worth its name would ever allow its organs to preach and promote secessionism under the garb of democracy. New Delhi must rise from its slumber and act before it is too late. The situation as it exists in the state warrants immediate intervention and morale- producing effect.                     



The author is the head of the Gulab Singh Chair, Jammu University

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