The row over new administrative units in Jammu and Kashmir has almost been settled. But a long-pending demand of the people of the Pir Panjal and the Chenab Valleys remains still unaddressed. The creation of new units was opposed by several quarters in Jammu. According to them, the National Conference was trying to create the Chenab Valley Autonomous Hill Development Council and the Pir Panjal Council in the garb of the new administrative units. They further believed that the move was aimed at changing the demographic complexion of the region.
The demand for autonomous councils for the Chenab and Pir Panjal Valleys is not communally motivated. If at all these councils are created, the entire population and not just a particular community will benefit. And, in no case should it be perceived as an attempt to divide the Jammu region. The Amarnath land row has created a gulf between the two regions of the state. Further polarization cannot be and should not be allowed. But the demand for hill councils should not be resisted because of unfounded apprehensions in some quarters. The government has already conferred such status on some regions, one of them known for its communal tendencies. Communal forces in the area have already boycotted a particular community twice. Notwithstanding this, the Government of India and the state government have gone ahead with granting the region its autonomous council. Nobody expressed any concern for the interests of its other communities.
In contrast, such incidents have never occurred in the Chenab Valley and the Pir Panjal region, the August 9 clashes of last year being the only exception. The demand for hill councils for the Chenab Valley and the Pir Panjal Valley hits hard at the very concept of a ‘Jammu Pradesh.” The demand for a separate state for the Jammu region is being projected by a self-styled politician and columnist who at times writes under the garb of the other gender to mislead the gullible people of Jammu. The state has to remain a single unit notwithstanding the machinations of such unscrupulous elements. The hill councils will not compromise Jammu and Kashmir’s unity and integrity.
Elements such as those opposing the hill councils have been instrumental in delaying the Mughal Road Project, work on which had started in 1981 during the Sher-e-Kashmir’s times. Even then, the specious arguments used revolved around what they called “safe-guarding” their own definition of the interests of the Jammu region.