Politics has taken a centre stage in Chenab Valley, which essentially means three districts of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban, through which the river Chenab flows making its impact on the place and lives of the people. This time around, Chenab Valley, will determine the course of J&K politics, more than the Kashmir Valley and plains of Jammu region . Geographically, the Chenab Valley belongs to Jammu region, but it is nestled in the mountains that straddle the Valley and semi-mountains of Jammu region which run to the plains.
For many years, Chenab Valley, even when it went by its single district definition of Doda , had six assembly seats. After the delimitation, the number of seats has increased to eight , with Kishtwar getting Paddar as new constituency, likewise Doda district has got Doda ( west) as a new constituency . Eight seats in the overall electoral map of 90 seats of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir is about 9 per cent of the total. In electoral arithmetic, it may not count for much . That is a mistake that many may make.
The truer picture is emerging , as this is the sub region, where the demographic and geographical composition defines both Kashmir Valley and Jammu region and to some extent Ladakh , which was part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir until it became the Union Territory on October 31, 2019,. This land of mountains, glaciers and valleys and enchanting beauty is home to Muslims , Hindus , Sikhs and Buddhists.
The arrival of Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leading light of Congress for over 50 years who graduated in politics from remote area of Bhalesa area of Doda district, now as chairman of his new outfit Democratic Azad Party, has changed the political landscape of this Valley. His return to J&K politics after having spent decades in the national political life , has made a difference. The stakes are higher than ever before.
Azad has laid guiding principles for the whole of J&K as also the political tasks that it needs to accomplish. He has made no secret of his disdain for the downgraded status of J&K as Union Territory. Without mincing words , he has declared in all his public meetings all across Jammu region , Kashmir Valley, and now with greater emphasis in the Chenab Valley that statehood is not some favour to J&K , but its right which was mercilessly snatched away from it. From the day, August 5, 2019, when the Centre affected changes in J&K and divided the erstwhile state into two UTs, Azad has questioned the BJP for inflicting this wound on geography and demography of Jammu and Kashmir, as it had never figured on agenda of the saffron party.
Why is Azad emphasizing restoration of statehood in the Chenab Valley? A peep into his tenure as Chief Minister would offer answers. In 2007, he had added eight districts in the state, four each to the Valley and Jammu region. That is how the decentralization was done, making government and administration more accessible to the people . Doda district was divided into three districts – Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban . That was the real decentralization, as that did not affect the title and status of Jammu and Kashmir . He is rebuffing the concept of the division of the state into two UTs. He had given each of the sub divisions – Ramban and Kishtwar the district status , as he had done in case of Samba, Reasi , Kulgam, Bandipore, Shopian .
It is how he is kicking up the campaign for restoration of statehood for J&K, making Chenab Valley as nerve center of the aspired status.