Sparking Another Debate Telengana and the idea of dividing states

To debate if India starts believing in multiplication of states for ensuring equitable growth and development and becomes two hundred states or it revives all the five hundred sixty states as existed before 1947, is not my cup of tea.  Equally, it is beyond my purview to comment on the Congress and the UPA coalition unanimously endorsing creation of a separate Telengana state out of Andhra Pradesh. Nevertheless, what piqued me was scion of the Abdullah family drawing a parallel between Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Commenting on the creation of the Telengana state in line with meeting almost fifty seven year old  demand  of 3.5 Crore people of the new state comprising mostly the areas  of princely Nazim state  the youngest Abdullah  said that “agitation for separate statehood is becoming a dangerous trend.  What will you tell the people of Jammu tomorrow if they agitate and come on roads for eight or ten years?”  His remarks may have provided a lead to some political forces in Jammu, Kathua and some areas of Udhampur districts for demanding a separate state for these areas. And it may also  spark an agitation in Jammu city. Nevertheless, what needs to be understood is, if Jammu and Kashmir can be compared with other states were people have been demanding separate states based on ethnicity, language, culture, and   sharing of natural resources. It also raises a question, if a ‘States Reorganization Commission (SRC) for looking into the demands of formation of separate states across India as suggested by him, will be competent to divide Jammu and Kashmir. It   continues to be on the UNSC agenda and part of global discourse as one of two major nuclear flashpoints and disputes despite all our negations and refutations. 

Historically there has never been an agitation of bigger magnitude in Jammu worth reckoning for a separate state. The only major political agitation that lives in public memory has been against special status of the state launched by the Praja Parishad in early fifties. In fact, this agitation finally graduated to demand of regional autonomy for all the three regions. There might have been some muffled isolated voices demanding for separate statehood of Jammu based on ethnicity, religion and language but these were never viewed seriously. 

In  fact 1977 elections, that gave Sheikh Abdullah massive mandate with Kashmir Valley and Muslim majority districts of Jammu province voting for him had caused apprehensions in a couple of other districts of Jammu and causing murmurs about demands like “Dogra Desh” were heard.  Here, I am reminded of an article, I had written in 1-15 August 1978 issue of Onlooker on the subject and  idea of launching of a regional party the Jammu Peoples Council, which I had seen as move towards creating of a “Dogra Desh” and response it had evoked from Dr. Karan Singh in 1-5 September 1978 issue of the same magazine. In his response he had denounced my apprehensions as ‘absurd and malicious’.  Asserting, that his ancestors had founded the state of Jammu and Kashmir, his belief about fair and equal treatment for all the three regions, he had said, “Jammu Peoples Council was a supra party forum where aspirations and genuine demands of the people of Jammu can be expressed without caste, creed and relegiom.” The forum did not survive long. In fact, after the death of Sheikh Abdullah murmurs like “Dogra Desh” also died down.

Truth however is that partition of the state of Jammu and Kashmir along the Chenab River, with India, keeping South and East of Chenab has been seen as resolution of the Kashmir dispute at the international level.  Even India and Pakistan mooted it umpteen times. It is not within the scope of this column to trace history of “Partition of State” along Chenab seen as solution to Kashmir dispute but it would be worth to note that besides UN envoys and the United States debating it, this formula has been central to India and Pakistan dialogue on many occasions. In his book Witness to an Era (p217-218) recounting his meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister, Sir Zafarullah Frank Morass writes ‘Nehru had been publicly asserting that he would not yield even a square yard of Kashmir but in his meeting with him he had endorsed the public perception that he favored a division of the state.’ Morass also writes, “In 1962 an attempt was made to work ground rules for access of both India and Pakistan to the valley of Srinagar.

Though the Americans did not explicitly define their attitude, their statements suggested that, while the valley should go to Pakistan, India should be guaranteed a corridor through valley to enable it to supply to Ladakh, a frontier area threatened by China.” In 1964, after Sheikh Abdullah’s meeting with President of Pakistan at Jawaharlal Nehru’s bidding   Sheikh Abdullah giving Nehru’s mind said to Bhutto, “that Jammu and Kashmir’s partition below the Chenab at a point called Pethlinot would be a realistic final position.” Partition along Chenab was mooted as a solution during the tenure of Vajpayee also. Giving details of secret talks between India and Pakistan after Lahore Declaration Owen Bennet Jones in his Pakistan Eye of Storm writes, Niaz Naik suggested to R.K. Mishra, “India should keep everything south and east of Chenab River…… Mishra neither accepted nor rejected the idea. It was progress and two envoys decided to revert to their prime ministers before meeting again.’ (page 100)

Abdullah’s statement also sparks yet another debate: even if recommended by “SRC” can Jammu and Kashmir be divided   given its status within the constitution of India and role of the state assembly.  The United Nations resolution more particularly resolution no S/3779 adopted by the Security Council on 24-1-1957 that besides recognizing entire  Jammu and Kashmir as it stood on 14 August 1947 as disputed denied powers even to the Constituent Assembly with regard to final disposition of the state. The question arises, if any move towards division of J&K may not provided another alibi to Pakistan to internationalize Kashmir and knock at the doors of the Security Council