Having threatened disciplinary action against three prominent activists of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) about 15 years ago when they demanded divisional status for the Muslim dominated areas along the river Chenab, in a U-turn now, the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has herself pitched for the demand in a bid to revive her party’s political base in these areas.
Mehbooba’s demand has come at a time when Governor Satyapal Malik was reportedly considering favourably the demand of divisional status for the Ladakh region that remains landlocked during the winters when the approach roads to the cold desert area get disconnected for nearly five months from Srinagar and Himachal Pradesh due to heavy snow.
The twin districts of Leh and Kargil in the Ladakh region are presently attached with the Kashmir division and the demand for a separate division for the area has been coming up for the past several years.
Mehbooba, who did not allow her partymen to raise the demand when the PDP was twice in power, has threatened that the PDP would launch an agitation if the “Pir-Panchal region”, consisting of Rajouri and Poonch districts and the “Chenab Valley region” consisting of the districts of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts, were not delinked from Jammu and granted status of separate division.
It is worth mentioning that sometime around 2003 when her father Mufti Sayeed was chief minister and Mehbooba was heading the PDP, she had issued a disciplinary notice to her party leaders, Mohammad Sharif Tariq, Chowdhary Zulfikar, and Nisar Ahmad Khan for raising the demand for divisional status for these areas.
Mehbooba’s demand has triggered sharp reactions and is being seen as an attempt to divide the Jammu region.
The state spokesman of BJP, Brigadier Anil Gupta (Retired), claimed that the demand of Mehbooba exhibits her “communal and opportunistic” mindset. She was pursuing her hidden agenda of dividing the Hindus and Muslims of the Jammu region, he alleged.
Gupta said that by asking the National Conference and other Kashmir-centric parties to endorse her demand, Mehbooba has exposed the ambition of Kashmiri leadership to continue their domination over the Jammu and Ladakh regions.
Captain Anil Gaur (Retired), who had recently quit from the PDP for the party’s alleged anti-Jammu ideology, described Mehbooba’s demand as a “ploy” to divide the Jammu division. “Why did she not implement her plans when she herself was chief minister of the state,” he asked. She was probably trying to sabotage Ladakh’s demand for divisional status, he alleged.
These districts have always been part of the Jammu division and the Kashmir-centric political parties have been trying to create a wedge by calling these as “Chenab Valley” and “Pir-Panchal Range”, said Subhash Sharma, a political commentator.