Parliamentary elections are over and the code of conduct has been lifted. The government, therefore, is free to fulfill its promises. Poll results from the Chenab Valley and the Pir Panjal Valley have shocked the state’s coalition government, but it still has time to make amends. Assembly elections are scheduled for October-November this year. The Chief Minister has promised Hill Councils in the erstwhile Doda district and the Poonch-Rajouri districts on the pattern of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC). The status can be granted now, or at least, the process initiated.
In addition to its Autonomous Hill Council, Ladakh has recently given the status of a division. Previously it was a part of the Kashmir division.
Interestingly Ladakh has a population of just a few lakh. In fact, the population of Batmaloo and Rainawari areas of Srinagar is more than the total population of Ladakh. But they know how to get things done, and successive governments have gone out of their way to keep the Ladakh people in good humour.
A similar demand from the erstwhile Doda district and the Poonch-Rajouri districts has been ignored for obvious reasons. But the incumbent Chief Minister has promised it and now people are looking towards him with expectation. Omar Abdullah would do himself a favour by fulfilling his promise. If he takes measures to start the process, he would have something to go to the people with in the forthcoming assembly polls.
Some people are under the mistaken impression that Hill Councils for Chenab-Pir Panjal regions are aimed at changing their demographic composition. The Hill Council demand there is not communally motivated. If at all the Councils are created, the entire population, and not just a particular community, stands to benefit. And, in no case should the step be perceived as an attempt to divide the Jammu region. The demand should not be resisted because of unfounded apprehensions of some quarters. The demand hits hard at the very concept of Jammu Pradesh, or a separate state for the Jammu region, being projected by a `street politician’ and a self styled columnist from Jammu who at times changes his gender to mislead gullible people.
The state has to remain a single unit notwithstanding the machinations of these unscrupulous elements. Far from compromising the unity and integrity of the Jammu and Kashmir state, Hill Councils in the Chenab-Pir Panjal Valleys would, in fact, ensure good governance and equitable development.