Centre Plans To Change J&K Demography, Says Ex-CM
6 March 2000
Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and president of the Opposition Awami National Conference Gulam Muhammad Shah on Monday accused the Centre of working on a broad plan to effect a demographic change in the troubled state. “Tomorrow, when our state will have lost its Muslim-majority character, India will agree to the holding of the promised plebiscite and the result thereto should be anybody’s guess,” he said. Addressing a press conference here, Mr Shah said, “I am worried about the future of Kashmiri Muslims.” Elaborating, he said that when the state acceded to India in 1947, the Muslims constituted 66 per cent of its population, but in 1986, when he was dismissed as a prelude to the imposition of governor’s rule, they had been reduced to 54 per cent. “We have lost 80,000 people in violence during the past one decade and the present Central government is fast working on a plan to change the demographic character of the state,” he alleged. Mr Shah took a direct dig at Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee calling him a “silent, soft-spoken cobra.” “Don’t trust him. He is a chalak (member) of the RSS, the organisation that was in connivance with the English when Mahatma Gandhi and his comrades were fighting for azadi,” he alleged. Mr Shah was also worried by the fact that the strength of the “RSS-Jana Sangh origin groups” in Parliament has risen to 142 from a single representative, Shayama Prashad Mukherjee, in the early Fifties. “They are short of 77 seats to attain a majority in the House and, once they have it, the Muslims of India will be forced to sing Vande Mataram, they will have to assimilate Sanskrit and their way of life will have to be subservient to what these communal forces are preaching and practising,” he asserted. Mr Shah said that with Mr Vajpayee and Pakistan CEO General Pervez Musharraf even talking of waging war against each other, the scenario was fraught with dangerous consequences, particularly for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “We have suffered enormously due to conflict in the region and if India and Pakistan again choose to go to war we, the people of the state, will again be at the receiving end,” he said. This fear prompted Mr Shah to reiterate his demand for tripartite talks on Kashmir. “We have to appreciate that in modern civilised society guns, armies and nuclear weapons cannot solve problems but only cause mass destruction,” he said. Answering questions, Mr Shah said 50 years of bilateralism has not helped and any such exercise, if undertaken again, would only be futile. “It is imperative that the issue is addressed with an open mind and through open dialogue with the true and accredited representatives of Jammu and Kashmir as the principal party,” he added. Asked to identify those who would be speaking on behalf of the state population at the proposed talks, Mr Shah suggested that a free and fair election in both halves of the state, under international supervision, would allow the people to choose them. “The representatives must be truly representative in character and be from all regions of the state.. (they) would give expression to the aspiration of all sections of society on both sides of the Line of Control,” he said. Asked whether US President Bill Clinton will be playing a role towards achieving this goal or help otherwise in the Kashmir issue, the former chief minister retorted: “Nothing, nothing. What can he do? Nothing.” Turning to the “dismal performance” of the state government headed by his estranged brother-in-law, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mr Shah claimed it had failed on all fronts, lacked acceptance and credibility.