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Politics Pushed to Background, Statehood Demand Dominates J&K, Says CCG Report

Anees Zargar |
In its ninth visit to the UTs, the citizens’ group said people in Ladakh had attained the long-cherished UT status, but described their current standing as a ‘car without an engine’.
kashmir militant.

Srinagar: The Delhi model or anything less than complete statehood will not be accepted by People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) - an amalgam of Jammu and Kashmir-based political parties – former Union minister Yashwant Sinha-led Concerned Citizens’ Group (CCG) has observed in its latest report.

In its ninth visit to Kashmir from July 5-7, made in the wake of a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and regional political leadership on June 24, the group said that politics had been “pushed to the background” under President’s Rule in the newly formed Union territory (UT).

“Even statehood with the rider that the Centre would retain Home and Finance would never be accepted in the Valley. Nor is it likely to resonate in Jammu and Ladakh. Within the BJP’s support base in the Jammu region, there appear to be stirrings of a demand for full statehood,” the CCG report said.

Even though, people in Ladakh attained the long-cherished UT status, the group said, Ladakhis described their standing as a ‘car without an engine’ in the absence of any protection for land ownership and preference in jobs.

The administration, the group has noted, is run by a Cabinet of advisors of the Lieutenant Governor and “the permanent state bureaucracy whose accountability is only to their superior officers and not to the people.”

The group said it made the short visit to “ascertain the mood of the people and the parties in the Kashmir Valley after the interaction organised by the prime minister.”

“While there was much expectation centred on the meeting, especially related to the restoration of statehood of J&K, it turned out to be more about the Centre seeking the support of the mainstream political parties from the Union Territory for the delimitation exercise necessitated by the J&K Reorganisation Act of 2019 and legislative assembly elections thereafter,” the group noted.

CCG has been making regular visits to the region especially after the abrogation of Article 370 and subsequent bifurcation of J&K into two Union territories. Following its visit the group has been critical of the move taken arbitrarily and the way the region is being handled by the government. The group added that there is a great deal of disconnect between the people, State and politics.

“The people’s mood was marked by lack of expectations from the State, a pervasive sense of hopelessness not witnessed by this Group earlier and deep-seated despondency in the youth,” the report said. 

What has added to the woes of people in the region is back to back economic losses suffered since August 5, 2019 when the so-called special status of J&K was revoked.

According to Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), the CCG report said, from August 2019 business was closed for 11 months out of total of 23 months. During this time, there was a four-month hiatus in the wake of the protests against abrogation of the special status of J&K and another seven months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The estimated loss to business, the KEA claimed, was approximately Rs. 70,000 crore. “Of this Rs.50,000 crore was due to closures and another Rs. 20,000 crore due to falling sales as demand contraction due to falling purchasing power,” the report added. 

In absence of a respite, the report quoted an academic, who claimed that while Kashmir was being radicalised, India had been possessed by, what German philosopher Immanuel Kant called, “radical evil”. “More than Kashmir, it was India, he said that was in grave danger,” the academic was quoted as saying.

The group comprises of former External Affairs Minister of India Yashwant Sinha, Executive Secretary, Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, Delhi, Sushobha Barve, former bureaucrat Wajahat Habibullah, Air Vice-Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak and senior editor, Bharat Bhushan.

The CCG members met leaders of political parties including former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Chief Spokesperson of the PAGD, Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig, civil society activists from both South and North Kashmir, members of the Kashmir Economic Forum, representatives of trade bodies and of the Horticulture sector.

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