BOOK EXCERPT: Issue of discrimination - 3
by Hari Om on 11 Jun 2010 3 Comments

During all these 62 days of agitation, almost all the non-Congress, non-NC and non-PDP political formations and social groups consistently raked up the issue of discrimination with the people of Jammu province. Certain younger and radical elements even demanded trifurcation of the state into three full-fledged states of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, saying reorganization of the state on regional, as opposed to religious, lines was the only panacea available to end the discriminatory policies. The most significant development was the July 31, 2008 decision of more than 12 organizations to form Jammu State Front and fight for separate Jammu State (Indian Express, August 1, 2008). Their argument was that the Kashmiri leadership had destroyed Jammu politically, economically, socially and culturally and that only separation of Jammu from Kashmir could enable the people of Jammu province to shape and mould their political and economic future themselves within India and under the Union Constitution. On occasions, even the SAYSS suggested reorganization of the state as a lasting solution to the Jammu problem.


The grouse of the SAYSS and others was that the Kashmiri political elite had at no point of time during all these years of the state’s accession to India treated the people of Jammu province fairly and that it had virtually forced them to adopt a policy of political mendicancy. The specific charge of all these formations was that the Kashmiri ruling elite, in pursuit of its political, economic and social policies, had all along allowed itself to be guided more by the Valley interests. Yet another charge was that the Union Government, like the Kashmiri ruling elite, had all through given preference to Kashmir, without any regard to the interests, aspirations and compulsions of the people of Jammu and Ladakh. …




The people of Kashmir, minus those who vouch for the two-nation theory such as the AHPC leaders and their followers, hold the Central Government squarely responsible for their alienation from the national mainstream. The upshots of their arguments are four in number: One: New Delhi has at no point of time allowed them to manage their own political affairs themselves in a meaningful manner. Two: The Central Government has all along treated them like “slaves”. Three: The Government of India has “brutally subverted the internal autonomy granted to the state under Article 370 of the Union Constitution with a view to bringing Jammu and Kashmir on a par with other states”. Four: The North Block, which also houses Finance Ministry, has always ignored the financial needs of the state. …


A careful scrutiny of the available facts and official statistics establishes that there is no other community in India which is more privileged than the people of Kashmir and that New Delhi has always accorded them a very special treatment.


Strange may it sound, but it is a fact that these Kashmiris (Sunnis), who constitute roughly 22 percent of the state’s population, have always obtained from the centre a system of government which is almost exclusively of them, for them and by them. Take, for example, their total control over the state’s political scene as well as an effective say in the New Delhi’s corridors of power. In October 1947, when the state acceded to the Indian Dominion as per the stipulations of the Indian Independence Act, they and their leader, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, succeeded in influencing the New Delhi’s policy towards Kashmir. To be more precise, they plainly told the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that they would endorse the Maharaja Hari Singh’s decision on the state’s accession only if the political power was transferred from Jammu to the Valley-based NC chief (Sheikh Abdullah) and Jawaharlal Nehru obliged them by asking Hari Singh to abdicate the state power in favour of the Sheikh. Ever since then, they have been ruling over the state. Ghulam Nabi Azad was the only Jammu-based political leader who occupied the office of Chief Minister between November 2005 and July 7, 2008.


The factor that helped the Kashmir’s political elite the most to retain control over the state polity was the mechanism it diligently evolved in 1951 which could always enable the people of Kashmir to capture more than 50 per cent seats in the Assembly (from the small Valley itself – the Valley had 46 Assembly segments as against 41 in Jammu and Ladakh which were in no way inferior to Kashmir both in terms of land area and voters) and three of the six seats in the Lok Sabha. And, all this, notwithstanding the unambiguous rules laid down by the Indian Representation of the People’s Act or the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of People’s Act of 1957.


Again, it was at their behest (and much against the wishes of the people of Jammu and Ladakh and others in Kashmir) that Article 370 was incorporated in the Indian Constitution. Article 370 curtailed the powers of the Central Government to the extent that it could not bring the state within the purview of any Central law or institution without the “concurrence or consultation of the State Government” even if there is breakdown of the constitutional machinery and chaos in the state.


The June 14 to July 24, 1952, parleys between the Jammu and Kashmir Wazir-e-Azam and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on the state’s political future, the 1975 Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah accord and the 1986 Rajiv Gandhi-Farooq Abdullah agreement and the resultant political concessions like the one which empowered not the state but an individual (the Sheikh) to seek withdrawal of any of the Central laws extended to Jammu and Kashmir between 1953 and 1975, further demonstrated that Kashmir had a prominent place in the New Delhi’s scheme of things. …


It is important to note that New Delhi has at no point of time during all these 62 years of accession imposed any Central law on Jammu and Kashmir against the state’s will. It can be seen from the Report of the State Autonomy Committee, April 1999 (page-63), where the then ruling NC, an ardent votary of greater autonomy, admitted in unambiguous terms that the state was brought within the ambit of over 260 central laws with the “concurrence of the State Government”.


As for the share of Kashmiris in the vital service sector, they hold all or nearly all the approximately 3.5 lakh positions in the government and semi-government organizations located in the Valley. Besides, they occupy nearly 20 per cent of the jobs in the regional services of Jammu and Ladakh. They not only occupy most of the higher and lucrative positions in the government, in the revenue and police administration and in the judicial and political services, but also hold a majority of ordinary and middle-level positions across the state. In addition, they control trade, commerce, transport and industry and own big orchards and landed estates... 


Similarly… Jammu and Kashmir is a “Special Category” state, which receives Central assistance on the basis of 90 per cent as grant and the remaining 10 per cent as loan. The state was given this status in 1990. Besides, as a “Special Category” state it receives the highest per capita central assistance after Nagaland. For instance, the per capita central assistance for the state in 2000 was Rs. 3010, as against Rs. 385 for Uttar Pradesh, Rs. 305 for Tamil Nadu and Rs. 190 for the highly backward Bihar. According to Vir Sanghvi of The Hindustan Times (August 17, 2008), “Bihar gets per capita Central assistance of Rs. 876 per year” and “Kashmir gets over ten times more: Rs. 9,754 per year”. …


First battle in Constituent Assembly


It is widely held that Jammu and Kashmir came in for discussion in the Indian Constituent Assembly only on October 17, 1949, when Article 306-A (Article 370) was adopted and the solitary State of Jammu and Kashmir was permitted to have a special kind of relationship with the Union Government as well as a special dispensation totally different from what other States of the Union obtained under the Indian Constitution, which came into force on January 26, 1950. This assessment is only partly correct.


The first casualty


A close scrutiny of the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly reveals that the issues concerning Jammu and Kashmir were discussed twice – first on May 27, 1949, and finally on October 17, 1949. It also shows that the focus on this state on May 27 was far more sharp and revealing than what it was on October 17, despite the fact that the issue under discussion was highly sensitive and controversial and that the subjects discussed were two and not just one. (Article 370 was sensitive in the sense that it was designed to give Jammu and Kashmir the right to have its own constitution and a flag other than the national flag. This Article was adopted in no time, despite the fact that a Muslim member of the Constituent Assembly Maulana Hasat Mohani had warned that the grant of special status to Kashmir (on the score of religion) would enable it “assume independence afterwards” (Constituent Assembly Debates, Book No 5, Vol. Nos. X-XII, 6 Oct 1949 to 24 Jan 1950, reprinted by Lok Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi, Second Edition, 1989, p. 428).


It would be only desirable to ignore what transpired during the rather brief and virtually smooth discussion on Article 370 as the matter is too-well-known and reflect on the May 27 less-known, but very relevant issue, which kept the Constituent Assembly really engrossed in squabbles and tortuous discussions for hours together. Such an exercise is imperative to understand the reasons behind the 62-year-old complaint of the people of Jammu and Ladakh that “they have no place whatever in the country’s polity” and that “it is New Delhi which is responsible for their socio-cultural and politico-economic degeneration and under-development”.


In October 1947, when Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Indian Dominion, it was hoped that the Congress Government at the Centre will recognize the natural right of the people of the State to return representatives of their choice to the Indian Constituent Assembly. The hope stemmed from the June 17-18, 1934, Congress Working Committee resolution, as well as the April 1936 resolution adopted by the Congress at its Lucknow session.


The 1934 resolution had told the British Government in clear terms that “the constitution must be framed by a Constituent Assembly elected on an adult franchise or a franchise which approximated to it as nearly as possible”. As for the one adopted at Lucknow, it had rejected the Indian Councils Act of 1935 as “a charter of bondage” and declared that no constitution “imposed by an outside authority and no constitution which curtails the sovereignty of the people can be accepted”. The belief of the people of the State, that they would have a real say in the matter, had been further strengthened in 1946, when the Congress urged the Cabinet Mission to permit all the male and female adults to elect the Indian Constituent Assembly and to accept the Muslim League’s sectarian demand which sought election on the basis of a separate register (suggestion not accepted).


Paradoxically, the Congress Government did not come up to the expectations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The people of Jammu and Kashmir could not send representatives of their own choice to the Constituent Assembly. The Congress-dominated Constituent Assembly did not at all involve the people of the state in the process of Indian Constitution-making. Nor did it follow those election rules which the 1946 Cabinet Mission Plan had laid down for the princely states. On the contrary, it vouched for a formula which was nothing but a negation of what the Congress had all along stood for. It only pleased one person, the Sheikh, and his political formation, the NC.


How else would one interpret the adoption on May 27, 1949 of the motion moved by the Minister of Kashmir Affairs, Gopalaswami Ayyangar, and the speech he made while introducing it? The motion read: “Notwithstanding anything contained in paragraph 4 of the Constituent Assembly Rules all the seats in the Assembly allotted to the State of Kashmir may be filled by nomination and the representatives of the State to be chosen to fill such seats may be nominated by the ruler of Kashmir on the advice of his Prime Minister”.


“… The Prime Minister happens to represent the largest political party in the State…Apart from that, we have got to remember that the Prime Minister and his government (NC Government) are not based upon the Jammu and Kashmir Praja Sabha (Legislative Assembly) but based rather upon the fact that they represent the largest political party. Therefore, it is only appropriate that the head of this party, who is also the Prime Minister, should have the privilege of advising the ruler as to who would be proper representatives of Kashmir in the Constituent Assembly…”


It may be pointed out that this motion had generated a lot of heat in the Constituent Assembly which debated upon this issue for hours as objection after objection was raised against the suggested formula. Members of the Assembly such as Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Maitra (west Bengal), HV Kamath (CP and Berar) and KT Shah (Bihar) vehemently opposed the official motion on five counts. First, it provided for a mechanism which was not in conformity with “such rules as contained in Rule 4 of the Constituent Assembly Rules”. According to Rule 4, the seats allotted to the princely States had to be filled up not less than half by the elected members of the legislature of the States concerned and the remainder to be nominated by the ruler himself.


Second, it made an unjust and invidious distinction between Jammu & Kashmir and other princely States. Third, it was designed to empower one individual, Sheikh Abdullah, to take a decision on who should or should not represent the State in the Constituent Assembly, as also the future politico-constitutional ties between the State and New Delhi. Fourth, for its general distrust of the people and the duly-constituted Praja Sabha. The motion was, undoubtedly, designed to render the people and their elected Assembly ineffective. Finally, for its potential of harming the Indian interest in Kashmir and giving a cause to the forces inimical to the country to challenge its stand that the people of the state were solidly behind it.



Thus, commenced an era in which the people’s democracy became the first casualty. One may or may not agree, but it is a fact that all the elections, with a couple of exceptions, have been rigged by the Valley’s ruling class, with the Election Commission of India taking no cognizance. If one really wishes to determine the extent of rigging, one has only to look at the statistics relating to the 1951 elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent-cum-Legislative Assembly. Statistics show that 73 of the 75 National Conference candidates were returned to the House unopposed. It could happen only because the state administration rejected wholesale the nomination papers of all the non-NC candidates, who also wanted to contest elections to this supreme body, which was not only to frame a constitution for the State but also to legislate on matters, politico-administrative and socio-cultural. The details on other polls reveal the same thing.


Another battle in Constituent Assembly


What provoked a sort of furore in the Constituent Assembly on May 27 was the motion moved by Gopalaswami Ayangar, then controlling the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs, to the effect that “notwithstanding anything contained in paragraph 4 (of the Schedule to the Constituent Assembly Rules), all the seats in the Assembly allotted to the State of Kashmir may be filled by the ruler of Kashmir on the advice of his Prime Minister”.


Several objections were raised against this official motion. However, the one which irritated some of the members most was the omission of Jammu from the nomenclature of the State. Again, prominent among those who opposed the motion were Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Maitra and Prof. KT Shah. Prof. KT Shah possessed first-hand knowledge about the State and its people as well as the kind of political upheavals it had witnessed since 1931. He remained associated with the affairs of this princely State for 15 long years and was its Planning Advisor for a few years before October 1947. He was also aware of the shape things would assume in Jammu and Kashmir in the days to come as he had a 15-day long interaction with NC president Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who had gone all the way from Srinagar to Mumbai to discuss with him his New Kashmir Plan. (The NC adopted “New Kashmir” programme in September, 1944 and demanded that “the Treaty of Amritsar dated March 16, 1846, signed between Maharaja Gulab Singh and the then British Government of India, which was in the nature of sale deed and was thus an insult to the people the State (Kashmir) must go lock, stock and barrel. This became the theme” of the ‘Quit Kashmir’ movement”, which ‘was launched in early 1946 -- April-May” (Report of the State Autonomy Committee, Jammu, April, 1999, P. 11).


While Pandit Maitra put question after question to know “if the word ‘Kashmir’ includes both Jammu and Kashmir”, Prof. Shah moved an amendment to the official motion and made an appeal to the Constituent Assembly to ensure that the words “Jammu and” also figure before the word “Kashmir wherever it occurs”. …


Negation of Manmohan Singh’s pious intentions


May 25, 2006 saw the people of Jammu in a jubilant mood. They said that an important chapter had been opened in the history of relations between Kashmir and Jammu – a chapter which promised a fair share to them in the government, as also the growth of secularism in the state. Some of them had even said that a great step forward had been taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for which the people of Jammu had cried for years. All these hopes had stemmed from the Prime Minister’s “closing remarks” at the second roundtable conference, held on May 25 at Srinagar, as also from the fact that it was for the first time in 60 years that the Union Government involved all the political parties and prominent social groups in the state in a process aimed at ascertaining their views on the problems being faced by the people and finding a lasting solution to them.


It needs to be recalled that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on that day announced the setting up of five working groups, along with the terms of reference. The ones which had pleased the people of Jammu province all the more included “methods of strengthening democracy, secularism and the rule of law in the state”, “effective devolution of powers among different regions to meet regional, sub-regional and ethnic aspirations” and “balanced regional and sub-regional development within the state”. 


The working groups met several times before submitting their reports to the Prime Minister on April 24, 2007, when the third roundtable conference took place at the official residence of the Prime Minister. A summary of four of the five reports was circulated among the delegates to the roundtable conference. The bulk of delegates belonged to Kashmir. Some of the most prominent among them included Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti, Muzzaffar Hussain Beig, Saif-ud-Din Soz, Peerzada Syed Mohammad, Mohammad Hakim Yaseen and Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami. The summary of the reports evoked a contradictory response from the delegates. While those from Kashmir expressed their happiness over the recommendations as contained in the working groups’ reports and demanded their immediate implementation, those representing the BJP, the Panun Kashmir, the LUTF the Bahujan Samaj Party vehemently opposed the recommendations. The Kashmiri leaders endorsed all the recommendations because all of them were on the lines suggested by their respective political parties.


One of the delegates representing the BJP (this author, a Jammu University’s History Professor and the then party’s vice-president and spokesperson) hailed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying “his intentions were very pious”, but, at the same time asserted that the “instrument through which he wanted to implement those intentions was rotten and communal to the core”. He was referring to the Jammu and Kashmir Government. In this context, he referred to the role the Congress, the NC, the PDP, the CPI-M and the PDF legislators played in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly during the 2007 January-February budget session and said that all these formations were one against Jammu, secular ethos, democratic values and the refugees from West Pakistan…


A brief reflection on what the ruling coalition comprising the Congress, the PDP, the PDF and the CPI-M and the main opposition NC did in the Assembly during the budget session is necessary to show what they actually stood for. Hence, a reference here to their attitude to at least eight “Private Member’s Bills” about which the BJP delegate spoke in the roundtable conference.


One, the JKNPP, one of the coalition partners, 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 the political parties to adopt the same so that the provisions concerning the state flag were repealed and the national flag reigned supreme in Jammu and Kashmir as was the case with other states of the Union. All the coalition partners, without any exception, and the opposition NC summarily rejected the landmark “Private Member’s Bill”…


Two, it may sound unbelievable and ludicrous, but it is a fact that all the coalition partners, with the exception of JKNPP, adopted in no time a “Private Member’s Bill”, which was moved by the opposition NC. The bill provided for one-year imprisonment for those who would not show the kind of respect the state flag deserves…


Three, the BJP legislator moved a “Private Member’s Bill seeking citizenship rights for the refugees from West Pakistan, numbering approximately 1.5 lakh. He made a passionate plea to the House that his bill needed to be passed as these hapless refugees had been denied their fundamental rights, including the right to own immovable property in the state, right to contest election to the Assembly and local bodies, right to franchise, right to equality, right to higher and professional education, right to bank loan, right to obtain jobs under the State Government and so on, but with no result…


Five, the JKNPP moved yet another “Private Member’s Bill” in the Assembly in the same session. It was designed to ensure parity between Kashmir and Jammu as far as their representation in the Assembly was concerned. The bill said that Jammu province and Kashmir division each be divided into 52 Assembly segments so that the Jammu’s age-old grievance was redressed. But it was bitterly opposed. The ruling Congress, like the PDP, the NC, the CPI-M and the PDF, repudiated outright this bill. The opposition of the Congress to the bill was all the more surprising considering the fact that its core constituency was Jammu province, especially its Hindu-majority areas, which returned as many as 24 members to the Assembly.


Six, the NC sprang a surprise in the Assembly when it moved a “Private Member’s Bill” seeking protection of the temples and shrines of the Kashmiri Hindus. It was expected that this bill would be adopted at once. But it did not happen. All the coalition partners, excluding the JKNPP, and the BJP and the JSM, joined hands and ensured the defeat of the bill… Seven, the NC moved another “Private Member’s Bill” on the need to adopt Shariat laws. While the ruling coalition and the JKNPP extended their unqualified support to this bill and adopted it, the BJP and the JSM opposed it. The ideologue of the PDP and Deputy Chief Minister, Muzzaffar Hussain Beig, did express some reservations, but ultimately he also voted for the bill.


Excerpted from Chapter 3 of Conflicting Perceptions, by Prof. Hari Om, Yak Publishing Channel, Jammu, 2009 [Pages 417; Price: 975/-]

User Comments Post a Comment
Comments are free. However, comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate material will be removed from the site. Readers may report abuse at
Post a Comment

Back to Top