Saturday, June 02, 2012

For six decades the Valley leadership has disregarded Jammu -- Ignoring Jammu — II


JAMMU, May 17: The people of Jammu Pradesh have been crying for justice, particularly since 1952, when under the banner of Praja Parishad they not only demanded their due in the state’s polity, but also arrest of Sheikh Abdullah, the then Prime Minister of J&K. In 1967, they launched an organized struggle against what they called the “Kashmiri domination”. The two organizations which were in the forefront were Jammu Autonomy Forum and Dogra Mandal. While the former demanded autonomy for Jammu within the state, the latter advocated the need for its separation from Kashmir.

Earlier in 1965, former Sadar-e-Riyasat, Karan Singh, had also mooted the idea of Jammu’s segregation from Kashmir and its merger with the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. The Jammu Pradesh witnessed a number of strikes in 1978-79. The principal storm centres were Poonch, Rajouri, Kishtwar and Jammu. One of the agitations continued for 84 days in Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch.

Between 1966 and 1981, the state government set up with much fanfare three commissions to placate the Jammu people, namely Gajendragadkar Commission (1967), Kadri Commission (1972) and Sikri Commission (1967). While the 1967 and 1979 commissions were to look into the complaints of the Jammuites and recommend measures to rectify the regional imbalances, the 1972 Commission was to examine the demand for creation of more districts in the Jammu Pradesh.

The commissions dealing with regional imbalances and disparities and inter-regional animosities candidly admitted injustice to the Jammu Pradesh and recommended a statutory development board for Jammu plus deputy chief minister-ship for a Jammuite in the event of a Kashmiri being elected chief minister. The Kadri Commission, on the other hand, rejected the demand for the creation of any new district either in Jammu or in Kashmir.

It may sound ridiculous but the state government not only repudiated the reports submitted by Gajendragadkar and S M Sikri, both Chief Justices of India, but also set up on its own three new districts in the Kashmir valley, namely Pulwama, Kupwara and Budgam, and one in Ladakh region, namely Kargil.
And, ridiculous though it may seem, in 1983, the state government rejected the unambiguous recommendation of the Wazir Commission that three new districts be set up in Jammu Pradesh, namely Reasi, Kishtwar and Samba. The Wazir Commission was appointed after a series of agitations in the Jammu Pradesh against the formation of new districts in Kashmir and Ladakh.

Then, again in 1987, the state government closed down the agriculture and Ayurvedic colleges in the Jammu Pradesh and transferred the professional institutions like the veterinary and dental colleges to Kashmir. Also, it decided to do away with decades old practice of Durbar movement from Jammu to Srinagar and back, and set it up permanently in Kashmir.

Jammu witnesses several other strikes after 1987 and two of the agitations continued for 67 and 63 days, respectively. In 1998, Jammu revolted against the Kashmiri leadership and demanded establishment of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University and Agriculture University and fair share in the technical and professional institutions, including medical and engineering colleges. The agitation continued for 67 days with the Jammu youth, especially the student community bringing the state government to its knees. In 2008, the nation witnessed a massive upsurge in Jammu Pradesh and the issues which had provoked the people of Jammu to rise in revolt against the state government included controversy over the Baltal land, discrimination with Jammu and interference in the religious affairs of the Hindus. The agitation continued for 63 days. Both these agitations were highly successful.

Hence, instead of dismissing the clamours in Jammu Pradesh for its reorganization or trifurcation or for the establishment of an adequately empowered regional council as a mere favourite pastime of idle politicians, the Union Government would do well to look these facts in the face and wake up. The aggrieved people of Jammu Pradesh have little faith in the state government. New Delhi must come forward before it is too late and do something concrete to mollify Jammu. If the Centre could enact on May 9, 1995, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act and subsequently set up an autonomous council at Leh, why can it not do the same in the highly underdeveloped Jammu Pradesh. It should pass an Act which not only grants substantial political, administrative and financial powers to Jammu, but also to Leh, where prominent leaders consistently say that the autonomous hill development council has not mitigated all of their hardships and that there is one way in which their needs and aspirations could be fulfilled and that is by conferring the status of UT on the region. (Concluded)

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