The RSS game plan

Print edition : July 20, 2002

THERE is a lesson to be learned from the Hindu Right's agenda on Jammu and Kashmir: never ever underestimate the insanity of the communalists.

On June 29, the Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal (all-India leaders' committee) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh passed a resolution demanding that the region of Jammu be made a separate state, and Ladakh a Union territory. The demand endorsed campaigns calling for such restructuring by the Jammu and Kashmir National Democratic Front (JKNDF), a local organisation led by RSS State head Indresh Kumar and former Bharatiya Janata Party State president Tilak Raj Gupta. Buddhist chauvinist organisations, notably the Ladakh Buddhist Organisation, have joined the JKNDF campaign for the separation of the two regions from Kashmir.

The RSS' Kurukshetra Resolution stated that to describe the "demand for a separate statehood for Jammu region, which includes the Muslim majority districts of Poonch, Rajauri (sic.) and Doda as communal, is either crass ignorance or motivated prejudice". It offers in defence of the demand a fact-sheet detailing the "blatantly discriminatory attitude of the State government towards Jammu and Ladakh". It also charges the National Conference government with "assiduously carrying forward the anti-Hindu and anti-Bharat policies".

Claims that the demand for reorganising Jammu and Kashmir is based on secular grievances are frequently made, but they are disingenuous claims. The Kurukshetra Resolution was preceded, on June 23, by a resolution of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal (central advisory committee) at Hardwar, which described the regime of Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah as a "Muslim sultanate" and made clear the ideological basis of the reorganisation demand. "Five Hindu-dominated districts of Jammu should be made a separate state, a Union territory be carved out of areas northeast of the Jhelum river in Kashmir valley for settling Hindus there and Ladakh be given the status of a Union territory," it demanded.

CLEARLY, the Hindu Right's demand for a separate Jammu is premised on the fact that the province as a whole has a Hindu majority. The proposition becomes even more clear when one looks at the specific instances of regional discrimination listed in the fact-sheet. Of 12 allegations of discrimination, several are so vaguely phrased as to be meaningless. It claims that there is "35 per cent education in Kashmir and 65 per cent in Jammu, whereas expenditure on the same is 70 per cent in Kashmir, against 30 per cent in Jammu". There is no explanation of what education is being referred to, and the numbers do not even remotely resemble official literacy or school expenditure figures.

Other instances of discrimination cited in the report amount to outright fabrication. It claims, for example, that only 30 per cent of all State expenditure, including Central assistance, is expended in Jammu. Only 10 per cent of Central assistance, it continues, is used in the Jammu zone, the remaining 90 per cent being utilised in Kashmir. It also alleges that only four of 35 Commissioners and Secretaries to the government are from Jammu, and that all Central and State corporations have their headquarters in Srinagar. "All these figures," says the Chief Minister's Principal Adviser Ashok Jaitley, "are arrant nonsense. I don't know where they've come from; certainly not from the official record. I don't know how to begin to rebut them." Interestingly, applying simple arithmetic to the RSS data suggests that there is no expenditure at all being made in Ladakh.

A third kind of lie is also evident. The RSS data suggest, for example, that just 20 megawatts of the 350 MW of power generated goes to Jammu. In fact, the figure of 350 MW refers only to production in Kashmir, which does not go to Jammu for the reason that transmitting it across the Pir Panjal Range is unnecessary. There is no reference to power production in Jammu, or its import from neighbouring States for use in the region. To arrive at the claim that voters in Jammu are vastly under-represented, 1981 census data are used, not the publicly available 2001 data.

The peoples of Jammu, both Hindu and Muslim, do have good objective grievances. Voters in the Kashmir zone are over-represented, and there is a case for a new delimitation commission to be set up to review the issue. It also needs to be pointed out, however, that voters in Ladakh are even more over-represented than those of Kashmir, an issue the RSS chooses to skirt. And, since the Kashmir Valley has traditionally generated much of the National Conference's leadership as well as its political elite, the region's specific interests have sometimes been neglected. At once, Jammu has benefited enormously as a centre of trade and pilgrimage from the troubles in Kashmir, and has emerged as a vibrant commercial centre.

Jammu's problems do need to be addressed, but not through a communal sundering of peoples bound together by ties of culture, language, and trade. Those who support the Hindu Right's plans for Jammu and Kashmir would do well to consider just how close they are to those of Pakistan, which has for long sought a second partition of Jammu and Kashmir along its ethnic-religious fault lines. The people of Kashmir ensured that the Hindus and Muslims who lived there were not subjected to the terrible tragedies of 1947. The people of Jammu saw the carnage, and people in their right minds know once was enough.

Both will need all the help they can get to ensure that the forces that seem to run the National Democratic Alliance are not allowed to have their way.

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