Who wants autonomy?

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Kashmir is a place where `separatrism’ still sells. Even senior Congress leaders have admitted this harsh reality. The mainstream parties in the state have to pursue a `separatist’ agenda in Kashmir because it sells here

Who wants autonomy in Jammu Kashmir? The people of Jammu hate it, Ladakh has already got it and in Kashmir it is a non-Issue. And, is New Delhi interested in restoring autonomy to the state?
History is witness to the fact that the Jammu people hated autonomy. They launched an agitation seeking Eak Nishaan, Eak Pradan and Eak Vidaan (One flag, one prime minister and one legislature).

The Bhartaya Janata Party (BJP) and Panthers Party (PP) MLAs registered strong protest on March 17 this year over intended change of nomenclature of the top posts in the state. They warned against any compromise on the unity and integrity of the country. There is no denying the fact that the National Conference believes that autonomy was the best solution to the vexed problem. How to achieve the goal? Can it be granted by the prime minister and his cabinet? According to constitutional experts, the government has to go to the Parliament and amend the constitution, or re-induct the omitted articles that spoke about autonomy of the state. This also is not possible. The government lacks the numbers required for passing such amendments. The opposition shall oppose such move tooth and nail for obvious reasons.

There is no denying the fact that the population of Jammu division is heterogeneous. A good number of people identify with the Valley. To put it plainly they are interested in Azadi and not autonomy.

The people of Ladakh stand for total merger with India. Of course some voices of dissent have been heard here and there in the cold desert but such feeble voices hardly make any difference. They want to get rid of what they call Kashmir hegemony. The civic body created a political storm in the state by adapting a new symbol and abandoning the use of state flag. While the commoner in Kashmir and Jammu remained indifferent to the issue, the main opposition party of the state, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took a serious note of the development. The PDP president, Mahbooba Mufti said it was an act to dilute the special status of the state. "Any act aimed at diluting our special status shall be vehemently opposed", she said. Political circles equated it to the beginning of trifurcation of the state. "The LAHDC has taken a decision which the Legislative Assembly cannot afford to take", said a Srinagar based lawyer. The chief minister, however, played cool. "The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) is as good as a municipality and like Srinagar Municipality it has a right to have its own logo and flag. The chief minister further said that he was watching the developments. "I am watching the developments. A final decision shall be taken after ascertaining the facts", he said. The chief minister’s `casual’ comments evoked some sarcastic remarks.

"Yes, Srinagar Municipality has its own symbol but it does not take political decisions", said an agitated University teacher. According to him, the Srinagar and Jammu municipalities are even scared of poisoning the stray dogs. The Srinagar Municipality had procured poison worth Rs 15 lakh a few years ago but it could not be administered to the canines for fear of the animal rights defenders. Almost seven months have passed since the LAHDC adapted the new symbol. The chief minister has not taken any action. According to informed sources, the chief minister does not want to add to his woes by annoying the Leh people at this juncture. The State flag, it may be mentioned, has been evoking heated discussions for the past few years. While LAHDC has taken the bold decision, the people of Jammu have always resented the state flag. They want Eak Nishaan, Eak Pradhan and Eak Vidhaan.

Restoring autonomy, political experts believe, is simply impossible for New Delhi at this point of time. According to them, "Jammu Kashmir is a very sensitive issue. The gullible people in India believe that Jammu Kashmir binds them to the Indian union. Therefore, developments in the state are viewed with extreme caution and interest. Scores of states in India are up in arms against New Delhi. Some demand absolute sovereignty and some are unhappy with the system. Granting autonomy to Jammu Kashmir, therefore, will have a serious bearing on government of India. It may end up in a change in the pattern of governance. Is India prepared for a federal system of governance? This perhaps is the reason that the BJP government did not consider National Conference’s autonomy document."

And in contemporary Kashmir, it is a non-issue. Barring a few National Conference leaders nobody is interested in autonomy in Kashmir. It (Kashmir) is a place where `separatrism’ still sells. Even senior Congress leaders have admitted this harsh reality. The pro-Indian parties have to pursue a `separatist’ agenda in Kashmir because `separatism’ sells in Kashmir. This is a harsh reality and the pro-Indian groups have understood it.

On May 10 last year, veteran Congress leader, Ghulam Rasool Kar while addressing a convention at Sopore made a landmark statement. He said: "Every Kashmiri is emotionally attached to Pakistan whether they are in Congress or National Conference", he said. He also said that every heart in Kashmir (including his) beats for Pakistan.
Kar made this statement as senior Congress leaders watched helplessly. He urged the Congress leadership to accept this harsh reality. "Congress should have cordial relations with Pakistan. The party must strive for resolution of all disputes with Pakistan especially the dispute on Kashmir", he suggested.

He also urged the government of India to start a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan. He said: "I am an Indian but I am pained to see Pakistan in trouble. When a Pakistani gets killed in a bomb blast, my eyes get moistened automatically. This is how every Kashmiri feels."

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been accused of nurturing `separatist’ tendencies from the very beginning. The PDP Chief Mahbooba Mufti emerged more `separatist’ than the `separatists’ at times.
The National Conference also played the separatist card last year. Unnerved by the agitation, the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah caused a political storm in the subcontinent by challenging the totality of accession during his address in the Legislative Assembly.

Omar was accused of failure to deliver. Even New Delhi talked about `trust deficit’ and `governance deficit’. During the agitation, a harsh reality dawned on Omar Abdullah. ` You have to pursue a separatist agenda in Kashmir’. And that is exactly what Omar did.

He is the first Chief Minister who rejected totality of accession on the floor of the house. He even went to the extent of saying that Jammu Kashmir was an issue with international dimensions. "Jammu Kashmir has not merged into India. The accession is temporary and conditional", he said.

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