Bridging the Regional Divide
Photos by Raman Raina
J&K mirrors India as an all inclusive, all absorbing and all assimilating society and the liberal and broad culture of the state was earlier touted by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi. This culture was neither orthodox nor conservative or narrow but open and varied and had great internal strength and vitality.
Unity in diversity is the Indian’s ethos and the inbuilt spirit and soul of India is spirituality, tolerance, compassion and non-violence. Inclusiveness and tolerance have found expression in our constitutional provisions as well, in the form of pluralism and secular polity, the hallmarks of our democratic destiny. India’s multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-regional, multi-ethnic society is welded together as one nation of one people. It is our duty to preserve this multi-dimensional, multi-religious and multi-regional character of our country, but with equal application of the law, no appeasement and only fairness for all religions and ethnicities. In this respect our sensitive state of Jammu and Kashmir can’t be an exception.
J&K state could be an excellent example of a mini-India and different religious and linguistic groups could live here in peace and harmony. Notwithstanding geographical and historical diversity Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh should remain as one political entity and retain the strengths of diversity and plurality. The three regions of the state should be kept as one viable, political, administrative and socio-economic entity despite religious-ethnic, socio-cultural and linguistic diversity. In this unity will be the real beauty and grandeur of our state. The combination of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh as one political entity is not an un-natural wedlock if the region and religion based divisions can be set aside. The regional chauvinists should not be allowed to raise passions of the people again as was done in Kashmir against the Amarnathji Land issue. We have seen enough regionalism and communal divide in the summer season of the bygone year 2008.
The Amarnath land controversy had generated a situation of no return in the two important regions of the stat e- Kashmir and Jammu. There was regional and religious polarization and one wondered as to where the state of J&K was heading. Protests, violent clashes and hartals in the valley where eventually reciprocated by a two month long agitation in Jammu. Initial protests took the shape of a mass movement and the situation went to such an extreme that the leaders of NC, PDP and even the Congress were not allowed to move in the streets of Jammu. The unprecedented mass movement of Jammu has no parallels in the annals of J&K history. Political Pundits opined that it was the fallout of a long discrimination policy against Jammu and Ladakh and the new champions of J&K’s destiny should feel the pulse of this agitation and redress the genuine problems of Jammu on a war footing. The state was under governor’s rule and even the holding of assembly elections seemed to be a utopian task.
In fact violence and demonstrations in both Kashmir and Jammu had reached a climax point and showed no signs of any halt. The myth of demographic change due to transfer of land to Amarnath Shrine board was conceived and exploited by the crusaders of Azadi and some regional political outfits in the valley only to carve out a space for themselves. The fictional economic blockade was blown out of proportion by valley centric political parties with an eye on the elections. Equally and earnestly, Jammu centric outfits on this side of the Pir-Panjal picked up the challenge. We are fortunate that the state has survived as a whole and the three regions were part of a common election. The elections provided a chance for bridging the widening regional divide and helped all the three regions to unite to elect a government.
Regional divide would be against the interests of J&K and a great peril for its people. For bridging the widening gulf between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, all three regions should be given equal treatment and a fair share of political and economic powers. One region should not dominate the other two regions of the state as was being felt. Aspirations of the people of Jammu and Ladakh should be addressed along with aspirations of the Kashmiris. Regional aspirations and identities should be respected and allowed to flourish but not to the detriment of the unity of the state of J&K, and the nation in the ultimate analysis.
All languages and sub-cultures and identities are sacred and fine and they should be given equal respect by the powers that be. Legislators should however remember that they have been elected mainly for addressing the issues of Bijli, Pani, Sadak, Haspatal, Rozi and Roti. Peace has to be given a fair chance at this time and prosperity has to be strived for. The common man cannot always be interested in emotive issues and at this crucial time, let us rather try to bridge the regional divide through a policy of fairness and equality.
*Raman Raina is Shehjar's Chief Photo Journalist based in Jammi, India.
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