Immediately after assuming office of the Chief Minister in 1996, Farooq Abdullah promised administrative autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir Valley. Regional Autonomy Committee (RAC) with Balraj Puri as its Working chairman was constituted to look into the viability of the model. For two years, the RAC interacted with people from remote areas of both the regions and also prepared a document. However, the report was not considered. This was the time when Leh district was granted autonomous hill development council. A group of scribes on the sidelines of a function asked Abdullah why the government was reluctant to grant similar status to Chenab and Pir Panjal valleys. Abdullah evaded a reply but conveyed his compulsions through a sarcastic smile.
The people of Chenab Valley continued their struggle. In 2000, a bill was moved in the Legislative Assembly by the then MLA Bhaderwah, Sheikh Abdul Rehman, demanding a Hill Development Council for the region. In 2006, MLA Doda Abdul Majeed Wani, who is presently Minister for PWD (R&B), brought a bill to establish the Doda Valley Hill Development Council. But Wani withdrew the bill on the insistence of the then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who said that after the creation of another district-Kishtwar-in the region there was no need for such a bill. Meanwhile, Omar Abdullah took over the reins of the state. He promised Hill Development Council “on the pattern of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (Leh & Kargil) for Chenab and Pir Panjal regions. Five years have passed and the promise has been forgotten. Indeed, it was a bit easy for Omar to fulfil the promise. Kargil also got the Hill Council a few years ago. The compulsions that prevented the senior Abdullah to keep his hands off the Chenab and Pir Panjal regions had vanished after the Kargil experiment. A resolution seeking a Hill Council for Chenab Valley was passed by the Legislative Council on August 19, 2009. The resolution moved by Khalid Najeeb Suharwardy had made it easier for Omar to go ahead with the plan but he did not act for reasons best known to him.
The Chenab Valley is as backward as Kargil. After the 1999 war, Kargil suddenly became important for New Delhi but the Chenab Valley and the Pir Panjal Valley continue to remain neglected to this day. Omar Abdullah is at the fag end of his tenure but can still do a lot to fulfil his promise. In the forthcoming budget session a bill seeking Hill Council status for Chenab Valley and the Pir Panjal region can be introduced and passed.