Social, Political Distancing Between Jammu and Kashmir Getting Bridged
Srinagar, Jammu: New Balance Of Power Emerges
The dynamics of politics in Jammu and Kashmir are changing fast. Recent developments on political and social fronts demonstrate that power equations are changing. Post abrogation of Article 370, a new balance of political power is emerging between Gupkar Road in Srinagar and Gandhi Nagar in Jammu. In the South Asian concept of electoral democracy, the sublime strategy has been to raise passions, bully adversaries and incite religious sentiments to grab power. Jammu and Kashmir was no exception. Political heavy weights in both Jammu and Kashmir would rely on emotive issues to consolidate votes. They would create wedges between the two regions and sow seeds of hatred for electoral gains. The 2008 elections for the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly were fought solely on regional and religious planks. After the Shri Amarnath land row, the political parties in both the regions played the religious and regional card for electoral gain. This continued in the Parliamentary and Assembly elections held thereafter.
Witness the new shift.
Recently members of Kashmir Bar Association had a meeting with their counterparts in Jammu. It was rare for the Kashmir Bar Association to reach out to the Lawyers Committee in Jammu. The meeting had a context.The Bar Associations of Jammu and Kashmir had been fundamentally opposed to each other, and found no meeting ground. A major factor for this professional and social distancing was the political stand taken by the Srinagar chapter of the Bar Association of Jammu and Kashmir.
The constitution of the Bar Association of Kashmir, which has been questioned by the government, says that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed region between India and Pakistan. The Jammu Bar Association consistently believed in inseparability of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India, and had been demanding complete integration constitutionally.
The Scenario Till August 5, 2019
Till the morning of August 5, 2019, the Bar Association of Kashmir dominated the narrative. They would never take on board the Jammu Bar Association on crucial matters. Both were poles apart, and there seemed to be no question of reconciliation whatsoever.
The abrogation of Article 370 changed this. The UT administration took a strong note of the activities of Kashmir Bar Association. The Administration specified that elections to the Kashmir Bar Association would not be held till it amended its constitution. Now, it is the ad-hoc body of Kashmir Bar Association that reached out to Jammu lawyers. It was in this context that Advocate Nazir Ronga, who is also a member of the Mirwaiz group of Hurriyat Conference and some more lawyers had a meeting with the Bar Association of Jammu.
According to sources, during the meeting Ronga suggested putting up a united front for the welfare of the lawyers of Jammu and Kashmir. This is a complete departure from the past, though tactical, to avoid any further action by the UT Administration.
Earlier, it was the Jammu Bar Association, the business community, and the political class of Jammu region who would initiate a dialogue with their counterparts in Kashmir. This was essential because the social and political discourse was somehow controlled by the Kashmir elites. The dynamics have changed.
Nazir Ronga, His Colleagues Desperate To Evade State Action
Ronga and his colleagues in the Srinagar Bar association are desperate to evade state action against them. They are clandestinely trying to hide behind their colleagues in Jammu Bar Association and are projecting the facade that all is well. The District magistrate Srinagar has served notices to Srinagar Bar Association, asking them to clear their stand on certain important issues, particularly the controversial sections of its constitution. District Magistrate Srinagar Aijaz Asad was not available for comment.
Advocate Nazir Ronga in conversation with KASHMIR CENTRAL
We Discussed Common Issues Of Legal Fraternity With Members Of Jammu Bar Association
You have been served notice by District Magistrate Srinagar asking you to clear the position of the Srinagar Bar Association on certain controversial sections in its constitution. What is your response to the notice?
Yes, we have properly responded to it. First of all we wanted to know under which provision of law the District Magistrate Srinagar has issued the notice. What has made him issue the notice? Under which law he has taken recourse to this? Second, what kind of material does he have with him for which he wants clarification? That has been communicated to him. Give us that material so that we are in a position to reply. Till date they have neither forwarded that material, nor have we been appraised as to what kind of law they have taken recourse to, for issuing such notices to us. How can we respond to the mere notice when nothing was written in that notice? What do we have to clear? First he has to indicate on what basis he has said it.
You had a meeting with the Jammu bar association. What was discussed in the meeting?
It was an informal meeting. I congratulated them for recent elections. Beside this we discussed certain common issues. We discussed hurdles that we are facing at this stage where we are not able to give justice to the people, and in the process people are losing faith in the judicial system. First and foremost point of consideration before us is this – the executive authority is overpowering the judiciary. The judiciary is losing its standards of being independent. The orders passed by the court are not being implemented by the authorities.
There are other issues too. We have no Central Administration Tribunal (CAT) bench in Srinagar. This is a problem for us. In the High Court, the number of benches is less. That should be increased. We and the Jammu Bar Association discussed this. In the future we shall formulate a joint paper regarding the judiciary. Also, we don’t have the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum for the last two years. Thousands of petitions are pending there but nobody is paying any attention to them. We had a series of meetings with the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir. He assured us that he will use his good offices and he will request the governor that they should immediately provide the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum in Kashmir and also in Jammu. I don’t think there is any improvement on this front. I had also contacted Justice Tashi Rabstan. He is heading the committee that will formulate a report regarding the establishment of the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the District Forum. He has submitted the report and done all the formalities what he was supposed to. The Administration does not seem to be serious about this issue. We don’t know why it is so. Why are these posts vacant? Public, as well as lawyers, are facing problems.
Thirdly, we are facing the problem that the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) is in Chandigarh. One has to travel to Chandigarh if we have a problem with banks or financial institutions. Those matters are addressed by DRT but we don’t have it here. We want the Tribunal here also. A bench of the Tribunal should be here and also in Jammu.
There are other issues like registration of documents. Earlier we had the Registration Act, Stamp Act, etc. We used to prepare the documents and produce them before the Sub Registrar who used to be a judicial officer. He knew everything about the laws. So we could easily get it done. Now we have to go to the concerned Patwari and he says he will draft it himself. It has become a den of corruption there and in the process, lawyers have lost their jobs in J&K. They have only this work of drafting and this has been taken away from them.
Are you associated with the Hurriyat Conference?
I am the person who has served the Bar Association for more than 10 years. My opponents used to call me a moderate and say he is Indian. I am not associated with Hurriyat Conference. I have nothing to do with them. I am the Bar Chairman. Actually, I had affiliation with one of the sections that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is chairman of. I was a close associate of his father. When his father got affiliated with Awami Action Committee, I used to help him. Delhi people, CIK, NIA had come to him. He was taken to Delhi, I was also with him. Everything is open. There is nothing hidden. I have nothing to do with militancy. I have always disapproved of this throughout my life.
Your son Uzair Nazir Ronga’s premises were raided by Counter-Intelligence Kashmir (CIK) on October 2. Why?
There was some FIR by an unidentified person. He had told CIK that Uzair is contemplating setting up a terrorist organization for which he will be funded by some Rayees Mir who is a Kashmiri terrorist in Pakistan. I came to know that Rayees Mir is an employee in a media service in Pakistan. So these were the allegations. I allowed the authorities to check our house but I told them that you should have served us the notice. We want certain clarifications on phone. We could have given you everything. All this was done by someone to defame me and my family. My son can never think about this. My son was in England for six long years so he has nothing to do with all this nonsense. Why should he do any such thing?
Uzair is seen wining and dining with officials of intelligence and security agencies at CH2, the popular hotel at Sonwar. Why so?
Uzair is a very social person. Like me, he also dislikes violence. He wants to contribute in the field of politics. There are some people who are asking him to join their party. But he can’t join them. After sometime he will join me. When contacted by Kashmir Central, Surjeet Singh Andotra, General Secretary J&K High Court Bar Association Jammu said, “We discussed common issues of lawyers like registration, Debt Recovery Tribunal, consumer court etc.”
Mehbooba Mufti reaches out to Jammu lawyers
Seems to have finally realized the cost of isolating Jammu from Kashmir
A few days after Nazir Ronga and some other lawyers from Kashmir met members of the Bar Association at Jammu, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti with the help of her party colleague from Kishtwar Firdous Tak organized a well-attended meeting of members of Jammu Bar Association. Sources reveal that during the meeting, Mehbooba said that Kashmir is drifting away from us. She asked the people of Jammu to be the bridge and maintain a strong bond with Kashmir.
KASHMIR CENTRAL tried to contact Mehbooba Mufti in this regard. When she heard the name, she disconnected the call and did not take any subsequent call.
Amandeep Singh, Treasurer J&K High Court Bar Association, Jammu said, “We did not have any official meeting with her. It was an interaction between some advocates and Mehbooba Mufti. I was not part of that meeting. Some of our members were there to speak to her and share some concerns, but it was not an official meeting. You can talk to PDP member, Advocate Anil Sethi.
Advocate Anil Sethi told KASHMIR CENTRAL, “The PDP president wanted to have an interaction with Jammu Bar. So the Jammu Bar was invited by the party for a meeting. There was no agenda. She is a law graduate and she wanted to have an interaction with young lawyers. That’s it. No political agenda.”
The events listed above suggest that the dynamics of power politics in Jammu and Kashmir are changing. Kashmir lawyers who built their career on the “Kashmir dispute” and also Mehbooba Mufti have finally realized the cost of isolating Jammu from Kashmir. By all parameters these are the tactical moves. The ground reality suggests that people in Jammu region by and large feel insecure on many fronts post the abrogation of Article 370. The political elites of Kashmir want to ride on those grievances to have some kind of legitimacy in the overall discourse.