Why must Kashmir be converted into Chandigarh-type union territory?
Bharat is a democratic nation. People elect state governments of their own choice across the nation every five years. This also applies to the Union Government as well. Most of political parties in the country seek people’s mandate on socio-economic, democratic issues and issues relating to governance. On occasions, national parties also make the country’s foreign policy, unity and integrity of the nation, threat to national security, nationalism and the country’s cultural ethos as their major poll planks.
As for regional parties, their leadership mostly seeks people’s mandate on issues which are fundamentally based on narrow caste and regional considerations. They basically focus on the nature of centre-state relations, “caste angularities”, or inter-caste relations, language and petty parochial matters. One thing that is common across bulk of the nation is that all or nearly all political outfits/political groupings leave no stone unturned to polarize society to garner votes and capture/recapture power.
Ironically, they do it under the grab of, or in the name of what they call secularism, secular values, social justice, people’s empowerment and federalism. And, they do it in a most brazen manner. However, notwithstanding bitter and rancorous inter-party relations and communal and divisive approach towards certain issues of national import, the process of government formation at the state level and at the Centre has by and large been smooth.
Kashmiri leadership, its ideology and the Centre
Unfortunately, the story of electoral politics in the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) State was not really inspiring. In fact, it was as uninspiring as it was disturbing and highly unsettling. The reason: the Kashmiri parties, including the National Conference (NC), the Congress, the People’s Conference (PC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), consistently indulged in and promoted politics of separatism based on religious fanaticism, or based on what is called “Kashmiri Muslim sub-nationalism”. They always fought elections on the divisive greater autonomy plank as well as self-rule plank. Leave aside the subversion of democratic processes at regular intervals by them through rigging and other electoral mal-practices, thus rendering the whole concept of people’s democracy a meaningless sham.
The worst aspect of the whole situation as it existed in J&K between 1951 and June 2018 was the unstinted and mind-boggling support the Kashmiri parties got from the political parties-in-power at the Center. The ruling elite at the Centre also accorded dangerous respectability to the politics of separatism and communalism being indulged in by the Kashmiri Muslim leadership and systematically drove the state away from the country’s mainstream.
The fact of the matter is that the powers-that-be in the South and North Blocks never really considered J&K as an integral part of the nation like other States and Union Territories. To be more precise, instead of integrating the Kashmiri Muslims fully into the national mainstream, New Delhi considered them a race apart and accorded them a preferential and differential treatment. That the political parties-in-power at the Centre, including the ultra-secular Congress, left no stone unturned to hold the people J&K aloof to appease or please the Kashmiri Muslim leaders of all hues could be seen from
(i) Article 370 of October 19, 1949 under which the solitary State got the right to have a separate Constitution and separate Flag and the right to exercise residuary powers;
(ii) the 1952 JL Nehru-Sheikh Abdullah’s Delhi parleys on the J&K’s political future;
(iii) Article 35-A of May 14, 1954 under which the J&K Government got the right to grant or not to grant J&K citizenship rights to non-Kashmiris and reduced daughters of J&K to status of third-grade subjects;
(iv) the 1975 Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah accord that not only brought back the deflated Sheikh back to power after a long gap of 22 years, but also empowered him to review all the Central laws and institutions introduced in J&K between August 9, 1953 and February 1975;
(v) the 1986 Rajiv Gandhi-Farooq Abdullah Accord;
(vi) the 2002 Sonia Gandhi-Mufti Sayeed 10 Janpath Agreement that transferred the state power to the latter, an ardent believer in the concept of self-rule and a staunch votary of Indo-Pak joint-control over J&K/supra-state measures, demilitarization, porous borders, dual currency and direct trade relations with Central Asian States;
(vii) the 2009 Sonia Gandhi-Farooq Abdullah Agreement under which his son and a protagonist of greater autonomy, bordering on virtual sovereignty, Omar Abdullah, was installed as CM for a full term of six years; and
(viii) the March 1, 2015 PDP-BJP Agenda of Alliance that handed over the state power to the PDP for a full term of six years and held out several commitments, including the commitment to not touch Article 370, commitment to enable the PDP to facilitate Indo-Pak talks on J&K’s status and political future and commitment to demilitarize J&K in stages.
It was believed that the separatist ideology of Kashmiri parties and the Union Government’s very soft attitude towards the Kashmiri Muslim leadership and the kind of divisive politics it consistently played would produce dangerous results and it did happen. Armed with absolute, unbridled and extraordinary legislative, executive and financial powers, the Kashmiri ruling elite established its stranglehold over the legislature, civil secretariat, administrative apparatus, financial institutions, universities, trade and commerce, transport and industry, and what not. All or almost all these institutions became the sole preserve of Kashmir and the sole preserve of members of Kashmir-based one particular religious sect.
What was the result? All non-Kashmiris were declared persona-non-grata in J&K. The legislature was misused to further widen the already rather wide gulf between Kashmir/Kashmiri Muslims and the rest of the country, or create a high wall of hatred between the former and the latter. So much so, the floors of Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council were misused to create serious doubts in the minds of Kashmiri Muslims as far as the accession of J&K to Bharat was concerned. Muslim-majority Doda district was created out of the Hindu-majority Udhampur district in 1948. Muslim-majority Kargil district was created out of the Buddhist-majority Ladakh in 1979.
A high-powered committee was established in 1977 to review the Central laws, which were introduced in J&K after August 9, 1953, when Sheikh Abdullah was ‘dethroned’ and arrested on the charge of sedition. Resolutions on J&K autonomy were passed by the Farooq Abdullah-controlled state legislature in 2000. The Home and Law Departments and the office of Advocate General were misused/exploited to protect and defend the anti-state actors.
As a result, subversives and radical Islamists roamed about freely without concealing their identity and carried out anti-national operations under the very nose of the powers-that-be and went scot-free. Jammu and Ladakh were rigorously excluded from all walks of life. They were converted into Kashmir’s two colonies and the people of these two regions were treated like subjects. The people of Jammu province were exploited and fleeced to enrich the Kashmir’s economy like London fleeced and drained Bharat to Enrich the British economy.
Kashmir, which was once hundred per cent Hindu, was made Kashmiri Hindu/Jammu Dogra/Punjabi/Buddhist-free in January 1990. In other words, the people of Jammu and Ladakh became conspicuous by their absence anywhere in Kashmir and Kashmir turned one-community region by January 1990. The demographic profile of Jammu province in general and Jammu, Samba, Udhampur, Poonch, Rajouri and Kathua districts was drastically changed, particularly after October 1996, when Farooq Abdullah became J&K Chief Minister for the third time.
Besides, demography was changed along the National Highway between Lakhanpur and Banihal and between the former and Poonch as well as along International Border between Kathua and Sunderbani. Over thirty lakh kanal State/Forest/Kahcharai (Grazing) land (mostly in Jammu province) was allowed to be grabbed by the Kashmiri ruling elite through administrative and executive orders and legislation such as the Roshni Act of 2001. So much so, the Revenue Magistracy and Police Departments were ordered to not evict the encroachers from the Forest land in Jammu, Kathua, Samba and Udhampur districts (CM Mehbooba Mufti’s February 14, 2018 administrative order).
Not just this, Muslims were induced to migrate from Kashmir and settle in Jammu and many did migrate from Kashmir and settled in and around Jammu City. The archaic and outdated practice of biannual darbar move from Jammu to Srinagar and back was exploited to the hilt to loot and plunder Jammu and Jammu’s natural resources and cause demographic changes in the region, the backbone of the nation.
But these constitute only a few of the several such instances which only serve to indicate the nature of baneful influence of the New Delhi-backed Kashmiri leadership on the state polity and society and demonstrate the nature of harm the South and North Blocks and Kashmiri leadership caused to the paramount national interest in the sensitive border J&K State.
Kashmiri agenda post-August 2019
On August 5, 2019, the present Government in a most dramatic manner read down the seditious Article 370, abrogated discriminatory Article 35-A and divided J&K into two Union Territories — UT of J&K and UT of Ladakh — to integrate the region fully into Bharat and meet the age-old demand of the Ladakhi Buddhists seeking independence from Kashmir and central dispensation for their Trans-Himalayan region.
As was expected, the August 2019 reform scheme and the subsequent changes and actions, including arrest of almost all top-ranking separatists and terrorists and imposition of ban on several outfits, including Jamaat-e-Islami, didn’t go down well with the Kashmiri leaders of all hues. In fact, ever since then, they have been using all kinds of invectives and epithets against the Government and the BJP and accusing them of eroding the “Kashmiri Muslim identity” and “changing the Muslim-majority character” of the region.
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and NC vice-president Omar Abdullah (both former CMs) have even gone to the extent of denouncing the Prime Minister and Home Minister as ‘thieves’ and ‘dacoits’ and taking a pledge that they will contest elections only after restoration of the pre-August 2019 position. And NC chief Farooq Abdullah has gone to the extent of asserting that they would seek China’s help to get back what was “unconstitutionally” snatched by the Modi Government. To be more precise, their attitude towards the 2019 changes has been no different from that of Pakistan’s and China’s.
Not just this, all the Kashmiri Muslim leaders plus former Congress leader and president of the newly-formed Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), Ghulam Nabi Azad, have unleashed a no-holds-barred campaign to make the Government to hold assembly elections in J&K. And, the most striking aspect of their whole campaign is that they have been telling their respective constituencies in Kashmir and the parts of Jammu province and Ladakh in unequivocal terms that they vouch for elections and restoration of “democratically-elected government” not for “sadak, bijli and pani” (road, electricity and water), but for restoring the politico-constitutional as it existed on August 4, 2019 and reintroducing the Roshni Act and practice of darbar move.
And just look at the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) of August 4, 2019 to which the NC, the PDP, the Congress, the CPIM, the CPI, the PC, the Awami National Conference (ANC) and others were signatories and the October 20, 2020 PAGD’s agenda and you will find what these parties stand for. All stand for a dispensation outside the political and constitutional organization of Bharat.
There are potent and cogent reasons to believe that the Kashmiri parties would win all the 47 assembly seats into which Kashmir has been territorially divided by the new Delimitation Commission and at least ten to twelve seats in Jammu province. In other words, they would have at least 60 members in the 92-member (90 elected and two nominated) House. It’s clear that the Assembly elections would help them recapture the office of CM, the Assembly and the Secretariat.
Besides, it would help them recapture Finance, Home, Revenue, Law, General Administration and Forest Departments and the office of Advocate General. These were the institutions and offices the Kashmiri Muslim leadership misused and exploited to the hilt between October 1947 and June 2018 to muddy the Bharat’s waters in J&K and to do what they did in the erstwhile State to unsettle the settled with utmost ease, and that, too, in collaboration with the South and North Blocks.
The nation just can’t afford the reemergence of the pre-2019 position in this border region as the Kashmiri Muslim leadership has made their intentions public umpteen times. Their intentions are not pious. Their agenda is fundamentally subversive and communal. They are radical and exclusivist.
What, then, is the solution? The problem in Kashmir is extraordinary and the extraordinary problem needs only an extraordinary solution: Separation of Jammu from Kashmir and conversion of Kashmir into a Chandigarh-type Union Territory status. Separation of Jammu from Kashmir would limit the area of strife to tiny Kashmir Valley and conversion of Kashmir into Chandigarh-type Union Territory would empower New Delhi to manage the affairs in Kashmir taking into consideration the nation’s paramount interests. Such an approach alone could avert the impending disaster. Not to do so, or to walk into the Kashmiri election trap would be only to negate the otherwise historic reform scheme of August 2019.
Also remember, Assembly elections and installation of the so-called popularly-elected government in J&K would automatically mean creation of an all 9-member Muslim Council of ministers, including the CM, and it would happen for the first time in the region’s electoral history. The reason: Not one Kashmiri party can win a single Hindu-majority seat in Jammu province.