NC report for carving J&K into 8 regions
18 July 2000
The Asian Age
New Delhi: The National Conference, in a hurriedly-drafted report, has suggested the carving up of Jammu and Kashmir into eight ethnic regions or provinces for ostensibly achieving the ''twin objectives of governance and rapid social development.'' The suggestions bear a striking similarity with provisions contained in the controversial Kashmir study group report which has asked for the ethnic and communal trifurcation of the state. The regional autonomy committee report, set up by the chief minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, to overrule the recommendations of an earlier committee which was headed by Mr Balraj Puri, has literally carved up Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of what it claims are ''historical, social, ethnic and development factors.'' The history recorded in the report is neither well-documented nor substantive with ethnic considerations being the overriding factor influencing the recommendations. The regions suggested are - Kamraz comprising Baramulla and Kupwara districts, Nundabad comprising Budgam and Srinagar districts, Maraz of Anantnag and Pulwama districts, Chenab Valley of Doda district and tehsil Mahore, Jammu of Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur districts, Pir Panchal of Poonch and Rajouri districts, Ladakh of Leh district and Kargil comprising Kargil district. The regional autonomy committee is of the view: ''There is a strong case for the decentralisation of political and economic power which can be achieved through autonomy of regions in the state.'' It has further noted: ''Jammu is heterogeneous culturally, linguistically, ethnically and geographically.'' And that Ladakh ''from any standard cannot be considered as a Kashmir region.'' The report was recently introduced in Srinagar at a seminar attended by academics, former diplomats and others. Significantly, except for the National Conference members present, most of the invitees voiced strong objections to the proposed division of the state saying that this would result in the collapse of Jammu and Kashmir as an entity in itself. The report prepared by intellectual Riyaz Punjabi, who is close to Dr Abdullah, has provided for the setting up of regional or provincial councils to be elected in the same manner as the state legislature. The leader of the majority party, according to the report, should head the regional or provincial council and be designated the Chief Executive Councillor with the status of a minister. The report has suggested a level of financial autonomy for the councils, to be finalised by an experts committee. It has also recommended the setting up of a Finance Commission for Jammu and Kashmir. The argument in the report centres around the explanation that ''the ethnic groups located in specific territories of the state are claiming a regional status essentially to realise the objectives of democratic participation and sustainable development.'' The solution is found in the ethnic division of the state which is quite contrary to the first report where Mr Puri identified regions on the basis of their economic development and suggested special financial provisions for the same. Officially, the report has been signed by National Conference legislators Syed Mushtaq Bukhari, Mubarik Gul and Mohammed Shafi, who is also the finance minister of the state. Interestingly, the suggested provinces vary greatly in terms of population in that the Jammu region-province is to have a population of 21,80,958 as against Chenab Valley which will have a population of just 6,47,459 persons.