|Sunday, February 13, 2000,
panel suggests two models
recovers arms cache
demands double track
Farooq panel suggests two
JAMMU, Fab 12 The Jammu and Kashmir Government constituted a committee, headed by Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, on November 29, 1996, to recommend ways and means for regional autonomy to the three provinces of this state. It was hoped that the committee would favour setting up of regional councils for Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu provinces.
This hope was slightly belied when the committee submitted its 25-page report to the State Government on April 13, 1999. The report has recommended two models for regional autonomy. While recommending reconstitution of provinces it has stated that regional or principal councils should be set up to meet the requirements of devolution of power to different regions in the State.
The second model it has suggested is that the devolution of powers to the people could be ensured through establishments of district councils. So far both the models would have proved an ideal system for meeting the aspirations of the people of either each region or each district. But the way the committee has recommended the reconstitution of regions or provinces has raised many an eyebrow.
The critics of both the models are of the opinion that if not in the Kashmir valley the regional autonomy pattern as envisaged by the committee can promote communal divide in the regions of Jammu and Ladakh.
Their argument is that the State has been categorised in eight regions or provinces. The Kamraz region has the districts of Baramulla and Kupwara. The Nundabad region has Badgam and Srinagar districts. The Maraz province has Anantnag and Pulwama districts. As far as the segmentation of the areas in the valley is concerned it may not have any impact on community character as all these three sub-regions are Muslim dominated.
As far as the Jammu region is concerned the committee has suggested the reconstitution of the region in three provinces. The Chenab valley province will comprise districts of Doda and Mahore tehsil of Udhampur district. Jammu province will have the districts of Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur, excluding Mahore tehsil. Pir Panchal province will have Poonch and Rajouri districts. Leh and Kargil districts would be two separate provinces.
One senior doctor, who wished to remain unidentified for obvious reasons, said the reconstitution of provinces or regions recommended for the Jammu division was bound to promote communal divide. In support of his argument he cited the instance of Jammu province. Hindu-dominated areas of Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur have been included in Jammu province. The Muslim-dominated Mahore tehsil has been delinked from Udhampur district and included in the Muslim-dominated Doda area under the proposed Chenab valley. Similarly two Muslim-dominated belts of Poonch and Rajouri have been grouped under the proposed Pir Panchal province.
For decades Leh and Kargil districts have formed a close-knit belts of Ladakh districts. By recommending two separate provinces Kargil and Leh the committee would further enhance communal polarisation between the Shia-dominated Kargil and the Buddhist-dominated Leh district.
Prof K.N. Pandita, a former Director, Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, has said the pattern recommended by the committee was likely to sabotage the trifurcation of the State into three separate states of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. The trifurcation was being demanded by the BJP and by the Jammu Mukti Morcha. Others are of the view that by supporting the reconstitution of the provinces the National Conference aimed at achieving the 45-year-old scheme of having greater Kashmir incorporating the three and a half Muslim-dominated districts of the Jammu region leaving two and a half Hindu-dominated districts as a separate state.
The idea of granting the maximum autonomy for the local organs of the State is as old as 1952 when the then Prime Minister, Sheikh Abdullah, said in a broadcast from Radio Kashmir on April 17, 1953, that the State Constitution would provide autonomy to different cultural units.
The BJP and its parent organisation the Jana Sangh has been in favour of autonomy for all the three regions. The committee in its report has cited a letter which the then President of Jana Sangh, the late Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, had written to the then Prime Minister, the late Jawaharlal Nehru. He had stated in the letter that he (Kukherjee) was prepared to withdraw the Praja Pairshad agitation in 1953 in Jammu and accept the Delhi Agreement, between Sheikh Abdullah and the Centre, "if the principle of autonomy would apply to the province of Jammu as a whole and of course also to Ladakh and the Kashmir valley.
It is in this context that several BJP leaders, including Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, are for regional autonomy to Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir provinces without carrying out delimitation of the existing regions on communal basis.
Another irritant is that the committee has recommended that the election to each regional council be held on the pattern of the State Assembly and the leader of the majority party so elected will head the council and enjoy the powers of minister of state. Critics say that under the proposed delimitation of provinces six out of eight regions will have Muslims as council heads because of the population character of these regions.
One BJP leader and another belonging to the Congress said regional autonomy be granted to the existing three regions without altering their demographic character. They said Jammu and Kashmir is a multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-regional state with different ethnic sub-groups living in different parts of the area. Over the centuries these ethnic and sub-ethnic groups have learnt to live in amity and once the provinces were carved out on religious or ethnic considerations it would destabilise the secular character of the state.
A couple of ministers in the Farooq Abdullah-led Government too have expressed their reservations over the genuineness of the recommendations. It is in this connection that the regional autonomy committee report has been sent to some constitutional experts for their opinion. One report has been sent to Mr Riyaz Punjabi, a former Director, Continuing Education, Kashmir University, and at present a scholar working in Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Suggestions on security ignored
JAMMU, Feb 12 While suggestions on security given by the state authorities to the Centre have not been implemented, militants continue carrying out bomb explosions on the railway track between Jammu and Pathankot at regular intervals.
The Railway Ministry had been advised to raise a barbed fence around all stations right from Jammu to Pathankot. But no steps have been taken in this connection. With the result militants sneak into the wayside railway stations from across the border and after carrying out explosions escape back to Pakistan. In fact the rail track between Vijaypur and Pathankot is 3 to 5 km away from Pakistani border.
According to the police authorities, the militants have exploited the ongoing electricity load shedding to their advantage. Most of these bomb explosions, whether on the railway track or at the crowded places in Jammu or Srinagar, have taken place during power shedding periods. In addition to this the major portion of the 110-km rail track between Jammu and Pathankot remains submerged in darkness as there is no provision for flood light.
Experts from the state and the Railways have suggested to the Railway Ministry to have the entire track illuminated with flood lights which could help the security forces to monitor the movement of the militants even from a distance. This suggestion too had not been implemented owing to financial problems.
These experts had demanded that besides shelter sheds for the security forces patrolling paths should be layed for regular and better patrol duty, on the either side of the rail track between Bari Brahmana in Jammu to Pathankot are rocky mounds, marshes and bushy fields. This topography hampers patrolling. During the winter and the rains security forces have to seek shelter in nearby villages as there are no sheds on either side of the rail track.
The Railway Ministry had
a year ago, suggested that close-circuit, TV, X-ray
machines would be installed at main stations between
Jammu and Pathankot so as to monitor the movement of
militants, but this suggestion too was pushed under the
Mourners block traffic
JAMMU, Feb 12 Life was disrupted for a day in a segment of Jammu city when protesters demonstrating against the killing of five persons in yesterday's bomb blast blocked the road near the explosion site.
They shouted anti-government slogans and blamed the State administration for its failure to check the activities of militants.
The funeral procession of five persons killed in the blast turned into a demonstration. Processionists pelted stones on passing vehicles. Six vehicles were damaged. Later the protesters blocked traffic on the Tawi bridge. They raised slogans demanding the dismissal of the National Conference Government.
Near the site of the blast people, including women, were seen wailing over the dead and the injured. Two of the injured had to be amputated. The condition of one wounded person was said to be critical. His eyes have been damaged. He has also sustained head injuries.
Later the Divisional Commissioner, Mr Anil Goswami, and the Inspector General Police Mr R.V. Raju, pleaded with the processionists to lift the blockade. After a couple of hours the demonstrators relented and moved on to the cremation ground for last rites. Several hundred people led by the BJP MLA Mr Hansraj Dogra, were present when the bodies were cremated.
Senior police and district administration officials were present when the pyres were lit.
Scores of shops on Canal
Road remained shut for the day today to mourn the
killing. Several political parties, including the
National Conference, the BJP and the Congress have
condemned the bomb explosions near Science College and on
the rail track during the past two days. They demanded
strict measures to check the intrusion of militants from
across the border.
BSF recovers arms cache
KATHUA, Dec 7 The BSF recovered an arms and ammunition cache from the forest near Mawa village in the Hiranagar sector of Kathua district yesterday.
The recovery included two bags of AK ammunition, 28 cartridges, explosive material, 9 RDX slabs, six detonators two hand-grenades and nine batteries.
Earlier, the BSF noticed the movement of terrorists near Mawa village. The BSF challenged them and the militants opened fire. The jawans later held them. The arrested militants have been identified as Sarfraz Ahmad of Pakistan and Charanjit Singh.
NCP demands double track
JAMMU, Feb 12 The state unit of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has demanded the construction of a double rail track between Jalandhar and Jammu to reduce delays.
The demand was contained in a memorandum submitted by NCP president Thakur Randhir Singh to the Railway Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee, here yesterday. The memorandum demanded the modernisation of Jammu railway station with provision for two more overbridges, setting up of a rail coach factory in Jammu and the shifting of the division from Ferozepore to Jammu.
Thakur Randhir Singh also suggested the recruitment of ex-servicemen for patrolling the track between Jammu and Kathua.
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