Sunday, August 23, 2009

Why There Should be

Chenab Valley Hill Development Council 

The resolution for establishing CVHDC, moved by MLC Khalid Najeeb Suharwardy, was passed by the upper house on August 19, 2009.
Suharwardy, former Doda MLA and presently a member of the upper house, argued that for speedy development of the hilly and economically backward Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts (known as Chenab valley region) a hill development council, on the analogy of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) be established.
“Chenab valley, the connecting link between Kashmir and Jammu regions, is most the backward area, highly mountainous with only 5 to 6 percent road connectivity. The area is far behind in the process of development. So I demand that CVHDC be established on the pattern of LAHDC,” Suharwardy argued while moving the resolution in the house. After Suharwardy refused to withdraw the resolution, on the request of the council chairman, it was put to vote and passed by the upper house.
In the year 2000, a bill was moved in the legislative assembly by the then MLA Baderwah, Sheikh Abdul Rehman, seeking Hill Development Council for the region. Sheikh says he preferred to move a bill instead of a resolution as if the house had passed the bill, it would have been imperative for the government to implement it. He said to shelve the move, the legislative assembly referred it to the select committee. He said, as per the rules of business, the bill automatically lapsed when 2002 elections were announced.
In 2006 MLA Doda Abdul Majeed Wani brought a bill to establish the Doda Valley Hill Development Council. But Wani withdrew the bill on the insistence of the then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who said that after the creation of another district – Kishtwar - in the region there was no need for such a bill.
Prof Gul Muhammad Wani of the political science department at the University of Kashmir sees the demand of CVHDC as “an issue of dominance, non-dominance” and “an issue of discrimination and non-discrimination.” He said these issues have shaped political process of entire of Jammu Kashmir state over the years.
According to Wani, Kashmir valley is not going to benefit from establishing the council. He however said this may precursor identical demands for Pir Panchal region and demands of similar councils for Gurez, Karnah or Uri in Kashmir valley. He said Kashmir being homogenized region might not face any problem in having these councils. He opines that it would be difficult for Jammu to oppose the demand for establishing Chenab Valley Hill Development Council for Doda region or Pir Panchal Hill Development Council for Rajouri, Poonch region, when they have not objected to the creation of Ladakh Hill Development Council (Leh) and Ladakh Hill Development Council (Kargil) craved out of Kashmir division.
In October 1993, when State was under the presidential rule, the government of India agreed to grant Ladakh the status of Autonomous Hill Council. The council came into being with the holding of elections on August 28, 1995. The inaugural meeting of the council was held at Leh on September 3, 1995.
Though the concept of Hill Council was first fructified in Leh District in 1995 on the pattern of Darjeeling Hill Development Council, it was introduced in Kargil during the year 2003. The then chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was instrumental in bringing Kargil District in the ambit of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council for the focused development of the area. The Hill Council in Kargil came into existence in July 2003. The creation of Hill Development Council for Ladakh has fuelled the demands of similar councils in Chenab Valley and Pir Panchal regions, as the people in these areas feel that they have been over the years dominated and discriminated by a few districts in Jammu region.
The chief spokesperson of the PDP Nayeem Akhtar says earlier the resolutions used to be piece of papers, which the government was not taking seriously. “Now the ground rules in Kashmir politics have changed. There are stakeholders,” he said and added the resolution would become part of political conscience of people and it would be difficult for government to ignore it.
People of Doda too are excited about it. “Ball is in the state government’s court now, and it must implement the resolution,” says Muhammad Hanif Hashmi, a prominent lawyer of Doda. Hanif who is heading the Chenab Valley Council, an organization demanding Hill Development Council for Chenab valley region, said the resolution is in sync with the Regional Autonomy Committee report of the National Conference.
Hanif said the report specifically proposed the restructuring of the Jammu region with erstwhile Doda district and the single Muslim-dominated tehsil of Mahore from the adjoining Udhampur forming a new Chenab Valley province. Poonch and Rajouri, the Muslim-majority districts, would form the Pir Panjal province. He said the National Conference led government should have no problem in implementing the resolution.

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