A 2002 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) resolution seeking trifurcation of the then Jammu and Kashmir state has come to haunt the ruling BJP and other Sangh Parivar affiliates now as the IkkJutt Jammu, a mainstream political party, has kicked off an agitation demanding that Jammu be declared a separate state.
Nearly 100 IkkJutt Jammu workers led by their president Ankur Sharma courted arrest in Jammu Sunday to press for statehood for Jammu province following separation from Kashmir Valley. After nearly an hour, they were released by police.
“The only rational, national and constitutional solution to Jammu’s 75-year-old political problem is its separation from Kashmir Valley and grant of full state status to it,” Sharma said, alleging that “Otherwise the historic reforms of August 5, 2019 (when Article 370 was abrogated and J&K was split into Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh) have miserably failed to produce the desired results and the people of Jammu continue to groan under the yoke of Kashmiri Muslim-centric, oppressive and highly discriminatory administration’’.
Justifying the demand for a separate Jammu state as the “only solution available to meet the national requirement of defeating the enemies working day and night to change its demography and create a Kashmir-like situation in this strategic region”, Sharma warned that “the people of Jammu province will rise in revolt sooner than later if the powers-that-be in New Delhi continued to treat Jammu as Kashmir’s colony in its desperate bid to appease, please and pamper the jihadists in Kashmir”.
Significantly, the Jammu statehood demand has not been new. In June 2002, the RSS’ Akhil Bharatiya Karayakari Mandal (national executive committee), at its meeting in Kurukshetra, had adopted a resolution demanding abrogation of Article 370 and trifurcation of J&K state into the UTs of Ladakh and Kashmir besides a separate Jammu state. In addition, it also asked the Central and state governments to hold dialogue with “Kashmiri Hindus hounded out of their homes by jihadi Muslim elements” to find a way for their safe and secure rehabilitation in the Valley, which has been their home for thousands of years.
Nearly a fortnight thereafter, over a dozen organisations, including some regional political parties, joined hands and floated the RSS-backed Jammu and Kashmir Nationalist Front. Headed by the then RSS Seh Sanghchalak (joint chief) for J&K, the Front even had members from the J&K Panthers Party and the Jammu Muslim United Front.
However, both the BJP and the then Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government had rejected the demand for trifurcation of J&K. While the then BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu had suggested that the government could consider devolution of financial and administrative powers to the people of Leh and Jammu respecting their sentiments, Union home minister L K Advani had said that “we have made it amply clear so many times that we think the sate as a whole should be thought of and we do not favour trifurcation’’.
Since then there has been no change in the saffron party’s stand on the issue. The current J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina said, “After taking the historic decisions like abrogating Articles 370 and 35-A leading to the implementation of all the pro-people Central laws including the three- tier Panchayati Raj system and all-round development here, the first and foremost task before us is now to finish the residual militancy and secessionist elements in the UT.”
Referring to the Jammu statehood demand following J&K’s bifurcation, Raina said, “In view of the serious challenges before us, the demand is meaningless as you have people like Talib Hussain (heavily-armed LeT commander who along with another militant was recently caught by local villagers in Reasi district) who conducted reece of my house in Nowshera and later collected arms consignment dropped by drone from Pakistan, cross-border tunnels being detected by security forces in areas near the international border in Jammu region and secessionist elements providing logistics to militants to attack security forces in Jammu’s Sunjawan area ahead of PM Narendra Modi’s visit to village Palli in Samba district.”
The BJP leader also asked, “Who is with them (IkkJutt Jammu),” adding “we have to hold (Assembly) elections in coming days”.
However, the proponents of J&K’s bifurcation say that with Ladakh being already declared a UT, the separation of Jammu from Kashmir will now further reduce the “area of strife’’ making it easier for the Centre to deal with the situation.
However, behind this demand also lie the aspirations of some Jammu politicians. Of the 43 Assembly seats in Jammu province, at least 30 fall in areas predominantly inhabited by Hindus. In the event of Jammu becoming a separate state, any party winning in those areas may form the government, said a political analyst. After all, the BJP had managed to be part of the then state government for the first time in alliance with the PDP after the 2014 assembly elections, when it had won 25 seats in Hindu-dominated areas of Jammu division. Ahead of the 2014 polls, the Jammu State Morcha had also got merged with the BJP.
In the 1996 Assembly polls, the BJP had won eight seats in such constituencies riding high on sentiments of nationalism and alleged regional discrimination. However, in the 2002 polls, its tally had plunged to just one seat following its rejection of the Jammu statehood demand. On the other hand, the Jammu Kashmir Panthers Party’s tally rose from one seat to four seats. The BJP later focused on areas having sizeable Hindu votes in Jammu, but maintained silence over the trifurcation demand. In the 2008 elections, the Amarnath land row came handy to the party and it secured 11 seats.
By raking up the Jammu statehood demand now, the IkkJutt seems to be seeking to make inroads in the BJP strongholds, where Hindu voters might still harbour sentiments of having been discriminated by Kashmiri politicians.