Anti-Jammu and anti-Dogra factor
The erstwhile J&K State was founded by Maharaja Gulab Singh in March 1846. Ever since then, Jammu province and Kashmir have been pulling in different directions. Two fundamental factors are responsible: Anti-Jammu and anti-Dogra attitude of leaders of Kashmir’s majority community and politics of separation in Kashmir, which is based on religious fanaticism. Process of polarisation between Jammu and valley gained momentum in 1932 when Sheikh Abdullah of Kashmir founded Muslim Conference (MC) to fight against the Treaty of Amritsar, under which Kashmir had become part of the mighty Dogra Kingdom. In 1946, he and National Conference (NC) crossed the red line and started “Quit Kashmir Movement”. Such was the nature of his anti-Dogra movement that Maharaja Hari Singh had to act. Sheikh Abdullah was put behind bars under the charge of sedition. He was released only in 1947 when he tendered unconditional apology and reassured in writing that he would not indulge in anti-state activities.
After Maharaja Hari Singh merged his J&K with the Indian Dominion in 1947 as per the constitutional law on the subject, Sheikh Abdullah changed his goal post. Instead of demanding the abrogation of the Treaty of Amritsar, Sheikh Abdullah as J&K Wazir-e-Azam started toying with the idea of establishing “Switzerland-type independent Kashmir” consisting of Kashmir and those areas of Jammu province and Ladakh where Muslims constituted a good chunk of the population. Between 1948 and May 8, 1953, he hatched conspiracy after conspiracy against the Indian State to achieve his break-India objective. So much so, he hobnobbed with the United States. When things assumed alarming proportions, New Delhi dethroned him and put him in jail on August 9, 1953. Things in Kashmir remained under control between August 1953 and February 1975, notwithstanding the fact that those who succeeded Sheikh Abdullah were also essentially Kashmir-centric. Still, however, the inter-regional and inter-communal tensions and animosities didn’t cause in Jammu province any political explosion of portentous dimensions.
The formation of seven Kashmir secessionist outfits People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) against the abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 and J&K special status was the last step that the Abdullahs, Mufti, Lone, to mention only three, took to further widen the gulf between Jammu province and Kashmir.
Things again assumed dangerous proportions after February 1975, when PM Indira Gandhi brought down the Congress government in J&K and imposed Sheikh Abdullah on the state as its CM. What happened between 1975 and 2014 only further widened the already wide gulf between the people of Jammu province and Kashmir. Things between the regions further deteriorated after March 2015, when the BJP, which for the first time won 25 assembly seats in Jammu province, flirted with secessionist and rabidly anti-Jammu and fanatic Muftis and handed over the state power to them. PM Narendra Modi admitted in 2019 that the BJP committed a grave blunder by forming a coalition government with the Muftis. In June that year, the BJP withdrew its support to the Mehbooba Mufti Government and her government collapsed. But the damage had been done.
The unholy alliance between the BJP and the PDP had polarised the state almost 100% with people of Jammu province denouncing the alliance and bemoaning the BJP’s umpteen acts of betrayals. The formation of seven Kashmir secessionist outfits People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) against the abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 and J&K special status was the last step that the Abdullahs, Mufti, Lone, to mention only three, took to further widen the gulf between Jammu province and Kashmir.
It would not be out of place to mention here that the Congress and the BJP had also left no stone unturned between 1952 and 2015 to taunt, humiliate and marginalise the people of Jammu province by concluding truce after truce with secessionist Kashmiri leadership. The 1952 parleys between JL Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah over the political future of J&K, the 1974-75 Indira Sheikh Abdullah accord, the 1987 Rajiv-Farooq Abdullah accord, the 2002 Sonia Gandhi-Mufti Sayeed accord, the 2008 Sonia Gandhi-Farooq Abdullah/Omar Abdullah accord and the 2015 PDP-BJP agenda of the alliance had further outraged the people of Jammu province. These parleys and accords had made the people of Jammu province conclude that they had no place whatsoever in New Delhi’s scheme of things. All this further embittered the already rather bitter inter-regional relations.
Nature of the 2020 poll verdict
Much has been said and written about the elections held in November-December to elect for the first time 20 District Development Councils (DDCs), ten each in Jammu province and Kashmir. Pro-semi-independence Farooq Abdullah-led seven Kashmiri parties People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) won 110 out of 280 seats, 84 in Kashmir and 26 in Jammu. BJP emerged the single-largest party winning 75 seats, 72 in Jammu and three in Kashmir, and getting more votes than the PAGD got. The Congress won 26, 17 in Jammu and nine in Kashmir. Two other Kashmiri parties – JK Apni Party (JKAP) and People’s Democratic Front (PDF) – won 12 seats and two seats, respectively. JKNPP won two seats and BSP one in Jammu. Independent candidates won as many as 50 seats, 31 in Kashmir and 19 in Jammu.
Hindu voters across Jammu province also rejected the Congress outright. 25 of its Muslim candidates won and only one Hindu in Kishtwar was lucky to sail through.
It’s hardly necessary to reflect on what BJP, PAGD and others have been saying since December 22 about the nature and political meaning of the election verdict as everything is already in the public domain. However, a reflection on the voting pattern in the UT of J&K would be in order. Such an exercise would help us determine the support-base of the parties which tested political waters.
It’s clear from the election verdict that non-Muslims in UT didn’t favour PAGD candidates. For example, NC of Farooq Abdullah did win 67 seats (42 in Kashmir and 25 in Jammu), but only three of its Hindu candidates could win — all from Jammu province. Two of the Hindu candidates won from the reserved territorial constituencies. Similarly, Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP, which won 27 seats, failed to carry conviction with non-Muslims. Only two non-Muslim candidates, one Hindu and one Sikh could win on the PDP tickets – Hindu in Jammu and Sikh in Kashmir. Three other PAGD’s constituents, People’s Conference (PC), CPI-M and JK People’s Movement (JKPM), won 16 seats. None of these parties had given the ticket to even one Hindu or one Sikh. They had given mandate only to Kashmiri Muslims. In other words, PAGD’s 105 Muslim and five non-Muslim candidates won the DDC polls.
What about JKAP and PDF? Not one Hindu candidate fielded by JKAP could win in Jammu. As for Kashmir, JKAP had not fielded even one Hindu candidate. As far as PDF was concerned, it, like PC, CPI-M and JKPM, had fielded only Muslim candidates in Kashmir.
Hindu voters across Jammu province also rejected the Congress outright. 25 of its Muslim candidates won and only one Hindu in Kishtwar was lucky to sail through. This Hindu candidate won from a reserved territorial constituency.
Significantly, BJP, which had invested so much in the almost 100% non-Hindu Kashmir to win over Muslim voters, was treated by Muslims in the Valley like the Hindu voters in Jammu treated the PAGD, Congress and JKAP candidates. Its three Muslim candidates alone could win in Kashmir. As for Jammu province, Hindu voters voted overwhelmingly for it in Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Udhampur, Doda and Reasi districts. BJP’s nine Hindu candidates – three each in Kishtwar district, Ramban district and Rajouri district — also won.
What does all this suggest? It suggests total polarisation. It also suggests that the minority communities, including Hindus, don’t trust the Gupkaris, Congress and JKAP leaders. This can also be seen from the humiliating defeat of the PAGD candidates in such territorial constituencies in Jammu province as Vijaypur, Nagrota and Khour, as also from the total extinction of the Congress, NC, PDP and JKAP in the Hindu-dominated areas of Jammu province.
Now that the polarisation in the UT is complete, it’s time for the policy-planners in the South and North Blocks to sit up and work out a scheme that treats Jammu province like Ladakhis. Jammu province and Kashmir can’t co-exist as their socio-political aspirations are contradictory and mutually exclusive. Similarly, the suffering people of Jammu province can’t do any business with the Gupkaris, whose hatred for the Indian Constitution is intense and whose single-point agenda is converting Jammu province into another Kashmir as they favour a Pakistan-like dispensation under which the non-Muslim minorities in Jammu province will meet the fate the non-Muslim minorities have been meeting in Pakistan since August 1947. In other words, separation is the only solution to the polarised UT.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.