‘Polarized’ J&K

The ideological crack between the three regions of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir has become too prominent to be ignored as the state is all set to loosen the unnatural bond between the three regions. Shah Abbas reports the deepening fissure that now surfaces more often than not.

LAHDC-Independence-day-2013The Chief Executive Councilor of Ladakh Hill Deveoloplent Council, (LAHDC) Rigzin Splabar did not use the state flag on his special vehicle as is the norm in Jammu and Kashmir, while inspecting the parade on the Independence Day function held in Leh on August 15, 2013.

Sources said that this is a routine matter in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir during such kind of functions, the state flag always remains missing and only tricolor gets the space. “It is a clear indication that Ladakhi’s do not want to identify themselves as part of the Jammu and Kashmir state,” a prominent social activist from Leh, wishing anonymity, informed Kashmir Life.

Even though the politicians stress upon the unity of all the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir state but the fact on ground is that the people living in Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh are divided geographically, culturally, ethnically, politically and economically. The people even have conflicting aspirations which are more or less exclusive to their nature and ideology.

Despite frequent use of Urdu term Wehdat-e-Riyasat by every unionist and separatist leader to express the convergence and unity of the state, there is polarization even in the geographical divisions of J&K.

The people of Kashmir valley consider the districts of Ramban, Doda, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Poonch as parts of Kashmir, while as the people and the political forces of Jammu, Kutha, Samba, Udhmapur and Reasi districts include all the Muslim majority districts of Doda, Ramban, Rajouri, Poonch and Kishtwar in what they refer to as Jammu province. But the people living in these Muslim majority districts say that Kashmir and Jammu regions are separated by the river Chenab. They mean Kashmir comprises of the area falling to this side of Chenab which includes them as well. They refer to so many examples of cultural, ethnical and social nature in support of their opinion.

Jammu and Kashmir is a state where even a petty issue culminates in major controversies and results in inter-regional tensions of extreme nature. The polarization within J&K is basically ideological. This is what a glance into the history of the state clearly suggests. What happened in Kashmir and Jammu between June and August, 2008 over the Amarnath land issue, which culminated in the collapse of the Congress-led government in the state on July7, 2008 is a glaring example.

The events of summer 2008 established that it was basically a clash between two ideologies. The incidents that emerged very quickly suggest that the people of Jammu and Kashmir find it very hard to live together.

One can refer to many instances establishing that the differences between the people living in Jammu, Udhampur, Kuthua, Samba, Reasi, and, Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts and Kashmir are ideological and very deep.

On the one hand, there are political forces in Kashmir whose demands range from independence to merger with Pakistan, to greater autonomy to self-rule and to India-Pakistan joint control over J&K. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of population in Jammu, Kuthua, Udhampur , Samba and Reasi districts in the Jammu and Ladakh regions, stand for the state’s full integration with India and application of the Indian Constitution to the state in full.

The majority of the inhabitants of Kashmir valley including Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts consistently complain that they have never been treated fairly by the powers of the state and New Delhi.

“One can cite innumerable instances to prove that the wedlock between Kashmir and three districts of Jammu region and between the former and Ladakh is unnatural and that there is nothing that is common between them,” said Er Rashid, a lawmaker. But Rashid suggests the people living in these three districts i.e. Udhampur, Kathua and Jammu have learnt to live with the majority of the state.

“The people of these three districts must learn to respect the sentiments of the majority of the people of the state as is desired and an established precedence in the world”, he added.

There are a number of political analysts and commentators who openly suggest that trifurcation of the state is the only solution to the problems being faced by the people of the three regions. Particularly after the declaration in favour of the formation of Telangana, such voices have started emerging in a louder tone. Even some of these demand two chief ministers for the state, one for Jammu and other for the Kashmir region.

“Our party has a solution for all the accusations and counter-accusations which come from Srinagar and Jammu. Whether it is the allocation of funds, establishment of institutions or engaging people in different government and semi government fields, we demand that there must be two chief ministers of J&K and the civil secretariat must have two permanent branches in Jammu and Srinagar,” Panthers Party senior leader Balwant Singh Mankotia had told Kashmir Life, some time back.

Mankotia justifies his argument by saying that the state high court is already functioning separately in Jammu and Kashmir so there can be no harm in having two chief ministers and two civil secretariats as well. “You see, our High Court already functions on the same lines,” he added.

Kashmiri separatist leadership wants an exemption outside the constitutional organization of India. The people living in five districts of Jammu and Ladakh region oppose this demand saying it is “anti-national”. They want a system that brings the state closer to New Delhi at all levels.

Separatists too have started to think about the trifurcation of the state as a viable way out to overcome the present crises but they do not come out openly because of some known and unknown reasons. “To my view, trifurcation of the state is half freedom for us because we can safeguard and protect our unique identity more easily,” a separatist leader, wishing not to be named told Kashmir Life.

Separatist turned unionist, Sajad Gani Lone, a few years back while addressing a huge public meeting at Sher-e-Kashmir Park Srinagar, had openly demanded a separate statehood for Kashmir, and that was lauded by the people.

Some Kashmiri leaders want the Union Government to restrict its jurisdiction over the state to just three subjects – defence, communication and foreign affairs – and leave all other things to the care of the State. On the contrary, the political representatives of the people of Jammu, Kuthua, Udhampur and Samba and Ladakh denounce this suggestion unequivocally and want New Delhi to even scrap Article 370 under which the state enjoys a very special status within the Indian Union. They openly say that any attempt on the part of any authority to drive the state away from New Delhi would be resisted with full force.

Almost all the Kashmiri leaders are of the opinion that the laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) should be withdrawn from the state. They refer to these Acts as “black laws”. On the other hand, the political forces of Jammu, Udhmapur, Kuthua, Samba and Ladakh region are bitterly opposed to this demand. They are of the view that “acceptance of this demand would facilitate the task of separatists, whom they call anti-national elements”.

Separatist leaders of Kashmir, who claim to represent the majority Muslim population of the state, want the Government of India to start tripartite talks with them and Pakistan, so that the Kashmir dispute is resolved to the satisfaction of all the three parties, India, Pakistan and Kashmiris. But on the contrary, the people of Jammu, Udhampur, Samba, Kuthua and Ladakh turn their back on this suggestion threatening “any such move would only provoke massive explosions in Jammu and Ladakh.”

Many Kashmiri leaders consistently ask New Delhi to introduce Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in order to make peace or win the minds and hearts of the alienated Kashmiris. The leaders of people of Jammu, Kuthua, Samba, Udhampur and Ladakh, on the contrary, severely criticize those who talk of the “Kashmiri alienation”. In fact, they want New Delhi to turn its attention to what they call Jammu and Ladakh regions.

The National Conference and the Congress contested the last parliamentary elections together. Both these parties recognized the fact that while the former has little support base in Jammu, the latter has no or little support base in Kashmir. That was the reason the National Conference fielded its candidates in all the three parliamentary constituencies in Kashmir and the Congress fielded candidates for all the three parliamentary constituencies in Jammu and Ladakh.

“The very fact that the National Conference did not field any candidate in Jammu province was an admission that the people of that province do not like the political philosophy and ideology of the National Conference. Same could be said about the Congress. In other words, both the Congress and the National Conference admitted without saying that there are a lot of differences between the two provinces,” said Mukhtar Ahmad Parray, a political science scholar.

The divergence which Jammu witnessed some years ago over the issue of Central University had divided the leadership of the state into two factions. The situation had reached a point where even the Jammu based Congress leaders had openly come in support of those spearheading the movement for the establishment of Central University in Jammu.

The facts on ground are that the needs, aspirations and compulsions of the people of the five districts of Jammu region are altogether different from those belonging to Kashmir valley, Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts. Still then, according to analysts, people are forced to live together in the name of Wehdat-e-Riyasat which is nothing but only a hollow slogan.

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