Reorganization of the state on a regional, as opposed to religious, basis, will strengthen nationalist constituencies in Jammu and Ladakh
Three phases of Urban Local Bodies (ULB) elections in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh were over on October 13. The people of Ladakh in full and people of Jammu and Kashmir in all the districts gave their verdict. Ladakh voted during the first phase on October 8. Jammu voted during all these three phases – October 8, 10 and 13. The verdict was clear and unambiguous. The verdict was undoubtedly against the votaries of Article 35A, especially Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Mohd Yousuf Tarigami, who had announced boycott of the upcoming ULB and panchayat polls saying the concerned authorities in Jammu and Kashmir and New Delhi didn’t give the people of Kashmir a definite assurance that they would defend Article 35A in the Supreme Court and not allow its dilution in any form. They wanted the Government of India to declare that the right of Kashmiri leaders to define citizenship in the state will be upheld at any cost, notwithstanding the fact that it made unjust, invidious, humiliating and disturbing distinctions between men and women of the state and between the residents of the state and all other Indians in terms of immovable property, jobs, scholarships, education and voting rights. It needs to be underlined that Article 35A violates the basic structure of the Indian Constitution by subverting Article 14 that bars the state from discriminating against persons on grounds such as religion, caste, creed and place of birth.
It was a referendum against Mehbooba Mufti and her pro-self-rule PDP, Farooq Abdullah and son Omar Abdullah and their pro-Jammu & Kashmir autonomy NC and Mohd Yousuf Tarigami and his marginal CPI-M and a vote of confidence for India.
The manner in which and the enthusiasm with which the people of Jammu, Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, Kathua, Udhampur, Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar and Samba districts in Jammu province and Ladakh’s Leh and Kargil districts exercised their franchise on October 8, 10 and 13 just can’t be termed as a part of normal electoral exercise. It has to be termed as an extraordinary electoral exercise given the fact that the polls were held in an environment, which had been vitiated by the votaries of Article 35A in Kashmir and separatists and half-separatists.
That Jammu district would witness 63.8 per cent voter turn out, Rajouri as high as 81 per cent and Poonch 73.1 per cent in the first phase; Reasi, Kathua, Udhampur, Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar districts would witness over 78 per cent voter turnout during the second phase; and Samba would witness 82 per cent voter turnout in the third phase could be construed as a tight slap on the faces of the protagonists of Article 35A and the state’s separate status. Rajouri is almost 60 per cent Muslim-majority and Poonch 90 per cent Muslim-majority. Similar was the case in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts, where almost 75 per cent voters exercised their right to vote. These three districts also house a large number of Muslims. Half of the Tehsils in these three districts are Muslim-majority and half Hindu-majority. But the Muslims of these three districts, like the Muslims of Rajouri and Poonch, preferred elections over politics of blackmail and separatism. They rejected outright the boycott call given by India-haters in Kashmir. As for Kathua, Reasi and Udhampur districts, where elections were also in the second phase, the voting percentage was also 80 with Lakhanpur witnessing over 93 per cent voters coming out of their houses to exercise their right to franchise.
Indeed, it was a referendum against Mehbooba Mufti and her pro-self-rule PDP, Farooq Abdullah and son Omar Abdullah and their pro-Jammu & Kashmir autonomy NC and Mohd Yousuf Tarigami and his marginal CPI-M and a vote of confidence for India. Leave aside Geelanis, Mirwaizs and Maliks who had no say whatsoever in Jammu and Ladakh region and whose area of influence is basically confined to Hyderpora, Jamia Masjid and Maisuma areas of Srinagar city, where the people didn’t come out to elect a new Srinagar Municipal Corporation. Srinagar didn’t witness even three per cent polling.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi would do well to appreciate the October 8, 10 and 13 mandate and tell the international community that the people of Jammu and Ladakh have rejected outright the politics of separation
In the trans-Himalayan Ladakh, the people, Buddhists and Shiite Muslims included, also rejected outright the ardent believers in the concept of Article 35A. They, like the people of Jammu, including Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, also pinned full faith in the Indian democratic system and gave respectability to the decision of PM Narendra Modi to reject Abdullahs, Muftis and Tarigamis and hold ULB elections in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. In Ladakh, the Buddhist-majority Leh district witnessed 55.2 per cent voter turnout and in the Shia-majority Kargil, no less than 78.2 per cent eligible voters exercised their right to franchise.
But more than that, the very low voter turnout in Kashmir established beyond any doubt that Kashmir is the only region in the state that is gripped by secessionist violence and extreme form of politics. However, in Kashmir region’s Kupwara, Handwara, Sumbal town in Bandipora and Uri in Baramallu, the people sprung a big surprise by voting in large numbers. Almost 36 per cent voters voted in Kupwara, Handwara and Sumbal. Uri created a history of sorts by witnessing a voter turnout of 78 per cent.
In other words, it was not just that the people of Jammu and Ladakh rejected Abdullahs and Muftis. The people of Kupwara, Handwara, Sumbal and Uri also rejected them. It’s no wonder then that former minister and PC chief Sajad Lone on October 8 asked Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti to quit their positions and official accommodations as they stood completely rejected by the people of the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi would do well to appreciate the October 8, 10 and 13 mandate and tell the international community that the people of Jammu and Ladakh have rejected outright the politics of separation as being indulged in by Kashmiri leaders of all hues since 1947 and that terrorism is confined to only 40X80 sq km Kashmir Valley. Even this will not do, the Government of India also has to take into consideration the fact that the State consists of three disparate regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and that the political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Ladakh are different from those of the people of Kashmir. It would be only politically prudent if the powers-that-be at the centre appreciate these glaring contradictions between the regions and devise a mechanism that empowers the people of each of these three regions to manage their own affairs themselves in a meaningful manner. It has become absolutely imperative given the fact that all Kashmiri leaders are Valley and one-community and one-religion-centric and that the watchword and battle-cry in Jammu and Ladakh are for the state’s full merger with India. Reorganization of the state on a regional, as opposed to religious, basis, will, on the one hand, strengthen nationalist constituencies in Jammu and Ladakh and, on the other, help the authorities defeat the politics of separation in Kashmir in a comprehensive manner.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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