Chenab Valley – nerve center of future politics and status of J&K

Sahil Mahajan 

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.