“Divide J&K into four states of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and Panun Kashmir or keep the state under President’s Rule for an indefinite period.” – people of Jammu and Ladakh
Jammu & Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly on November 21, 2018, in a most dramatic manner. All the Kashmir-based and Valley-centric parties, including the National Conference, the People’s Democratic Party, and the Congress, described the dissolution of the assembly as “murder of democracy”. Their view was that they had formed what they called a “Grand Alliance” to form a coalition government to “save the state and its special status”, but the Governor denied “us” the opportunity ignoring the fact that “we had the required numbers in the Assembly”.
“The Governor’s rule/President’s Rule has always been beneficial for us than the so-called popular rule under rulers from Kashmir.”
Ever since then, the National Conference has been urging the Union Government and the Election Commission of India to hold the Assembly elections in the state before May 2019, saying that the “President’s Rule is no substitute to popularly-elected government”.
It would not be an overstatement if it is said that all the Kashmir-based political parties want the Assembly elections to take place at the earliest with the National Conference taking up the election issue in a big way. The fact of the matter is that both the National Conference and the Congress feel that the defeat of the BJP in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has tilted the balance in their favour and they can score a grand victory in Jammu province and Kashmir. They feel that the People’s Democratic Party has lost its sheen and appeal in Kashmir and the BJP has become unpopular in Jammu province.
As for the BJP, it, according to insiders, is a “divided house”. There are some who want the continuation of the President’s Rule for a longer time so that the party could restore the ground it lost after March 1, 2015, due to its “unholy alliance with the People’s Democratic Party” and “its failure to deliver in Jammu”. Then, there are others in the party who want simultaneous Parliamentary and Assembly elections in the state. Their view is that holding Assembly elections along with the Parliamentary elections will help the party win a respectable number of seats in Jammu.
However, in Jammu and Ladakh, many politically conscious people have started discussing the importance or otherwise of their vote or participation or no participation in the Assembly elections. Reports from Ladakh suggest that the people of the region, especially Buddhists, do not want assembly elections to take place. They want the President’s rule to continue for a longer period.
“If the state could be kept under Governor/President’s Rule between January 19, 1990, and October 9, 1996 (6 years, 9 months and 10 days), why can’t it happen now? The Governor’s rule/President’s Rule has always been beneficial for us than the so-called popular rule under rulers from Kashmir. Why should we vote when the CM of the state has to be from Kashmir and from the majority community? It has been happening since 1952 when we voted for electing constituent-cum-legislative assembly. Ever since then, the CM of the state has been from the Kashmir’s majority community and we have no say whatsoever in the governance of the state and in the civil secretariat where our presence is almost nil,” say many Ladakhi Buddhists, adding that “it was only during the President’s Rule that Ladakh got Autonomous Hill Development Councils and a full-fledged university for the region”.
Why should we vote when Jammu province, which is two-time that of Kashmir in terms of land area and has a population equal to Kashmir, if not more, can’t have a CM from this region?
“There should be no Assembly elections in the state before Ladakh was granted Union Territory status,” they opine.
The view in Jammu is no different. Here also a majority of people want the President’s Rule for a longer time, saying “the President’s Rule in the state is a must to break the backbone of militants and weaken the control of vested interests in Kashmir over the state’s administrative apparatus”.
The general view in Jammu is: “We have been voting since 1952. What did we get in return? We always got a Kashmir-centric CM from Kashmir. Why should we vote when Jammu province, which is two-time that of Kashmir in terms of land area and has a population equal to Kashmir, if not more, can’t have a CM from this region? Our vote is not for our empowerment; our vote is for the election or selection of a CM from Kashmir. We gave 25 seats to the BJP in 2014 and the BJP bartered our mandate to make Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti CM of the state. It withdrew support to Mehbooba Mufti in June 2018 and then flirted with another Kashmiri, Sajad Lone, who had just 2 MLAs. Had the Governor not dissolved the assembly on November 21, Sajad Lone would have been the CM with the support of Jammu’s 25 MLAs. This is not acceptable. We want a continuation of the President’s Rule and also a reorganization of the state so that we could elect a CM from our own region. If states like Maharashtra, Assam, Bihar, and Rajasthan can have CMs from the minority community, why can’t J&K have a CM belonging to the minority community? Reorganization of the state is the only panacea available”.
It needs to be noted that the office of the Chief Minister has become the sole preserve of Kashmir and Kashmir’s majority community ever since 1947.
It would not be out of place to quote verbatim what Farooq Abdullah’s brother and Omar Abdullah’s uncle Sheikh Mustafa Kamal said on December 30, 2014, as far as the office of CM in Jammu & Kashmir was concerned. He, inter-alia, said: “Only a Muslim can become CM of Jammu & Kashmir because the Muslims are a majority in the state…The Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir guarantees that the head of the state must be from the majority… If it is written in the Constitution that only a Muslim can become the CM, the BJP must not grudge over it. They must give their communal agenda”. (J&K Constitution nowhere says that CM of the state has to be a Muslim.)
It needs to be noted that the office of the Chief Minister has become the sole preserve of Kashmir and Kashmir’s majority community ever since 1947. Sheikh Abdullah, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, Shams-Ud-Din, GM Sadiq, Mir Qasim, Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Farooq Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti all were from Kashmir. They all belonged to one religious sect (Sunni).
That no one from Jammu and Ladakh was ever considered fit for the state’s top executive office speaks for itself and vindicates those who ask: “Why should we vote when CM of the state has to be from Kashmir and from the majority community?” To be more precise, the upshot of the whole argument of the people of Jammu and Ladakh is: “Divide J&K into four states of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and Panun Kashmir (My Kashmir for internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus) or keep the state under President’s Rule for an indefinite period.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.