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Memorandum, Regional Autonomy Committee
COMMITTEE TO BUILD RESPONSE ON AUTONOMY (CBRA)

INTRODUCTION

Jammu and Kashmir is a heterogeneous state, with a number of geographical regions and sub-regions, representing different climates, fauna and flora. People possessing different ethnic backgrounds, professing different faiths, and a variety of cultural traditions and speaking different languages, reside in the State. What is more significant, is that the people living in these regions have not still attained a uniform level of development.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, Maharaja Gulab Singh and his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh did a commendable job by welding the diverse hilly areas on the south east of Palmir Plateau, stretching from river Ravi in the east up to Indus in the West, and bordered in the South by the plains of Punjab, into a single administrative entity under British suzerainty, known as "Jammu Kashmir Wa Tibet Ha". After the British Government created two independent dominions of India and Pakistan and withdrew their suzerainty over the Indian princely states on August 15,1947, Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Dominion of India on October 26,1947, by signing the Instrument of Accession.

TERMS OF REFERENCE OF THE REGIONAL AUTONOMY COMMITTEE

The purport of the Terms of Reference of the Committee set up by the Government for Regional Autonomy, is the better involvement and participation of people in the institutions and power structure, that exist. The purpose is to make recommendations in order to remove discrimination suffered by the people so that justice, economic, social, cultural and educational, becomes easily available to them, and the people are able to live with a full sense of security, free from fear and exploitation. In this con text, we expect the Committee on Regional Autonomy to delve deeper within the geographical confines of the regions, so that the labour put in by the Committee proves really fruitful, vis-a-vis improving the life of an individual human so that he or she does have an opportunity to develop his or her potential to the maximum possible extent.

The regions are not to be developed for their own sake. The development of the regions has to be affected for the benefit of the people, residing therein. There are regions where some sections of the population have got better chances of development, living in the same region while others have continued to be deprived from the fruits of development. Therefore, it is hoped in the real spirit of regional autonomy, due attention will be paid towards the development of the ignored sections of the populace.

Due care has also to be exercised in determining the index and perimeters of progress and development, backwardness and under-development of various segments of population, residing in a region. While determining backwardness, usually such factors as education, and professions depending upon academic qualifications were taken into account, and very little consideration was attached to factors like possession, control and monopoly over means of production, such as ownership of land, orchards, modes of transport, industry, trades, etc. There are also segments of population within these regions who are ignored in view of caste, religious and social bias against them. It shall, therefore, be in the fitness of things that such sections of the people living in respective regions, are identified, who instead of forging ahead have suffered retardation due to certain administrative policies.

EMERGENCE OF MUSLIMS AS A POLITICALLY DOMINANT FORCE IN THE STATE

After termination of emergency administration (Oct;28,1947 to March 5,1948), the interim government with a Council of Ministers was constituted by a proclamation, issued by the Maharaja on March 5,1948. In his proclamation, the Maharaja declared that the Council of Ministers would make arrangements for constitution of a National Assembly to frame the Constitution for the Government of the State. It was also ordained in this proclamation that the deputies to the National Assembly would be elected on the basis of adult franchise ostensibly because of the heterogeneous character of the state and a dispersal settling down of the minorities in various regions of the State, the Maharaja further desired that in the Constitutional structure to be evolved by the proposed National Assembly, the minorities shall be "provided adequate safeguards".

On account of various reasons, the Maharaja relinquished his office on June 9,1949, in favour of his son, Yuvraj Shri Karan Singh. On October 27,1950, the National Conference by a resolution asked for holding of an election to the State Constituent Assembly. On May 1,1951, the Yuvraj issued a proclamation convoking the Constituent Assembly through adult franchise by direct and secret ballot. Interestingly, this proclamation made no reiteration of the Maharaja's intention of providing special representation to minorities. On the other hand, it was laid out in this proclamation that the government would make rules, instructions and orders, to give affect to the terms of the Proclamation. Thus, it fell upon the government, in the first instance, and, ultimately, on the Constituent Assembly, to evolve and establish instrumentalities, in order to protect the interests of the minorities.

The State Constituent Assembly ignored to take note of the heterogeneous character of the State and the protection of the interests of the minorities and other weaker sections of the population. The ignored sections of the population expressed their grievances from time to time, and even launched agitations, to press for the acceptance of their demands. To pacify the agitationists, the Government at times, appointed Commissions of Inquiry to look into regional and other grievances. The recommendations of these Commissions, particularly those headed by Justice Sikri and Justice Gajandhargadkar involved a restructuring of administration at the district level and providing adequate representation to the deprived people of the various regions in the Council of Ministers, were not implemented. Even after the constitution of the Ladakh Hill Development Council, under proper legislation, its functioning has not been free from conflict. Every attempt has been made to make this institution, non-functional and redundant. The District Development Boards which have been set up under orders of the executive for formulation, execution, implementation and monitoring of the district development plans, have been rendered ineffective by the government through manipulation and indifference. The local self governing institutions have been superseded and their working has got controlled by the officers of the Government. The mismanagement and manipulation of these institutions have been engineered by the vested Muslim majority interests of the valley, whose ascendance and dominance in position of power has been assured through legal and political means.

The last Delimitation Commission has carved out 87 constituencies, on territorial basis, for election of 87 members in 1996, to the Legislative Assembly. The table given below reflects the average population and area, per constituency.
 

Region Estimated population* Area in Sq.kms* No.of Const Average pop. Av. area Sq.Kms
Kashmir 40,10,202 15,948 46 89,352 346
Ladakh 1,70,541 59,146 4 42,635 1,486
Jammu 35,37,957 26,293 37 95,620 719
Total 77,18,700 1,01,387 87 88,709 1,165
*Source: Government of Jammu and Kashmir Digest of statistics (1993-94)

Dominance of the Kashmir region over the Jammu region, in the Legislative Assembly, is visible on the twin basis of population and area. Whereas, Kashmir has 4.73 Lakh more population than Jammu, it could on basis of 89,000 average population per constituency in the State claim 5 more seats than Jammu against which it has been allocated 9 seats, viz. 80% in excess that of due. Area-wise also, Jammu has been discriminated against in the matter of allocation of Assembly seats.

To perpetuate a complete and continuous dominance of Muslims even within the Valley, the Assembly constituencies where Kashmiri Hindus could politically be represented, were restructured. Accordingly, the localities of Rainawari, Habbakadal, and Karan Nagar in Srinagar city, were fragmented in order to reduce them to an insignificant part of the contiguous Muslim dominated constituencies, thereby depriving the Hindus to elect representatives to the Assembly, on their own strength. While three Kashmiri Hindus were returned to Assembly in 1957, 1962 and 1967, the number was subsequently restricted to one member only in 1972, 1977, 1983, 1987 and 1996, as shown in the following table:-
 

Year Constituency Name of Legislator.
1957 Amirakadal Shri Sham Lal Saraf
  Habbakadal Shri D P Dhar
  Kothar Shri Manohar Nath Koul
1962 Kothar Shri Manohar Nath Koul
  Amirakadal Shri ShamLal Saraf
  Habbakadal Shri D P Dhar
1967 Devsar Shri Manohar Nath Koul
  Pahalgam Shri MakhanLal Fotedar
  Habbakadal Shri SriKanth Kaul
1972 Pahalgam Shri Makhan Lal Fotedar
1977 Pahalgam Shri Piyarey Lal Handoo
1983 Pahalgam Shri Piyarey Lal Handoo
1987 Habbakadal Shri Piyarey Lal Handoo
1996 Habbakadal Shri Piyarey Lal Handoo

It is significant to note here, that Kashmiri Hindus launched an agitation in 1967, against the majoritarianism of the Muslims in the Valley. The numerical reduction of Kashmiri Hindu MLAs to only one, can be defined as a direct consequence of the above agitation. Both on basis of their population and in view of their historical role in the freedom struggle, at the national and state level, there was no justification for their political exclusion to make them politically insignificant especially in a State that professes a secular and democratic set-up.

No sooner the accession of the State with the Union of India was brought about, the power was transferred to the people and the State government was reconstituted. The Muslim majority in the State enforced its precedence in the governance of the state. The ruling elite of the State succeeded in establishing a separate political organisation for the state, outside the constitutional organisation of India, on the basis of the Muslim majoritarian character of the population, thereby foisting a Muslim precedence and domination in the State. The period from 1947-1957, is of great significance and the development that took place during this period needs careful study and analysis, for a better understanding and framing of right perceptions. The state was ruled by decrees and ordinances during this period of ten years and this dispensation did not accept (i) Right to equality, (ii) Right to equality of opportunity (iii) Right to protection against discrimination, on the basis of religion, race, place of birth, sex or caste; (iv) Right to legal remedies against any discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste or place of birth, and sex (v) Right to freedom of faith, (vi)Right to own and manage religious endowments, religious places, religious property and religious institutions, (vii) Right to protection against persecution of minorities. The Legislature and Executive of the Government of the State, exercised arbitrary powers of classification of population in effecting the rights of the minorities, in almost all the spheres of life.
 

THE EXCLUSION OF KASHMIRI PANDIT COMMUNITY FROM TOTAL STRUCTURE OF KASHMIR

In Kashmir Valley, a verbal campaign was started soon after the take over of power by the new ruling elite in 1947, to the effect that Kashmiri Hindus had 'greener pastures' available outside the state. This had a double-edged pernicious effect on the entire population of the Valley. For the Kashmiri Hindus, it resulted in their destabilization in their Homeland, while for Muslims it created a separatist psyche. "Greener pastures" term was given currency as a cover-up mechanism for the slow but steady exodus of Kashmiri Pandit community from Kashmir. This proved ominous for their future prospects, stability, peace and security within state. Kashmiri Hindus had participated in large numbers in the freedom struggle and also helped to evolve the Nationalistic Movement, with its progressive economic programme in the state. There could, therefore, have been no reason for launching a campaign which virtually put the Kashmiri Hindus on the hit list of the Government. Kashmiri Hindus also fully appreciated the justification and need for giving relief to the peasantry, who were overwhelmingly Muslims in Kashmir, from the crushing burden of debts and out-dated land tenure system. There was, therefore, no justification for the ruling elite to create misgivings in the minds of the majority community, against minority Hindus. It is significant that prominent Kashmiri Hindus like Shri Damodar Bhat, well known lawyer of Badgam and Shri Reshi Dev, played a major role of revival of peasant economy in early fifties, by associating themselves with debt conciliation work. The ruling elite of Kashmir launched another vilification campaign against Kashmiri Hindus, labelling them as symbols of exploitation worth to be condemned and punished. The fact was that Landlords were a definite class comprising of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs etc; products of a feudal society. The rulers aroused hatred of Muslim peasantry against the Hindu land owners as oppressors. The fact, however, was that Shri D P Dhar and Shri Jia Lal Tamari, had them selves on their own distributed among the tenants their ancestral land held by them in ownership through inheritance, well before the Land Ceiling Act was passed. The magnanimity of these Kashmiri Pandits was never brought within public notice, by the rulers. There is no evidence to show that any Muslim, including advocates of Naya Kashmir, to have taken such a step. Their (K.Ps') sense of patriotism and commitment to democratic way of life was ridiculed. It is with deep anguish and a heavy heart, that mention needs to be made about the fact that even a leader of the stature of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, could not avoid becoming a party to Kashmiri Pandit hate-campaign by labelling them as "fifth column of India" which was used as an instrument by Muslim fundamentalists against the helpless community.

The Kashmiri Hindus were eager that social and economic condition of Kashmiri Muslim masses of the valley be improved. For this purpose, they launched a relentless effort in the pre-independence era, so that modern education, among Muslims of the valley could spread and take roots. Shri Govind Koul and others founded National School at Baramulla and a similar school at Shopian was founded by Shri Swaroop Nath Raina, a veteran freedom fighter. Earlier, Prof. Srikanth Toshkani had founded a girls school at Srinagar for spreading of female education, under the Women Welfare Trust. Besides all this, there were many Kashmiri Hindus, who in their individual capacity, did their best to spread modern education among Muslim masses. Even the Islamia School at Srinagar, was mostly manned by Kashmiri Hindus. In the field of medical care, it was Dr. Shamboo Nath Peshin and others who founded National Hospital, for providing medical facility to the masses, which generally included Muslims. Pandit Kashyap Bandhu became the pioneer of the idea for establishment of Labour Board, to improve the miserable plight of Kashmiri Muslim labourers, working as porters in Jammu and the plains. Kashmiri Hindus dissuaded the business community in Jammu and other northern Indian cities of the Punjab, from using the despicable nomenclature of  'hato' for Kashmiri Muslim labourers. All this and other similar contributions to ameliorate the lot of their Muslim brethren, on part of the Kashmiri Hindus, were totally ignored and forgotten. Apart from rousing malice and hatred, of the majority Muslim community against Kashmiri Hindus, the rulers of the State in the post-1947 period took special policy decisions to harass and destabilize them in the valley. The implementation of land reforms legislation brought about a change not only in the social relationship but also exercised a deep impact upon the economic condition of the people. The landlords whose lands were appropriated as a result of these reforms, in 1950, suffered a curtailment of their incomes, that they used to derive from land. For Muslim landlords, other avenues of earning their livelihood were made available, but it was not so in the case of the Hindus of the valley, as a community. Soon after assuming power, the rulers ordered pre-mature retirement of the government employees who had attained fifty years of age or had a total service of 25 years. Simultaneously, as a matter of policy, fresh recruitment in Government services, was by and large restricted to their ratio of population. Not only that, a similar policy was adopted in respect of selection and nomination for higher and technical education, outside the state. As a result of retrenchment from Government service and drastic curtailment of fresh recruitment, and no alternate avenue of livelihood being available to them in the forties and early fifties, Kashmiri Hindus, to save themselves from starvation, were left with no option but to leave the State. Earlier, in the wake of raids on the State sponsored by Pakistan, a large number of Kashmiri Hindus of the valley had already left the state. In addition, due to the decision of the state Government, not to allow Hindu refugees, including Sikhs, from Muzaffarabad district and those areas of Baramulla which came to be occupied by Pakistan, to settle in the valley, the population of Hindus in Kashmir got substantially reduced. Significantly, the Muslims from Sinkiang province of China were allowed to live in the valley. This brought about a significant demographic change in the valley, reducing Kashmiri Hindus to the status of an ineffective minuscule minority.

The policy of discrimination against Kashmiri Hindus was followed by their exclusion from the economic, social, political and administrative set-up of the state, a policy ruthlessly followed by the rulers from 1947 up to 1989-90, which paved the way for their ethnic cleansing, subsequently. The Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950, did not at all keep an opening for a landlord to work as a tenant, in case he would like to do so. According to this Act, land held by a landlord beyond the fixed ceiling, w as transferred to the tiller without payment of compensation to the landlord. The Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976, however, while providing an opportunity for the landlord to become a self-cultivating tenant, restricted this option to him by imposing the domicile condition that worked against the landlords particularly the Hindus, who had already in consequence of a social and economic bias and discrimination and security/compulsions, been forced to leave the villages to live in the nearby towns, within the valley or leave the state for good. The chance for the Hindus of the valley to work as self-cultivating tenants was closed and they had no option but to accept payments, in lieu of extinguishment of rights on land. The chances for retreat and reform were denied to this community, in various economic fields. No initiative was taken to diversify the Kashmiri Pandit community into other sectors of economy, where their absence was conspicuous.

Government employment avenues for Kashmiri Hindus had already been restricted. They were not encouraged or helped by Government to take to business, tourism, including hotels and houseboats, transport, industry, forest etc. The result was that there was negligible or no presence of Kashmiri Hindus in these lucrative avenues. In respect of Government services, fresh recruitment of Kashmiri Hindus was restricted to the ratio of their population, which was deliberately and willfully understated. Even those who managed their entry into services under extremely and adverse difficult conditions, were continuously suppressed and discriminated against which they had to fight long legal battles in the High Court and even in the Supreme Court, for restoration of t heir rights. Even after obtaining favourable  judgments, the rulers of the state did every thing to delay the implementation of Court decisions.

The rulers of Kashmir in the post-1947 era, systematically and in a planned manner, initiated the process of bias and discrimination resulting in the elimination of Kashmiri Hindus from the social, economic, and administrative set-up and cultural structures of the valley. This action of the rulers was supplemented by the Muslim fundamentalists and secessionists by rousing the sentiments of majority community against the Hindu minority of valley. Disputes regarding lands attached to the shrines, temples and cremation grounds of Hindus, were initiated. With the help of the executive power of the government, these lands were allowed to be grabbed. The Jamat-i-Islami Madrasas preached and instilled open hatred against the Hindus, among the Muslim children attending these Madrasas. Everything possible was done to harass the minorities in the valley and create an atmosphere of insecurity for them.

LAST NAIL IN THE COFFIN

The happenings of 1989-90, were the logical culmination of the process, that had been set in motion since 1947. The genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley was not an aberration or an isolated happening. The seed of this sordid event which had been sown in 1947, 1967 and 1986 were well nurtured to bloom fully, in 1989-90. It would be wrong to attribute the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus, to gun culture alone. The narration of the details leading to genocide and ethnic cleansing, will be time consuming and voluminous. Therefore, the details have been omitted but the mention of the events is necessary.

Due to the domination of Islamic fundamentalist and secessionist elements in the State administration of the valley, particularly in the sensitive positions, the administrative structures collapsed with ease in no time, without offering any resistance, as soon as green signal of going ahead was received. This not only facilitated the rise of terrorism against Hindus of Kashmir, but also helped to strengthen insurgency against the Indian Union through all possible means available to the subversives in the valley. Even the press in the valley acted as a mouthpiece of terrorists and insurgents and eulogized and even glorified terrorist and insurgent operations. A submissive and emasculated press encouraged passive submission of political workers of various hues, by publishing their paid advertisements, disowning their association with such political parties which had vouched for secularism, democracy and the integrity of India. Such political parties and set-ups were even condemned. The role of the so-cal led mainstream political parties which had been the beneficiaries of power and influence, from 1947, onwards in the state, was not only dubious but proved helpful in encouraging violence by their observing steadied silence. Their top leadership left the v alley for Delhi and elsewhere, soon after January, 1990, leaving the field open for the terrorists and their secessionist political leaderships, in the valley. No resistance, whatsoever, was offered by these mainstream parties to the anarchy and mayhem that prevailed.

Along with the selective killings of prominent Kashmiri Hindus, the terrorists resorted to intimidation of Hindus, loot of their property and the rape of their women. These insurgents pasted names of Kashmiri Hindus, listed on their hit lists, on lamp-posts in Hindu localities, to terrorize the community. Notices, fixing the dates for Hindus to quit the valley, were issued through local papers. Above all, anti-Hindu and pro-secession and Islamic fundamentalist slogans were blared for nights together, over loud-speakers from mosques, throughout the valley. No one in the valley spoke against what was happening. Everyone was overwhelmed and drifted along with the current of terrorism. Lakhs of people demanding secession chanting slogans of "Nizami Mustafa " and led by armed terrorists, paraded in streets of Srinagar. Hell was let loose on the Hindu minority. They had no place to hide themselves, except to obey the terrorist dictate to quit the valley, leaving behind their valuable immovable as well as movable properties, worth several thousand crores. They were compelled to give up their jobs, business, income yielding assets, etc; in full knowledge of the fact that they would face hostile weather and starvation outside the valley, which is their ancestral habitat and with which they have both material and spiritual attachment. This concluded the process of liquidation of K.P. community from Kashmir.

The Committee on Regional Autonomy is broadly expected to work out plans for creating instrumentalities for the equal regional development and for the upliftment and development of the population living in various regions of the State. It is quite understandable as well as possible, that Kashmiri Pandit Community will be bracketed with the majority of Muslims living in the valley. Paradoxically, they have been denied coexistence by the majority community in the valley. The agenda of exclusion of Kashmiri Pandits on part of the Muslims, has virtually been completed after the ethnic cleansing. Any plan or mechanism for the development of the valley and its people will never mean anything for this displaced community. The first and vital problem for the Kashmiri Pandit community is its rehabilitation in the valley as per a plan which has to take into consideration, security of life, property and honour, continuity of community culture and faith, besides the economic rehabilitation of Pandits. It has also t o be ensured that the community does not face another ethnic cleansing in the future, a cleansing that came as sequel to their marginalization and exclusion from the total life of the valley. It will not be out of place to mention here, that most of the Kashmiri Pandits who had gone to Baramulla, to live in their homes in 1992 and 1996 did not find any place in the established theocratic set-up in the valley, and most of them are again living as displaced people outside the valley. Till date, government has not come out with any genuine or feasible plan of their rehabilitation, for reasons not too far to seek, after going through this memorandum. Kashmiri Pandits have formulated the plan of rehabilitation, vis-a-vis the Homeland resolution of 1991 and January 1997 (copies enclosed) in which the K.P. community has resolutely demanded:-

  • The establishment of homeland for Kashmiri Hindus in the Kashmir valley, comprising the regions of the valley to the East and North of river Jhelum (Vitasta);
  • that the Constitution of India be made applicable in letter and spirit in this homeland in order to ensure the right to life, liberty, freedom of expression, faith, equality and rule of law;
  • that their homeland be placed under Central Administration with a Union Territory status so that it evolves its own economic and political infrastructure;
  • that all the seven lakh Kashmiri Hindus, which includes those who have been driven out of Kashmir in the past and yearn to return to their homeland and those who were forced to leave on account of the terrorist violence in Kashmir, be settled in the homeland on equitable basis with dignity and honour.
It will be a betrayal of the spirit of regional autonomy concept and a travesty of justice if Kashmiri Pandits are bracketed with the Muslims of the valley. we hope that the Hon'ble chairman and other members of the Regional Autonomy Committee, will take into consideration the facts and ground realities and deliver justice to the worst victims of discrimination, ensuring them a life full of security, cultural preservation and freedom from majority oppression.
 
 
1. Bansi Lal Kaul Chairman
2. Dr. M.K.Teng Member
3. O.N. Pandita Member
4. Prof. K.B. Razdan Member
5. Ashwani Kumar Member
6. S. Raina Member
7. Vijay Kaul Member

COMMITTEE TO BUILD RESPONSE ON AUTONOMY (CBRA)

Date : 25-02-1997,
Jammu (INDIA)

Panun Kashmir

   
 
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