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The making of an emotional election issue

When we began the survey, Jammu and Kashmir was, like the rest of India, worried about prices, jobs and basic necessities, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2008 01:12 IST
Arun Joshi

When we began the survey, Jammu and Kashmir was, like the rest of India, worried about prices, jobs and basic necessities.

But soon after Kashmir exploded, followed closely by Jammu. The issue was first the transfer - and then the revocation of the transfer - of a 100 acre piece of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board. The separatists have captured the mind space of the masses, while the government keeps wondering what to do. To worsen matters, the state has been divided on communal lines.

What does the aam admi in Kashmir and his counterpart in Jammu now think? Sadly, they hold diametrically opposite views. Sample this:

“How can we be part of a nation that has stopped supplies of baby milk powder to us? ” asks Abdul Rauf, a Srinagar resident. “First, we were subjugated politically, now the tool of economic blockade is being used to starve us and kill our babies. It is high time we have our own rule here.”

In Jammu, the people are equally vehement. “It is a question of do or die," says Daisy Singh, a businessman in Jammu's Raghunath Bazaar. "The Amarnath land issue has woken us up. We were being treated as second-class citizens.We want both Delhi and Srinagar to understand that this can no longer continue.”