Band over trifurcation hits life
12 February 2001
The Asian Age
Jammu: Life came to a standstill in Jammu and its neighbourhood as the people widely obeyed a general strike call given by the recently launched Jammu and Kashmir Nationalist Front in support of its demand for trifurcating the troubled state. Various outfits, including the ABVP, supported the bandh call accusing the Farooq Abdullah government of discriminating against the region, especially in the allocation of funds. The front is demanding a separate statehood for Jammu and also separation of the Ladakh region as a Union Territory from the predominantly Muslim Valley. The immediate cause of the agitating, being spearheaded by the students’ community, was a decision of the government to admit 65 students of an unrecognised private college in the valley into the two government medical colleges at Srinagar and Jammu. Though the decision to adjust these students in the government-run institutions was taken by the Union ministry of health and family welfare, the agitators have squarely blamed the Farooq Abdullah government for what they call “backdoor” admissions. The sustained agitation by the students community with the backing of various regional Opposition outfits has led to law-and-order problems here and the state government is reported to have agreed to write to the Union ministry for the cancellation of these admissions. The Opposition BJP and other parties insist that it was the state government itself which had recommended the adjustment of the Prime College students and is now playing the blame game because of the growing public pressure. The BJP members also strongly raised the issue in the state Assembly on Monday. They raised slogans against the “official apathy” well before the governor, Mr Girish Chander Saxena, could begin his customary speech to the joint session of the bicameral House on the opening day of its budget session. “Cancel the illegal admissions,” was their main demand. The Opposition members’ plea was that since the governor was also the chancellor of the Jammu University, he should have taken a note of the developments and the fact that some of the associated colleges have remained closed for the past three weeks due to the stir by the students. “It is a deliberate attempt to disrupt the educational atmosphere of Jammu,” complained one of the members who had covered his head with a black scarf in protest. Some of his colleagues lit candles and carried them to the Well of the House to agitate over frequent power cuts in Jammu, as well. The governor watched all this calmly and did not react until Awami League’s lone member, Muhammad Yusuf Parray, walked to the BJP members and pacified them to resume their seats. While the BJP members were busy shouting slogans, their counterparts from the Congress were on their feet chanting “BJP-NC hai hai.” Later in his speech, the governor primarily dealt with the militancy problem and economic issues, including the drought. Their rationale was that since the Union ministry of health and family welfare had decided to adjust the Prime College students in two government medical colleges of the state on the recommendation of the Farooq government both should accept the guilt and not “enact any dramas further.” Their other argument was that the agitators not allowing the governor to address the joint session by indulging in slogan shouting belonged to the party which accuses the opposition of frequently disrupting the proceedings of the Parliament. In his address, the governor said that it was indeed a matter of deepest sorrow that the budget session of the state legislature commences under the dark shadow of the colossal unprecedented tragedy that had fallen our brothers and sister in Gujarat. “My government and the people of the state associate ourselves with the people of Gujarat in their house of distress. We have extended such little assistance as we can as a token of our participation in bringing succor to the stricken people,” he said. Mr. Saxena said that nearer home, the “barbaric killings” of six innocent members of the Sikh community in Srinagar has saddened every heart. He added that notwithstanding attempts to communalize this stark tragedy the state government was fully aware that the people in Jammu and Kashmir were at one with their Sikh brethren in their moment of intense grief. “My government is of the firm belief that the fissiparous designs actuating this carnage will soon be evident to everyone and will thus be a dismal failure,” he said. He assured that the state government was committed to safeguard the lives and properties of all the people, in particular of the minorities wherever they may be residing. He without naming Pakistan alleged that the “inimical and irresponsible” foreign neighbour continued to “stoke the embers of a lingering proxy war.” He said that the “cannon fodder” continued to be mostly foreign mercenaries comprising “hirelings” and “bigoted zealots.” The governor’s contention was that the number of “our misguided youth” in the midst of these groups continued to show a downward trend. He said the senseless violence perpetrated by these brigands resulted in the loss of 762 civilian lives out of which 35 were associated with political parties. He said that state police continued its operations in tandem with the central forces to bring to book the “marauding gangs” of militants. That the forces acquitted themselves with distinction was evident from the fact that 1,520 known hard core militant were killed and in the process 86 state police personnel and 315 members of the central forces also died. Nevertheless, the state government welcomes the spirit behind the peace initiative set in motion by the Prime Minister, he said adding that “we, however, are firmly of the belief that for these initiatives to bear fruit the other side and their mentors have to requite the spirit of amity which informs this initiative. He regretted that the peace moves had not been matched by a suitable response from the opposite party-Pakistan. Therefore, the situation in this behalf needs to be watched very carefully, he said. The governor also dealt with the economic issues confronting the state and the drought like conditions prevailing in the state which could well worsen the situation in coming months. He said that two main challenges before the state government were now the “man-made proxy war” and the looming spectre of drought. “Both these calamities have to be weathered squarely,” he insisted.