Not merely a crisis of identity
The demand of the people of Jammu province for a separate State is genuine, given that the Congress-backed Kashmiri leadership has reduced them to being a non-entity, neglected and discriminated against in their own land Jammu province and Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir were perhaps the only regions in the country where people demanded division of the State immediately after India attained independence. They demanded reorganisation of the State on the ground that they despised the separatist and communal ideology of National Conference president and Emergency Administrator of Jammu & Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah, and did not expect fairness from him.
In Jammu, the people, under the leadership of Balraj Madhok, who subsequently became president of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, demanded division of the State on November 1, 1947, six days after the State’s accession to India. The demand was supported by the BJS founder, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, in October 1949, when then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, at Sheikh Abdullah’s behest, granted special status to the State on purely religious grounds.
Mookerjee repeatedly said that the people of Jammu and Ladakh had the right to seek separation from Kashmir, as the Kashmiri leadership’s approach towards the country and Jammu & Kashmir was patently communal. In Ladakh, the Buddhists under the Head Lama, Kushak Bakula, raised the banner of revolt in November 1947 against Sheikh Abdullah and his administration. Bakula declared that the people of Ladakh did not want any truck with the separatist and communal Kashmiri leadership. They approached Nehru and urged him to merge Ladakh either with Jammu province or with Punjab or Himachal Pradesh.
The people of Jammu and Ladakh launched numerous struggles to achieve emancipation from Kashmir leadership between 1947 and 1987, but failed to achieve their stated goals. The Union Government, under the baneful influence of the Kashmiri leadership, rejected their demands as being ‘communal’ and against ‘national interest’.
The 1952 Delhi parleys between Jammu & Kashmir Wazir-e-Azam Sheikh Abdullah and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on the political future of Jammu & Kashmir; the 1975 Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah accord, and the 1987 Rajiv Gandhi-Farooq Abdullah accord prove one point: All these agreements were made to strike a deal with the Kashmiri leadership over the interests of the people of Jammu and Ladakh.
Things changed dramatically in 1989, when secessionist violence gripped Kashmir. The immediate fall-out was the loud clamour in Jammu for a separate State and for Union Territory status to Ladakh. The demands unambiguously pointed to the danger of being submerged under the rising clamour for ‘azadi’, plebiscite and the restoration of the pre-1953 politico-constitutional set-up or greater autonomy.
In October 1989, people in Ladakh took recourse to violence on an unprecedented scale. Two persons died and several others got injured. An alarmed Union Government had to yield and start parleys with the agitating Ladakhi leadership. The then Union Minister for Home Affairs Buta Singh persuaded them to give up their demand for Union Territory status and, offered them an Autonomous Hill Development Council instead. The Ladakhis accepted the proposal as a first step towards the final goal. Since the people of Jammu province did not create any law and order problem, their demand was not considered.
Convinced that New Delhi will not consider the demands of the people of Jammu Province, some prominent university teachers, advocates, businessmen and industrialists founded the Jammu Mukti Morcha on March 2, 1990, and launched a statehood movement with great verve. But weak leadership and conspiracies hatched by certain Jammu-based agents of Kashmiri leaders resulted in the JMM’s collapse, though the struggle for separation from Kashmir continued.
It was before the 2002 Assembly election in Jammu & Kashmir that the Rashtra Swayamsevak Sangh took a concrete step by adopting a resolution at its Kurukshetra annual meet, directing its State unit to establish the Jammu State Morcha and contest Assembly elections in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party. The JSM and the BJP contested the election on the statehood and reorganisation plank respectively. Together they won nine seats out of 37 in Jammu province. They would have won more than 25 seats, had Congress and the Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party not contested the election on purely Jammu-specific planks.
The Congress hoodwinked the Jammu electorate by holding out two categorical commitments — chief ministership for Jammu and adequately-empowered regional development board — and won 15 seats. JKNPP contested on the slogan of reorganisation and for the first time won four seats. Two independent candidates also won election on statehood plank and later became associated members of the Congress to become Ministers.
In other words, the BJP, JSM, Congress, JKNPP and independent candidates won as many as 30 seats in the name of Jammu. The Congress, the People’s Democratic Party and the JKNPP formed a coalition Government in November 2002 with the PDP president as Chief Minister, but did not fulfill any of the promises. In 2008, all these parties again contested the Assembly election invoking Jammu’s cause and won 29 seats. The Congress won 13 seats holding out a commitment that “If voted to power, shall amend the State Constitution to federalise the State’s polity and establish regional council”.
The JKNPP won three seats and the BJP for the first time won 11 seats on the plank of “political empowerment”. The Congress again became part of the coalition Government but ditched the people of Jammu to keep Kashmiri leaders in good humour. The demand of the people of Jammu province for a separate State is genuine, given that the Congress-backed Kashmiri leadership has reduced them to being a nonentity. The following instances demonstrate the level of discrimination against the people of Jammu. The Chief Minister is always from the Valley and from one particular religious sect. So is the leadership of major political parties like the Congress. Jammu returns two members to the Lok Sabha and 37 to the Assembly at the rate of one per 15.59 lakh voters and 84,270 voters, respectively. In contrast, Kashmir returns three members to the Lok Sabha and 46 members to the Assembly at the rate 9.61 lakh voters and 62,673 voters, respectively.
Jammu’s share in the Civil Secretariat is not even 25 per cent and the number of Secretaries to the Government is negligible. The unemployment rate in Jammu is over 69 per cent and in Kashmir less than 30 per cent. Over-developed and highly prosperous Kashmir has 10 districts at the rate of one per 1585.3 sq km. Jammu has an equal number of districts but at the rate of one per 2629.3 sq km. The road density km/sq km in Kashmir in 2006 was 310.4 and in Jammu it was 138.7.
The State power plants produce a paltry 25 MW electricity in Jammu as against 335.36 MW produced in adjacent Kashmir. A person from Jammu working with the Public Health Engineering under the Community Participation Scheme gets a monthly wage of Rs 500, whereas his Kashmiri counterpart gets Rs 2,100. The share of Jammu’s youth in Kashmir-based technical and professional institutions is negligible. On the contrary, Kashmiri students are in great strength in similar Jammu-based institutions. The harsh reality is that Kashmir occupies almost all the higher and lucrative positions in the Government, be it revenue administration, the finance department, the police and judicial departments and political institutions. The net result is widespread frustration and dissatisfaction. The demand in Jammu for Statehood needs to be viewed in this context.
(The writer is former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Jammu)