(Updated same day at 17h25) – By K.N. Pandita
Political landscape in our State has changed since Sangharsh Samiti movement two years ago, and events subsequent to it. On-going agitation in the valley this summer has reinforced the change.
The time has come when the dynamics of statecraft will induce the union government to make re-appraisal of its Kashmir policy; it has to be both long range and short range
What is of special interest is the significance and role of Jammu region in reoriented policy formulations?
Ever since State’s accession in 1947, New Delhi’s Kashmir policy has been valley centric. During the days when the Indian Constitution was under construction at the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi, NC leadership succeeded in inculcating in the law makers an exclusivist psyche in regard to Kashmir. Nehru tried to dispel the doubts of dissenters with a big bluff (ghiste ghiste ghis jayega).
New Delhi remained obstinately glued to the policy of imbalance. Jammu political leadership of those days, essentially ultra-nationalistic, was prepared to make concessions to sub-regional proclivities of the ruling party. This was understandable. But we don’t know to what extent were their sacrifices given due recognition inn national level politics.
In democratic dispensation where accredited representatives are answerable to the electorate, a time comes when constituency interests and demands assume unassailable significance in the overall framework of national development.
The traditional ruling party in the State unfortunately remained insensitive to this and some other desk-book principles of democratic dispensation. It gave sufficient cause to Jammu region to bring forth threadbare accusation of discriminatory treatment to the region. Discrimination is harmful essentially when ingrained in the approach and thinking of those who in power.
We know that mainstream national political party in New Delhi is obsessed with national minority vote to stay put in the seat of power. Intrinsically there is nothing wrong or unethical in that, rather it is a positive move in a bid to forge healthy national integration. After all India is a heterogeneous nation.
But the harmful aspect of this policy has been that of understating the significance of Jammu region in the broad structure of national integration and regional consolidation. New Delhi unwittingly contributed to this by leaving no option for Jammu region but to recurrently resort to public demonstrations for all such developmental programmes as came to the valley on a platter and even without asking. Their nationalist sentiment began to show signs of fatigue and even disappointment. They nursed the distressing sentiment that by alienating them New Delhi would be alienating itself to the valley population. Today in the light of the happenings in the valley, Jammu intelligentsia stands vindicated.
Some might raise finger at Jammu leadership. The deep-seated nationalist sentiments which shaped political strategy of the regional ruling party in the context of sharp sub-regional propensities of the majority party are not easy to trivialize. But it needs to be emphasized that if fundamentals of a policy are not compromised, the mechanism of handling situations needs to be updated and modified. That is political pragmatism.
Jammu leadership needs to inculcate political pragmatism commensurate with aspirations of the people in the region. It is enviously poised to play a crucial moderating role in Centre – State relationship and in ironing out the angularities of valley politics. In a federation like Indian Union, national level political parties have to be advised never to bulldoze regional aspirations but handle these with seasoned statesmanship. There will be aberrations in regional aspirations particularly when the sub-regions are divergent in more than one way, but the union has to hammer out moderating pragmatist component or veritable buffer in order to ensure cohesion of civil s society.
It was the lack of updating co-relationship between the working ideologies of mainstream political parties on the one hand and pan-nationalist vision on the other that rendered Jammu leadership reckless in the Greater Autonomy Bill discourse. Hence Jammu leadership has to learn many lessons by its past mistakes. A time comes when the people will sit on harsh judgment of the actions of their elected representatives and the history they leave behind. That time is subservient to the rapidity with which the electorate becomes educated and politically vibrant.
Jammu has absorbed large numbers of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons. All these sections have woes against their tormentors. Liberalism of Jammu intelligentsia has woven these newcomers into the fabric of its social and cultural milieu. This is a practical example of national integration and regional consolidation process.
With this hindsight, discrimination against Jammu region is both unjust and dangerous. It is unjust because it means depriving a whole staunchly nationalist segment of civil society of active participation in nation-building effort and the pride of national prosperity: it is dangerous because it creates disharmony on sub-regional level, which can take ugly shape if hijacked by malevolent elements.
Jammu region has lagged behind in economic and educational development. These two areas have to be addressed most urgently. Diversification of Jammu region’s economic uplift by opening new avenues of revenue generation is of vital importance. The region’s connectivity network is dismally retarded. Towns and localities are struggling for vital infrastructure, health services are hopelessly inadequate, and the youth are beset with unemployment.
The region needs a master plan for next fifty years that covers all these areas and more. Tourist potential of Jammu region has been underestimated and hence relegated to backburner. This is not only unjust but also cruel. It is time that the union government takes a few areas directly into its hands for development. Education and tourism are a priority, especially for the highland population in the region. Procrastination of the process of setting up a Central University is a glaring example of how Jammu region and its interests are still being trivialized and sacrificed for something that is absolutely unjustifiable.