Needed a government for J&K, not of the Valley

Needed a government for J&K, not of the Valley

The rocky relationship between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come to an end with the premature death of their coalition government in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Given the history of coalition governments, both at the Centre and in the states, it is rare, indeed, that the BJP, as a partner,  pulls out of such arrangements; on the contrary, the BJP has been the invariable sufferer in the hands of the partners like JD(U) in Bihar, JD(S) in Karnataka and BSP in Uttar Pradesh. But this time, the BJP triggered the  collapse.

The BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav says that the alliance had become “untenable” as the PDP, “the senior partner”, did not handle  the “obstacles” on the path of development in Jammu and Ladakh, could not control the rising “radicalization” in the valley and failed to secure fundamental rights (of  life and freedom) to the people in the state. What Madhav did not add was that it was increasingly becoming difficult to coexist with chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who wanted a “soft approach” towards the terrorists, an approach that talked of unconditional extension of the ceasefire against the terrorists and  unconditional talks with Pakistan despite the facts that secessionist terrorists, firm on their determination to impose an Islamic rule in the state, were being openly aided and abetted by the Pakistani establishment.

To be fair, the ideological differences between the PDP and BJP were very much there even when the coalition was formed four years ago following the Assembly elections. But then the fact also remains that politics

ultimately reflects ground realities, not lofty sentiments. And the hard reality in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is that in an 87-member Assembly, only the PDP with 27 and BJP with 25 legislators could have  given together a stable government. No other coalition, say PDP-Congress or BJP-National Conference, would have the required number. If at all a coalition, other than the one between the PDP and BJP,  could have been  managed with the support of some independents, that government would have been  not only unstable but also highly non-representative. After all, neither the PDP nor the Congress nor the National Conference has much representation in the present Assembly from the Jammu and Ladakh regions. That means that any coalition other than the PDP-BJP will only be representing the Kashmir valley, not the state of Jammu and Kashmir as such.

It is worth mentioning here that in the wake of the growing separatist tendencies and Pakistan’s proxy war in the state, we generally give more emphasis on law and order in the valley, neglecting in the process the pathetic governance of the state for decades. Everybody tends to talk of only the Kashmir valley, giving an impression that Jammu and Ladakh simply do not exist. So much so that now the dictum is that no person from Jammu and Ladakh could ever become Chief Minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. As a result, a

Chief Minister, who is solely dependent upon the Kashmiri vote bank alone for gaining and retaining power, is bound to cultivate the Kashmiri electorate by all sorts of administrative measures and do more and more for the valley. A policy of regional discrimination has thus emerged.

There are grave regional imbalances. Jammu and Ladakh are very poorly represented in the state bureaucracy and other jobs. All the major industrial units such as HMT watch factory, the telephone factory, the television factory and cement factory are in the valley, even though the valley is not at all suitable as every kind of raw material needed come either from or through the Jammu region. And the matter has become so perverse that no central scheme in Jammu can ever be allowed if a similar scheme is not replicated in the valley. For instance, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has two central universities, two AIIMS, two IIT-like institutions, something other states in the country can never dream of.

Every Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir demands crores and crores of rupees from the Centre, but he or she is highly sensitive when matter of accountability of how the money provided by the Centre is being spent. Is it being spent equitably all over the state or getting concentrated in the valley? No chief minister will like to provide a clear answer. It may be noted, and I am quoting former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah here, “if there is a government at the Centre which is unfriendly towards J&K, the state would be in deep trouble” financially. More than 75 per cent of the state’s revenue comes from the Central government. A Reserve Bank of India (RBI) study in 2010 says that in J&K, the annual per capita spending by the Central government is about Rs 20 lakh! In fact, a Kashmiri gets about eight times more money from the Centre than citizens from other states.

According to an analysis by the Hindu newspaper sometime ago, Jammu and Kashmir has received 10 per cent of all Central grants given to states over the 2000-2016 period, despite having only one per cent of the country’s population. In contrast, Uttar Pradesh makes up about 13 per cent of the country’s population but received only 8.2 per cent of Central grants in 2000-16. “That means Jammu and Kashmir, with a population of 12.55 million according to the 2011 Census, received Rs 91,300 per person over the last sixteen years while Uttar Pradesh only received Rs 4,300 per person over the same period,” said the paper, adding, “ Even among the special category states, Jammu and Kashmir receives a disproportionate amount of Central assistance. The state received Rs 1.14 lakh crore in grants over the sixteen years under review, according to the Union Finance Ministry’s data, which is more than a quarter of the Central funds disbursed to the 11 special category states in that period.”  In other words, nearly 75 per cent Jammu and Kashmir’s revenue comes by way of the transfers from the central government in some form or the other year after year. It is a different matter altogether that the valley-based elites will not like a single question from Delhi as to how the money is being spent.

The sordid reality is that spending on the social sector in J&K — schools, health, rural development etc —is surprisingly low at about 30 per cent of aggregate expenditure. That is the fourth lowest proportion among all states, the RBI-study said. So where is all the money going if it is not reaching the ordinary people of the state?

Ironically, it may be mentioned here that in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the state government spends cores of rupee on the anti-India ‘political activists’, including the separatists. the state government bears all the hotels, security bills of Hurriyat and other political leaders if these leaders meet the Pakistani High commissioner in New Delhi.  According to some press reports, the Jammu and Kashmir government spends more than Rs 100 crore on the security of these leaders every year. Data provided by the state government suggests that in between 2010-15, a total of Rs 21 crore was spent (Rs 4 crore per/annum) on the hotel and Rs 26.43 crore on fuel expenditure of the Hurriyat leaders. Since 2010-11, the state has spent Rs 309 crore on the salary of guards and Rs 150 crore on the salary of PSOs who provide security to these leaders.

Be that as it may, when Mehbooba’s late father Mufti Mohammad Syed took over as the Chief minister of the coalition in 2014, he had said in an interview to Pakistani newspaper The Dawn, “The BJP got 25 seats from Jammu in the Assembly elections. I think ignoring this mandate will be a mistake. The BJP also got a nationwide mandate in the 2014 Parliamentary elections. I believe it is important to respect the mandate and form a government which is inclusive and takes into account the interests of all three distinct regions viz Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. In my view, the partnership with the BJP is an excellent opportunity to reconnect people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh with each other. This alliance could be a paradigm shift in Kashmir’s political history and reduce regional tensions. Internationally too, the PDP-BJP alliance is a message of our diversity.”

Viewed thus, one must salute the late Mufti Sahib that he had the required vision to lead the PDP-BJP coalition. The coalition represented all regions of the state. Here was perhaps the best opportunity in recent decades that there was a government in the state which every ethnic community– Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists – could consider its own. Secondly, his was a government that the BJP-led central government, which will be there till 2019, was bound to help, both politically and financially.

Mehbooba should have realised the ideas of her late father. Choice was there before her – whether to become the Chief Minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir or of the Kashmir valley? Her father, the visionary and nationalist that he was, thought of the whole state. Regrettably,  Mehbooba reduced herself to be the leader of the Kashmir valley. And here, she put the premium on the Modi government resuming dialogues with the separatists and Pakistan.

It is a huge myth that Kashmir will be normal once the government starts dialogue with the separatists. The then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had held three Round Tables with all the stakeholders in the valley. He had set up five working groups as a result of the round table initiative, including one on Centre-state relations. But when things were to be implemented, came the stone-throwing incidents in 2010, inviting police retaliations that resulted in 112 deaths.

This does not mean that the BJP, or for that matter the Modi government at the Centre, has no responsibility for the increasing violence from the side of the terrorists all over the state in the last two years. It all began with the  stupid decision to hand over the body of the terrorist Burhan Muzaffar Wani, whose killing on 8th July, 2016,  triggered the present bedlam in the valley, to his relatives for burial. It provided  the Islamists the grand opportunity to demonstrate their force. All told, Burhan was the offspring of the global jihadist movement that emerged in the last quarter of the previous century, hammering Muslim-majority freedom movements into Islamist struggles, particularly if the area belonged to or was under control of  the  ‘non-Muslims’– including Palestine and  Kashmir. It never occurred to Srinagar and New Delhi that  any Islamist ‘freedom’ movement  contradicted  the very idea of freedom.

As I have always written in these pages, Kashmir’s present woes are essentially because of the diminishing phenomenon of “Kashmiriyat” based on “Sufism”, the principal feature of the Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. Sufism talks of coexistence with, not total domination over others as propounded by the fanatic Wahabism, financed by Saudi Arabia and implemented by Pakistan in Kashmir. The disturbing elements in Kashmir are essentially Islamists, not freedom fighters that they claim to be. Just see the videos of the speeches of any Hurriyat leader to realise this point.

It may be noted that there are many  scholarly works that suggest that militancy in the Kashmir valley is concentrated in certain pockets. A study by the Observer Research Foundation says, “It is clear that the meaning of ‘disturbance’ changes significantly as we travel through Jammu and Kashmir’s ‘disturbed areas.’ While four districts in the Valley — Srinagar, Pulwama, Kupwara and Baramulla — are unequivocally disturbed, and militant violence is moderately high in Anantnag and Poonch, the frequency and impact of militancy is considerably lower in the state’s remaining districts.” It is said that out of 25 police districts in Jammu and Kashmir, 11 are militancy free. It may also be added here that when one talks of militancy, one has to make a distinction between the locals and foreign militants. A recent police report by the state government suggests that foreign militants are present in considerable numbers in the districts of Shopian, Pulwama, Anantnag, Kulgam, Kupwara, and Baramulla.

The most important point is that all the militancy-prone districts of the valley cited above comprise only 7.2 per cent of the total geographical area of the state that is with India at the moment. Should we then be blackmailed by the Islamic separatists who are a microscopic minority living in these areas?

Unfortunately, Mehbooba preferred to be blackmailed. She had to pay the price. One hopes that the Governor’s rule in the state will realise that good-governance covering the whole state and restoration of Kashmiriyat are keys to the peace and prosperity of Kashmir, not talking to the Islamist separatists. The latter need to be dealt with as sternly as possible, not pampered as they are now with crores of rupees spent on their security and health.

By Prakash Nanda

(prakash.nanda@hotmail.com)

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