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