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Jammu and Kashmir: At Crossroads!
08/25/2008
By Ram Puniyani

In the aftermath of the Amarnath shrine board land transfer and then reversal of the same, the matters in the state are going from bad to worse. One was witnessing a gradual decline in acts of terror and increase in the democratic space, democratic patterns, despite the heavy presence of the army in the state. With the Shrine board issue being used by the separatist elements and communal elements, the things seem to be heading in the direction which will have far reaching adverse impact on the politics of the region.

There are many a things which the separatist elements exaggerated and took extreme position. Their march to Muzzafarabad, slogan of Azadi got response mainly due to two reasons. The first and the foremost was the perception in the valley that if already the Amarnath yatra is going so well what is the need to transfer the land to the shrine board? For the people of Kashmir Amarnath yatra is one of the significant sources of income and is part of the culture of Kashmir, and has so far never been seen in the communal light. The move of the Governor, Sinha, a covert BJP sympathizer, to Hinduise the yatra was a big blow to the traditions of the valley. The illegal land transfer, nowhere is the forest land transferred for any other purpose. In all cases of melas etc. the land is temporarily used without transfer. Here the complicated story is that the Governor and his Principal Secretary, who was CEO of shrine, maneuvered this illegal move with the help of the forest official in charge, who happened to be his. The state Government's refusal to follow the illegal decision of the board and forest department was stalled by the courts and the seeds of a discord were sown.

One is reminded of the Babri Masjid dispute, where the idols were illegally installed in 1949, the local collector, a RSS sympathizer stalled the removal of the idols sowing the seeds of the problem which finally led to demolition of Babri mosque and giving the flesh and blood and political power to the BJP over a period of time. In valley the Israel Foreign minister Shimon Perez's advice to Advani for changing the demographic profile of the valley is well known. Also the people in the valley have been suffering either the militancy or the rights violation by the army so their sentiments are on the burning point, needing one separatist group to ignite the issue. A sorry state of affairs! Nothing can match the suffering of the people of Kashmir, which had a potential for improvement but things are going haywire now.

Second was the suffering in the valley due to the blockade by the protesters in the Jammu region. This is being denied vehemently by the BJP, which is at the core of the Jammu agitation. The truth is that this agitation did frighten the truck drivers, excesses were committed on the truck drivers, frightening experience for them on the way, coupled with effective blockade of trucks. This led to intense and immediate reaction in the valley. As this was the main artery connecting the valley with country they were deprived of essentials, more so life saving and other medicines, and routine supplies. Secondly the backbone of economy, the export of fruits suffered leading to depression in the already emaciated economy. In this backdrop the march to Muzzafrabad, capital of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, appealed to the people.

The tale of Jammu has the other elements tragedy. In this predominantly Hindu majority area, there are many grievances, the major one being around the step-motherly treatment to this region by the J&K administration. Always in the policy planning Jammu gets a backseat and Kashmir valley the first priority. Also the emigration of pundits from valley has been misrepresented and complex issue of ethno-regional-Pakistan intervention issue has been presented as a communal one. The emigration of Pundits, a tragic story has been used by the RSS combine to the hilt to create a communal atmosphere. In this scenario the discontent in the valley due to reversal of land transfer came in as triggering factor and all the dam of discontent burst. This in turn affected the lives of people in the valley. While it seems that the Jammu agitation cuts across the political lines, surely it is the BJP associates who are in the driver's seat and others have meekly surrendered to this agitation.

Advani's attempt to present valley people as anti national and those of Jammu as National is fraught with dangers. While the central government is playing its old role of silent spectator, helplessly watching separatists and communalists stoke the fires on both the sides. This is akin to its role in opening the gates of Babri Mosque and playing fiddle when the Mosque was being demolished by RSS and company. There are many other analogies, a sense of déjà vu with the Babri issue are there. In case of Babri, BJP's interest was in demolishing the mosque, while it was presented as the one for building Ram Temple. It did demolish it, came to power but Ram temple was nowhere to be seen. In case of Amarnath Yatra also it is not interested in the yatra itself but in issues which can ignite communal passions and help it come to power, and that's what its agenda is.

One of the logics given for land transfer was the increase in the number of pilgrims, due to which more facilities and space is needed. The point is, more number of pilgrims is a threat to ecological balance and the Amarnath cave cannot take more pilgrims as that is causing the warming and melting of Shiv ling, the Phallus like structure, revered by the pilgrims. In other such places like Gangotri and Gomukh, because of similar reasons, BJP has been demanding a restriction in the number of pilgrims to protect the holy place and environment. So why these double standards? The answer is too easy to guess, and BJP, a shrewd party realizes that it is not religiosity which is important but its political encashment what matters.

All in all Jammu and Kashmir has been treated by the neighboring countries, Pakistan and India as a beautiful woman, whom both want to own, irrespective of what she wishes! The so called patriots are treating the Kashmir issue as a real estate issue, the life of the people does not figure in the calculation of the powers involved in the dispute.

Today many ideologues are arguing that Azadi is the solution, some of them are arguing that economically people of state stand to benefit if the old trade routes to Pakistan are normalized. In this charged up atmosphere, in this strategically located area, is it not overdue that the wishes of regions, dialogue between all concerned parties are the guiding factor rather than the legalistic and 'blind nationalist' approaches? J&K did legally accede to India, but at the same time one has to realize that right form the beginning the autonomy which was promised in the treaty of accession, was never honored and the clauses of the treaty were violated with impunity. The US designs to have a presence in the region through the proxy of Pakistan, in a region surrounded by Communist (Russia, China) and socialist (as India was supposed to be), were well planned. After the US sponsored Al Qaeda completed its assignment of defeating Russian armies in Afghanistan, the same indoctrinated Al Qaeda elements did enter J&K to communalize a regional ethnic issue. We need to overcome the Hindu-Muslim approach and look at all the concerned issues in an objective dispassionate manner. Hope all these complexities and grievances of the people of Jammu, the people of Kashmir valley form the basis of peaceful and just solution to the present turmoil in the state.