Let Jammu brace & face it together

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Er P L Khushu

There is a famous maxim which says ‘Silence amounts to Speech’. If Jammu and its people remained silent and peaceful so far, while accommodating all the insinuations in respect of its governance and development, both from the central government and the dynastic rulers of Kashmir, it does not mean that they never understand as to what was or is happening around. This silence needs to be gauged by the political dynastic leaders of Kashmir who ruled Jammu and Kashmir by turns for decades, which has ceremoniously been addressed to a great extent if not fully by Delimitation Commission, working presently in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, through its draft report about the enhancement of seats in the legislative assembly for Jammu and enhancing the number of seats the scheduled casts, scheduled tribes and the like.
In a major bid to end decades long political disempowerment of Jammu region, the Delimitation Commission has proposed allocation of six out of seven Assembly seats to Jammu and one to the Kashmir valley out of a total of seven seats increased for the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory and also announced reservation of nine seats for Scheduled Tribes and seven for Scheduled Castes. As per the Delimitation Commission’s proposal, Kashmir will now have 47 Assembly seats and Jammu 43. Even if the proposal mooted by the Delimitation Commission headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai which was shared with five Associate Members in a meeting in New Delhi is through, Kashmir division will still have four more seats from Jammu region. The five Associate members including Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh, Jugal Kishore Sharma, both from BJP and Lok Sabha MPs from Jammu region, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Justice (Retd) Hasnain Masoodi, all from NC and the members of Parliament from Kashmir. The Commission told the Associate Members that out of seven seats increased in the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir (from 83 to 90), six have been proposed for Jammu region and one for Kashmir division. The Commission also briefed the Associate Members that it proposed to reserve nine seats in the Legislative Assembly for Scheduled Tribes and seven for Scheduled Castes. In the new Assembly, all seats will be well within the boundaries of 20 districts and no seats will overlap from one district to the other as is the case presently, the Commission told the Associate Members. It said since the last delimitation held in 1995, the number of districts has increased from 12 to 20 and number of Tehsils from 52 to 207 in Jammu and Kashmir and in absence of delimitation, the Assembly seats crossed boundaries of the districts. The Commission told the Associate Members that it categorized all 20 districts in three broad categories of A, B and C giving margin of +/- 10 percent of average population per Assembly constituency while proposing allocation of seats to the districts. “The Commission has also, for some districts, proposed carving out of an additional seat to balance the representation of geographical areas having inadequate communication and lack of public conveniences due to their excessive remoteness or inhospitable conditions on the International Border (IB),” the Panel said. The Commission informed that population density in the districts of J&K varies from 29 persons per square kilometer in Kishtwar to 3,436 persons per square kilometer in Srinagar. The UT also share international boundary with Pakistan and in those locations, the inhabitants are forced to take shelter, intermittently in bunkers due to continued inhospitable and uncertain living conditions. The delimitation draft proposes one seat each to be added in the districts of Kishtwar, Samba, Kathua, Doda, Rajouri and Udhampur/ Reasi in Jammu division and Kupwara in Kashmir division. Incidentally, districts in J&K have increased from 12 to 20 since the last delimitation in the erstwhile state in 1995. It vividly appears that true justice has been done by the Commission to fix new parameters of seats of the legislative assembly both for Jammu region and Kashmir region, though Jammu still lags in seats in the legislative assembly as per this proposal. The political leadership clan has as usual shown their non-acceptance of these recommendations of the Delimitation Commission, classifying it not based on the actual population rationale of Jammu & Kashmir. They have often been saying that the present delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir should have been based on the census of 2011. They are consciously knowing the rabid and the resistance behind the population configuration of the year 2011. The National Conference members led by party president and former Chief Minister have expressed their reservations over the draft report of the Delimitation Commission especially the biased process of seat sharing, a party spokesperson tweeted. The party, within hours of the meeting, made it clear that it ‘will not be a signatory to this report.’ The recommendations of the Delimitation Commission on Jammu and Kashmir are ‘divisive and unacceptable’, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) said on Tuesday and announced a peaceful protest in Srinagar on January 1, after holding a meeting in this regard. On Delimitation Commission’s recommendations, their representative is reportedly said, “We are firmly of the opinion that it (proposal) is divisive and will further deepen the divide in Jammu and Kashmir. It will also deepen the alienation of the people and will create a much more bigger void which is also detrimental to the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as well and will also damage the interests of the country as a whole.” This is an unfortunate statement of this conglomerate group of political leaders from Kashmir mostly with dynastic bases, who ruled Jammu and Kashmir for decades considering Jammu as a colony of theirs and ignored the interests of Jammu in all respects. Jammu and its people shall have to resist it now fully as enough is enough already. They shall have to face it together in all fronts. Notwithstanding all these issues in the context of J&K, the redrawing of the constituencies was an extraordinarily complex and highly needed and a desired exercise. It had to potentially balance the electoral demographic imbalance between the two regions, the root cause of sufferance for Jammu and its people for an appropriate development of Jammu region with an appropriate share in the state administration along with proper legislative powers and share thereof. The critics whom it does not suit say that this severely compromises the Commission’s mandate vis-a-vis J&K. This is not a fact. This is a fair opportunity for Delimitation Commission-2020 to undo faulty Delimitations done earlier, at the belligerent cost of Jammu division and its people. Jammu has suffered a lot due to the apathies shown to it and to its people for its inherent development since 1947, with a gruesome reference to its population share, as per various data’s compiled in the past, of course susceptible to doubts of sorts. A brazen picture of suspected willful attempt to deprive Jammu of its due share, comes into picture in this regard with the fact that according to sources, the current Delimitation Commission had sought the report of its predecessor panel, presented by chairperson Justice K K Gupta in 1995, from the J&K government. The purpose was to study the basis on which it had allocated the seats to the three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, so as to assess and correct any anomalies in the current exercise. However, the UT administration reverted saying that the report of Justice K K Gupta commission, set up under the J&K Constitution and J&K Representation of the People Act was not traceable in the state assembly, state government records or archives. As a result, the current Delimitation Commission had to make up with whatever records and figures of the last delimitation exercise are available in the public domain, including the notification relating to the 1995 delimitation award, to put together its first delimitation draft. What an apathy? Should such an important report get lost or one should smell a rat in such a move. It is condemnable. The humans under the influence of selective amnesia try to forget most of the happenings in one’s life. But the scars left by bigger damages in one’s life cling to one’s ethos of memory like showing a red rag to a bull. This is what happened to Jammu and its people for proper development in all the perspective and prospective developmental fields so for, on the logistics of its subdued and depressed population figures, managed and cooked by the erstwhile political rulers with significant dynastic bases. Speculating that enough is enough, an uprising in the minds of Jammu and its people started with the taking over of these issues by an intellectual forum of Jammu, Jammu Newspapers Editors Guild (JNEG), sometime last year, led by the Chief Editor of STATE TIMES Jammu and other brilliant journalists and intellectuals of Jammu. Similarly the other political and the intellectual forums of Jammu in their best capacities started to voice their concerns about the plight of Jammu for its brazen neglect at the hands of the power corridors, be it the central governments of the past or the dynasty based political masters from Kashmir who mostly ruled the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir to their advantages only. ‘Ikkjut’ party from Jammu did a yeoman’s service to Jammu and its people by exposing the acts of malfeasance and misfeasance of the erstwhile governments in their attempts to change the demography of Jammu. A silver lining was observed on the horizon, when two most credible political stalwarts of National Conference belonging to Jammu, resigned from the National Conference, not for any personal gains but on the anomaly of having felt concerned about the neglect of Jammu by various dynasty based power centers from Kashmir, to which the National Conference is the principle partner which ruled the state ever since 1947, with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah taking the reins of governance of Jammu and Kashmir, in 1948, from the great ruler of Jammu and Kashmir the Maharaja Hari Singh as a free gift at the asking of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minster of India. Congress party too ruled Jammu & Kashmir for most of the time, but that was again an apology as for as the interests of Jammu and its people were concerned. In fact Jammu and its people suffered more during the congress rule in this part of country. Recognition had started gaining ground much earlier amongst the important political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, that Jammu division has been ignored so far. The National Conference having ruled Jammu & Kashmir for a long time, admits through its tall mentor Dr. Farooq Abdullah, that Jammu has its own problems and issues, while submitting memorandums to the Delimitation Commission very recently, through the leaders of this party belonging to Jammu, who have resigned now from that party. With the formation of Gupkar Alliance, by a handful political leaders of Kashmir, showed dissent of sorts on most of the issues like abrogation of articles 370, 35A and the like for its consumption for the people of the valley, through a declaration known as ‘Gupkar Declaration’. This alliance had no space or energy for the problems and the step motherly treatments meted out to Jammu so far since 1947. These leaders from Kashmir are on record to have tried many options to change the demographic character of Jammu. In retaliation to the creation of Gupkar Declaration a similar declaration was badly needed for Jammu and its people to be called as ‘Jammu Declaration’, when the base and the foundation stone for the same has been laid by Devender Singh Rana, a veteran and an experienced political leader from Jammu, supported and augmented by the versatile support from another shrewd and matured leader from Jammu Surjit Singh Slathia, along with their resigning from the national conference party. Devender Singh Rana declared that the Jammu Declaration, which is my political philosophy, will be pursued religiously, Surjit Singh Slathia and Devender Singh Rana both joined BJP recently at the BJP headquarters at New Delhi. BJP should not take it as a shot in their arm politically. BJP should feel proud that these two prominent energetic leaders of Jammu who had kept national conference’s face alive and active in Jammu and are enjoying a mass base amongst their followers have joined BJP for the development and recognition of Jammu as an entity of ‘Dogra’ face and culture. Let the writing on the wall be read by the political leaders from the valley that Jammu has risen now and no amount of impersonation for Jammu by them will work anymore in future times to come. If they feel and say that much more void will get created between Jammu and Kashmir with this new proposal of delimitation, it is for them to ensure that such a situation does not arise. Ladakh is already alienated with their regional policies. Let Jammu be retained, before the so called paradise of Kashmir gets reduced to a paradise without a sky over it, when Jammu too will seek a separate statehood for itself. This is the high time. Let Jammu brace and face it together.
(The author is a Chartered Consultant Civil Engineer, who has fascination for his Motherland the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir).