It is a truism that all three regions of Jammu and Kashmir — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh — feel ‘alienated’. While Jammu and Ladakh feel alienated from Kashmir, Kashmir feels alienated from the rest of India.
Rightly or wrongly, as PDP president Mehbooba Mufti articulated most recently, Kashmir considers itself ‘special’ — because of its location, its demographic composition, the circumstances in which it joined the Indian union. “Kashmir is not like any other Indian state,” Mehbooba clearly stated. Kashmir’s alienation prompts its separatists to campaign for azadi (freedom) from India.
“It is often said that Kashmir’s problems stem from neglect and lack of development,” said Noor-ul-Qamrain, editor of the local daily Muslim Kashmir. “That is simply not correct. Kashmir’s alienation is because the Kashmir issue remains unresolved.”
The highhandedness of the Centre while dealing with Kashmir has aggravated the feeling. “The Centre dictates Kashmir related policies without taking local sentiment into account,” said Amitabh Mattoo, vice-chancellor of Jammu University and Kashmir expert.
Jammu’s alienation draws on the widespread feeling that, precisely because the Kashmir valley has been conflict ridden, it has received far more attention – and funds – than the rest of the state. Jammu has been penalized for good behaviour!
“Jammu feels alienated because the government pampers Kashmir,” said Dhian Singh, Jammu university professor. “Those who raise secessionist slogans are mollycoddled, while those who are patriotic are made to suffer.” Jammu residents note, that despite their region having a larger population than Kashmir, it sends only 37 MLAs to the assembly, while Kashmir sends 46!
This alienation, concealed earlier, manifested itself starkly during the Amarnath land row in July. Ladakhis have been agitating for union territory status since 1989, but are nowhere close to getting it. “We are the nowhere people in this state,” bemoaned Sonam Dorjee, a student from Leh.