In the ongoing local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir, a huge and shocking difference is evident between the voter turnout in Jammu and Ladakh regions and in that of the Kashmir valley. In the third phase, 3.5 per cent voter turnout has been registered in Kashmir, while Jammu saw 81 per cent voter turnout where voting was held in four municipal committees in Samba district. The trifurcation in the behavior of the voters is therefore evident even before the results of the polls have not been announced. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shaleen Kabra said, “The Jammu division recorded 81.4% polling in Samba, while the Kashmir division witnessed average 3.5% polling. However, the Uri Municipal Committee recorded the highest turnout of 75.3%. The lowest of 1.8% was recorded in Srinagar.”
According to The Hindu report, the cumulative poll percentage in all three phases till date is 41.9%. In the Jammu division the voter turnout is 68.4% while in the Kashmir valley the recorded voter turnout is a measly 6.7%. One of the main reasons behind low voter turnout in Kashmir is the boycott of local elections by the main political parties of the state- PDP and NC. Both the parties had issued statements to their supporters to boycott the polls. It feels like Jammu’s voters have done the exact opposite and enthusiastically participated in local polls.
This historic turnout of Jammu’s voters and their enthusiastic participation in the elections shows the difference between the mentality of the people of Jammu and Ladakh as compared to that of the people of Kashmir. Their political discourse is completely different from the one which is ongoing in the valley. Anti-India forces, secessionists and terrorists dominate the political discourse of Kashmir as opposed to this the mandate of Jammu voters, in terms of turnout in the local body elections, is a clear rejection of Kashmiri political discourse. It’s also a mandate in favor of the long pending demand of trifurcation of the state, as demanded by the people of Ladakh and Jammu. They are not happy with the hegemonic rules of the Kashmiris. People of Ladakh and Jammu are discriminated against when it comes to government jobs and other government schemes and benefits in the state, as most of the policies are Kashmir centric. Whatever unfortunate thing takes place in Kashmir it has its reverberations in other regions as well, a trifurcation will not just solve this problem but will end it from the roots. Happenings in Kashmir affect the business of Jammu in one way or the other. Leaders of Kashmir are seen as usurpers of the rights and funds of Jammu. Since Jammu region of the state has more area than Kashmir, it also generates more revenues, a trifurcation therefore will benefit it the most. In Jammu, there are more opportunities for trade and industry. Politicians of Kashmir rob the resources meant for the people of Jammu and Ladakh. Corrupt politicians of the valley exploit the financial help provided by the central government to fill their coffers. People of Jammu want to put an end to this organized loot and their historic mandate is testimony of the fact that trifurcation is one of their chief demands as they are different in their approach and outlook towards India.
The best solution to cure the ailments of people of Ladakh and Jammu is to divide the state into three parts. This trifurcation will solve many issues in a single move. It would also be extremely helpful in localizing the menace of terrorism and separatism to just the valley regions, so that normal routine in other areas is not affected. It would help in providing better administration to the erstwhile neglected regions of Ladakh, boost the development of other slightly developed areas and also would give more autonomy to the other regions to manage their own affairs. The resources and taxes collected from Jammu will be used for the betterment and development of the region alone, Ladakh being a union territory would get funds directly from the central government and could spend it in developing tourist areas in the region in order to generate revenues of its own. Finally, the trifurcation would also help in gaining a strategic advantage against the fight against cross-border terrorism and infiltration. In short, the time is rife for trifuracation or de-hyphenation of ‘Jammu-Kashmir’.