It is no wonder that the Justice Sageer (also Saghir) report has been condemned in downright language by the entire nationalist camp comprising not just Hindus, Buddhists and the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus, but also by Gujjar and Bakerwal Muslims (all Sunnis), who constitute the third largest social segment in Jammu & Kashmir.
They have not just repudiated out-of-hand all the recommendations embodied in the Justice Sageer Ahmed report, but have also dubbed the same as a “farce”, a “fraud on the people of the state”, and a “fraud on the people of the country”. Not just this, they have rejected the report, and very rightly, as “anti-people, out-dated and stinking”.
Opponents of the report do make a point when they describe the Justice Sageer report as a “one-man report” and say that the report is based essentially on the 1999 State Autonomy Committee Report (prepared by the then ruling National Conference). They also do not cross the line when they ask New Delhi to tear the report and burn it, and demand immediate reorganization of the State on the ground that such a reorganization alone could free them from the cruel clutches of the Kashmiri leaders and empower them politically and economically.
Moreover, they hit the nail on the head when they bemoan that the Justice Sageer report contains nothing whatever which in any manner recognizes the needs, aspirations and compulsions of the people of Jammu and Ladakh, the displaced and persecuted Kashmiri Hindus, and non-Kashmiri Muslim minorities, particularly the nomadic and extremely backward Gujjar and Bakerwal communities.
What does the report give to Jammu, Ladakh, displaced Kashmiri Hindus and tribal Gujjars and Bakerwals? It gives nothing to these two neglected and marginalized regions and these religious and ethnic minorities.
The report rejects the demand for Union Territory status for the highly neglected and under-developed trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, saying the grant of such a status would lead to the disintegration of the State. “It is not recommended that the unity and integrity of the State of Jammu & Kashmir be compromised”. What the Justice Sageer report has said is what Kashmiri Muslim leaders have been saying for reasons not difficult to fathom.
It appears that Justice Sageer has gone by the wishes of those in Kashmir who consistently say that the “grant of Union Territory status to Ladakh will hurt the Kashmiri psyche” and “further alienate the Kashmiri people (read over-empowered and pampered Kashmiri-speaking Sunnis) from the national mainstream”.
Had Justice Sageer visited Ladakh to see for himself the pitiable conditions in which the Ladakhis, especially the persecuted and discriminated against Buddhists, have been living since 1947, or had he taken into consideration the presentation made by LUTF leader Thupstan Chhewang during the Working Group meeting, he would not have rejected the demand for Union Territory status – a demand supported by leaders belonging to all political parties, including the Congress, the National Conference, and the BJP.
But how could he take cognizance of the pitiable condition of the Ladakhis, as also of the detailed presentation made by Thupstan Chhewang? After all, he was there in the Working Group only to strengthen the hands of the Islamic radicals, and to prepare a report that would facilitate the anti-India agenda of the Kashmiri separatists and communalists, and give them unbridled and absolute powers so that they could enslave, persecute, humiliate, insult and exploit the non-Muslim minorities and convert Jammu and Ladakh into their colonies.
It would not be out of place to refer to here to at least two examples indicating the extent to which the people of Ladakh have been ignored and marginalized, and the extent of the region’s under-development.
One: In Ladakh, the per sq km road density was 3.7 km in November 2006, as against per sq km road density of 49 km in Kashmir in the same year. Leh and Kargil districts of the cold-desert Ladakh have land areas of 45,110 sq km and 14,036 sq km, respectively, and a road length of 1,164 km and 676 km, respectively. The situation remains more or less the same even today.
Two: The people of Ladakh have virtually no representation in the Civil Secretariat, the seat of power. Their number in the Civil Secretariat is a paltry 12 (0.68 per cent) out of a total of 1715 employees belonging to all categories. As for electricity, safe drinking water, healthcare and educational facilities, the less said the better.
The fact of the matter is that the life of the Ladakhis is not one of political and economic fulfillment. Their life is one of toil and penury. Their very identity, personality and culture are under grave threat. Their daughters are being forced to convert and marry non-Buddhists.
What has Justice Sageer recommended for the displaced Kashmiri Hindus and Gujjars and Bakerwals? Virtually nothing. The report has asked Kashmiri Hindu refugees to return to the original habitat and live in “secure zones” in Kashmir. It has asked the displaced Kashmiri Hindu employees to “return to the Valley on guarantee of their children being admitted to educational training institutions and they and their families be provided full security”.
Even a superficial look at what Justice Sageer has said regarding displaced Kashmiri Hindus is for even the naïve to conclude that the situation in Kashmir continues to remain volatile, continues to be anti-displaced Kashmiri Hindus, and continues to be vitiated by intolerant Islamic radicals, with the authorities virtually making common cause with those who forced the miniscule minority of Kashmiri Hindus to quit the Valley in January 1990 and suffer as refugees in their own motherland.
The very suggestion that the displaced Kashmiri Hindus should live in “secure zones” in Kashmir is something which needs to be construed as a deliberate attempt on the part of Justice Sageer Ahmed to throw in the lot of the already persecuted Kashmiri Hindus with the radical Islamists in Kashmir, who have contempt for those who talk India, eulogize the Indian Constitution and oppose the idea of the State getting more autonomy or self-rule.
The manner in which Justice Sageer Ahmed has dealt with the issues confronting the displaced Kashmiri Hindus should leave no one in doubt that there is no place whatsoever for them in his communal and separatist scheme of things, and that he could go to any extent to make common cause with the rabidly anti-India forces operating in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country. The problem being faced by the displaced Kashmiri Hindus is political, and it should have been dealt with as such. But the communal approach of Justice Sageer has left the poor Kashmiri Hindus high and dry and to the care of god or anarchy.
Significantly, Justice Sageer has, like Kashmiri Muslim leaders of all hues, rejected outright the demands put forth by Gujjar and Bakerwal Muslims, including the demand for political reservation in Parliament and the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council. This was expected of him because he is a true Muslim. He, like the Islamic radicals, doesn’t discriminate between one segment of Muslims and another. He believes that political reservation for any segment of Muslim society would create schism among the Muslims and weaken the Islamic cause, and establish that Muslim society, like other societies, is also a divided lot.