Is empowering LAHDC part of a bigger plan?

  • Javaid Malik
  • Publish Date: Oct 8 2018 2:56AM
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  • Updated Date: Oct 8 2018 3:02AM
Is empowering LAHDC part of a bigger plan?Representational Pic

The State Administrative Council (SAC) recently approved the draft of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (Amendment) Bill, 2018, aimed at making development councils of Leh and Kargil more powerful. The official spokesman said that providing more powers to both these councils would ensure their unhindered functioning and address the concerns, requirements and aspirations of the people living in the remote areas of the Ladakh region.

Many people believe that there is no harm in giving more powers to LAHDC but fear that Bharatiya Janata Party led government in New Delhi can move ahead and trifurcate J&K into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and empowering LAHDC could be a step towards that direction.

Recently Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS)—a civil society group--- expressed deep concern over “drastic changes” made by the state government in Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council. “Proposed changes are aimed at making the LAHDC a fully independent authority with even powers to levy taxes. How can the government empower a unit of the state exclusively to the detriment of the other units? Ladakh is administratively a part of Kashmir and any such decision of empowering it cannot to be taken like this,” a KCSDS spokesman said in a statement.

“While KCSDS is not against devolution of powers to regions and provinces but it’s strongly against the government’s action to do so in absence of any political authority and the broader consultation with all the units of the state. There should be no doubt that the intention behind this move is to make another state within the state,” the spokesman added.

When government announced that panchayat and municipal polls would be held in Jammu and Kashmir despite situation not being conducive, Kashmir based mainstream parties National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party “smelled a rat” and decided to stay away from the exercise. The government remained firm on its stand and went ahead with the process. “No attempt was made to even talk to NC and PDP. These polls were held to pave the way for BJP to make inroads into the Valley as most of their candidates have won the municipal elections unopposed,” said a PDP leader.

“Politically we stand divided, now the attempts are being made to divide us on demographic lines. It looks like that giving more powers to LAHDC is just a beginning, more surprises could be in offing,” the PDP leader added.

An analyst said that a notion is being created that Kashmir based parties are being “isolated” so that they cannot “dictate terms” to New Delhi. “There are many rightwing groups active in the country that want to trifurcate J&K into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh so that they can call the shots. It seems that attempts are being made to clip the wings of the Kashmir based politicians to make them fall in line,” he added.

General Secretary of the National Conference Ali Muhammad Sagar said that BJP has been working on the “trifurcation plan” for a longtime. “If they succeed in doing so it would help them politically. They want to derive political mileage out of it,” Sagar said, adding that the BJP should bear in mind that people of Jammu and Kashmir won’t allow them to succeed in their designs.

The NC leader said already a large part of the state is with Pakistan and the erstwhile Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh has already been “cut into pieces.” “The right wing groups should use common sense rather than pursuing a divisive agenda. If they go ahead with their plan to divide J&K on religious and regional lines it would have far reaching consequences,” Sagar added.

The NC General Secretary said that government cannot say that it’s “addressing the aspirations of a particular region.” “If they really want to address the aspirations of the people then there are many issues which the government has to settle. First Government of India should address the sentiments of all the regions of the state. Why Ladakh only?” he asked.  

The developments which have taken place after the fall of PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir in June this year have created an impression that BJP would do “something big” in the state before the 2019 Parliamentary elections are held. The BJP, it appears, wants to use Kashmir as its poll plank and is trying to conduct experiments which could go either way.

Chief spokesman of the PDP, Rafi Mir, said that it’s apparent that people sitting in New Delhi are trying to create an “imbalance” in the state by floating new ideas. “It’s high time for Kashmir based parties to come together and take a call over the issues which have been haunting the people of the state for the past 70 years,” the PDP leader said.

He said that it’s encouraging to see that Kashmir based parties have come together to defend Article 35-A, and are firm on their stands that this vital Article needs to be protected. “The people who are toying with the idea of trifurcating the state are playing with fire,” Mir added.

Provisional President of National Conference Nasir Aslam Wani said that BJP has raised “false hopes” about giving union territory status to Ladakh and Jammu. “Even the top BJP leaders have hinted at making drastic changes in the nomenclature of the state. If it happens it would mean one more partition after 1947 and it would prove detrimental for the entire country,” Wani said.

Vice-President of Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee Ghulam Nabi Monga said that empowering the LAHDC is a “good” step. “There is no doubt about the fact that BJP has a communal agenda but no one will allow them to trifurcate the state,” Monga said.

“BJP should stop playing politics over sensitive issues,” the Congress leader said.

Senior leader of Bharatiya Janata Party and former Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Kavinder Gupta while talking to the Kashmir Ink said, “BJP wants Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh to remain one unit.  He said that no national party can afford to leave Kashmir alone. Kashmiri legislators can pass any ulta-sidaa bill which could become a problem in the long run,” Gupta added. 

He said that municipal and panchayat elections are being held in the state to empower the people at the grass root level and these have got nothing to do with the demography of the state. “We welcome the decision of the State Administrative Council to grant more powers to LAHDC as it would help the hill councils in Leh and Kargil to expedite the developmental works in both the hilly regions,” Gupta said. 

He dispelled the notion that BJP is working on any “trifurcation” plan for the state. “Our stand is clear that Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and part of Kashmir being controlled by Pakistan are a part of India and would remain so.”

It may be recalled that the then union government in October 1993 had taken a decision regarding formation of Hill council for Ladakh which was implemented by the then Governor in 1995 when the state was under Governor’s rule. Since then LAHDC has been empowered in a phased manner.

Recently State Administrative Council gave more powers to LAHDC, Leh and Kargil, to levy and collect local taxes and fee within the jurisdiction of the council just like local bodies. The SAC empowered councils to control the functioning of various departments in the districts and have more administrative control over the staff. The SAC said that all such properties, such as public buildings, public roads, etc. constructed out of the council fund, shall belong to the councils.