Why political chorus for statehood to J&K?

National Conference, Congress, People’s Conference, and all others in the Valley are pitching for the statehood

Arun Joshi

By Arun Joshi

On March 8, 2020- the day Apni Party was born in Kashmir, it rooted for the return of statehood to J&K and came under a sharp attack from all those who believed that the return of the special status and exclusive privileges should be the guiding factor and not the statehood to J&K that was reduced to Union Territory. The statehood was considered a natural corollary to what had been promised, but it was not that easy, time has shown that.

The articulation of the demand for the restoration of statehood to J&K  sans special status was considered a political blasphemy in the Valley where overwhelming sentiment, though wrapped in silence, was for the special privileges –   exclusive access to the land, jobs, and scholarships, alongside the unique symbols of the special status state- separate constitution, the flag of its own, and the legislature, having powers equivalent to the Parliament in most of the matters. Even if they were reconciled to doing away with the distinctive symbols, the denial of the exclusive privileges became a permanent irritant.

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Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari, who had articulated the statehood demand, knowing the risks and charges that it would invite from his critics, knew that the realism would triumph over the imagination. His theory was simple: the Indian Parliament had passed the legislation, doing away with Article 370, because BJP that had it in its manifesto of the 2019  general elections, had a vast majority in. both the houses of the  Parliament, it could not be undone unless the BJP reversed its own pledge. And that was near impossible. He also knew that no opposition party, not even the Congress that had facilitated the entry of Article 370 into the Indian constitution, did not say that it would restore Article 370 if it came to power.

Now, this demand is being echoed by one and all parties in Jammu and Kashmir except for the few fringe elements in the Jammu region of Kashmir, who are pressing for a separate state for their region, which is having slight Hindu majority, and divide the Valley into two union territories, one of them for Kashmiri Pandits who had migrated from the Valley in the 1990s. And, it needs to be recalled that these elements were in the forefront for years together for the abrogation of Article 370, which they had dubbed as a source of secessionism and denial of rights to minorities in J&K- Hindus and Sikhs.

National Conference, the oldest political party in the Valley, Congress, People’s Conference, and all others in the Valley are pitching for the statehood. Even the parties, like NC, that had said that there was no need to ask for statehood as  Home Minister  Amit Shah had promised on the floor of the parliament. Though Home Minister, during his October 2021 visit to Kashmir- first since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, reiterated that J&K will be granted statehood, but that was to be preceded by the report of the Delimitation  Commission, which will determine the allocation of Assembly constituencies afresh because of the Reorganisation of the state- its bifurcation into the two UTs, J&K, and Ladakh.  The statehood had to wait for the elections as well. Thereafter, Amit Shah said the process to grant the statehood to J&K would start. This is going to be a rehaul.

NC leaders Farooq Abdullah and  Omar Abdullah, Congress stalwart – all three former chief ministers of J&K, have now started echoing this demand, realizing the urgency for the statehood. Now fear has started ripping these parties that if they settle for the UT, the statehood may never be restored.

Erstwhile J&K cadre bureaucrats, even those who hail from outside of J&K, have started voicing concerns. They know that now they are no longer in J&K cadre, they have been placed in AGMUT cadre, which can see them getting transferred to off places as Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Andaman -Nicobar Islands. This is where the.

The  UT Assembly, as and when the elections are held, will not be having the powers of policing, nor determine the course of the region, because all the major powers would be concentrated in Lieutenant Governor. That is what is hurting the political parties, and now they have ratcheted up this  chorus for the statehood to J&K

 Their only hope is that the Centre respects their sentiments and delivers on its promise.

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