Reports and commentary about government-formation negotiations in Jammu and Kashmir being stuck over issues like kaun baney ga mukhi mantri rather than issues of substantive importance for the state serve only to reconfirm some age-old observations about politics, but should the contemplated opportunistic embrace somehow be avoided to make this highly lucrative trade a little less offensive, some of the issues to be tackled by an alternative arrangement would be to address long-pending demands of parity.
Though successive governments had promised Hill Council status for the Chenab and the Pir Panjal Valleys, no decisions have been taken on the issue because of opposition from communal forces. Since partners in government usually hammer out a common programme, allying parties in the state must consider the Hill Council demand and include it in their plan of action.
Those opposing the Chenab and Pir Panjal demand had kept silent when Leh was granted Hill Council status. In fact, regional demands for autonomy have been growing in the state, and the process, already started with Leh and Kargil, should not be held hostage for appeasing a handful of individuals who have polarised J and K beyond repair. Interestingly, Ladakh has a population of only a few lakh people, less than that of the Batmaloo and Rainawari quarters in Srinagar, but successive governments have gone out of their way to keep it in good humour.
The mistaken impression that the Chenab and the Pir Panjal demands are aimed at changing the regions’ demographic complexion needs to be dispelled. If at all they are given their Hill Council, their entire population, and not just a particular community, would benefit. The demand should not be resisted because of unfounded apprehensions in some quarters about dividing the Jammu region.