What did go amiss from the all party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir (JK) which was meant to look for a way forward out of the current impasse? No doubt it was a crucial ice breaking exercise with not much expected to emerge out of it, notwithstanding the hyperbole created by a section of the media, but it was certainly expected to kick-start a holistic and all encompassing approach.
The crucial J and K syllables, not in the real term denoting the abbreviated form of the erstwhile state or the current decimated Union Territory, went completely missing from this exercise. Unexpectedly under the present Narendra Modi dispensation the factor K for Kashmir dominated, in all respects, the over three hour long agenda-less meeting. Be it the line up or the invitees for the meeting or the subsequent mentions from either side, it was Kashmir dominant.
What went for a toss and pushed to oblivion, despite lofty promises heard during the last seven years, was factor J for Jammu and factor K for Kashmiri Pandit (KP) community. Were not the two part of the priority agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the last three decades? Have they not been using both Jammu and KPs as a political pawn in their scheme of things to change the political narrative in Jammu and Kashmir since the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) days?
As is often said that people or to be precise voters in India have a short memory and political parties merrily exploit this shortcoming to peddle lies and be repetitive without any fear of being caught. On their part the political parties conveniently suffer from selective amnesia to overlook their promises and core areas of concern in quest to broaden their political base or to be precise grab power.
Was it a case of selective amnesia for Narendra Modi Government and the ruling BJP in not providing proper representation to Jammu or keeping representatives of the KP community out of the meeting?
That certainly is not the case. There should not be any qualms to admit that the core issue is Kashmir but can it be tackled without taking all the stakeholders on board. This approach has not worked in the past and it is unlikely to deliver dividends currently as well. Barring the aging old warhorse and Panthers Party founder Prof Bhim Singh no one including the star-studded BJP team led by Prime Minister Mr Modi though it fit to mention Jammu. Naturally, the state leaders of the BJP including its president and two former deputy chief ministers and, of course, a central Minister had to follow their top leadership’s diktat in merely counting their achievements.
Who would have stopped the J and K BJP leaders had they raised genuine concerns of Jammu albeit briefly or the plight of KPs? No, no one! What even if by doing so they had invited wrath of their central leadership? At least they would have been seen by the people back home performing their duty to little extent. Expectedly, that was not to be.
None except the Congress (read Ghulam Nabi Azad) referred to KP’s plight although only in terms of their resettlement back in Kashmir. The reference came from where it was least expected and it went a begging, both in the case of Jammu and KPs, from where (read BJP) it was most expected.
The only crime of the people of Jammu region seems that they trusted Congress for decades and that they have already voted half-a-dozen time in succession for the BJP, right from Lok Sabha down to Panchayat elections. If they are expected to vote again to form a BJP or BJP led government as and when the assembly elections are held, the least Jammu expected was that their concerns should have found some echo in the all party meeting.
This is a clear reflection of the mindset at work. This is a clear reflection of the plans where Jammu exists nowhere. The issues of identity, protection of domicile rights and political empowerment of Jammu cannot be covered by the facade of plethora of developmental activities. The two have to go side by side. Yes, restoration of statehood status is a top priority as it is the question of identity of what was once the flourishing state of the erstwhile Maharaja. Yes, it was important that the Kashmiri leadership dominantly present in the meeting rightly raised the concerns of rights and identity of Kashmiri people.
Do the people of Jammu have no similar concerns about their up till now muzzled rights and continuously under-erosion identity? They certainly deserved a mention and much more. Hope there is further similar engagements and Jammu finds some traction.
Jammu is being taken far-granted by the powerful ruling BJP, as never before. The oft-repeated arguments from the ruling party quarters, that Jammu has no option but to vote for BJP only smacks of arrogance and disdain. Nothing less than addressing Jammu’s concerns on issues related to identity, protection of domicile rights and political empowerment would serve the purpose in long term.
The trial balloons such as further dismemberment of the J and K UT into two or a separate statehood for Jammu, without enlisting contours of it, will not resolve the identity issues. In fact it would create more confusion. The solution lies in uniting and not further dividing. The complications would grow further with more divisions and sub-divisions of the territory which is not in the national interest as J and K being a strategic and border area.
If the already caused division into two UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh was the right path to resolve the crisis gripping the three erstwhile regions of the former state, then why is the Centre holding all party meetings with the political leaders of the two UTs. In case of Ladakh separate meetings are being held with the representatives of Kargil and Leh divisions.
What does that reflect? All is not well on the ground. The things would have been different had such interactions been carried before August 5, 2019.
It is so because the issue of regional identity and empowerment, which should have been at the core, were not even discussed ostensibly under the fervour of creating a unitary system. Barring Leh division people in rest of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir have not accepted either division or demotion in the form of Union Territories.
What could be more ironic that the same dispensation which converted the bustling state into UTs lost no time in ensuring that the statehood would be restored “at an appropriate time”. Then why take it away at the first instance. It is baffling.