October 2000 News

Sangh floats front to press for J&K division

6 October 2000
The Times of India
Rajesh Ramachandran

New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has floated an umbrella organisation, the Jammu & Kashmir Nationalist Front, and is promoting groups to organise a mass agitation for Jammu & Kashmir''s trifurcation into a Hindu Jammu, Muslim Valley and Buddhist Ladakh. The Sangh has also sought a ''homeland'' for Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. RSS spokesman M G Vaidya told The Times of India the government should arrive at an early solution to the Kashmir issue by reorganising the state. ''Trifurcation doesn''t mean surrender to the two-nation theory. The reorganisation is basically an administrative measure. Even dividing the state into four, giving a homeland for Pandits in the Valley, should be thought of,'' Vaidya said. The J&K Nationalist Front''s links with the Sangh are clear. Its convener, Tilak Raj Sharma, is a RSS veteran. He headed the state unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and was the general secretary of the local Jana Sangh and also the BJP. Co-convener Yash Bhasin is also a former RSS pracharak (preacher) and state leader of the BJP and its student wing. Yet, the BJP has been kept out of the JKNF. Bhasin explained over the phone that the BJP ''is not openly supporting us since they are bound by the National Democratic Alliance''s policies''. ''We hope when the agitation for the state''s reorganisation becomes a mass movement, no one will be able to remain aloof. Even the BJP can afford to remain indifferent to the movement only at the peril of losing its constituency. But for now, they are keeping away,'' he said. The movement aims at mobilising Muslim public opinion in Poonch, Rajouri and Doda, without which the Jammu state will not be a reality. The Sangh''s efforts, therefore, are focussed on these areas and the Gujjar community, and towards turning the intellectuals among the Muslims against the ''Kashmiri hegemony''. Though the BJP kept away from JKNF''s October 2 sit-in protest in Jammu, the Janata Dal (U) and the Panthers Party joined it, making the JKNF seem broad-based. The Front was formed after the J&K Assembly adopted the autonomy resolution. Some Ladakhi Buddhist groups have since been pressing for Union Territory status for their region. While the Sangh Parivar is not alone in demanding division of the state - others include the Kashmir Study Group, a US-based think-tank sponsored by Kashmiri-American businessman Farooq Katwari - the Parivar is the only one that holds that Kashmir''s extremism can be dealt with only by separating the Valley from the rest of the state and focussing on counter-insurgency operations in the Muslim-majority Valley.


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