Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) opposes any move aimed at creation of CVHDC or PPHDC. Jugal Kishore senior BJP leader and MLA from Nagrota said, “We are against the creation of CVHDC or any other such unit as it is the conspiracy of the government to divide the people.” He accused the government of having ulterior motive the passing the resolution in the upper house.
BJP was also up in arms when the bill regarding creation of Chenab hill council was approved by the Select Committee in 2002. The right wing party warned that creation of controversial CVHDC will trigger blood-shed in the entire State.
“Its impact will not be confined to Doda district only, but this fire will even engulf entire country”, said D K Kotwal, state president BJP in reaction to the report of select committee at that time.
According to Kotwal, “Sheikh Rehman’s Bill, which favours division of the state on communal basis, is dangerous for the security and integrity of Jammu and Kashmir.”
The rise of Greater Kashmir
Another aspect of this agitation is that Jammu perceives the creation of Hill Development Council as empowerment of Kashmiris. “Majority of people in this region are Muslims and they speak Kashmiris language, thus more closely related to Kashmir valley,” said a leader from Rajouri. “The leaders in Jammu think that once these two HDC’s are created, it will increase connection between the two sides and will ultimately help in the rise of Greater Kashmir, beyond the confines of the valley.”
Even if the situation of Kashmiri language is pathetic in Kashmir valley, the language is thriving in these parts. In many areas of both Pir Panchal and Chenab Valley, the families ensure that their children learn the Kashmiri language.
To prevent such a ‘catastrophe’ the Jammu lobby has even sabotaged moves to connect the Kashmir valley with the two regions. Two tunnels will offer year round and shorter connectivity with Kashmir valley – one at Kapran Islamabad and another on the Mughal road connecting Shopian-Rajouri. “Till date any attempt to build the tunnel or the road has been stopped by Jammu district. Everybody knows how much struggle was needed to clear the construction of Mughal Road,” says a leader from Poonch.
After the creation of HDCs, the road connectivity decision will be the prerogative of the people of these regions and not of the Jammu district based administration. Besides the two identified points of contacts, there are number of other possible routes which can be developed to increase the road communication between Kashmir valley and Doda, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Poonch.
Jammu traders also fear that the prospects of their trade will be hit once the hill councils are created. “Jammu businessmen will have to compete with Kashmir valley based traders to sell the products,” said Suharwardy. “At the end of it, consumers of Doda will be benefited.”
Jammu trade is preparing to manage its business after the rail network passes Udhampur. Traders are acquiring new properties to shift the bases with the expected rush.
Over the last few years, there has been increased contact between Kashmir valley and these regions. Recently, around ten thousand people participated in an Urs in a Kishtwar shrine. Earlier, a few dozen would reach there. Almost all of Walnut yield of Eastern Doda arrives in Kashmir markets through Dessa Kapran mountainous pass.
The demand of two hill councils is seen as an outcome of the underdeveloped status of these districts in Jammu region particularly its disparity vis-a-vis the southern districts, mainly Jammu district. “The development in this (Jammu) region is restricted to Jammu district and next comes, Kathua, Samba and Udhampur,” says Shashi Kumar Kesari an award winning environmentalist from Doda. “Our five districts are nowhere to be seen in Human Development Index.”
The people in this region accuse the Jammu district of acting as a colonial master. Kesari says the rulers in Jammu hardly know the topography and need of the region. “It is a rarity if Divisional Commissioner of Jammu division comes to visit Doda and Kishtwar or Poonch and Rajouri.” “It seems like we are the colony of Jammu.”
These regions occasionally come in news for notorious traffic accidents which devour dozens of people with passenger buses skidding off the dilapidated roads into rivers or gorges.