J&K autonomy: New proposal further adds to confusion
The Hindustan Times
By Anil Anand
New Delhi: The issue of regional autonomy has once again become alive in Jammu and Kashmir where deep-seated regional discrimination over the years has been agitating the public mind in one or the other manner.
A new dimension has been added to the decades old controversy with the State Government-sponsored Regional Autonomy Committee recommending further extension of the Jammu and Kashmir’s administrative set-up to eight regions as against the existing three. The suggestion has been made by the committee on the plea to assuage the feelings of sub-regional ethnic groups hither to neglected.
The very existence of this committee was marred by a controversy resulting due to unceremonious dismissal of its working chairman Balraj Puri.
Mr Puri’s removal was interpreted by the political observers as a blatant effort by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah to ensure that a tailor-made report was delivered by the panel.
The present official report (Mr Puri had earlier released his report in a book form.) signed only by three out of the originally appointed six members of the committee, has recommended further division of the sensitive state more or less on religious lines.
This recommendation which is the central theme of the report, has already created a storm in many parts of the State.
The existing Jammu and Ladakh regions are up in arms as the proposed division on ethnic lines is being perceived by the people as an attempt to further divide the two regions.
The committee, for instance, has suggested carving out a Chinab Valley comprising Doda district and Mahore Tehsil (at present part of Jammu region) and Pir Panchal region consisting Poonch and Rajouri districts.
By suggesting the creation of these Muslim dominated regions, it has also finally advocated coming into being of a Hindu dominated Jammu region.
It will comprise Jammu, Kathua and Hindu dominated parts of Udhampur district.
Notwithstanding, the existing regional discriminations and distrusts, the committee has further recommended separation of Leh (Buddhist majority) and Kargil (Muslim majority) into two regions.
It has proposed dividing Kashmir into three regions: Kamraz containing Baramullah and Kupwara districts, Nundabad comprising Budgam and Srinagar districts and Maraz consisting of Anantnag and Pulwama districts.
Interestingly, the report has counted on the virtues of a federal and democratic set-up and based its hypothesis of creating sub-regional ethnic identities on the lines of administrative set-ups existent during the Mughal or Dogra rules.
It has questioned the suitability of the existing administrative system without delving into the causes behind its failure, which led to widespread regional discriminations. The committee has sharply contradicted itself in its 28-page report. While counting on the virtues of a federal and democratic system, its 8-region theory is the true replica of the administrative systems followed by monarchy at different times in the past.
Finally, it denounced the same very basis of its hypothesis by commenting: “The goal of people’s participation in governance at different levels cannot be achieved by remaining tethered to the arrangements and systems created by kings and monarchs.”
Carrying forward its argument of federalism, the committee has recommended formation of Regional/ Provincial Councils for devolution of power, which in turn is to be followed by a system of district councils.
The entire exercise is to be capped by the constitution of Financial Commission at the State level, to suggest means for fund raising and its distribution at various levels in the proposed administrative set-up.
Significantly, the committee has also suggested changes in the existing format of the State Academy of Art, Culture and Languages on similar regional lines to provide an impetus to the culture of different ethnic groups.