JAMMU, Jun 22: Is Jammu really being ignored by the Government of India? This question is actively haunting the minds of political analysts, social commentators and the heads of political parties who did not receive a call from Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 24.
Centre on Saturday invited four ex-Chief Ministers, four ex-Deputy Chief Ministers and party presidents of J&K BJP, Congress, Jammu Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP), Jammu Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), CPI (M) and Jammu Kashmir Peoples Conference for an All-Party meeting to be held at Teen Murti Bhawan, official address of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 3 PM on June 24. Neither the J&K politicians nor has New Delhi said anything about the agenda of the meeting.
Quoting sources, everything from delimitation to statehood is being speculated. National media is dishing out stories of Prime Minister Narendra Modi likely to deliver another big surprise in Jammu and Kashmir. “Kuch Bada Honay Wala Hai (Something big is going to happen). Amid all this, Jammu is on boil again with social media abuzz with stories of New Delhi inviting the same set of politicians from Kashmir valley who were earlier being called “Gupkar Gang” for talks who are still seeking restoration of Article 370. Meanwhile, ‘leadership from Jammu region’ which welcomed the scrapping has been left out.
“Why not us, why they only?” is what the leaders of Jammu-based political parties both old and newly-floated ones are asking. “Why this imbalance? Is BJP the only representative from Jammu? Why Prof. Bhim Singh and why not Chairman of JKNPP Harshdev Singh?” This is what is being debated in Jammu region. Social activists, intellectuals, strategic experts, retired bureaucrats and politicians are all asking, we used to be invited to every meeting on J&K, why not this time? They are treating us the way New Delhi has always treated Jammu, is what this entire class of people of Jammu region is saying.
But what has changed in New Delhi and why this selective invitation? Why voices of Jammu have been neglected? Dogra Sadar Sabha welcome the dialogue but said, Jammu should have been given adequate representation. Those abreast with the New Delhi’s changed approach on Kashmir do not agree that invitations have been extended to one and all in Kashmir valley while leadership of Jammu has been ignored. They say that invitation to the PM’s all-Party meet points towards changed approach of government of India towards Jammu and Kashmir.
“Be our guest, speak your mind, tell us what to do in Kashmir, how to go forward from here and when should elections be held. How can we bring permanent peace in Jammu and Kashmir? Tell us all this but only if people have voted for you or you have served the people of Jammu and Kashmir in some capacity,” is what the new approach seems to be.
For this meeting, invitees include four ex-CMs namely Omar Abdullah, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Ghulam Nabi Azad; four ex-Deputy Chief Ministers namely Tara Chand, Muzaffar Hussain Beg, Dr. Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta; party President of BJP Ravinder Raina, CPI (M) Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, Jammu Kashmir Apni Party Syed Altaf Bukhari, Jammu Kashmir National Panthers Party Prof. Bhim Singh, Congress Ghulam Ahmed Mir and Peoples Conference Sajjad Gani Lone.
Those who have been invited have won recently held DDC elections, stayed in power in past, governed the state and are leading political parties with sizeable presence in Jammu and Kashmir. “This is the new course. Political representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir who have been voted to power will be called and heard. Gone are days of inviting those who were no one’s representatives yet would be PM’s invite for dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir,” said a source.
Nothing is known about what is on the plate but political pundits trying to read mind of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Jammu and Kashmir say it with confidence, it will be elections, delimitation, confidence building and statehood. “Nothing less, nothing more. PM Narendra Modi will listen to the politicians from Jammu and Kashmir. They will demand everything under the sky to stay politically relevant in Jammu and Kashmir but assuming that PM will share his blueprint on Jammu and Kashmir, as is being made out in the media, is highly unlikely,” said a political pundit.
Political analyst and former bureaucrat K.B Jandyal opined, “those who are upset need to be engaged in dialogue, the perception is that Jammu is happy.”
It is a clear stance of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration that they want Pre-August 5 J&K but which organisation, political party or leader can claim to accurately represent what Jammu wants? No alliance has been formed though there were talks of Jammu declaration as “a part of dialogue” initiated by National Conference’s Provincial President Devender Singh Rana. The outcome of those talks and whether or not any Jammu-based political leader or social organisation participated in the Jammu declaration was never made public and thus discussing it further would be futile.
The All-Party meet has laid bare a stark contrast between what has happened in the history of J&K and what might happen in the future. B.K Nehru, the former Governor of J&K during Indira Gandhi’s time wrote in his book about how ‘decisions on Kashmir were taken by those who had little to no experience or knowledge of Kashmir’. But that seems not to be the case anymore since Govt of India’s doors have opened, not for separatist groups, self-proclaimed Kashmir-experts, representatives of certain communities or Delhi-based thinkers who understood Kashmir but only for mainstream politicians who have or have had the people’s mandate.