Unity among politicians, not delimitation, should be Jammu’s watchword


Prof Hari Om

Some otherwise well-meaning politicians in Jammu are insisting on early completion of the ongoing delimitation process, holding of assembly elections in the UT of J&K at the earliest and conversion of the UT into a full-fledged State. It’s obvious they are overlooking what the earlier delimitation commissions and Election Commission of India – ex-officio member of delimitation commission – and the “popularly-elected governments” in the state did to Jammu province between 1948/1951 and June 2018.
It would be in order to refer at least to what the Justice KK Gupta-headed Delimitation Commission’s report recommended and what the then Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), TN Seshan, said about it. Justice Gupta submitted the report to the government on September 28, 1992. Actually, it was not his report. It was the report prepared by Justice Jalal-ud-Din, who had resigned following a controversy between official and non-official members, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The report recommended 37 seats for Jammu and 46 for Kashmir. People of Jammu denounced this report. They termed it “highly irrational and politically motivated” and organized a massive 48-hour-long bandh on October 28 and 29, 1992. The CEC, TN Seshan, was more severe in his criticism of the report. He dismissed it as a “deceitful, fraudulent document, a fraud on the constitution” and declared the Delimitation Commission’s recommendations null and void. So much so, he told State Governor, Gen KV Krishna Rao, that “it is a waste of to argue with him” and that “all correspondence from the State (J&K) relating to election issue will be ignored”. Besides, he wrote to the then Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao, that “unless the delimitation is started de-novo and completed, no election whatsoever will be possible to the J&K Legislative Assembly”.
The criticism of the people of Jammu against the Delimitation Commission’s report and Seshan’s view compelled the State Government to ask Justice Gupta to start the delimitation business afresh. He started his work in August 1994 and submitted his report on April 24, 1995, but without affecting any modification whatsoever. The State Government accepted his report in its entirety on the same day. Surprisingly, Seshan also succumbed to the pressure of New Delhi and Srinagar and dumb-founded the people of Jammu province by describing the Delimitation Commission report as “well-balanced and flawless”.
Clearly, the Jammu politicians are ignoring all these hard realities and taking no cognizance of those well-known and meticulously-catalogued factors which reduced Jammu province to the status of a Kashmir’s colony and people of Jammu province to the status of subjects the day J&K acceded to the Indian Dominion.
It would be only desirable and politically prudent if they sit up without losing a moment and examine if the earlier Delimitation Commissions did justice to Jammu province housing population equal to Kashmir, if not more, and having land area two-time that of Kashmir or if the Jammu-based ministers in the successive governments in the State were able or not able to protect even the basic socio-cultural and politico-economic interests and rights of the people of Jammu province.
Even a superficial examination of political history of J&K post-1947 and pre-June 2019 would be enough to conclude that Delhi, Delimitation Commissions and popularly-elected governments in the State dismissed Jammu province as irrelevant and its people as no factor in the state’s political situation. They all through treated the people of Jammu province like the Imperialist UK treated the enslaved people of India.
“The people of India are perhaps not universally aware of the fact that the English were in their country as rulers. They are the ryots and the peasants, whose life was not one of political aspirations but of mute penury and toil”, GN Curzon, Under Secretary of State of India said in the House of Commons in 1892 while opposing the demand in India seeking introduction of elective principle. Later on, Curzon became the Viceroy of India and one of the outrageous developments which India witnessed under him was the division of Bengal and creation of East Bengal for Muslims in 1905.
There is no difference between what London did to the people inhabiting British India between 1857 and 1947 and what New Delhi and Kashmir did to Jammu province and its people after October 1947. The Jammu politicians and the suffering people of Jammu province would commit a grave political blunder and seal their own fate if they failed to take note of the nature of the J&K polity post-1947 and the biased attitude of New Delhi towards them.
What will Jammu province gain out of the ongoing new Delimitation Commission’s exercise? Nothing. Jammu Province may get about 40 seats out of 90. Will this help the people surmount the problems they faced and compensate for the huge socio-cultural and politico-economic losses they suffered during all these 73 years? Obviously not! The reasons are not far to seek.
What will be their share in the nine-member ministry, which would also include Chief Minister? The will have no representation for all practical purposes. It would be an all-Kashmir Council of Ministers. Kashmiri ruling elite may throw a crumb like they did between 1948 and June 2019 in a most brazen manner with Jammu-based ministers extending to them their unflinching and unqualified support for the sake of personal power and profit.
And what will the people of Jammu province gain if the UT of J&K elevated to the status of a full-fledged State? They will lose everything and gain nothing. The reasons are not really difficult to fathom. The conversion of UT of J&K into a full-fledged State would at once create a situation under which the people of Jammu province would suffer huge losses, humiliations, taunts and what not like it happened before June 2018. The truth is that they would lose the status of citizen and again become subjects of Kashmir and Kashmiri politicians of all hues.
Jammu politicians would do well to take a serious cognizance of the dangerous ramifications of their insistence on delimitation, election and statehood for J&K. What is needed the most is grand unity among them for the cause of their province and the suffering people it houses. Their single-point agenda, battle-cry and watchword should be and must be a dispensation that is of Jammu province, by Jammu province and for Jammu province. This is the only panacea available. Any other solution would mean another rivet in the chain of Jammu’s slavery.