October 19, 2015 5:09:17 pm
The death of 20-year-old Zahid Ahmad Bhat after a deadly attack on a truck travelling from Udhampur to the valley has once again exposed the deepening fault lines between Muslim Kashmir and the Hindu majority parts of Jammu — the two regions of the state with distinct political aspirations.
Though the divide between the two regions of the state has a long history, the gulf has widened after the economic blockade of Kashmir by Jammu in 2008 that followed the agitation in the valley against the transfer of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.
The economic blockade of the valley gave a lease of life to separatists in valley; in Jammu it catapulted the BJP to centre stage: in the assembly elections that followed, the party secured double digit figures for the first time with 11 assembly seats, a quantum jump from their highest tally till then of two seats.
The divide between the two regions has only increased since, a fact supported by the election results of the 2014 assembly elections. The BJP successfully secured 25 out of 37 seats in Jammu. In the valley, it failed to open its account as all the seats were won by the PDP, National Conference, Congress or independent candidates.
This polarisation, however, doesn’t augur well for either the state or for the BJP. Though parts of Jammu (Jammu, Kathua, Samba and parts of Udhampur district) have a Hindu majority, vast areas of the region including the Chenab valley and the Pir Panjal regions have a mixed population and any communal flare-up in them will devastate the entire state. In fact, Kishtwar in the Chenab valley and Rajouri in Pir Panjal have already witnessed riots in the recent past.
Also, the differences between Kashmir and Jammu will have a telling effect on the economy of the Jammu region that is based entirely on its Kashmir clientele. Jammu people are traditionally the trader community and any impact on its business is not good for the health of the BJP in the region.
In fact, the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries has rallied behind their counterparts in Kashmir when asked by them to take a clear stand on the attack on the truck at Udhampur.
By joining hands with the BJP, PDP chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had claimed that one of the achievements of the coalition government would be to bring the regions of the state together. However, on the ground the gulf is only widening. A friend summarised it in one sentence: the gulf is so wide that it can swallow both BJP and PDP.
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