The reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is the need of the hour. As it will not just limit the area of strife to the Kashmir Valley (4 per cent of the state’s land area), but also strengthen the nationalist constituency in Jammu and Ladakh and enable New Delhi to engage with Kashmiri leaders of all shades of opinion, including leaders of the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus.
In 1947, all the rulers of princely states, barring a dozen, acceded their states to India. Jammu and Kashmir was also one such princely state whose political future was decided by its ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, considered one the most progressive rulers. He signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947, and it was similar to the ones signed by other princely states. There was no difference whatsoever. He would have joined India before 26 October, but his letter and that of his Prime Minister Mehr Chand Mahajan to this effect were not considered by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (Mahajan, Mehrchand, Looking Back).
Even the accession of Jammu and Kashmir, which took place on 26 October, was not a smooth affair. Such was the negative response of Nehru, that Mehr Chand Mahajan threatened that he would go to Pakistan to negotiate accession of the state in case Maharaja Hari Singh’s offer of accession was not accepted and the Indian Army not sent to Jammu and Kashmir forthwith to repulse the then ongoing Pakistani attack on the Jammu and Kashmir territories. It was only after Kashmir-based National Conference president, Sheikh Abdullah, gave his consent that Nehru accepted the accession offer.
Sheikh Abdullah had no locus standi in the matter, but still, Nehru went by his 'OK', thus committing a grave blunder on day one. Sheikh Abdullah had launched one movement after another against Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh and the Dogras of Jammu after the formation of his Muslim Conference (1932). His last movement against them was the “Quit Kashmir Movement”, which he launched in March 1946. The slogan of Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference was: Abrogate the Treaty of Amritsar of 16 March 1846 and separate Kashmir from the Dogra kingdom. Kashmir had merged with the Dogra Kingdom as a result of the Treaty of Amritsar, and not the vice-versa, as a result of which the state of Jammu and Kashmir came into being.
“The Treaty of Amritsar, dated 16 March 1846 signed between Maharaja Gulab Singh and the then British Government in India, which was in the nature of a sale deed and was thus an insult to the people of the state (read Kashmir), must go lock, stock and barrel. This became the theme of the Quit Kashmir Movement” said the National Conference (Report of the state autonomy committee, April 1999).
The immediate fall out of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India was the transfer of political power from Jammu to Kashmir. Ever since then, the office of the chief minister, portfolios with political weight and patronage and considerable funds such as Home, Finance, Revenue and Education; and jobs in the government and semi-government establishments have become the sole preserve of Kashmiri Muslims (read Sunni).
Delhi not only facilitated the transfer of political power from Jammu to Kashmir to keep the Kashmiri Muslims in good humour but also granted the state a special status through Articles 370 (October 1949) and 35-A (May 1954). Article 370 drove Jammu and Kashmir away from the political and constitutional organisation of India and empowered it to have a separate constitution and a separate flag. Article 370 also empowered the state to exercise all residuary powers, including the power of taxation. On the other hand, Article 35-A barred all the non-permanent residents of the state from exercising any citizenship right in Jammu and Kashmir and deprived the daughters of the state of their natural right to marry persons of their own choice anywhere in the country.
Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in the country which enjoys absolute and unbridled legislative, executive and financial powers. It is also the most privileged state in terms of the money it gets from the centre.
It may appear unbelievable, but it is a fact that Jammu and Kashmir got 10 per cent of all the central grants given to all the states and union territories between 2001 and 2016. And, this, notwithstanding the fact that it only about 1 per cent of the country’s population.
Contrarily, Uttar Pradesh, which houses 13 per cent of the country's population, received only 8.2 per cent of the central grants during the same period. While the per capita central assistance in Jammu and Kashmir during this period was as high as Rs 91,300, in Uttar Pradesh, it was a paltry Rs 4,300. Also, during the same period, Jammu and Kashmir got Rs 1.14 lakh crore in grants, which was more than 25 per cent of the central funds granted to 11 “Special Category States”.
A comprehensive report in The Hindu (24 July 2016) in this regard read: “Jammu and Kashmir has received 10 per cent of all central grants given to states over the 2000-2016 period, despite having only one per cent of the country’s population. In contrast, Uttar Pradesh makes up about 13 per cent of the country’s population but received only 8.2 per cent of central grants in 2000-16. That means J and K, with a population of 12.55 million according to the 2011 Census, received Rs 91,300 per person over the last sixteen years while Uttar Pradesh only received Rs 4,300 per person over the same period. Even among the special category states, Jammu and Kashmir receives a disproportionate amount of central assistance. The state received Rs 1.14 lakh crore in grants over the sixteen years under review, according to the union Finance Ministry’s data, which is more than a quarter of the central funds disbursed to the 11 special category states in that period”.
In 2008, Jammu and Kashmir received per capita central assistance of Rs 9,754. In contrast, Bihar got per capita central assistance of Rs 876 -- over 10 times lesser than Jammu and Kashmir.
“Bihar gets per capita central assistance of Rs 876 per year. Kashmir gets over ten times more: Rs 9,754 per year. While in Bihar and other states, this assistance is mainly in the forms of loans to the state, in Kashmir 90 per cent is an outright grant. Kashmir’s entire Five Year Plan expenditure is met by the Indian taxpayer. In addition, New Delhi keeps throwing more and more money at the state: in 2004, the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) gave Kashmir another $ 5 billion for development,” wrote Vir Sanghvi in The Hindustan Times, on 16 August 2008.
Clearly, it is time for policy-planners and trouble-shooters in the South and North Blocks to sit up and review their 70-year-old Kashmir policy, which has, on the one hand, not helped them tackle Kashmir, and, on the other, completely alienated the people of Jammu and Ladakh both from Kashmir and New Delhi. It would be appropriate if they reorganise Jammu and Kashmir on regional, as opposed to religious, lines and give the status of statehood to Jammu and that of a union territory to Ladakh. Such a reorganisation will limit the area of strife to the Kashmir Valley (4 per cent of the state’s land area), strengthen the nationalist constituency in Jammu and Ladakh and enable New Delhi to engage with Kashmiri leaders of all shades of opinion, including leaders of the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus, to find ways and means to tackle Kashmir.