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Would Telangana's creation open a Pandora's box for Omar Abdullah?
Friday August 2, 2013 5:48 PM, Sheikh Qayoom, IANS

Would the creation of India's 29th state open the Pandora's box for the country's only Muslim majority state? Jammu and Kashsmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah believes it would.

Reacting to the Congress' decision to carve out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, Abdullah said doing so without a States Reorganization Commission would mean creation of a new state in the country by succumbing to agitational pressure.

"This is definitely going to encourage those seeking statehood for the Jammu region. The decision has proved that an agitation for eight or nine years is all you need to make the centre bend", Abdullah had told mediapersons in summer capital Srinagar immediately after the Congress decision on Telangana was announced.

The chief minister had also clarified that his government's administrative concessions to the far-flung and cold Ladakh desert region did not mean steps were being taken to grant it union territory status.

The demand for such a status has been gaining ground in the Buddhist-majority region for over four decades.

It was, in fact, to address the regional aspirations of the people of Ladakh, which comprises the Leh and Kargil districts, that autonomous hill councils were formed there to deal with the growing demand for union territory status. The demand for a separate Jammu state is as old as Kashmir's accession to India in 1947.

The last autocratic Dogra maharajas belonged to Jammu. Ever since political power shifted to the Muslim-majority Valley after 1947, voices for a separate Vishal Dogra state started becoming stronger in Jammu.

A day after the Telangana decision, Bhim Singh of the Jammu-based National Panthers Party issued a statement seeking statehood for the Jammu region.

While many argue that Abdullah's statement was a genuine expression of his concern, some maintain that inadvertently he has echoed aspirations of those demanding statehood for Jammu.

There are many constitutional and legal implications that cannot be brushed aside while agitating either for statehood for the Jammu region or union territory status for Ladakh. A debate is also doing the rounds in the state whether the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir would stand the constitutional test because the state's accession is determined by article 370 of the statute and one entity can't simply be removed.

Its legality apart, the demands for statehood for Jammu or union territory status for the Ladakh region would make the task of the separatist Hurriyat leaders easier.

Although the separatists seek the secession of the entire state from India, what they are actually aiming at is the Muslim-majority Valley where they wield political influence.

"Giving in to the demand of a separate state or union territory status for any region of the state would focus and concentrate the separatist campaign for secession in the Valley," said a senior ruling National Conference leader.

If Abdullah made his anti-Telangana statement with political hindsight, few should grudge him this.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians.in)

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