Three leading Kashmiri Muslims advocate separation of Jammu from Kashmir

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Prof Hari Om

The demand of the colonized people of Jammu province seeking separation of their region from Kashmir is age-old. The upshot of their whole argument is that if they survive and lead a dignified and secure life, they have to be freed from the clutches of the Kashmiri parties. All the Kashmiri Muslim parties — NC, PDP, Congress, CPIM, Apni Party and People’s Conference — oppose the demand in Jammu for its Azaadi from Kashmir and term the demand as reactionary, anti-national and anti-Kashmir, despite the fact that the Kashmiri leaders, including Sheikh Abdullah, struggled hard between 1846 and 1947 to achieve “Kashmir’s freedom from Jammu” just because the Dogra kings were Hindus.
However, while going through some old papers, I was astonished to find three leading Kashmiri Muslims – Ghulam Nabi Khayal, M Ashraf and Haseeb Drabu – advocating separation of Jammu from Kashmir. They had their own definite reasons.
Kashmiri writer and opinion-maker, Ghulam Nabi Khayal, who returned Sahitya Academy Award over the issue of what he called “growing intolerance under PM Narendra Modi’s rule’, not once but twice advocated separation of Kashmir from Jammu. What did he say on November 10, 2015? He said: “I am of a firm opinion that whoever advocates holding together all the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir State, is a hypocrite. Those who have been at the helm of affairs right from 1947 and those who are now spearheading a different movement of separation from the Indian Union or holding of plebiscite, are compelled by their political expediency to support this unnatural combine of state brought by those autocratic non-Muslim rulers (in this case Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu) not hailing from Kashmir”.
Khayal didn’t stop just there. He, inter-alia, further said: “The mountainous land of Buddhists, Ladakh, has…been playing anti-Kashmir card intermittently which witnessed an ugly look of horror against Kashmiri traders and cabmen about 40 years ago. Ladakh’s genuine demand for Union territory status is to be conceded. Otherwise also, this frontier land is now straightaway ruled by its own (Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development) Council and not by the state government. Jammu has all along been a pricking thorn in the eye of Kashmir. The anti-Kashmir Jammu be merged into Punjab or given a separate statehood. Kashmir should least bother about the political future of Dogra land. Other relevant modalities could be talked about later”.
And, on November 24, Khayal again reiterated his stand and went several steps further to justify his solution to what he called the Kashmir problem. Terming people of Jammu as “a liability” for people of Kashmir, Khayal condemned the March 1846 Treaty of Amritsar between Maharaja Gulsab Singh and British Indian Government under which Kashmir became part of the Jammu Kingdom. He charged people of Jammu region with “snatching everything from Kashmir, barring “polluted Dal Lake”.
“Today, everything has undergone a sea change and, therefore, a common saying has gained currency across Kashmir Valley that Jammu has taken away everything from Kashmiris except polluted Dal Lake. Let them take it also but leave us to our fate,” he said.
His whole refrain was that Jammu province must be separated from the Valley so that “this menace is done away with once and for all” and that it was imperative that “Jammu should live its own chosen life and we (the Kashmirs) will live ours”.
In between on November 11, another Kashmiri commentator and opinion-maker M Ashraf, known for his unstinted support to the demand in Kashmir for its complete independence from India, took an identical stand on the Treaty of Amritsar. He lamented that “for almost four and a half centuries now Kashmiris have been under external bondage” (read rule of Mughals, Pathans, Sikhs and Dogras between 1586 and October 1947). He among other things said: “Kashmiris (read Muslims in Kashmir) were sold lock, stock and barrel by the British to Dogra Maharaja Gulab Singh for rupees seventy five lakhs. Dogras ruled Kashmir for 100 years. The end of the British rule over the Indian sub-continent instead of freeing Kashmiris landed them in the worst logjam in their entire history…”
What about Haseeb Drabu, former minister and PDP’s ideologue and one of the architects of divisive Agenda of Alliance (Mach 1, 2015)? He on October 2020, among other things, said: “Post 2019, is there need to revisit the concept of Jammu & Kashmir including Ladakh. While its many distinct and distinctly different parts have shared history, treacherous and tortuous as it was, the geographical expanse of the state was a geo-political compulsion. The three regions are as disparate and different as there can be; geographically, ethnically, linguistically, or in terms of religion and social composition. Shouldn’t the logic of bifurcation be extended to trifurcation of the erstwhile state of J&K? It will make life simpler for everybody. Even as a Union Territory. Once there is clarity about such issues, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) may well discover that they are a happy motley of ideological triplets, separated only by the leadership!”
Earlier on April 22, 2020, Drabu had suggested that Jammu be made the capital of UT of J&K, and Srinagar its commercial capital. “Srinagar became the capital of J&K in 1948 because it had been the epicenter of the political expression which was shaped by a societal collectivity…To be sure, the darbar move had no legislative backing. It was only in 1992 that Jammu was formally made the winter capital…At a more practical level, given the fact that Srinagar is a nerve centre of economic production and distribution, it might be worthwhile to have Srinagar as the commercial capital of J&K. If it is driven by business and enterprise and not by babus and babudom, it will grow on the power of conviviality and resilience of its original vernacular. Not only will it get rid of the pervasive negativity, it will rediscover its own raison d’etre beyond government”.
It is hardly necessary to reflect on what these three Kashmiris said as each and every word that they used is self-explanatory. Suffice it to say that the attitude of Kashmiri opinion-leaders towards Jammu is undergoing a radical change. Significantly, late Union President R Venkataraman had also urged late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to divide the state to limit the area of contention and strife to Kashmir Valley. He had urged her to grant status of statehood to Jammu and Union Territory status to Ladakh and deal with Kashmir separately. It’s hoped the Narendra Modi Government would consider what the late Union President said.