The demand for a Hindu Chief Minister for Jammu and Kashmir has been raised yet again – this time by former Flood Control Minister, Shyam Lal Sharma. According to him, successive Muslim Chief Ministers of the state have discriminated against the Jammu region and its `overwhelmingly’ Hindu population.
Any individual with the required capability and qualification can become the Chief Minister of the state, irrespective of the faith he or she professes, provided that individual has the support of the requisite number of members in the legislative assembly. With neither the Constitution of India nor the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir making any denominational stipulations on the issue, it would be quite safe to presume that there is no constitutional bar for a Hindu to occupy the Chief Ministerial chair.
Muslim Chief Ministers have invoked draconian laws to harass common Kashmiris in the name of upholding `national’ interest. When New Delhi installed the Sher-e-Kashmir to run the affairs of the state in October 1947, he invoked the Defence of India Rules (DIR) to imprison dissidents without trial. His deputy, Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad had an army of goons to break the determination of Kashmiris. And after ditching his leader in 1953, he went out of his way to dilute the state’s autonomy. Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq and Syed Mir Qasim were no different.
In his second innings, the Sher-e-Kashmir came out with the Public Safety Act (PSA). His son-in-law, Ghulam Muhammad Shah, invoked the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) 1985. The black law was extended to the state when the situation was peaceful by any standards, with no gun-wielding terrorists around to threaten the unity and integrity of India. Farooq Abdullah brought in the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), and Omar Abdullah gave consent to the NIA. Muslim Chief Ministers, therefore, have served Indian interests better than any Hindu Chief Minister could even dream of. Omar Abdullah introduced a four per cent quota in government recruitment for the scheduled caste category even in Srinagar district, where the group does not exist. This was to give undue advantage to the Jammu region. And still many in Jammu cry discrimination. Nothing irregular in the idea of Jammu and Kashmir having a Hindu Chief Minister, but the question arising is: can India have a Muslim Prime Minister?