Drabu’s Trifurcation Pitch: ‘Kashmir Gone, What Would Be Left of Jammu?’

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J&K’s ex-finance minister Haseeb Drabu recently stated that the only anomaly of the J&K Reorganization Act 2019 is the state’s bifurcation- “it ought to have been trifurcation”. Kashmir Observer talked to some politicians, social activists, advocates, and journalists based at Jammu to know: Is the trifurcation of J&K a viable option?

WHEN Sir Owen Dixon, the United Nations (UN) representative came to India in 1950 to provide a resolution on the Kashmir dispute, he assigned Ladakh to India, the Northern Areas and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir (PAK) to Pakistan, split Jammu between the two and anticipated a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley.

But the Dixon Plan did not succeed as former Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru did not accept the conditions in which the plebiscite could be held.

Nehru’s rebuff came despite his Law Minister, Bhimrao Ambedkar, suggesting the formation of three zones: the area held by Pakistan, the Valley, and Jammu Ladakh. Later, even President R Venkataraman would urge late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to grant statehood to Jammu.

Since then, the trifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir has been a point of discussion.

Recently, a column by the former finance minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Haseeb Drabu, in the Indian Express stated that Kashmir is an “unfinished business of Partition”.

According to Drabu, “the only anomaly of the J&K Reorganization Act 2019 is the state’s bifurcation- it ought to have been trifurcation”.

The State Reorganization Act, 2019 which came into effect on October 31, 2019, divided J&K into two union territories- J&K and Ladakh.

“The suggestion for further dividing Jammu and Kashmir is nothing new,” said Zafar Choudhary, editor at The Dispatch. According to him, the demand for trifurcation has existed ever since the State became independent of monarchy.

“The scion of the Dogra dynasty and Sadr-e-Reyasat of J&K Dr. Karan Singh suggested this too to the Government of India,” the editor continued. “This movement for trifurcation has been more profound in Jammu and Ladakh since the eruption of militancy in the 1990s.”

He asserted that there’re very few regions shared and with Ladakh’s story closed, the Jammu question is still open to debate.

At the regional level, the Muslims are a minority in Jammu region, but a significant one as 31% of the province’s population. “The Muslims have always been skeptical of this demand as the new political entity would create new political dimensions,” Choudhary told Kashmir Observer.

However, the idea deserves a discussion as two regions have carried each other’s political burden for very vague reasons, suggested the editor. “These reasons always needed a political audit at some time.”

He believed that any further political move in Jammu and Kashmir must always involve comprehensive consultation with people and another surprise like August 5 would do no good.

While a majority of Hindus are dominated in the four districts of the division- Kathua, Udhampur, Jammu, and Samba, five of the remaining six districts have Muslim majorities. The Muslim population in the Chenab Valley districts of Ramban, Doda, Reasi, and Kishtwar are ethnically Kashmiri.

The State of Jammu & Kashmir came into being in March 1846 under the Treaty of Amritsar. The Treaty was signed between Raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, and the British Indian Government. Singh purchased Kashmir from the Imperial British for Rs 75 lakh.

According to Vikram Malhotra, a senior leader of Apni Party, if separate statehood for Jammu was planned by the government it would have been implemented with the J&K Reorganization Act, 2019 but there are many geopolitical reasons to consider. “Kashmir is an international issue and separation of Jammu and Kashmir will send a wrong message,” said Malhotra.

Economically, J&K does not have any resources to generate income apart from tourism and it is entirely dependent on the Centre, opined the senior leader. There’s a gap between Jammu and Kashmir which should be bridged rather than going for a division, suggested Malhotra.

Though Jammu and Kashmir have different political ideologies but they’re interdependent on many aspects, said Altaf Hussain Janjua, executive editor at Daily Udaan. The Darbar move in which J&K government functions in Jammu during the six months of winter and in Srinagar for the next six months during summer plays a crucial role in maintaining the business relations between Jammu and Kashmir, said Janjua.

“Kashmiris have a high standard of living and more purchasing power as compared to Jammu people,” said the editor, adding, “due to which Jammu records the largest number of sales when the capital shifts.”

Most of the houses that remain empty during winters are accommodated by people who move to Jammu during the Darbar move. According to Janjua, if Jammu and Kashmir are divided there will be separate headquarters for both the divisions and movement will be minimized affecting business and relations.

Known for its cultural diversity worldwide, splitting Jammu and Kashmir would affect this basic fabric of India, said Dr. Mulkhraj Bhamagi, social activist, Joint Secretary of Dogra Sadar Sabha, a 115-year-old socio-political organization. Though Kashmir has always been the main focus of the government, it does not mean that bifurcation is viable, suggested the social activist.

“A state is defined by its area cum population, with Kashmir gone what would be left of Jammu?” questioned the joint secretary.

According to advocate Sahib Aggarwal, a lot of people are looking for trifurcation based on demographics and religion. “But, if there’s development and peace irrespective of the fact that J&K is bifurcated or trifurcated or not, it would be seen as a viable option.”

He suggested that people supporting trifurcation should ask what benefits would they get after the move. The advocate believed that any opinion coming from political personalities is biased because they have to play roles as per the policy of the government and they have to defend the policy of the government.

Another advocate Mazher Ali Khan emphasized that it is the government which has to act accordingly so that people in Jammu don’t feel that they are overshadowed by the Kashmir issue. “Prime Minister Modi is not just the PM of BJP, he is our PM and he should see that people are suffering and take steps to solve the 70 years old dispute,” said Khan.

While the discussions on trifurcation are unending in J&K, Professor Bhim Singh, the founder of the J&K National Panthers Party, believed that secularism in the union territory cannot be sacrificed. “It is not in the national interest to split Jammu and Kashmir as Jammu will split into further parts if such a thing happens. Poonch and Doda would be the first to withdraw,” said the politician.

He suggested that for J&K to co-exist, there should a separate provincial government with independent power and finance.

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Swati Joshi

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