PDP

Delimitation: Amit Shah set to make early moves in Kashmir Valley

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Delhi has little control in Kashmir Valley. Out of 87 seats in assembly, 46 are reserved for Kashmir region and 37 for Jammu (Ladakh has the other four seats). No wonder Abdullahs and Muftis, due to their clout in the Valley, control the levers of power in the troublesome state of Jammu & Kashmir.

This of course is historical injustice. Dogras (Jammu) have dominated the region historically. Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh amassed a state bigger than left behind by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sikh ruler in the 19th century. Till 1941, Hindus in Jammu numbered more than Muslims in Kashmir Valley.

However, Kashmir changed forever once Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah rose to power simultaneously in Delhi and Srinagar. Nehru afforded Abdullah a free run. Abdullah arbitrarily allocated 75 assembly seats in the 1951 state assembly between Kashmir Valley (43), Jammu (30) and Ladakh (2). There was no population data but just his whim to guide Abdullah.

Jammu and Kashmir had changed forever.

Abdullah’s son, Farooq, made it worse. His father had constituted the Delimitation Commission which had further increased Kashmir’s representation to 46 seats, as against 37 to Jammu. Farooq amended the Section 47 of the Jammu & Kashmir constitution in 2002 under which no addition or alteration of constituencies could take place up to 2026.

Game, set and match over.

Fast forward to present times. Modi 2.0 is in place. His party BJP rose to power, among others, on the promise of abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in its manifesto. Nationalism and his tough stance on separatist forces in Jammu & Kashmir, and their masters in Pakistan, reflected in Balakot surgical strike, helped him win the 2019 mandate with a staggering majority.

In people’s mind, Modi’s success or failure in his second tenure would be judged by what he does with Kashmir. The appointment of hard-nosed Amit Shah as home minister is an early signal. If Kashmir is settled, Modi would’ve earned the nation’s gratitude for centuries to come. He would be the favourite child of India’s history.

Modi has made his first move within hours into his second term. Amit Shah is positioned as home minister. Shah too has lost little time: He already has held a detailed closed-door discussion with Satya Pal Malik, governor of Jammu and Kashmir. The state is presently in its second year under the President’s rule. (Legally, President’s rule is tenable for three years at the most).

The rumour is abuzz that delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir could happen soon. Petitions are being written to the President of India. Now that the power of J & K assembly is vested with the President, it’s within his powers to order such a move. A Delimitation Commission could be set up which could redraw the constituencies—and take away the stranglehold which Kashmir Valley has enjoyed over the rest of the state. The freeze till 2026 would go in a jiffy.

This has the separatist forces in the Valley in a flutter. Everyday, Omar Abdullah (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) are warning of the consequences if this comes to a pass. Once the freeze is lifted, the ascendency of Jammu is inevitable. It already has more area than Kashmir Valley. It has more people in some constituencies than Valley has in two. (For instance, two constituencies in Srinagar City has nearly 50,000 less electorates than in single constituency of Gandhi Nagar in Jammu region. Same would be the case with Jammu City East seat).

Once this happens, everything would flow from the ballot and not from the bullet. Just imagine the scenarios below:

  • A state under its political control could make BJP do wonders in not just protecting the integrity of the state but also of its soldiers who have died in tens of thousands over the last few decades;
  • Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits, driven out of Valley by militants, could regain their paradise lost;
  • Lakhs of Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddies–around 11 per cent of the state’s population—don’t have any reserve seat in the Valley even though they were given Scheduled Tribe (ST) status way back in 1991. The seven reserved seats for ST—Chamb, Domana, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur district–are all in Jammu region and have stayed stationery since 1996, never ever rotated to Kashmir Valley).
  • Legislative control in the J & K assembly would make the abrogation of 370 and 35A a child’s play;
  • A secure Kashmir would be such a powerful bulwark against Pakistan and its’ ISI, not to say a leverage which would come handy against China;
  • If terrorists are throttled, Jihadi organizations such as Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda, not to say Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed—and its leaders such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar—would be neutralized.
  • Safer borders means lesser martyred soldiers. A buoyant and not a demoralized force. It would also free up India’s security apparatus. Men and money both could be saved.

Modi has the mandate. Shah is in the hot chair of home minister. Millions of Indians are looking for askance: Settle Kashmir once for all. This dispensation has a historic opportunity to undo the damage of appeasement to the Valley which India has practised since the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947.

Our politicians are for polls, not people

(This is a reprint from NewsBred)

We are all wary of politicians. Deep in our hearts we know they are populists. All they want is to win elections. They could lie endlessly and shamelessly, as Rahul Gandhi often does, and be sure that their darbaris, such as Lutyens Media, would turn a blind eye. Or if you are a BJP, the issues of corruption and Ram Janmabhoomi temple is only limited to manifestoes. My Hindus vs Your Muslims is only a trap to ensnare us in. Politicians are for polls, not people.

Once in a while, we the people swoon over a  Arvind Kejriwal before the unblushing chameleon is found out. These days, it is K. Chandrashekhar Rao of Telangana who is trying to seduce us with the talks of a non-BJP, non-Congress “Federal Front.” His words – “the country needs a new economic and agricultural model” – is meant for us suckers. Don’t we know he is another one perpetuating a dynasty—his son is the next in line to take over Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRP) party; his daughter Kavitha is the only woman minister in the state cabinet. Or that it could be a ploy to split the non-BJP votes in the 2019 General Elections as his detracting neighbour, K. Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh has remonstrated? What does it tell us about TRS when it bonds with a clearly communal AIMIM?

Politicians would splinter and regroup if there is a bigger pie visible in the near horizon. Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav are at each other’s throat one moment and a bua-bhatija the next; Yadavs in Bihar would draw close and apart like recalcitrant lovers who can’t make up their minds; Shiv Sena and BJP would stick under one roof even as they sleep in separate bedrooms; Mamata Banerjee could hold aloft Sonia Gandhi’s arm for photo-op one instant and be disdainful the next; Congress and JD (S) in Karnataka would clasp their daggers even as they plant kisses on the cheeks. It’s difficult to believe BJP and PDP were once allies. Such machinations leave them with little time for people.

Congress is perceived as a pro-Muslim and BJP as pro-Hindu party. It’s a chimera. Congress has realized Muslims would no longer win her elections. Out come the tilaks and janaus –the Shiv bhakts and tomes on why one is a Hindu. BJP is forever repositioning itself as a centre-rightist party. It knows HIndutva could only fetch it 100 seats. The rest of 172 could come, alone or in alliance, from a secularist position only. So no dramatic overtures towards Hindus.  Not on Ram Janmabhoomi temple. The end of their term is near but not a line has changed in our outrageous, preposterous academic History textbooks. Leftists wrote them from the pen dipped in poison. The hugely communal governments of Bengal and Kerala ought to have been dismissed a long time ago. All these parties do is to evoke our deepest religious, cultural inclinations and antipathies while maintaining a status quo in terms of action. People are no better than pawns, lifeless objects at their mercy.

Congress is gung-ho about wins in Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. It has lost no time in announcing loan-waivers for farmers.  Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, and now Gujarat, has seen BJP in a similar populism. In some states, the loan waiver amounts to over 30 per cent of the entire state’s budget. Some promises are never meant to be fulfilled —like Punjab on its farmers’ loan-waivers — but they serve the purpose in polls. No thought is given to fiscal prudence. That the banks might be wary of lending loans in future if there is no recovery possible. That even solvent farmers could dip their hands in the loan jar and be unaccountable.

And how do you think Congress is planning to tackle the issue of unemployment? By insisting that locals get the jobs at the cost of migrant UP or Bihar workers. That’s what Kamal Nath has done in Madhya Pradesh even as he himself is an outsider on the Chief Minister’s chair to a local Jyotiraditya Scindia. And that only those industries which employ upwards of 70 per cent of locals would get state assistance. Such juvenile conducts give a damn to what happens to Madhya Pradesh youths when they go out searching for jobs in other provinces. How is it a United India when migrating to other states has the disapproval of ruling politicians?

I have no doubt that India’s politics and politicians aren’t going to change in next 100 years. Part of the reason is Indian constitution’s federated character.  States are autonomous to a large extent but for some key matters resting in the hands of the Centre. This is logical given India’s diversity in language, customs and culture. It also gives rise to regional forces who are eyeing a bigger bite at the Centre. Friction is thus ever-present. One-upmanship is never far. Propagandists, faking as journalists, are paid and work overtime to brainwash the people. They are all part of the anti-people, pro-Powers mosaic. You could include academicians and power blocs which come in the garb of NGOs and Human Rights bodies.

Is there anything we the people could do? Are we only meant to wring our hands in despair? Could we take on these behemoths and succeed? I guess we could do a lot. We could support individuals who through their own initiatives are doing good to India and its culture. There are some who are digitizing our Sanskrit scrolls; those who are bringing back our stolen idols and sculptural marvels; those who are immersed in reviving our heritage through articles, magazines, websites, books, lectures, seminars, festivals by highlighting our exceptional dance, music, drama, architectural, handicrafts, sculptural, literature, painting, astronomy, scientific heritage etc.

Minorities are no demons either. Their politicians and religious leaders sure are looking to lead them astray. But most, by and large, want to get on with their lives and survival. Well-meaning groups within minorities could do a lot to win the trust and affection of majority. Just imagine if Muslims as one give way to Hindus’ demand for a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Or take up the task of learning and disseminating information on Sanskrit. Speak and act with affection and sensitivity on cows and beef.

Politicians and propagandists are no good. People are and could be good for the country we call India. We can’t really change our politicians, given their heft, deep roots and deep pockets. But we could show them a united face. Force them to attend to the pressing issues of this country and not resort to cheap and damaging populism. As long as we remain dormant, such politicians would remain our fate.