Date: 9/9/2002


................Reorganisation and autonomy

......................Bal Raj Madhok

Jammu & Kashmir State, when it acceded to India on October 26, 1947, had a total area of 84,471 sq miles. It got bifurcated between India and Pakistan on January 12, 1949, when unilateral ceasefire ordered by Pandit Nehru left about 30,000 sq mile area of the State including whole of Gilgit (about 15,000 sq miles), Baltistan minus Kargil and Dras belt (12,000 sq miles) and the Punjabi and Pahari speaking belt along the Jhelum including Mirpur and Muzaffarabad districts and a major part Poonch Jagir (about 3,000 sq miles) in the de-facto control of Pakistan.

It did not include any part of the Kashmiri speaking Valley of Kashmir. It is, therefore, wrong to describe Pakistan occupied territory as "Azad Kashmir". Communist China occupied about 15,000 sq miles area of the Ladakh region of the State around 1959. As a result, J&K State got trifurcated between India, Pakistan and China leaving only about 30,000 sq miles area of this vast State under de-jure and de-facto control of India. It is unfortunate that political leaders and the Indian media have virtually forgotten this forced trifurcation of the State.

The Kashmir valley is surrounded on all sides by high Himalayan ranges which remain snow-bound for many months. All the three passes in the Pir Panjal range which link Kashmir valley with Jammu - Banihal, Nandi Murg and Sinthan - are about 10,000 ft above sea level. The only pass that links it with Ladakh, the Jozila Pass, is about 13,000 ft above sea level. Because of this geographical seclusion, Kashmir all through the history has remained either a separate kingdom or separate province of the various Indian empires that rose from time to time. It was a separate province of the empire built by Ranjit Singh till 1846 when it was acquired by Gulab Singh.

Ladakh lying to the East of Kashmir across the Himalayas is also known as Little Tibet. It has become the biggest centre of Lamaist Buddhism since the occupation of Tibet by China. It attracts pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. Its people speak Bodhi language which is written in Tibetan form of Devanagri script. Their representative organisation - the Ladakh Buddhist Association - submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Nehru soon after State's accession to India for separation from Kashmir and direct rule from Delhi.

Jammu region extending from Punjab planes to Pir Panjal is inhabited by Dogras who are known for their martial qualities and constitute an important constituent of the Indian Army. Quit Kashmir movement launched by Sheikh Abdullah in 1946 was aimed against them and their Dogra ruler. That added to the distrust of the Dogra people of Jammu for Sheikh and his Kashmiri followers. Jammu Praja Parishad first raised the demand for delinking of Jammu from Kashmir and devolution of power to the people of Jammu as early as 1948.

It is thus clear that demand for reorganisation of the State on the basis of unalterable geography and ground realities and devolution of power to the people of the 3 regions goes back to the time of accession of the State to India. To hand over the administration of the whole State to Sheikh Abdullah who had no locus standii outside the Valley, was a grave blunder. His demand for special status for the whole State was not acceptable to the people of Jammu and Ladakh. That is why opposition to incorporation of temporary Article 370 in the Indian Constitution began from the day one.

Due to over-representation given to the Kashmir valley in the State Assembly, Kashmiri Muslims have developed a kind of imperialistic tendency to dominate Jammu and Ladakh. Process of Islamisation of not only Kashmir but also Jammu and Ladakh has been going on side by side. As a result, Ladakh is on the verge of losing its distinct Buddhist identity. The growing grip of Kashmiri Muslims on the administration of Jammu is a major factor in extension of Islamic terrorism to Jammu. This has made the people of Jammu including its non-Kashmiri Muslim population desperate.

They now want complete administrative de-link of Jammu from Kashmir through reorganisation of the State and formation of separate Jammu State. People of Jammu and Ladakh do not want any kind of special status and more autonomy. But they would not oppose special status for Kashmir valley within the framework of the Indian Constitution. Mr Farooq Abdullah cannot be allowed to impose autonomy of his conception on Jammu and Ladakh. To describe reorganisation of the State on the basis of geography and ground realities given above as trifurcation of the State on communal lines is to betray a communal, anti-secular and anti-national mindset.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/secon3.asp?cat=\opd3&d=OPED 10th Sep 2002