LARGEST CIRCULATED ENGLISH FORTNIGHLY OF J&K
ISSUE FOR THE FORTNIGHT APRIL 15-30, 1999
CALL THE BLUFF
National Conference government has chosen its own timing in tabling the contentious report on Autonomy in the state assembly. Intriguingly the report on regional autonomy prepared by Mr. Balraj Puri has been shelved. Another scroll which recommends vive section of Jammu on Dixonian lines and whose authorship remains mysterious has been presented as the report of regional autonomy committee. The Autonomy Committee has recommended that the Centre should have control over Jammu and Kashmir State only in terms of defence, external affairs and communications. Ironically the State Chief Minister, while presenting the report, has said that by seeking greater autonomy, "we aim at strengthening India and democracy".
The country, particularly Jammu and Kashmir State, is passing through a critical phase. The Centre is gripped by acute political instability and international conspirators are trying to distabilise Kashmir in many subtle ways. ISI is engaged in ruthless pursuit of changing the demographic profile of Jammu province, through communalisation, violence and deceit. When the state DGP expresses alarm about the intentional demographic change being effected by ISI, it only shows the grimness of the situation. Why has NC chosen to bring out a contentious report with potential divisive implications now? This baffles the common Indian.
In the baggage of politics that have accompanied the Autonomy Report, NC leaders say that the distinct identity of the state must be upheld. What is so distinct about the identity of Jammu and Kashmir State? The people of this state, among them Muslims as well, constitute an ethnic, cultural and linguistic plurality, which is, scattered over three main regional divisions. If there is any threat to the "distinct" identity of J&K it is from the forces engaged in the pursuit of Muslim identity politics and fundamentalist secessionism.
The autonomy committee report has three major thrusts. One, it links autonomy with Muslim subnationalism and accession. The demand for separate political organisation based on Muslim subnationalism has far reaching consequences for ideological foundations of Indian Nation-State. Subnationalism is essentially a function of ethnic, cultural and religious separatism and is inimical to national unity. Muslim League in India had claimed a sub-national identity for the Muslims of India, which in the long run lead them to opt for separation from the Indian mainland. Secondly by linking autonomy with Muslim majority character the report claims communal precedence for the Muslims in the state.
The quest for Muslim precedence conflicts with the secular integration of the Indian people. It has already alienated the non-Muslim minorities of the state, constituting a little half of its population, and would drive Muslims to seek fresh guarantees to safeguard their isolation from India. Lastly the report which recommends the dilution of Indian sovereignty has serious implications in a strategic border state prone to constant destabilisation. In a subverted polity the line between secessionism and autonomy is not only blurred but it simply does not exist. National Conference has called for a national debate on the autonomy report. Sensitive and patriotic Indians must join the debate and call the bluff