In a formal statement, the party National Conference (NC) rejected the government’s plan of forming an advisory committee to handle the delimitation of assembly constituencies in the J&K Union Territory. NC members nominated on the said committee by the Lok Sabha Speaker have declined to accept the assignment. Other opposition parties in the UT have also rejected the process attributing it to government’s opportunism. The main objection of NC and other dissenting groups in the valley is that there is no elected government or assembly in the State and the Lt. Governor being an agent of the Union government does not have powers to make sensitive constitutional decisions. The real fear of the dissenting groups in the UT of J&K is that the delimitation process will weaken the stranglehold that such groups have on the state’s polity. The Valley-based mainstream leadership is obsessed with the apprehension of BJP making all-out efforts of reversing the complexion of assembly in a way that the Hindus come into prominence in the law-making bodies of the Union Territory.
Generally speaking, the sub-continental Muslim psyche is controlled and guided by some fantasies rooted either in scripture or tradition. For example, it is believed by some that Muslims are born or created only to rule and not remain as subjects and subordinates. This emanates from the concept that “with God’s will the lesser shall prevail”. In this concept remains embedded the urge for jihad, muscle power (terror) and suicide or Shahadat. Destabilising existing order becomes a religious or social duty. Then there is the concept of Islamic Caliphate that proposes to convert the entire human society to the Islamic faith and establish monolithic Islamic Caliphate as the one and only one state on the globe. This has given the Muslims a sense of exclusiveness that makes them oppose anything and everything that comes from sources other than their own. Thus emerges the firm belief that the Quran is a compendium of all the knowledge revealed by the Creator and cannot be contradicted, which also brings it in confrontation with the spectacular power and impact of modern science and technology.
This fossilised thinking is at the root of all the problems the Muslims of Kashmir Valley are beset with. They vociferously support the demand for the promulgation of Islamic sharia and the legal system but they find the idea of Indian democracy galling. Kashmir Valley has 54.9 per cent of the total population of the UT. Jammu region has 42.9 per cent and Ladakh has 2.2 per cent. Erstwhile J&K State had five chief ministers all Muslims and from the valley. Only one chief minister, Azad, was not from the valley. He was however a Muslim from Chenab Valley with a population of about 12 lakh. No non-muslim has ever been a chief minister of the erstwhile state of J&K, and at one time after the death of Sadiq, the name of the senior-most cabinet member GirdharilalDogra was deleted from the panel of prospective incumbents.
The question is that the Sikhs are barely 1.72 per cent of the total Indian population, yet a Sikh Prime Minister ruled the roost for 10 long years. In contrast, the Hindus with 65.23 per cent population in Jammu region alone and about 33 per cent of the total population of erstwhile J&K State, are not acceptable to the valley Muslim leadership to send in a chief minister. This shows how valley Muslims interprets democracy. This is a travesty which is unacceptable in a democracy.
With the Reorganisation Act in place, the situation has drastically changed in Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 was incorporated in the Indian Constitution in 1949 as a result of a majority vote in the Parliament despite their being many dissenting voices. This was on the principle of the will of the majority. The same principle applies to the scrapping of the Article in 2019, which means that while there will be dissent, the will of the majority must prevail.
Reorganisation Act and domicile laws now entitle hundreds of thousands of hitherto de-enfranchised people to become the citizens of the erstwhile state and enjoy their right to vote. This necessitates creating/reorganising assembly constituencies to accommodate them as legal citizens. It is preposterous to call it gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is what has been done to two constituencies of HabbaKadal and Rainawari, the once Hindu dominated constituencies in Srinagar.
The people have to be empowered constitutionally and administratively. By rejecting the Delimitation Commission, NC and other dissenting groups only prove that denying the citizens rights of the refugees from PoK and West Punjab and ensuring their disempowerment for seven decades has been their steel-framed policy. Such blatant discrimination cannot be upheld either by the Indian Constitution or by international law.
It is wrong to say that scrapping of the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir was politically motivated and that it was brought about as “Hindutva” programme. People should know that the communal and discriminatory leadership of the valley are squarely responsible for it as it forced the Union government to take a drastic measure to safeguard the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of the country. The solid reasons for the Home Minister to take the drastic and historic decision were:
- By settling nearly 90 thousand Rohingya refugees of Myanmar in Jammu region without the consent of the Assembly and issuing them such certification as confirmed their citizenship of the State, the PDP-led government had not only told a lie to the Assembly but had brazenly infringed the provisions of Article 370.
- By issuing the Gupkar Declaration, the mainstream parties had taken a very dangerous step of calling any attempt of scraping Article 370 as“war against people”.
- Mounting a campaign against the presence of Indian security establishment in the disturbed state where it has become necessary to deter clandestine infiltration from across the border, is tantamount to sedition. No honest government would tolerate an antagonistic attitude like this and the Union government had to take proper action.
The Kashmir Valley leadership needs to understand that no community can stand in isolation or exclusive setting. Thousands of Kashmiri Muslims have purchased immovable properties in almost all big cities of India. In Jammu region, at a time when the Roshni loot was set afoot, the government issued official advertisements saying that only Muslim can apply for allotment of plots in new localities like Bhatinda, By-Pass, Sidhra etc.
All these steps indicated that the valley-based Muslim leadership wanted to change the demographic complexion of Jammu and make deep inroads into the region by slow degrees. What were the purpose behind settling the illegal Rohingya in Jammu and that too along sensitive Samba-Jammu border but not taking them to the Valley where they would have been more comfortable with their co-religionists? The NC-led communal government had no qualms of conscience in passing a law in the Assembly dominated by Valley Muslim MLAs that any Kashmiri girl marrying a man outside the State loses citizenship rights and this law applies to her children also.
Valley leadership has to understand that their resistance and opposition is meaningless. The clock will not move back. Exclusiveness and blue-eyed treatment expectations are redundant. No community in the country can enjoy any special status and those hitherto deprived of their rights will get them come what may. The sooner Kashmir leadership understands the writing on the wall the better for the good of the general public. Once the rail link across the PirPanjal becomes functional, Kashmir’s economy will go through a sea change. Along with this, the massive developmental programme will explode all the myths and misgivings deliberately structured by the ambivalent Kashmir leadership with vested interests.
(Prof. K.N. Pandita is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, Srinagar. Views expressed are personal.)