Chapter 8. Regional Aspirations

Jammu and Kashmir
• Earlier Jammu and Kashmir had a special status under Article 370 of Indian Constitution. However, despite it, Jammu & Kashmir experienced violence, cross-border terrorism, and political instability with internal and external ramifications. It resulted in loss of many lives including that of innocent civilians, security personnel and militants.
• Jammu and Kashmir comprises of three social and political regions — Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh.
• The Jammu region is a mix of foothills and plains. It is predominantly inhabited by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs & people of other denominations reside in this region.
• The Kashmir region mainly comprises Kashmir valley. It is inhabited mostly by Kashmiri Muslims with remaining being Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists & others.
• The Ladakh region is mainly mountainous. It has a very little population which is almost equally divided between Buddhists and Muslims.
• Before 1947, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) was a Princely State. Its ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh did not want to merge either with India or Pakistan but to have an independent status for his State.
• The Pakistani leaders thought that Kashmir region ‘belonged’ to Pakistan since majority population of State was Muslim.
• But this is not how people of state themselves saw it, they thought of themselves as Kashmiris above all. This issue of regional aspiration is called Kashmiriyat.
• The popular Movement in State, led by Sheikh Abdullah of National Conference, wanted to get rid of Maharaja but was against joining Pakistan.
• In October 1947, Pakistan sent tribal infiltrators from its side to capture Kashmir. This forced Maharaja to ask for Indian military help.
• India extended military support and drove back infiltrators from Kashmir valley, but only after Maharaja signed an ‘Instrument of Accession’ with Government of India.
• However, as Pakistan continued to control a sizeable part of State, issue was taken to United Nations Organisation, which in its resolution dated 21 April 1948 recommended a three-steps process to resolve issue.
• First, Pakistan had to withdraw its entire nationalities, that entered Kashmir.
• Second, India needed to progressively reduce its forces to maintain law and order.
• Third, a plebiscite was to be conducted in a free and impartial manner. However, no progress could be achieved under this resolution.
• Sheikh Abdullah took over as Prime Minister of State of J&K in March 1948 while India agreed to grant it provisional autonomy under Article 370.
• The head of government in State was then known as Prime Minister.
• Pakistan sponsored a tribal invasion of State in 1947, as a consequence of which one part of State came under Pakistani control.
• India claims that this area is under illegal occupation. Pakistan describes this area as ‘Azad Kashmir’.
• Ever since 1947, Kashmir has remained a major issue of conflict between India and Pakistan.
• A change in provision of Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir was made in 1965 by which Prime Minister of State was designated as Chief Minister of State.
• Accordingly, Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq of Indian National Congress became first Chief Minister of State.
• The President’s rule was imposed in June 2018 after BJP withdrew its support from Mufti government.
• On 5 August 2019, Article 370 was abolished by Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, and State was constituted into two Union Territories, viz., Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
• Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh are living examples of plural society in India. Not only are there diversities of all kinds (religious, cultural, linguistic, ethnic, & tribal) but there are divergent political and developmental aspirations, which have been sought to be achieved by latest Act.

Punjab
• Punjab had to wait till 1966 for creation of a Punjabi-speaking State.
• The Akali Dal, which was formed in 1920 as political wing of Sikhs, had led movement for formation of a ‘Punjabi Suba’.
• The Sikhs were now a majority in truncated State of Punjab.
• After reorganisation, Akalis came to power in 1967 and then in 1977. On both occasions, it was a coalition government.
• During 1970s a section of Akalis began to demand political autonomy for region. This was reflected in a resolution passed at their conference at Anandpur Sahib in 1973.
• The Anandpur Sahib Resolution asserted regional autonomy and wanted to redefine Centre-State relationship in country.
• The resolution spoke of aspirations of Sikh qaum (community or nation) and declared its goal as attaining bolbala (dominance or hegemony) of Sikhs.
• The resolution was a plea for strengthening federalism, but it could be interpreted as a plea for a separate Sikh nation.
• The Resolution had a limited appeal among Sikh masses. A few years later, after Akali Government had been dismissed in 1980, Akali Dal launched a movement on question of distribution of water between Punjab and its neighbouring States.
• A section of religious leaders raised question of autonomous Sikh identity. The more extreme elements started advocating secession from India and creation of ‘Khalistan’.
• Soon, leadership of movement passed from moderate Akalis to extremist elements and took form of armed insurgency.
• These militants made their headquarters inside Sikh holy shrine, Golden Temple in Amritsar, and turned it into an armed fortress.
• In June 1984, Government of India carried out ‘Operation Blue Star’, a code name for army action in Golden Temple.
• In this operation, Government could successfully flush out militants, but it damaged historic temple and deeply hurt sentiments of Sikhs.
• Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984 outside her residence by her bodyguards. Both assassins were Sikhs and wanted to take revenge for Operation Bluestar.
• In Delhi and many parts of northern India, violence broke out against Sikh community. (Twenty years later, speaking in Parliament in 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed regret over these killings and apologised to nation for anti-Sikh violence).
• The new Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi initiated a dialogue with moderate Akali leaders.
• In July 1985, he reached an agreement with Harchand Singh Longowal, then President of Akali Dal.
• This agreement, called Rajiv Gandhi – Longowal Accord or Punjab Accord, was a step towards bringing normalcy to Punjab.
• It was agreed that Chandigarh would be transferred to Punjab, a separate commission would be appointed to resolve border dispute between Punjab and Haryana, and a tribunal would be set up to decide sharing of Ravi-Beas River water among Punjab, Haryana & Rajasthan.
• Militancy was eventually eradicated by security forces. But losses incurred by people of Punjab – Sikhs and Hindus alike were enormous. Peace returned to Punjab by middle of 1990s.
• The alliance of Akali Dal (Badal) and BJP scored a major victory in 1997, in first normal elections in State in post-militancy era.

The North East
• In North-East, regional aspirations reached a turning point in 1980s.
• This region now consists of seven States, referred to as ‘seven sisters.’
• The region has only 4% of country’s population but about twice as much share of its area.
• A small corridor of about 22 kilometres connects region to rest of country. Otherwise, region shares boundaries with China, Myanmar, & Bangladesh and serves as India’s gateway to Southeast Asia.
• The isolation of region, its complex social character, and its backwardness compared to other parts of country have all resulted in complicated set of demands from different states of North-East.
• Three issues dominate politics of North-East: demands for autonomy, movements for secession, and opposition to ‘outsiders.’
• At independence, entire region except Manipur and Tripura comprised State of Assam.
• Demands for political autonomy arose when non-Assamese felt that Assam government was imposing Assamese language on them.
• Leaders of major tribal communities wanted to separate from Assam.
• They formed Eastern India Tribal Union which later transformed into a more comprehensive All Party Hill Leaders Conference in 1960.
• They demanded a tribal state to be carved out of Assam.
• Finally, instead of one tribal state, several states got carved out of Assam. At different points in time, Central Government had to create Meghalaya, Mizoram, & Arunachal Pradesh out of Assam.
• Karbis and Dimasas have been granted autonomy under District Councils while Bodos were recently granted Autonomous Council.
• The reorganisation of North-East was completed by 1972.
• The large-scale migration into North-East gave rise to a special kind of problem that pitted ‘local’ communities against people who were seen as ‘outsiders’ or migrants.
• The Assamese suspected that there were huge numbers of illegal Bengali Muslim settlers from Bangladesh.
• In 1979 All-Assam Students’ Union (AASU), a students’ group not affiliated with any party, led an Anti-foreigner Movement.
• The Movement was against illegal migrations, domination of Bengalis and other outsiders, and against faulty voters’ registers that included names of lakhs of immigrants.
• The Movement demanded that all outsiders who had entered State after 1951 should be sent back.
• Eventually, after six years of turmoil, Rajiv Gandhi-led Government entered into negotiations with AASU leaders, leading to signing of an accord in 1985.
• According to this agreement those foreigners who migrated into Assam during and after Bangladesh war and since, were to be identified and deported.

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