INTERVIEW | ‘Jammu & Kashmir Should be Split into Two States’

Choudhary Lal Singh

“Kashmir is still facing the heat for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. We don’t want an exodus of Jammu Muslims.”

REITERATING his demand for a separate statehood for each Jammu and Kashmir, former JK minister Chaudhary Lal Singh advises Kashmiri leaders to talk about the valley only, rather than visiting Pir Panjal, and other parts of Jammu region.

“All the leaders of the region should think about their own region and focus on how to save its identity,” Singh said in an exclusive interview with Kashmir Observer.

Singh’s statement came weeks after Kashmir-based politicians wrapped up their Jammu political tour.

“They’re eyeing 13 seats in Poonch, Baderwah and other Muslim belts of the Jammu districts because they fell short of the majority in Kashmir,” Singh said.“They should be questioned about their plan to save Kashmir, or Jammu for that matter.”

Singh said that although he’s fighting for separate Jammu, his party will never align with the people who talk about a particular religion. “They want to create a wedge between Hindus and Muslims for their own electoral benefits,” he said.

“Kashmir is still facing the heat for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. We don’t want an exodus of Jammu Muslims. I would never do it.”

Following are the edited excerpts of the long interview with the former forest minister on the warpath to carve out separate Jammu from the already downgraded region.

Some new political parties in Jammu are demanding a separate state for Jammu and are talking of disempowering Kashmir. What is your take on it?

See, whosoever is demanding a separate Jammu and a UT within UT in Kashmir is wrong.

I think both Kashmir and Jammu should be separated and the statehood of both regions should be restored.

I’m in that favour.

Why would Jammu get statehood only, why not Kashmir? If Ladakh is demanding statehood, we both should also demand statehood and make our identities and prosper.

I wouldn’t endorse UT status for Kashmir.

But why this demand suddenly? Why do you want to bifurcate the already downgraded region?

See, there’s a difference in our identity and as we are witnessing, our identities are fading. They [BJP] are diluting it.

And if they’re diluting it, how can we save it? Well, we can tell people of Jammu to fight for their statehood and Kashmiris to fight for their statehood. And if anyone needs help, we can discuss.

Now if anyone is saying keep them a UT and disempower them, I’m against it. It should never happen.

But why are some political parties from Jammu against Kashmiris?

It’s not like we’re against Kashmiris. We want them to prosper. They should be looked after and given equality. Kashmir has its own identity. It’s a beautiful place and people are beautiful, hospitable and respectful.

But yes, it’s unfortunate that militancy has grown there. We don’t know from where and how. It’s also the government’s negligence. Kashmir leaders were incompetent to handle it.

When I come to Kashmir, my eyes fill with tears. There’s not a place without graveyards. Who’re the people responsible for it? It is time to stop the bloodshed.

But aren’t you dividing people of Kashmir and Jammu?

See, whatever suits Kashmir, they should talk about it, while Jammu should do the same. And at the moment Jammu wants a separate statehood. That’s it. I’m not separating them. I’m saving everyone’s identity. Kashmir has its own identity, so has Jammu and Ladakh.What’s wrong in saying that? So everyone should fight to save their own identity.

Do you mean to say Kashmiri leaders were not able to handle the erstwhile state?

Yes! Tell me something, why did Ladakh separate? Why did Jammu give two seats to BJP? What is the reason? Because the Kashmiri leaders were not able to handle the erstwhile state.

They discriminated with both Jammu and Ladakh. As a result both are out of their hands now.

See, as a father I’ve to look after my family without discrimination. If I don’t do that, what will happen? Naturally, my family will start falling apart. The same happened with the erstwhile state, which was like three brothers.

Who created differences between them? Who divided them?

So you want to divide now?

Yes, Jammu and Kashmir should’ve been divided into two states so that equitable development could have taken place.

Why was it made a Union Territory from a state? We would’ve three states. What was their (BJP’s) problem? They divided Assam into five states. Telangana was separated from Andhra Pradesh. Our state with such a huge area has been made a Union Territory. We need to think about this.

So are you blaming Kashmiri leaders for the bifurcation of the state?

The Kashmir leaders started the war from the beginning when the Dogra rule ended. They further divided the regions till they were enjoying power. They had to treat everyone equally.

In a democratic setup if you don’t give equal rights to everyone, this was to happen. Kashmiri leaders kept adding more people from their side. They always thought about Kashmir. This is what BJP picked-up.

But you were also part of the same government?

See, I’m Chowdhary Lal Singh. I’ve my own style. When I was the health minister, I used to treat everyone with respect. When I was the forest minister, four lakh Deodar trees were planted in Srinagar so that Kashmir looks only green throughout the year. I didn’t discriminate on the basis of religion and region.

But let me tell you the Kashmir leaders were spreading hatred by discriminating between Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The result is in front of you now. What’re they beating their chest for now?

These leaders even failed to convince people of the valley to vote. In Kashmir, hardly 8-10% people cast their vote. Did anyone ask them why they didn’t, when on the other side all the people in Jammu and Ladakh exercise their rights. They couldn’t unite Kashmir. They failed to convince them to vote.

What do you expect from the leaders of Kashmir? What is the option for all regions?

See, I think the leaders of Kashmir should also sit in Kashmir and talk about Kashmir only, rather than visiting Pir Panjal, and other parts of Jammu region. All the leaders of the region should think about their own region and focus on how to save its identity.That is it.

But why can’t they visit Jammu? What is wrong with it?

See, they’re eyeing 13 seats in Poonch, Baderwah and other Muslim belts of the Jammu districts. Because they fell short of the majority in Kashmir. They should be questioned about their plan to save Kashmir, or Jammu for that matter.

So can we see a possible alliance for upcoming elections with other parties who are demanding a separate state for Jammu and a UT within a UT in Kashmir?

Not at all, we will never align with the people who talk about a particular religion. They want to create a wedge between Hindus and Muslims for their own electoral benefits. I would never do it. They are the agents of BJP. This will not work with me. We want to carry everyone along.

Kashmir is still facing the heat for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. We don’t want an exodus of Jammu Muslims. Let me be very clear about this.

  • Syed Burhan contributed to this interview.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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