Here is the comparison with Sikkim:
- Sikkim signed an agreement with India in 1950 vesting defence, external affairs and communication in India. Very similar to the Instrument of Accession signed by J&K.
- The agreement with India was signed by Chogyal, the monarch of Sikkim and not by any elected government. Again in the case of J&K, the agreement was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh.
- Chogyal ruled the State for the next 23 years with his State Council. In other words, the State was independent except for the 3 subjects that were under India’s control. J&K’s Constituent Assembly did not ratify merger with India. Indian control was primarily restricted to the matters specified in the Instrument of Accession and few other laws which were made applicable to J&K in accordance with Article 370. In other words J&K was also independent; the difference was only in degree, not in kind. India had a few more powers over J&K than in it had on Sikkim.
- Just as Sheik Abdullah revolted against Maharja Hari Singh, Lhendup Dorji mobilized the masses against the Chogyal regime in the late 60s. (Of course during this period Sheik Abdullah’s stars were bad; he turned against India. He was arrested on sedition charges in 1953 and released in 1964. He was out of power till 1975.)
- The Chogyal government was unable to control the revolt. This is where the similarities with J&K end.
- Indian government intervened. A referendum was held in April, 1975 when 97% of the people voted for merger with India.
Sikkim became the 22nd state of India! How was this possible? First religion was not brought into this conflict. Second Dorji was genuinely concerned about the welfare of the State and he felt that annexing with India was “the solution”. Third he was a real leader of the masses because 97% of the people supported his views. Fourth Indira Gandhi firmly believed in a strong center and dealt with this problem in a decisive manner.
Coming back to J&K, autonomists and separatists argue that J&K should have the right of self determination- the people should decide whether to be independent or to join India or Pakistan. Let’s evaluate both the options.
Consider that J&K becomes independent.
Its population is approximately 1 cr- 70% Muslims and the balance Hindus, Budhhists and Sikhs. Will it be any different from Srilanka? Though in terms of population Srilanka is twice the size of J&K, the majority-minority divide is more or less same- 73% Sinhalese and 17% Tamils. Like Indian J&K, Srilanka also is a secular country. What did Srilanka see in the last few decades? Nothing but violence. Was Srilanka able to contain the violence? No. It depended on India.
We saw a little while ago what happened to Sikkim when it was an Independent State- it was unable to contain internal disturbances.
Small State with sharp ethnic or religious divide in its population is perhaps not the right recipe for being independent.
Let’s look at J&K’s finances.
1. J&K’s total expenditure in 2009-10 was Rs. 22, 400 cr. How did it meet this expenditure? By taking Rs. 13,252 cr as grants from India- about 60% of the State’s total expenditure is met out of grants. What are grants? In simple terms, these are monies which need not be repaid. Normally only 30% of the Central assistance to most of states is in the form grants and the balance is in the form of loans whereas in the case of J&K, 90% of the assistance is in the form of grants!
2. Is it any different in 2010-11? No. As per the revised estimates of J&K government, Central grant is Rs. 15,733 cr. What is the budget for 2011-12? Rs. 17,570 cr!
3. Was the past any different? Total amount of grants given to J&K from 1989-90 to 2009-10 amounted to a whopping Rs. 94,409 cr!
4. Grants to J&K amount to approximately 10% of the total grants given by Indian government to all the States whereas the population of the State is only 1% of the total.
If the State becomes independent, how will it fill this big hole in the budget?
Let’s turn to the other option. Join Pakistan.
To understand this better and to understand whether J&K would have been better off had it joined Pakistan, we need to see what has been happening in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). There are two parts to POK- one the northern area or Gilgit- Baltistan and the other the “Azad Kashmir.”
First Northern Area. This area is “governed directly from Islamabad”- a euphemism for “Army Rule”. When a judge of the POK Supreme Court gave a verdict in 1994 that this part is illegally occupied by Pakistan Army, he became a hero overnight! Such was the frustration of the people! Normally a retired army officer is appointed as the Chief of this region. There is a legislative council, but the members are nominated. People’s representation? Forget it. The Council has very, very limited powers. Further this area does not elect its representatives to Pakistan Parliament. People of this region do not have the “fundamental rights” specified in Pakistan Constitution. Is there any better definition of the word “orphan’?
Azad Kashmir. Sardar Abdul Qayyum, who wanted J&K to be acceded to Pakistan, launched a movement against the Maharaja in 1947 and seized control of the area now known as Azad Kashmir. Thereafter All Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference, his party appointed him as “president of Azad Kashmir.” He remained in such position till 1970. Thereafter elections were held to Azad Kashmir’s assembly. It is another matter that in all elections from 1970 to 1991 Sardar Mohammad Abdul Qayyum Khan was elected as the President. Martial Law was declared in Pakistan in 1977. Consequently the assembly was suspended for 8 years. Even today candidates participating in the elections to the Assembly have to sign an affidavit owing allegiance to Pakistan!
We saw that India has been contributing 60% of J&K’s budget. What is Pakistan’s contribution to Azad Kashmir? About 30%- the total outlay of Azad Kashmir for 2009-10 was Pakistan Rupees 34.5 bill and Pakistan’s contribution in this was Pakistan Rupees 10.75 bill (1 INRd 1.9 Pakistan Rupees). Proportion of its support is half of what India gives to J&K. (Hardcore finance professionals will point out that we cannot do such simple comparisons. But as I said in the beginning of this series, we are common people and we can do.)
|Mangla Dam Power station|
Far from supporting Azad Kashmir, Pakistan took electricity generated from Mangla Dam situated in Azad Kashmir and did not pay royalty for 38 years! Mangla Dam in Mirpur district was constructed in 1967. The hydro power station has an installed capacity of 1,000 MW and satisfies nearly 20% of Pakistan’s power requirements. Pakistan went back on its promise to pay royalty; it did not pay till 2005 while North West Frontier Province received due royalty for electricity generated from its Tarbela dam! Can there be any better case of discrimination?
We saw that you and I cannot become residents of J&K. What about Azad Kashmir? Thousands of Afgans have been allowed to settle down there.
So would the people of J&K have been better off either being independent or by joining Pakistan?
But then what needs to done?
Wait for Part V, the concluding part.