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J&K: Look beyond the Valley

J&K: Look beyond the Valley

Author: Balbir K Punj
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: September 13, 2002

One may or may not support the RSS plea for the trifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir. But the demand for carving out three different states of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh out of the present State of J&K on the eve of the Assembly elections highlights the necessity to protect the divergent religio-cultural compositions of these three regions. It also emphasises the need to reassure Jammu and Ladakh, which have suffered discrimination and neglect since Independence.

As per the 1981 census-the last conducted in the State-Jammu had a population of 27.18 lakh against Valley's population of 31.34 lakh. Ladakh had the minimum-just 1.34 lakh. In surface area, however, the Valley ranks third with just 15,835 sq km, whereas Jammu stretches over 26,293 sq kms. Sparsely populated Ladakh's area is more than Jammu combined with twice the Valley- 59,241 sq kms. But on the issue of voters' strength, Jammu had the largest number, 24.63 lakh, against Valley's 24.10 lakh and Ladakh's 63,597.

It is a piquant fact that Jammu with a larger electoral strength finds less representation in J&K Assembly: 37 against Valley's 46, to be precise. Ladakh has just four MLAs. This discrimination is evident in the matter of parliamentary seats: Valley three, Jammu two and Ladakh one. Basically, the political structure is weighed against Jammu, and Ladakhis are given virtually no say at all.

The Valley enjoys the lion's share of development spending. Jammuites must be wondering why- when the J&K Government collects 70 per cent of its revenue from them-it spends only 30 per cent of development allocation on the Jammu region. There is no fair play in the Administration, with only four out of 31 senior appointments going to Jammuites. In the civil secretariat, Valley people are employed to the extent of 90 per cent, with Jammu residents cornered at 10 per cent. If this is not discrimination, what is?

The list of discrimination could pile. One factor is so blatant, we cannot but mention it. The Valley, with only 35 per cent of educational and academic institutions, gets 70 per cent of the State's budgetary allocation for education. Jammu with 65 per cent of institutions sulks with 30 per cent. Over 1.40 lakh people in education have got jobs in the Valley so far, but only 15,000 from Jammu have been accommodated.

The Valley bags 90 per cent of tourism allocation, even though the annual tourists inflow is less than two lakh, whereas Jammu gets 10 per cent with over 50 lakh tourists, mostly pilgrims. Investors shy away from Jammu because it gets a miserly 22 from 350 MW of power generated in the State, the rest going entirely to the Valley. The J&K Government closes down institutions in Jammu, like the Ayurvedic college, while those proposed for it like veterinary and dental colleges get located in the Valley. There are a lot of Kashmiris in educational institutes in Jammu, but Jammuites find little representation in the educational institutes of Kashmir.

There is evidently a political plan to Islamise the two regions. Ladakh is more vulnerable to Islamisation, with more and more Muslim families being moved into the region. A few thousand Hindu families who moved into the State, from Western Punjab during Partition or from Pakistan- occupied Kashmir, were not allowed to settle in the Valley but sent to Jammu. But on paper their status is that of non-citizens.

The Valley has largely been purged of its native Hindus-the Kashmiri Pandits. Mean-while, the State Government wants to brazenly extend citizenship rights and right to reclaim abandoned property to those Muslims who had left Valley before 1953, even though they had not returned or joined the Pakistani Army and fought three wars against India.

Several do-gooders and dove-like dealers of peace are rushing in to publicise and protest even a scratch on the local residents of the Valley through army action against militants. Strangely, however, there are no tears shed for the wholesale forced immigration of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, driven out by militants' threat to liquidate them, and the state's ambivalent attitude towards their protection and rehabilitation.

The world has heard of Bosnia, Chechnya, East Timor and Kosovo. Why has it ignored over three lakh Kashmiri Pandits, who have been reduced to homelessness after their houses were forcibly occupied, lands taken over and many of their relatives shot dead at point blank range? Has any human rights activist ever visited the few Kashmiri Pandits still left in the fringes of the Valley, who are either being eliminated or living under the shadow of death? Have they ever talked to the these victims living in the shanties of refugee camps in Delhi?

Many of these human-rights activists rushed to Gujarat and came back with exaggerated tales of rape and burning. They spared no opportunity to criticise the Gujarat Govern-ment for the plight of the riot-hit people of the minority community (no tears, of course, for the majority community) languishing in relief camps, even though they were speedily rehabilitated. The Election Commission decided to defer elections in the State because 10,000 out of 1.5 lakh refugees were still left in the camps. Yet no one paid any attention to the Kashmiri Pandits, once the intellectual cream of Kashmiri society but living in refugee camps for 10 years now.

Article 370 has turned the State of J&K into a glass palace from the point of view of India's sovereignty and integrity. It has been used by power elites and vested interests in bureaucracy, business and the law courts in Srinagar as an instrument of exploitation. There has been a long- standing demand among nationalists in the country to abrogate Article 370 for J&K's fuller integration with the rest of India. But I cannot see Kashmiri political groups-not even the most pro-India one-acquiescing to its annulment, as they increase the pitch for greater autonomy, if not azadi.

Till Article 370 persists-and it cannot be abrogated unilaterally by the Central Government-one can see no hope for even ordinary Kashmiri Muslims, forget about people of Jammu and Ladakh. Article 370 was meant to protect an illusory Kashmiriyat-or the unique synthetic culture of a Sufism-dominated but now defunct entity. Article 370 is intact, but Kashmiri Pandits are left unprotected in the shanties of Jammu and Delhi.

It pains me to see that in Kashmir, where once Sanskrit was the lingua franca, people greet each other in the name of Azad Kashmir. Kashmir was the eminent centre of Sanskrit and the seat of Shaivism. Geographically and symbolically, it was the springhead of Hindu culture. If there has to be a Kashmiriyat, Hindus view it as an uninterrupted flow of history. In their Kashmiriyat, Muslims now in the majority play a part as much as they do themselves. But where are Hindus in the Kashmiriyat of Kashmiri Muslims? In many ways, it is quite like the 'Nizamiyat' or 'Deccaniyat' of the pre-Independence Hyderabad princedom-hegemony by any other name.

Irrespective of its merit, is the RSS's call for J&K's trifurcation on the lines of the reorganisation of Hyderabad in 1948, Assam in 1970s, and Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar in 2000 an external insinuation? No, Jammuites and Ladakhis want the free flow of the Constitution of India in their State, which is unfortunately hampered by Article 370. The violent agitation of Ladakhi Buddhists in July-September 1989 was prompted by their strong resentment against the dominating and exploitative postures of the authorities in Srinagar. The status of the present Ladakhi Hill Council is inferior to that of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council in West Bengal. Fed up with discrimination, Jammuites want a separate state and Ladakhis a Union territory.

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