13 years of President’s rule: What’s Jammu’s fault?

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Prof Hari Om

The state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) came into being on March 16, 1846. That eventful day, Kashmir became part of the mighty Dogra Kingdom under the Treaty of Amritsar, and not the vice-versa. The Treaty was signed between the British East India Company and the Dogra ruler, Maharaja Gulab Singh. The strategic trans-Himalayan Ladakh was already part of the Dogra Kingdom. The Dogra rulers, Gulab Singh (1846-1857), Ranbir Singh (1857-1885), Pratap Singh (1885-1925) and Hari Singh (1925-1947), tried their best to provide a fair, responsive and people-centric administration, notwithstanding the sinister conspiracies the canny imperialist Britons hatched from time to time to destabilize the Dogra rule and promote the London’s geo-political interests in the region by befriending and promoting the anti-Dogra communal forces in Kashmir. The Dogra rule continued till October 26, 1947, when the then Maharaja Hari Singh exercised the power vested in him by the Indian Independence Act of 1947 and acceded J&K to the Indian Dominion.
Maharaja Hari Singh’s fundamental objectives were two. One was to enable the Nehru Government defeat the newly-created Pakistan’s evil design to grab J&K and secure this highly strategic northern region for the nation. The other was to obtain a status the people of Jammu province deserved in the Indian polity. Jammu, unlike Kashmir, was an overwhelmingly Hindu. Did Maharaja Hari Singh, who in the larger interest of the nation and in the interest of the people of J&K suffered huge personal losses, achieve his objectives? The answer is a big NO. The Nehru administration failed the Maharaja. On the one hand, it virtually helped Pakistan annex Ladakh’s Gilgit-Baltistan, parts of Jammu province and a part of Kashmir division; cause Hindu and Sikh migration on an unprecedented scale through rape, murder, abduction and oppression; and convert all these areas (PoJK) 100 per cent in no time (October 1947-December 31, 1948) by not allowing the advancing India Army to bring the on-their-run Pakistani invaders – regular and irregular — to the India’s knees. On the other hand, it transferred the state power from Jammu to the Kashmir’s Sheikh Abdullah whose anti-India, anti-Dogra, anti-Kashmiri Hindu and ultra communal credentials were too well-known. The fact is that the Nehru administration jeopardized the nation’s interests and threw in the lot of the minorities in the state, including Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh, with the Kashmir’s Sheikh Abdullah and his essentially communal and secessionist National Conference (NC). What happened in J&K after 1947 is too well-known. Suffice it to say that the policy-planners in New Delhi bungled in J&K again, again and yet again. The result was the rise of a situation in Kashmir that left the Narendra Modi Government with no choice but to bring down the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition Government in J&K on June 19, 2018 and read down the fundamentally separatist Article 370; abrogate illegal, unconstitutional and discriminatory Article 35A; and bifurcate J&K into UT of J&K and UT of Ladakh on August 5/6, 2019.
Explaining the reasons behind these historic changes, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah told the Parliament that the Modi Government did all this for the national security reasons and to free the discriminated against people of Jammu and Ladakh from the clutches of the Kashmiri leadership, which had misused the separate status for 70 long years to undermine national security, muddy the Indian waters in Kashmir by flirting with and promoting secessionists and deny the people of Jammu and Ladakh even the basic civil, political and economic rights. It is hardly necessary to reflect on the nature of the discriminatory policies the Kashmiri ruling elite devised and implemented ruthlessly between October 1947 and June 2018 to jeopardize even the basic rights and interests people of Jammu and Ladakh and systematically erode their distinct identity and personality to create a Kashmir-like situation with the authorities in the South and North Blocks watching the dangerous games being played by the Kashmiri ruling elite as a mute spectator or overtly and covertly siding with and supporting it. The concerned nation is fully aware of what happened in J&K during those 70-odd years. That’s the reason the nation celebrated the August 5/6, 2019 reforms as a day of thanks-giving. However, what has escaped its attention is the fact that the people of Jammu and Ladakh also remained under the Central rule for almost 14 long years after 1977 for no fault of their own. Even today, the people of Jammu province are under the Central rule. They have been under the Central rule since June 19, 2018 (almost four years). It needs to be underlined that the erstwhile J&K State remained under the Governor/President rule eight times between March 1977 and February 28, 2015 and the people of J&K have been under Governor/President rule since June 19, 2018 for no fault or for the sins the Kashmiri ruling elite committed to endanger national security. The party politics between the Kashmir-based parties and the ruling parties in New Delhi too led to imposition of Central rule a number of times. J&K for the first time was brought under the Governor’s rule on March 17, 1977 and the Central rule continued till July 9, 1977 (114 days). On March 17, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi brought down the Sheikh Abdullah government on the ground that it had become a threat to national security. Interestingly, it was she who herself brought down her own party’s government and installed the deflated Sheikh Abdullah as J&K Chief Minister in what she called ‘national interest”. Paradoxically, her father Pt J L Nehru had Sheikh dismissed and arrested on August 9, 1953 under the charge of sedition. J&K witnessed Governor’s rule for the second time from March 6, 1986 to November 7, 1986 (246 days). The then PM Rajiv Gandhi dethroned Chief Minister G M Shah, son-in-law of Sheikh Abdullah for security reasons. Significantly, it was Shah, who in collaboration with 26 Congress and 12 NC MLAs brought off a coup against Farooq Abdullah’s government in July 1984. Actually, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had dismissed Farooq Abdullah as a “threat to national security” and installed his brother-in-law Shah as CM in the “national interest”. The Governor’s rule was imposed in J&K for the third time on January 19, 1990 and it remained under the Central rule till October 9, 1996 (six years and 264 days). On January 19, 1990, Farooq Abdullah – whose Congress-supported government had caused wholesale migration of the miniscule minority of Kashmiri Hindus – fled to UK to escape the Muslims’ wrath. The Kashmiri Muslims were angry both with the Congress and Farooq Abdullah because they had rigged wholesale the 1987 assembly elections to capture power the state power. Farooq Abdullah returned to Kashmir only on eve of the 1996 assembly elections to become CM.
J&K was brought under the Governor’s rule for the fourth time on October 18, 2002 and it continued till November 2, 2002 (15 days). The Governor rule had to be imposed because UPA chief and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and PDP chief Mufti Sayeed & Co took time to forge post-poll alliance to form government and as the defeated NC’s Farooq Abdullah refused to continue as caretaker CM. Sonia Gandhi finally agreed to install the Mufti as CM in the ‘national interest’ for a period of three years.
The Governor’s rule was again imposed in J&K on July 11, 2008 and it continued till January 5, 2009 (178 days). The Governor’s rule had to be imposed because Ghulam Nabi Azad’s coalition government resigned on July 7, 2008 after it lost majority in the assembly. Earlier, on June 28, 2002, the PDP withdrew its support to the Azad government on the ground that it allotted a small piece of land at Baltal (Kashmir) to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board on a temporary basis for the creation of additional facilities for the Amarnath pilgrims. Ghulam Nabi Azad — backed to the hilt by the Manmohan Singh UPA government and J&K Governor N N Vohra — did violate the J&K High Court’s clear direction and snatched from the Shrine Board the Baltal land to save his government and please and appease the secessionists and fanatics in Kashmir but with no result. J&K was brought under the Governor’s rule for the sixth time on January 9, 2015 because the comprehensively defeated NC’s Omar Abdullah refused to continue as caretaker CM and it continued till February 28, 2015 (51 days). Omar Abdullah had been appointed CM by AICC Chief Sonia Gandhi for a full term of six years in what she had called “national interest”. The Central rule had to be imposed on January 9 because the BJP and the PDP took time to forge post-poll alliance and formulate what’s called the PDP-BJP Agenda of Alliance. The BJP handed over the office of CM to Mufti Sayeed for a full term of six years on March 1, 2015, despite the fact that both the BJP+ and the PDP had equal number of seats in the assembly. Governor’s rule was imposed for the seventh time on January 7, 2016 following the death of CM Mufti Sayeed and it continued till April 3, 2016 (56 days). J&K had to be kept under the Governor’s rule because both the BJP leadership and Mehbooba Mufti and her coterie took such a long time to prepare power-sharing formula. It was anti-India and anti-Jammu Mehbooba Mufti who carried the day. She took over as CM on April 4, 2016 but was removed from office by the Narendra Modi Government on June 19, 2018 for the national security reasons. Ever since, Jammu has been under the Central rule. What does all this suggest? It suggests that it was the secessionist leadership in Kashmir, and not the people of Jammu province, which was, and is, responsible for the imposition of Central in J&K at regular intervals. Why should the people of Jammu province suffer for the sins, misdeeds and anti-national acts of the Valley leadership? They must be empowered to exercise the democratic right so that they elect a government of their own choice. But this is possible only if the Narendra Modi Government is willing appreciate that the commitment of the people of Jammu province to the nation is unflinching and the Kashmiri leadership utterly undependable and untrustworthy. The statements emanating from Kashmir prove that. It’s hoped that the Modi Government would appreciate the ground situation as it exists in Jammu province and Kashmir. The best thing for it to do would be to de-link Jammu from Kashmir, make Kashmir Chandigarh-like UT and grant Jammu statehood and hold elections so that the people of Jammu province elect their own government. To not do so or to continue to tag Jammu with Kashmir will only further weaken the nationalist constituency in Jammu and help the secessionists in Kashmir accomplish what they have failed to accomplish so far: creation of Kashmir-like situation in Jammu.