Sin­is­ter de­mo­graphic up­heaval in Jammu & Kash­mir and Pun­jab on anvil?

Jun 11, 2021 | Demographic Engineering

Un­der pres­sure from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to con­duct polls in Jammu and Kash­mir, the gov­ern­ment of In­dia is plot­ting de­mo­graphic change, de­lim­i­ta­tion and ger­ry­man­der­ing. In Au­gust 2019, it sud­denly dropped the bomb­shell of con­vert­ing Jammu and Kash­mir into a Union Ter­ri­tory in ut­ter dis­re­gard to the as­pi­ra­tions of the peo­ple of Kash­mir and In­di­a’s oblig­a­tions to the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion on Kash­mir guar­an­tee­ing plebiscite to the Kash­miris. Dur­ing the first phase of the pan­demic last year, in the form of tem­po­rary jobs, there was a mas­sive trans­fer of pop­u­la­tions from Bi­har and Ut­tar Pradesh, who have since “set­tled in var­i­ous parts of Jammu and Kash­mir.” Grapevine is now rife with the fur­ther po­lit­i­cal up­heaval of the state and Pun­jab. Tal­iban has an­nounced that once the US with­drawal of troops from the re­gion is com­plete, they will “move to Kash­mir.” As the cit­i­zenry of the re­gion lives in the realm of fear, WSN ed­i­tor Jag­mo­han Singh ap­pre­hends a huge tur­moil in both the states should the gov­ern­ment of In­dia em­bark on this mis­ad­ven­ture.

THE GOV­ERN­MENT OF IN­DIA IS DE­TER­MINED TO PUR­SUE ITS AGENDA, rid­ing roughshod of po­lit­i­cal, so­cial or re­li­gious protests by any sec­tion of so­ci­ety. Since Au­gust 2019, with the an­nex­a­tion of Kash­mir into In­dia, the gov­ern­ment seems to be hov­er­ing around the pos­si­bil­i­ties of bring­ing about a rad­i­cal change in the de­mo­graph­ics of the Kash­mir Val­ley, rop­ing in Pun­jab as well. To pro­vide more po­lit­i­cal clout to the Jammu re­gion, the Hindu-dom­i­nated dis­tricts of Gur­daspur and Pathankot and the Pul­wama dis­trict of South Kash­mir will be en­joined to cre­ate a Greater Jammu state. With an eye on ger­ry­man­der­ing in fu­ture as a run-up to elec­tions, even the Pir Pan­jal and Chenab ar­eas from Jammu may be set off with Kash­mir.

Po­lit­i­cal cir­cles in Jammu, Sri­na­gar and New Delhi are abuzz with these spec­u­la­tions as to the en­tire J & K gov­ern­ment lead­er­ship and pro-BJP Jammu and Kash­mir lead­er­ship have been camp­ing in Delhi for many days.  The ad­min­is­tra­tion though con­tin­ues to main­tain si­lence and is not al­lay­ing the fears of the pop­u­la­tion. This was the case prior to the Au­gust 2019 move also. 

So­cial me­dia spec­u­la­tions though not al­ways true are point­ers to sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ments, about the ma­noeu­vres of mod­ern states, es­pe­cially the kind of in Jammu and Kash­mir, which takes or­ders from the cor­ri­dors of power in Delhi, rather than re­spect the will, needs and as­pi­ra­tions of the peo­ple of the re­gion. 60 com­pa­nies of para­mil­i­tary forces, who had been de­ployed on elec­tion duty in West Ben­gal and Tamil Nadu, have re­turned to the val­ley.   

All-Party Sikh Co­or­di­na­tion Com­mit­tee chair­per­son Jag­mo­han Singh Raina, in his sharp re­ac­tion, told WSN on the phone line, “With­out con­sul­ta­tion of all stake­hold­ers, the gov­ern­ment of In­dia should not move an inch in re­or­gan­is­ing any state in­clud­ing Jammu and Kash­mir and Pun­jab. The Sikhs as a mi­nor­ity will not tol­er­ate this.”

“Chang­ing the de­mog­ra­phy of Jammu and Kash­mir and Pun­jab is the se­cret agenda of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak San­gat through the BJP gov­ern­ment at the Union level as well as the fully pli­ant J & K ad­min­is­tra­tion. This will have dan­ger­ous con­se­quences and will desta­bilise mi­nori­ties and cre­ate more mis­trust amongst them in many parts of the coun­try,” he added.

As the en­tire Hur­riyat Con­fer­ence lead­er­ship is in prison, their views have not been aired on this pos­si­ble de­vel­op­ment of break-up of the state of Jammu and Kash­mir. 

While the hap­pen­ings in Jammu and Kash­mir have not fil­tered down to Pun­jab, but Sikhs in Jammu and Kash­mir have se­vere ap­pre­hen­sions of the pos­si­bil­ity of re­struc­tur­ing of Pun­jab. 

Keep­ing an eye on the de­vel­op­ments in Jammu and Kash­mir, po­lit­i­cal ob­server Ajay­pal Singh Brar told WSN, “Even though presently it is in the realm of spec­u­la­tion, no­body should have il­lu­sions about tam­per­ing with the pre­sent ge­og­ra­phy of Pun­jab.  It will be met with stiff re­sis­tance from Pun­jabis.”

“I also won­der whether the pur­ported moves of the gov­ern­ment of In­dia are as sim­plis­tic as cre­at­ing a pop­u­la­tion di­vide to suit it po­lit­i­cally or is it a larger game in­volv­ing the US, China and Pak­istan as a lot is brew­ing in the re­gion since the ab­ro­ga­tion of Ar­ti­cle 370 by In­dia in Au­gust 2019. The re­align­ment of po­lit­i­cal pow­ers to suit geopo­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests, com­bined with the with­drawal of US and US-al­lied troops from Afghanistan and the bel­liger­ence of the Tal­iban war­rants se­ri­ous un­der­stand­ing and con­sid­er­a­tion,” he added.  

Pushed to the wall with­out any say in the po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments of Jammu and Kash­mir, the Peo­ple’s Al­liance for Gup­kar De­c­la­ra­tion (PAGD), which is an elec­toral al­liance be­tween the sev­eral re­gional po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Jammu and Kash­mir for restor­ing spe­cial sta­tus along with Ar­ti­cle 35A of the erst­while state of Jammu and Kash­mir have not for­mally met to take stock of the sit­u­a­tion. Fa­rooq Ab­dul­lah, the pres­i­dent of the al­liance has, how­ever, said, “Delhi will do what it has to, we have the sup­port of Al­lah.” He also rued the fear of the po­lice in the re­gion and the mas­sive ar­rests by the se­cu­rity forces.  

Speak­ing to the me­dia, se­nior PAGD leader Muza­far Shah asked the gov­ern­ment of In­dia to al­lay fears that Jammu will be sep­a­rated and South Kash­mir be made part of Jammu. What is this and what’s go­ing on? The In­dian gov­ern­ment must put an end to these ru­mours and come up with a for­mal state­ment.

“It is a time to heal and cure those suf­fer­ing the im­pact of the pan­demic and not in­dulge in po­lit­i­cal up­man­ship,” he added.    

“The first blun­der was com­mit­ted in 1953, sec­ond in 2019, now an­other seems to be on the anvil. The more you dis­in­te­grate Kash­mir, the more it will unite.”

While there were at­tempts to cre­ate a thaw among the two war­ring neigh­bours, there has been no progress. The Pak­istan For­eign Of­fice, sens­ing the moves in the re­gion has is­sued a state­ment say­ing, “We urge In­dia to re­verse its un­law­ful and desta­bil­is­ing ac­tions, en­sure full com­pli­ance with the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions, and re­frain from any fur­ther steps that might im­peril re­gional peace and se­cu­rity in South Asia.” 

Un­der pres­sure, the BJP is negat­ing ru­mours, but they did so even at the time of scrap­ping of Ar­ti­cle 370 and so the trust deficit is so low among Kash­miris that till a fi­nal say in the mat­ter is an­nounced by the gov­ern­ment, the spec­u­la­tions are likely to con­tinue.  The Bharatiya Janata Par­ty’s J&K pres­i­dent, Ravin­der Raina has re­port­edly stated to the me­dia that no big de­vel­op­ment is in the off­ing. 

Mean­while, the Bharatiya Janata Party youth leader Man­zoor Bhat has scotched the pos­si­bil­ity of state­hood to Jammu and fur­ther re­align­ments in the Kash­mir val­ley but said that “we have full faith in the cen­tral lead­er­ship…it is time to move for­ward the mis­sion of Naya Kash­mir for de­vel­op­ment and peace.”

He was how­ever on the de­fen­sive on the is­sue of tax no­tices and said, “tax no­tices served by Badami Bagh Can­ton­ment Board (BBCB), an au­tonomous body un­der the Min­istry of De­fense, to peo­ple in Sri­na­gar ar­eas in the pre­vail­ing sit­u­a­tion are not con­ducive for col­lect­ing prop­erty taxes.”

On the con­trary, those sup­port­ing the gov­ern­ment move are singing the gov­ern­ment tune.  Prof. Hari Om, writ­ing in the Stat­es­times says, “Sep­a­ra­tion of Jammu province from Kash­mir and grant of state­hood sta­tus to Jammu province and a sep­a­rate home­land for in­ter­nally dis­placed Kash­miri Hin­dus is a last­ing, ra­tio­nal and na­tional so­lu­tion.”

Prof. Hari Om is how­ever con­cerned about the idea of merg­ing South Kash­mir with Jammu province and the province los­ing Pir Pan­jal Moun­tain ranges and river Chenab.”

Pro-Sikh free­dom body Dal Khalsa spokesper­son Kan­war Pal Singh speak­ing to WSN said, “Ir­re­spec­tive of all the no­to­ri­ous pol­i­tick­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tive strate­gies of the In­dian gov­ern­ment, the fact re­mains that the peo­ple of Kash­mir are be­ing sup­pressed un­der the bay­o­net of the gun and they all are com­mit­ted to the cause of an in­de­pen­dent Kash­mir to be ob­tained through the UN-recog­nised right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

The moot point is whether In­dia is prepar­ing for a pos­si­ble face-off with the Tal­iban or the mul­ti­tude of forces are fan­ning the coun­try­side to quell dis­sent and op­po­si­tion to the pos­si­ble tri­fur­ca­tion of Jammu and Kash­mir? The next few days are cru­cial. 

Author: Jagmohan Singh| Publication: The World Sikh News