Regional Tensions Flare Up Over Govt Formation

16 January 2015
Rising Kashmir
Ishfaq Naseem

Srinagar: The regional tension has heightened in Jammu and Kashmir with smaller political parties and civil society groups trying to exert pressure on parties which have got sizeable number of seats to keep regional aspirations in mind before forming the government. The regional divisions have become stronger with political groups and the civil society members raking up the issue of settlement of West Pakistan refugees and the chief minister being from Jammu region. With the Kashmir civil society members, mainstream and separatist politicians opposing permanent resident rights for the refugees from West Pakistan and the Jammu leaders demanding the chief minister from the region the government formation in the state is likely to get delayed further. A number of social groups and small political parties have come together under the banner of Jammu Pradesh United Front (JPUF) to 'safeguard the rights of the people of the Jammu region' which is acting as a spanner in the efforts of government formation between political parties. Convener of the JPUF and Panthers party leader, Balwant Singh Mankotia, said people of Jammu region have voted to see the chief minister in the state belongs to Jammu. 'The people have voted as the Jammu region has been discriminated for a long time and we are seeking that the West Pakistani refugees should be settled permanently in the state,' he said. JPUF is an amalgam of 15 civil society groups and political parties in the region. Among others who are part of the group are Dogra Pradesh Party, Dogra Kranti Dal, Jammu West Assembly Movement, Ram Sena and Shiv Sena. The Front is even seen by the BJP as a 'pressure group' so that the party remains committed to its demand for a CM from the region. 'The Front is acting as pressure group and this could only delay the efforts to form the government. None of the political parties can afford an agitation which will only bring instability in the state,' said a senior BJP leader, wishing not to be quoted. While in Jammu the Front is seen as exerting pressure on the BJP to form an alliance, in Kashmir separatists and even some independents including the Awami Itehad Party leader, Engineer Rashid, and some civil society groups have exerted pressure on both the NC and PDP not to enter into an alliance with the BJP. PDP has already voiced concern over the timing of raising the settlement issue of the West Pakistani refugees. PDP chief spokesman, Naeem Akhtar, said the party has kept the option of alliance open with other political parties. NC Additional General Secretary, Mustafa Kamal said there are vested interests which are raising the issue of granting permanent resident rights to the West Pakistan refugees. 'The NC government has already passed the resettlement bill which was opposed by the political parties from Jammu and to respect the public opinion in Kashmir we had offered the support to the PDP which is still open,' Kamal added.