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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 8, February 13, 2010

How Communal Division of J&K State was Averted

Thursday 18 February 2010, by Balraj Puri

Encouraged by the announcement of the formation of a separate Telangana State and provoked by the report of the Justice Sagheer Ahma headed Fifth Working Group on Centre-State Relations in J&K, appointed by the Prime Minister, the movement for separation of Ladakh from Kashmir region has gained fresh momentum and the issue of a separate Jammu State is again being debated.

A former member of the Jammu State Morcha recalls how the movement for a separate Jammu State was sabotaged by the BJP and then by the RSS. He recalls that the RSS and other leaders of its Parivar, who met at Kurukhsetra, passed a resolution in support of a separate Jammu State in 2000. The BJP was hesitant to come out openly in its support. The RSS floated the Jammu State Morcha. It entered into a seat-sharing arrangement with the BJP to fight the Assembly elections in 2002 from all the 37 seats in the Jammu region. But in practice the JSM flouted the agreement in some constituencies allotted to the BJP splitting each other’s votes. Both won just one seat each. Later the RSS wound up the JSM, though it was revived by another group led by Prof Virinder Gupta.

The story of the fate of the movement for a separate Jammu State is corroborated by Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan in the government of General Pervez Musharraf, in his recently released book. He claimed that an agreement between his country and India had been reached on the J&K State on the basis of its division, so that the Hindu majority part of Jammu and the Buddhist majority part of Ladakh remained with India and the Pak administered part of the State with Pakistan as the views of these people were known. The area of dispute was confined to the Kashmir Valley, thus cutting the problem of Kashmir to size. He quotes Farooq Kathwari formula on the subject.

Kathwari is the richest Kashmiri in the world and wields considerable influence in the Valley. He had visited the State in 1999 and spent a day or so in Jammu. When I met him I asked who else he was meeting in Jammu. He replied that none excepting me and the then Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, and he wanted me not to disclose to anybody that he was in town. While I rejected the division of the State on religious lines, the reaction of Farooq Abdullah was not immediately known. Earlier he had met Indian and Pakistan leaders in power and apparently got their consent to his proposal. Before that he had invited two representatives of the governments of India and Pakistan to New York where he lives to attend a meeting of the Kashmir Study Group headed by him and this group approved his formula.

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Alarmed by these developments I organised a meeting of ex-Prime Ministers of India including Inder Gujral, V.P. Singh and Chandar Shekhar and independent public men and leading academicians in Delhi. They unanimously resolved that a religious division of the State was dangerous.

I also had a series of meetings with L.K. Advani, the then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India. I warned him about the implications of communalisation of the entire State which would also undermine the secular basis of the entire country. I asked him some searching questions. Did the two reprentatives of India attend the Kathwari meeting with the consent of Government of India? Did the government object to the agreement they had with the Kathwari group? Did Farooq Abdullah, whose government had proposed administrative division of Jammu on religious lines, do it without approved of the GoI? Wasn’t the Home Ministry financing the Trilateral Front to divide the State in three parts on religious lines? And so on. Advani asked me what was the alternative to redress the grievances of Jammu and Ladakh against what he called Kashmiri domination ever since independence. I suggested my formula, much maligned and conclemned by his party, for regional autonomy which could ensure harmony between the three regions of the State. He seemed to agree.

I also met Syed Ali Shah Geelani and asked him whether he had thought over the consequences of what I called the Advani-Geelani formula on the religious division of the State and if these would be different from such a division in 1947 and when Mahatma Gandhi and Qaid-e-Azam could not prevent it then, he and I were much smaller persons. He, too, seemed to be convinced by my argument.

On the eve of the 2002 Assembly elections in the State, the then BJP President, J. Krishnamurty, was asked by mediapersons when he visited Jammu as to the official stand of his party for the separate Jammu State. He replied that the party had not taken any final decision on the subject but the local unit had a right to give expression to local sentiments.

I again visited Delhi and sought an appointment with Advani. I was told that he was too busy in arrangements about General Musharraf’s visit the next day and that I should wait till his departure when he would have more time. I insisted that I should meet him before Musharraf’s visit as it was relevant to the Indo-Pak talks. He agreed to meet me. I told him that Krishnamurty’s statement was welcomed in Pakistan and the extremist faction of the separatist leaders in Kashmir. Why had his party become so generous to Pakistan while I was always accused to be pro-Pakistan by it? He said that while he was convinced that the remedy of the communal division of the State was worse than the disease, the RSS was not. It confirms the recent disclosure of the differences between the RSS and the BJP by a former member of the Jammu State Morcha. Meanwhile I contacted other members of the Kashmir Study Group of Kathwari. Many of them agreed with me. Kathwari, too, modified his formula and in a recent telephonic talk with me agreed that my formula of regional autonomy was the first step towards resolution of the complex Kashmir problem.

The author is the Director, Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, Jammu.

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