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Second Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

June 2002

I N S I D E


Spotlight    Romeet Watt

Top of Page        B Raman

Special Report Hamid Bashani

Fundamentals Subash Kapila

Economy            B N Kaul

InsideTrack          R Upadhyay

Himalayan Blunder              Romeet Watt

In Black & White B Raman

Statecraft             Romeet Watt

Bottomline           R Upadhyay

 

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 I N S I D E  T R A C K

 

J & K and Trifurcation

R Upadhyay


Is there a Kashmiri identity? Those in POK are actually Mirpuris. Those in Jammu are mostly Hindus and Sikhs and the Buddhists dominate Ladakh. People tend to equate the politics of Kashmir with the politics of Srinagar valley. Is trifurcation a viable solution or will it create more problems? This paper examines these issues. Director

The endless turmoil in the state of Jammu and Kashmir has also generated a debate for its trifurcation. The supporters of the theory favouring the division of the state put forward the following points in their arguments-

* Historically, the present conglomeration of three heterogeneous regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh were never an organic political entity.

* There is inherent inter regional contradictions in terms of history, physiography, ethnicity, language and culture.

* This sharp inter-regional contradiction has a ‘spill over’ in the political perception of the three dominant communities of the respective region and integration is absent.

* Political domination of Kashmiri Muslims and their discrimination against Jammu and Ladakh kept the latter neglected. Ladakh has persistently raised the issue of Islamic domination.

* The Hindus and Buddhists of the state are apprehensive of the likely demographic change in their respective regions due to large- scale Muslim influx from Kashmir valley. The Doda district for example has changed from a Hindu majority to a Muslim majority district.

Heterogeneous character of the three regions

For an academic discussion, one may like to argue that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is a rare synthesis of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, but historically all the three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh always maintained their distinct regional identity. Due to distinct ethno-regional division of the state into three regions and their separate physiography, history, culture, and language, the people never developed any emotional link among themselves.

The language spoken by the inhabitants of Ladakh is Tibetan in origin. Buddhism as a religion with distinct social customs and ethnicity has very little in common with the 95% Kashmiri speaking Muslim population of Kashmir valley. Similarly, the Hindus of Jammu region with Dogri as their language and Vedic culture never had any emotional communication with either of the two regions. Thus in absence of any emotional link no common identity could ever emerge as a binding force required for an organic political entity. The political geography of these three regions did not undergo any major change even during the rule of Moghul kings as they were never under single administrative command.

The present geo-political territory of Jammu and Kashmir emerged as a state only in the middle of the nineteenth century. Ranjit Singh, the ruler of Lahore Kingdom annexed the Kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir in 1819 and apportioned the rule of Jammu to his Dogra Commander Gulab Singh in 1820 after crowning him as king. In 1834 Gulab Singh annexed the Kingdom of Ladakh. In 1846, when Kashmir was ceded to Dogra King under the Treaty of Amritsar with British Government – all the three regions of Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir came under a single administrative control of the autocratic regime of Maharaja Gulab Singh. Thus, historically there is no ambiguity in the factual position that the three distinct regions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir were conglomerated under a single geo-political boundary only in 1846.

Inherent Inter-regional contradictions

Due to inherent inter-regional contradictions, the successive Maharajas belonging to the Dogra clan of Jammu, who ruled this state for about one hundred years before its accession to India in October 1947 failed to create any emotional link among them. The Kashmiri Muslims under the influence of Islamic fundamentalists never compromised their subjugation under a non-Muslim Dogra regime. In fact the rule of Jammu clan over the Muslims of Kashmir since 1846 generated animosity between the two regions to an extent of an oppressor and an alien. This historical antagonism between the two gradually transformed their political mindset, which never allowed them to develop a united attitude towards any issue.

Taking advantage of the political movement in India against the British Government, the Kashmiri Muslims formed an organisation known as Anjuman-e-Islamia in 1924 with a slogan to scrap Amritsar Treaty under which Kashmir was ceded to the Kingdom of Dogra clan. In 1931 Muslim Conference that subsequently changed into National Conference also focused their agitation more for freedom from the autocratic rule of the Hindu Maharaja of Jammu clan than against the British Government. The Quit Kashmir Movement of National Conference and Quit India Movement of Indian National Congress had different political perceptions for the Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus of Jammu.

Inter regional contradiction in political perceptions

The sharp inter-regional contradiction in the political perception between the Muslims of Kashmir and the Hindus of Jammu during freedom movement also proves that they were mentally not attuned to integrate themselves emotionally. Even after transfer of authority from an autocratic regime to a democratic government in October 1947 the situation did not undergo any major change. While the Kashmiri speaking Muslims of the Kashmir valley by and large remained Islamist and were votaries of greater autonomy, the Hindus of Jammu had no problem in amalgamating with the mainstream political set up in India after the accession of the state. The Buddhists of Ladakh due to their animosity against the Muslims of the valley wanted to free themselves from the Muslim domination. But the then political leadership in India did not bother to understand the multi-dimensional dis-similarities in language, culture, ethnicity, history, geography and political perception of the region and transferred the dynastic authority of Dogra ruler solely to the Muslim leadership of Kashmir. They failed to work out a political mechanism for emotional integration of the people of all the three regions.

Exploiting the softness of Pandit Nehru towards him, Sheikh Abdullah ignored the sentiments of the people of Jammu and Ladakh and diplomatically maneuvered the inclusion of article 370 in the Indian constitution. Thus, managing absolute political power under this article, he neglected the political and economic interest of Jammu and Ladakh and was more like an autocratic successor to the Dogra king. Sheikh Abdullah for all his greatness failed to win the trust of both Jammu and Ladakh.

Political domination of Kashmiri Muslims:

The democratic process in the state of Jammu and Kashmir was initiated with first assembly election in 1951. But by maneuvering the dominant political representation of the valley in the state Legislative Assembly, Sheikh Abdullah managed to place the political command of the state in the hands of Kashmiri Muslims. With Kashmir valley-centric mindset Sheikh Abdullah deliberately earmarked 43 seats for Kashmir, 30 for Jammu and 2 for Ladakh in the then house of a 75-member Legislative Assembly in the state, even though more than half of the population and 90 per cent of the land area belong to Jammu and Ladakh. Presently, in the house of 87-member legislative assembly in the state, Kashmir valley sends 46 members and the rest is shared between the two regions with 37 from Jammu and only 4 from Ladakh. Of the total 6 Lok Sabha seats in the state, Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh have been sharing 3, 2 and 1 seats respectively. The regional share of political representation in the state is not in conformity with the strength of population and voters structure of the respective region. The voters strength of Jammu (24,55,174), Kashmir valley (24,22,765) and Ladakh (1,43719) vindicates the allegation that the people of Jammu and Ladakh due to uneven representation in the state Legislative Assembly were discriminated in the decision making process in the state. There are also allegations that in the absence of the control of the Election Commission of India in conducting the election in Jammu and Kashmir till 1967, the National Conference manipulated the rejection of the nomination of opposition candidates to maintain its hegemony in the political control of the state.

Since no sincere effort was made by the dominant Muslim leadership in the state to integrate the people of these regions emotionally, no genuine state level leader with his influence all over the three regions could ever be produced in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The best course perhaps could have been to bring the state of Jammu and Kashmir also under the purview of State Re-organisation Commission. But due to the special status of the state under Article 370 of the constitution, the re-organisation of this heterogeneous combination was not possible. On the other hand the absence of a genuine state level leadership, the Kashmiri identity as being projected by the political leaders of Kashmir valley had no takers among the Hindus of Jammu and the Buddhists of Ladakh. In reality, the Kashmiri identity became a synonym of the Muslim identity in the state. Since the Hindus of Jammu and Buddhists of Ladakh are historically, culturally and linguistically poles apart from the Muslims of Kashmir, the political domination of the latter has never been acceptable to the remaining two major groups of the state. Thus, against the never-ending greater autonomy demand of the Muslims from the central Government, the Hindus of Jammu and the Buddhists of Ladakh are demanding autonomy from the domination of the former.

Growing apprehension in Jammu and Ladakh against demographic changes:

The ethno-religious divide continued to haunt the dominant inhabitants of Jammu and Ladakh regions. Creation of a separate district of Doda for the Muslim majority area of Udhampur district of Jammu and similar Muslim majority district of Kargil after bifurcating the Buddhist majority district of Ladakh is viewed as an ill-designed fundamentalist approach of Kashmiri leaders for ethnic cleansing of the state. The plight of about two lakh Hindu migrants from Kashmir valley has confirmed their fear. Their deep apprehension that the Islamic fundamentalists with the support of the state Government are systematically trying to bring a demographic change in the regions with a view to make them also a Muslim majority area – has alienated them from Kashmiri Muslim. Lama Lobzang, a prominent Buddhist leader of Ladakh and also a member of National Commission of Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes said, “The NC(National Conference) Government is deliberately settling a large number of people from the valley with a view to reducing the Buddhist majority in Ladakh into minority” ( Organiser dated August 13,2000 page 10).

In 1964, the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) spearheaded a movement against Kashmiri domination in the region and demanded a NEFA type central administration there. After their protracted agitation they however, agreed to the formation of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) in 1995. But scared with the influx of Kashmiri Muslims in Ladakh, the LAHDC passed a resolution seeking Union Territory status of Ladakh. Though the state Government rejected this resolution, Ladakh region raised its voice again for statehood with the status of Union Territory, when the state Legislative Assembly adopted a resolution in June 2000 demanding greater autonomy and pre-1953 status of the state.

An organisation known as Panun Kashmir formed by the Hindu migrants of Kashmir also demanded creation of separate homeland for them on the north and east of Jhelum.

Similarly, the Hindu dominated Jammu region has been nursing a grudge against the Kashmir centric politics right from the day of 1952 Delhi Agreement. An organisation known as Praja Parishad under the leadership of Prem Nath Dogra had launched an agitation against the domination of Kashmiri Muslims following the Delhi Accord of 1952. In 1979 the people of Jammu region again launched agitation against the economic neglect of the area and discrimination in Government jobs, setting up the professional institutions and other employment related Government projects. They also allege that central funds for developmental schemes in the state have become the sole privilege of the Kashmir valley due to diplomatic maneuvering by the Muslim leaders.

In view of the multi-dimensional inter-regional contradictions followed by time-to-time agitation like Praja Parishad movement in 1952-53 the state Government set up Gajendragadkar Commission in 1967 to look into the allegations and grievances of the people of the two regions. Another commission known as Wazir Commission was set up in 1980 following the Poonch agitation of 1978-79. However, the Government did not take due notice to the Commissions report. According to an observation of Gajendragadkar Commission, “The main cause of irritation and tension is the feeling of political neglect and discrimination from which the certain regions (Jammu and Ladakh) suffer. Even if all the matters are equally settled, we feel that there would still be a measure of discontent unless the political aspirations of the different regions are satisfied.” ( Quoted from The Region of Jammu: A saga of neglect and discrimination –By Hari Om published in a book entitled Politics of Autonomy in Jammu and Kashmir)

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah’s move for greater autonomy demand with pre-1953 status of the state encouraged certain sections in Jammu and Ladakh regions for raising the demand for division of the state into three autonomous regions. Some local leaders of the RSS also supported this view. But the issue has so far not been raised from any corner in the state aggressively. At national level too no political party has taken any official stand in favour of the tri-furcation of the state. Even the RSS, which is quite vocal for the cause of the Hindus of Jammu, Hindu migrants of Kashmir and Buddhists of Ladakh in a resolution adopted in a meeting (July 2’2000 at Koba-Ahmedabad) of its Akhil Bhartiya Karyakari Mandal (ABKM) strongly opposed the greater autonomy demand of Farooq Abdullah. It urged upon the Government, “to ensure that in any discussions with the protagonists of autonomy, which is a thin veil for ‘azadi’, the uprooted Hindus of the valley are rehabilitated in their home state and involved in deliberations at every level and the political aspirations of Jammu and Ladakh regions are fully met."

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the divergent political orientation, aspirations and mindsets of the three regions and their geo-ethnic division fulfill all the criteria required for the tri-furcation of the state. The Ladakh Buddhist Association has already come up with a demand for Union Territory status of the region. In Jammu, an organisation like Jammu Mukti Morcha was formed with its sole aim and objective favouring tri-furcation of state by creation of separate state of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. It also set up one candidate for assembly election in 1996 but lost badly.

Despite the convincing reasons behind the demand for tri-furcation of state, its division on communal line may not be desirable in the larger national interest. When Pakistan is still harping on the two-nation theory that has been buried deep after the emergence of Bangladesh, time is not ripe for such a division now with the state facing the most virulent Jehadi type of Muslim insurgency. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is having border with both Pakistan and China. Pakistan has made a number of attempts to grab this state forcefully. Thus due to over all security reason its tri-furcation may lead to security complications. Our experience in North Eastern region of the country has proved that creation of smaller states has only helped the divisive forces in the country. The need of the hour is to have an emotional integration of all the three regions of this state. A fair deal with all the three regions with proportionate political representation in the decision making process, their rightful and legitimate share in the economic developments and resolution of regional imbalance may perhaps be the only solution. The protagonists of inter-regional autonomy also have valid reason for their demand that people of Jammu, Ladakh and migrant Hindus from Kashmir valley must be taken into confidence in the discussion relating to the problem of Kashmir.  

By special arrangement with South Asian Analysis Group, New Delhi

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