Azadi to radical Islamists, slavery for patriots - 3
by Hari Om on 27 Dec 2009 4 Comments

Sageer hits nation below the belt

The attitude of Justice Sageer Ahmed towards the hapless and suffering refugees from West Pakistan (predominantly members of the Scheduled Caste community) has been no different. It was as negative as in the case of the suffering Ladakhis, persecuted and internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus, and backward Gujjar and Bakerwal Muslims. These people, whose population is now about 150,000, had crossed over to Jammu in 1947 in the wake of the communal Partition of the country to save their honour and dignity, and escape physical liquidation at the hands of Muslim fanatics and followers of Mohammad Ali Jinnah.


Since then, they have been demanding citizenship rights so that they could lead a dignified life; could own immovable property in the State, obtain government jobs, participate in the Assembly and local-bodies’ elections, avail bank loan facilities, send their wards to technical and professional institutions, as well as institutions of higher learning. They may as well have asked for the moon.


What did Justice Sageer Ahmed recommend for them? He recommended that the State Government “may consider providing relief to the refugees from West Pakistan as permissible under the Constitution. Otherwise an alternative package providing cash relief as one-time settlement may be considered. State Government may provide a limited number of seats to the children of the refugees from West Pakistan in technical institutions and the Government of India may provide employment to them in Central Government offices located in Jammu and Kashmir to the extent of 2 per cent”.


The meaning and implications of what Justice Sageer recommended are clear: The refugees from West Pakistan are neither human beings nor citizens of India; they could not be considered fit for State Government jobs; they could not be given their natural right to participate in the State’s political processes; they are an unwanted lot and are simply destined to suffer and only suffer from Kashmiri depredations.


Justice Sageer has ruthlessly violated the human rights of these refugees by condemning them as unworthy of the civil and political rights available to all other Indians.


But why blame only Justice Sageer Ahmed? The Congress-led coalition government in Jammu & Kashmir also humiliated in the same manner the refugees from West Pakistan during the January-February 2007 budget session, by rejecting the Private Member’s Bill seeking citizenship rights for these poor refugees.


Who had ensured the collapse of this humanitarian Bill and in no time? The Congress, the People’s Democratic Party, National Conference, CPI-M and People’s Democratic Forum – a conglomeration of a dozen independent unscrupulous legislators. And why did these parties defeat the Bill? They did so on the ground that the empowerment of these refugees would change the demographic profile of the assembly segments in Jammu province and enhance Jammu’s representation in the legislature.


These parties defeated the Bill despite the fact that the National Conference regimes had not only settled a number of Muslim families from Xinjiang province of China in the Eidgah area of Srinagar with full citizenship rights in 1952, but had also settled a large number of Tibetan Muslim families which migrated to the Valley during the Chinese annexation of Buddhist Tibet, in the same area, with full citizenship rights.


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


Justice Sageer Ahmed, like the Congress, National Conference, People’s Democratic Forum and CPI-M, could thus be legitimately accused of applying different yardsticks to different communities and that too, on the ground of religious denomination. This will remain a matter of shame for him and the so-called mainstream leaders belonging to so-called mainstream parties, particularly the Congress.


What about Jammu? Has Justice Sageer Ahmed treated Jammu fairly or at par with the privileged Kashmir? No. He has condemned Jammu unheard, dismissing all the demands that the grossly ignored people of Jammu have been raising from time to time since 1947.


He has summarily rejected the age-old demand of Jammu that Assembly constituencies be delimited strictly in accordance with the Representation of the People’s Act or as per the land area, nature of terrain, accessibility, and number of voters, so that they obtain their due share of representation in the Assembly. The learned judge rejected this legitimate demand, saying “since the constitutional provisions do not allow any change up to the year 2026, the present position be maintained till then.”


The manner in which Justice Sageer rejected this demand shows how biased he was in favour of the Kashmiri ruling elite, which committed an act of constitutional impropriety and harmed Jammu in February 2002 by barring the delimitation of Assembly constituencies de novo till 2026, nay till 2037. (The amendment says that a new Delimitation Commission would be set up after the 2031 census. Astonishingly, the BJP legislators, 8 in number, voted for this undemocratic and unconstitutional amendment!!!).


It would be no exaggeration to say that Justice Sageer willfully overlooked the fact that the delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies after every Census is a constitutional requirement, and that delimitation never always means increase or decrease in the number of constituencies. He has deliberately overlooked the fact that the entire country, barring the solitary State of Jammu & Kashmir, has undergone the delimitation process only recently. The fact of the matter is that he has gone by the advice of the Kashmiri ruling clique, and jeopardized the interests of the people of Jammu province, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs included.


Justice Sageer Ahmed has rejected out-of-hand the demand in Jammu for the State’s reorganization, as he has rejected the demand for Union Territory status for Ladakh. The reasons are obvious. One of the most important reasons is that he favours a situation that perpetuates Kashmiri Muslim domination over Jammu and Ladakh; he is not for a system based on the principle of justice and equity; he is for a dispensation that makes invidious and humiliating distinctions between the Muslims of Kashmir and the people of Jammu, and between the former and the people of Ladakh. 


What exactly has he recommended for Jammu province, which has a highly difficult, treacherous, and inaccessible land area of 26,293 sq km? A few paltry and illusory concessions. He has been kind enough to recommend a Dogri channel and implementation of the archaic and out-dated December 1968 Gajendragadkar Commission Report. And that’s all.


It must be mentioned here that the people of Jammu have been suffering immense losses in spheres political or otherwise since October 1947, when political power was transferred from Jammu to Kashmir, owing to discriminatory policies ruthlessly pursued by the Kashmir-centric authorities. It can be said without hesitation that the life of the people of Jammu province is highly pathetic. Their complaints are umpteen and quite justifiable when viewed in the light of official statistics themselves, leave alone their complaint that they have also been ignored in matters relating to governance or very crucial political and democratic processes.


I will focus only on seven issues to make the point that Jammu is indeed a victim of gross discrimination. These include poor road connectivity, inadequate power generation units, small number of administrative units, acute unemployment, glaring disparity in wages, wrong admission policy, and invidious distinctions as far as allotment of funds are concerned.


One: The road length in Kashmir, which has a land area of less than 16,000 sq km, was 7,129 kilometers in November 2006. In contrast, the road length in Jammu with an area almost two times that of Kashmir was just 4,571 kilometers.


Two: 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 333.36 MW are in the Kashmir Valley. Besides, there are a number of gas turbines in Kashmir, which also cater to the needs of its people.


Three: Kashmir province has ten districts at the rate of one per 1585.3 sq km on an average, with a few districts being only one-tehsil districts. In contrast, Jammu province too has ten districts, but at the rate of one per 2629.3 sq km on average. One glaring example: Srinagar district in Kashmir with a land area of 2,228 sq km and which consisted of only 168 villages was divided two years ago into two districts – Srinagar and Ganderbal. In contrast, Jammu district having an area of 3,079 sq km and which consisted of 1,054 villages was left high and dry, notwithstanding the creation of Samba district out of it.


Four: The unemployment rate in Kashmir is less than 30 percent. In contrast, the unemployment rate in Jammu province is 69.75 percent. The people of Jammu have very little representation in the Civil Secretariat. According to a government report of 2007, the number of employees working in the Civil Secretariat was 1715. These include gazetted, non-gazetted and class IV employees. The number of gazetted officers was 199. The share of Kashmir was 118 (56 percent) and that of Jammu 81 (44 percent). As for the number of non-gazetted employees, it was 1041 (767 or 73.67 percent from Kashmir and 274 or 26.23 percent from Jammu). The number of class IV employees was 363 (256 or 70.52 percent from Kashmir and 107 or 29.48 percent from Jammu).


Five: Each Jammu-based worker in the Public Health Engineering Department under the Community Participation Scheme (CPC) gets a monthly wage of Rs 500, as against the monthly wage of Rs 2100 for his Kashmiri counterpart.


Six: A scrutiny of the MBBS/BDS selection lists reveals that Jammu’s share in the State’s medical colleges dwindled from 60 percent in 1990 to 52 percent in 1991 to 38 percent in 1994 to 36 percent in 1995 to 20 percent in 1997 to 17 percent in 1998. Between 1998 and 2008, the share of Jammu in these colleges was only marginal.


Seven: The development of Jammu province has been prevented by inadequate funds allotted to it. For example, in the Eighth five year plan (1992-1997), Ninth Plan (1997-2002), Tenth Plan (2002-2007) and Eleventh Plan (2007-2012) Jammu’s share in such sectors as agriculture was Rs 57.61 crore; 147.31 crore; 270.49 crore; and 337.56 crores, respectively. In contrast, the share of Kashmir was 104.5 crore; 253.17 crore; 380.29 crore; and 519.41 crore, respectively.


This is just one example. The story regarding irrigation, roads and buildings, health, tourism, sewerage, drainage, housing and urban development, and power is no different.


(To be continued …)

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

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