Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Communalism versus Valley ism, JUNAID QURESHI

Communalism versus Valley ism, JUNAID QURESHI Thursday, 01 01 2015 11:49
That the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir is divided is not a new or ground-breaking statement. That the divided parts of this divided state may head for even more division, might be called a thought-provoking one. Before I will explain this notion, I would like to make it clear that I have absolutely no preference for any party which contested the recently held assembly elections nor do I favor any particular coalition which might be born out of the number game.

Many separatist elements have ardently propagated to boycott the elections and tried to link it to the larger political issue of Kashmir. They conveniently ignored that even the parties contesting these elections have made it clear numerous times that the assembly elections are for administration purposes only. Let me reassure them that no CM of J&K and no PM of Pakistan Administered Kashmir is able or has the authority to decide the future of Jammu & Kashmir through local elections. That will be decided by the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The same people, who during these elections have decided that they want to live with dignity. Every sane mind in India, Pakistan and Kashmir is longing for a peaceful and long lasting solution to the Kashmir-issue. Having said that, the turnout of 65% in the recent elections has fortunately shown that the Kashmiris have matured and will not allow their daily lives to be kept hostage by merchants of the Kashmir-issue.

I am a democrat and believe that the people’s mandate should always be respected. I am also a Kashmiri from the Valley. One who is deadly secular and firmly believes that Kashmir does not only compromises the Valley or the Muslim inhabitants of the state. For me, Kashmir also includes Jammu,Ladakh, Aksai Chin, Pakistani Administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan with all its state subjects irrespective of religion, caste, creed or colour. However, in this write-up I will only analyze Indian Administered Kashmir as that is the jurisdiction of the recently held assembly elections.

The princely state of Jammu & Kashmir is an area of 2,22,236 km2. 78,114 km2(35.14%) is under the Administration of Pakistan and 42,735 km2(19,23%) is under Chinese Administration. Indian Administered Kashmir constitutes 101,387 km2 (45,62%). Out of this, Ladakh is the largest area which compromises 58,33%, Jammu accounts for 26,93% and the Kashmir Valley makes up for only 15,73% of the total area.

According to the census of 2011, the Kashmir Valley is the most densely populated area with almost 70 lakhs inhabitants of which 97% are Muslim. The population of Jammu is almost 55 lakhs with 65% Hindus and 31% Muslims and in Ladakh the population is close to 3 lakhs where 47% are Muslims and 46% are Buddhists. 53,9% of the total population lives in the Kashmir Valley, 43,7 % in Jammu and 2,3% in Ladakh. In total 67% of the population is Muslim and 30% is Hindu. A small percentage subscribes to other religions.

Above mentioned data shows that Jammu is the second largest geographical area of Indian Administered Kashmir and that it is much bigger than the Kashmir Valley. It is also the second most populous one, home to almost half of the total population of the State.
The BJP won 11 seats in the 2008 Assembly elections and has put up a spectacular show by winning 25 seats in the recently concluded one. A considerable portion of this gain can be directly credited to the ‘Modi Wave’ in India. Some political pundits have called Jammu communal for voting BJP. This notion is indeed debatable. But what about the Kashmir Valley’s communal inclination? What about, as I call it, Valley-ism?

None of the 46 seats in the Kashmir Valley has been won by a Hindu. A strong BJP candidate in the Pandit dominated constituency of Habbakadal lost to a candidate of NC. It is said that NC supporters came out in huge numbers in this constituency and begged the people to vote in their favour as otherwise a Hindu BJP candidate would win from Srinagar. NC’s communal religious card worked and BJP’s MotiKoul lost by a margin of over 2,000 votes.

BJP has bagged a total of 23% of all votes casted while PDP has won 22,7% of all the votes. In absolute value the BJP is ahead as well, as more than 11 lakh votes have been casted in its favour, whereas PDP is a few thousand votes short of this number. The number game of electoral politics has turned out to be in favour of PDP and it has emerged as the largest party, but would it be wise to disregard the voice of almost one fourth of the voters? Jammu has convincingly voted for the BJP; would it then be politically and morally justified of the Valley-ites to ignore Jammu’s verdict? Mind you, this is an area which is almost twice the size of the Valley and has just 15 lakh inhabitants less than it. If this voice will be ignored, what awaits J&K when the number game might turn out to be favourable for BJP in the next assembly elections?  

A lot of voices in the Kashmir Valley are calling for the formation of a government which will exclude the BJP. There are rumors doing the rounds that in order to keep the BJP out of any ruling coalition, arch-rivals PDP and NC could tie the knot of a marriage of compromise with either the Congress or some independent candidates as bridesmaids. Indeed PDP has emerged as the largest party, which has made them get into the driver’s seat. Although I am no one to advise an extremely experienced and intelligent politician like Mr. Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, I would like to remind him with the utmost respect that it is not just a co-driver which he has to choose this time. A wrong choice might put Jammu & Kashmir’s dynamic equilibrium at stake.

As stated already, in my opinion the people’s mandate should always be respected and adhered to. The people of Kashmir and indeed the people of Jammu as well, have spoken. Jammu and Kashmir and the people living in both these parts of J&K already have a lot of grievances amongst each other. Perhaps these grievances have been fuelled by communal elements in Jammu but let us not deny that the superiority complex of the people living in the Valley and especially Srinagar, can inarguably also be classified as communalism.

Many living in Srinagar harbour an intangible, yet baseless feeling of superiority regarding others. In Srinagar, we quickly tend to use epithets like ‘Villager’ and ‘Gujjar’ for people living just a few miles outside the city. For us, even the cunningness of someone’s character is often related to the place of their domicile. One can imagine which prejudices some of us hold regarding our brethren living in Jammu. It is disturbing to note that often these prejudices are mutual.

We Kashmiris have a long way to go in reconciling our differences and regaining the true essence of Kashmiriyat. Undoubtedly history, division, conspiracies and our own errors have fostered our intrinsic alienation. Perhaps we should take lessons from history. The birth of Bangladesh has taught us that not respecting the people’s mandate can prove to be the womb of division and devastation. Not respecting the people’s mandate in Jammu & Kashmir will only nourish further alienation and cultivate unholy ideas like bifurcation, trifurcation and later on quadfurcation. We, the people of Jammu and Kashmir, must not allow that.

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