Skip to main content

Turning J&K, Ladakh into UTs? Modi govt 'hasn't learnt' lesson from Nagaland

By Mohan Guruswamy*
The Narendra Modi government’s action of abrogating Article 370 is reminiscent of the precipitous “demonetisation” that marked the downturn of the economy which still shows no sign of looking up. The sudden bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two union territories (UTs) of J&K and Ladakh effectively means liberating Ladakh from the troubled state, but leaving behind a union of two very dissimilar regions, one mostly Muslim and the other mostly Hindu.
It will only end up making a bad situation worse.
The new UT of J&K effectively means an end to full democracy and self-government, and leaving an area bigger than many full states of the Indian Union, with a population of more than 14 million with a government with much less power and authority than enjoyed by the erstwhile J&K state.
For all practical purposes it will be directly ruled by Delhi. We have seen how the Union government has emasculated the Delhi government, leaving the people of Delhi with little say in their government. Managing Delhi is a lot easier, but managing an insurgency-ridden territory striving for “azadi” might be a bone too hard for the Modi government to chew.
One thing is almost certain. India will have very few now batting for it in the Kashmir Valley and the Muslim-dominated Poonch of Jammu. When the Modi government and the RSS do not share the aspirations of a modern, egalitarian and truly secular nation, it would be quite ridiculous to expect the people of Kashmir and its leaders to aspire for it.
It would seem that the lessons of Nagaland have not been learnt by the regime. There, after being bogged down in strife for more than six decades, the Modi government seems to have agreed to a degree of autonomy unlike anything conceded to any region in India. This new arrangement seems to go well beyond what Article 370 gave the erstwhile state of J&K. Instead of democracy taking a step forward it has taken a huge step backwards.
Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of South Asia. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. Muslim rule was ushered in by Shamsuddin Shah Mir (1339-42), a courtier in the court of King Udayanadeva who seized the throne after his death.
The Mughals took control in 1586 during the rule of Jalaluddin Akbar. The region came under the control of the Durrani Empire in Kabul from 1753 to 1819 when the Sikhs took over. In 1846 the treachery of Gulab Singh, a Dogra general and governor of Jammu, was repaid when the British gave him Jammu for it and further turned over the Kashmir Valley to him for Rs 75 lakhs.
These treaties formed the so-called princely state of J&K, and Gulab Singh became its first Maharaja. This was also the first time J&K became one administrative entity. As governor of Jammu, Gulab Singh had also captured Ladakh and Baltistan. His son Ranbir Singh added Hunza, Gilgit and Nagar to the kingdom.
Thus, a composite state of disparate regions, religions and ethnicities was formed. This is reflected in the present day demographics. The Kashmir Valley of about 6.9 million people is 96.4% Muslim, with Hindus and Buddhists accounting for just 3.6%. Jammu, which has a population of 5.4 million is 62.6% Hindu and 33.5% Muslims, mostly concentrated in Poonch.
Ladakh has a population of just 30 lakh with its 46.4% of Shia Muslims concentrated in Kargil, 40% Buddhist concentrated around Leh and 12.1% Hindus. Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) areas including Gilgit-Baltistan are almost 100% Muslim. The total population now of J&K is 14.6 million, PoK is 4.05 million and Gilgit-Baltistan is 1.8 million.
The purpose of elaborating on this is two fold. Historically, all the regions of Jammu and Kashmir are part of the present narrative of India’s composite history. Despite its preponderant Muslim population, the history of people of the Kashmir Valley is intertwined with all the different local histories of the many nationalities of present day India, which is also home to the world’s second largest Muslim population. 
There is no separate Kashmir story as there is for Afghanistan or Nepal. It was always a part of the Indian main and except for a brief rule from Kabul. There is no cause or case for a separate Kashmir, like the Tibetans may have or the Palestinians have.
This J&K, with or without PoK, is an artificial entity of recent origin. Its long past its use by date. We must also accept that reunification with the PoK part of it is neither desirable nor feasible. Historically, culturally, ethnically and linguistically Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir have as much in common as Tamil Nadu has with Punjab or Assam with Gujarat. The destinies of the people of Jammu and Ladakh have to be delinked from Kashmir. Nor are they exactly happy to be dominated by Kashmir.
After being bogged down in strife for six decades, the Modi government agreed to a degree of autonomy to Nagaland unlike anything conceded to any region in India
J&K is not the only princely state that acceded to India without some early hesitations and a bit of acrimony. The Maharaja of Jodhpur was an early ditherer who even contemplated acceding to Pakistan till sanity prevailed. The story of Junagadh is well known. Hyderabad, India’s biggest princely state and an inheritor of varied traditions, including the Sathavahanas, Kakatiyas, Bahmanis and Mughals was, like J&K, stitched together with three large and distinct regions. 
If J&K had to be rescued by the Indian Army from tribal raiders from present-day Pakistan and encouraged and provisioned by the new state of Pakistan, Hyderabad, surrounded on all sides by former British Indian Presidencies, had to be taken by the Indian Army from the dithering Asaf Jah ruler and his coterie of Muslim nobles and proselytizing rabble.
In the new India, old states got subsumed and new states were created. All the many regions of the erstwhile princely state of J&K, whether in India or under the control of Pakistan, have by and large settled down under their new national identities, except the Kashmir Valley. It is now India’s seemingly intractable problem. It has festered for over 70 years. Did we miss something?
Like Malda, Kishenganj, Hyderabad and Malapuram parliamentary constituencies, Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramula are the only Muslim majority constituencies in India. There are no nationality issues in any of the former. Independent India is a nation of many nationalities and for the first time with power vested with the people by a lively democracy.
More than being a nation bound together by shared history, shared culture and shared ethnicity, it is bound together by shared aspirations assured by a Constitution, written by our founding fathers that shared idealism and nationalism forged by shared experience.
It is amply clear that many, if not most, people in the Kashmir Valley do not share the aspirations, which bind the rest of us together. But history does not offer them any basis for a distinct and independent identity either. On the other hand, the narrative of Kashmir’s recent history has taken a distinct course, different from the rest of the country. This India must recognize. In these past 70 years, India has made a hash of managing Kashmir either by placation or by iron hand.
The Indian state has now to offer something tangible to satisfy most aspirations in Kashmir, and we are talking only about Kashmir. Instead, it seems, by linking Kashmir in an unnatural union with Jammu and bringing them under Delhi’s direct rule, India is only offering the troubled people of Kashmir a choice of jackboots.
India must seek to accommodate Kashmir with an autonomy that will satisfy the aspirations nurtured by this long period of revolt. With accession to Pakistan or a complete independence not options, an acceptable via media must be and can be found. The breakthrough for that must happen in the minds of the rest of India.
Heavens are not going to fall if Kashmir becomes an autonomous region within India. The extent of autonomy then becomes the only matter for discussion. We can afford to be generous. But it appears that the Modi government is not ready for it.
---
*Senior policy expert. Source: Author's Facebook timeline. Contact: mohanguru@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.