“There must be two chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir. Darbar move is a wastage of money”

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Balwant Singh Mankotia, a vocal lawmaker representing Udhampur constituency recently alleged the Jammu region was being discriminated by NC. A senior leader of Panthers Party, Mankotia tells SHAH ABBAS that voices in favour of a separate state of Jammu are gaining momentum.

KL: What was the provocation for the allegation that Jammu region was being discriminated by the present dispensation?
BSM: National Conference has been alleging discriminations with Kashmir valley on part of the Dogra rulers and this allegation is the basis on which this party started its political journey. Now NC is trying everything to punish the Jammuites as a whole. Our point is that the children should not be punished for the sins of their forefathers.

KL: How do you substantiate your claims?

BALWANT-SINGH-MANKOTYA

BALWANT SINGH MANKOTYA

BSM: On August 1, a cabinet meeting was held in which decision was taken to establish 1129 new colleges; 700 in Kashmir and 429 in Jammu. Is not this discrimination with Jammu region? Our point is that till the cabinet meeting which I am referring to, there were 47 colleges functioning in Jammu and 48 in Kashmir, almost the same equation. But why Jammu region was not given the equal ratio in the newly sanctioned colleges? We feel it by hearts and our voters always ask us questions about it.

Take the instance of delimitation. Doda is comprised of 11000 square km area and the Kashmir valley is spread over 15, 000 sq km. But see, Kashmir has 10 districts while as Doda area has only four. We are of the opinion that such discriminations should not be there.

KL: What do you think the government must do to alleviate the so called discrimination against Jammu region?
BSM: Our simple demand is that Jammu region should be at par with Kashmir as for as the assembly seats are concerned. Kashmir dominates the two regions of Jammu and Ladakh .The people living there ask us about such things and I can say that if these questions are not taken seriously, the people of Jammu will feel and some will also react. Government must respect and honour the claims it makes about the equal treatment for all the three regions of the state or it must come with an announcement that Jammu and Ladakh regions do not deserve much.

KL: What are the other areas in which the present dispensation has ignored or discriminated against the Jammu region?
BSM: The students from Jammu region are discriminated by not taking them to educational tours. Their aspirations are killed, rather massacred, only on the excuse that Kashmiri students are to be counselled. We can understand that the people who have suffered a lot during the past two decades need some extra attention to which speaker of the assembly calls ‘in the interest of the nation’ but it is not the justification that we will ignore the other people of the same state. We are also being discriminated in the road building and repairing. You will be surprised to know that under PMGSRY scheme, the roads of Kashmir get 70 mm macdamization as compared to 20mm in Jammu. When we ask for the reasons, we are being told that such kind of discrimination is necessary keeping in view the weather conditions. But what about Rajuri, Poonch, Doda and Kishtwar districts?

KL: Does you party have any solution for these problems?
BSM: 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. You see, our High Court is already function on the same line.

KL: How can two Chief Ministers be elected and how they function in a single state?
BSM: This question is asked by the people who do not know about our plan. It is a detailed plan and I assure you that once you go through it, you will also appreciate and support. As of now, we are not able to furnish our ‘two chief ministers’ theory. But once the debate kick starts and the people of both the regions start talking freely, we will also put forth our suggestion and we hope it is worth following. Presently, we feel that in Jammu, voices in favour of a separate state are gaining momentum. Our party is trying to pacify the things by saying that the state should not get divided. But if the discrimination which is going on and the aspirations of both the regions are not taken seriously, the day is not far when the separation voices supporting two state theory will get stronger and stronger. It is questionable that when our government feels cold in Kashmir, it prefers to stay in Jammu and the rulers choose to be in Kashmir only to save themselves from the burning heat of Jammu .The irony is that it is all done in the name of Darbar Move, a process which has nothing to do with the unification of the state. Instead, Rs 300 crores are wasted on moving the Darbar from Srinagar and Jammu.

About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.