Jammu: The consequences of the Narendra Modi government’s decision to scrap the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, and divide it, continue to unfold with a group of regional political outfits from Jammu coming together to demand for a separate state. Ladakh, which was hived off and made into a union territory has seen turmoil while the Kashmir Valley remains under tense clampdown.
Twenty political and social organisations, including the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, have joined forces to seek restoration of statehood for the Jammu region. After a joint session meeting on Wednesday, a resolution was passed to oppose the move to demote the erstwhile state of J&K to a union territory in 2019, under the banner “Jammu Declaration”.
The move comes days after political parties in Kashmir came together after the release of former Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti and formed the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration for the restoration of special status as was the case before August 5, 2019.
Notably, the Jammu Declaration has no mention of a special status, instead emphasising on the demand of restoring statehood for the Jammu region, not Kashmir. The members of newly-formed Jammu Declaration have stressed on the “continuous neglect that Jammu faced even after the abrogation of Article 370”, saying that statehood was the only option available for the region.
Speaking to NewsClick, Rajesh Padgotra, provincial president of the Panthers party, said: “Our aim is to collectively fight for the Jammu cause in the view of persistent neglect and deprivation faced by the people; for that, statehood is the first thing we strive for.”
The meeting was attended by members of several regional outfits, including Panthers party’s Harsh Dev Singh, Shiv Sena J&K unit president Manish Sahni, Sainik Samaj Party’s Chairman Col. S.S Pathania, IKK Jutt Jammu’s Ankur Sharma and Jammu ki Yuva Soch, among others.
The meeting, which was also attended by few right-wing regional organisations, is considered the first coming together of parties after the August 5 decision. Commenting on the need for the Jammu Declaration a year after abrogation, Harsh Dev Singh said at the meeting: “Even after the abrogation of Article 370, Jammu continues to bleed and suffer. The much touted slogans of Jammu’s empowerment and equitable share in state’s resources, besides assured benefits of several other central laws and schemes, have proved a hoax. While Ladakh and Kashmir continues to receive the focused attention of the centre, what actually falls in the lap of a marginalised Jammu region is mere peanuts.”
It is pertinent to mention that while the Jammu Declaration appears to be an open and vocal opposition to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it has once again pitted Jammu against Kashmir, and this time, Ladakh too, over benefits, demands and assurances. However, the Shiv Sena, also party to the Jammu Declaration said “nothing is defined” as yet.
“The declaration is in a nascent stage, we have just had one meeting. We agreed on a few demands for the betterment of Jammu but have not still come up with concrete plans. The idea is not to pit Jammu against Kashmir but to talk about the problems of Jammu and the discrimination that it is still faced with,” said Sahni.
The Hindu-dominated region of Jammu, which had openly celebrated the scrapping of special status, is finding itself in hot waters. Political commentators say that a year later, those who had supported the decision feel “deceived”. The fear of demographic change has crept into minds. But, unlike Ladakh and Kashmir, the Jammu Declaration, which has given little hope to the people, has restricted its demand only to restoring statehood.