The Government of India’s reported nod to establishment of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Jammu as well has spurred demand for setting up of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kashmir.
On Thursday, a senior BJP minister said Government of India has agreed to sanction AIIMS for Jammu also and a decision in this regard would be announced soon.
While AIIMS was earlier announced by New Delhi for Kashmir during the Union Budget, the top management and engineering institutes were sanctioned for Jammu. However, sporadic protests in Jammu over the demand for AIIMS to be established there first ultimately saw New Delhi agreeing to sanction the premier tertiary health care institute for the region too.
Criticizing the state and Government of India, Kashmir civil society said handling of the AIIMS row by New Delhi showed “there are forces bent upon furthering division between the two regions.”
“We consider J&K as one entity. But under tacit support from forces in New Delhi, there is a move to divide the state,” said civil society member, ShakeelQalander, speaking in the backdrop of sanctioning of AIIMS for Jammu too.
He said now that Jammu has got the AIIMS, IIT and IIM, the “real issue” is where these institutions will come up in the region.
“The Chenab Valley and Pirpanjal Range in Jammu have been facing decades of deprivation on economic and development front. We will see whether they will get benefitted this time or everything that has been announced for Jammu will go to two and a half districts there,” said Qalander.
In its ‘Agenda of Alliance’—the guiding framework for governance for the PDP-BJP coalition—it is stressed that the government would work for reconciliation between different regions of the state and create environment for all-round development of J&K and prosperity of its people.
However, Kashmir’s top trade body—Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA)—believes Kashmir “continues to face discrimination at the hands of State and Government of India.”
“The discrimination is evident. People in flood-hit Kashmir have been demanding compensation for the past eight months but nobody is bothered about it. In Jammu, sporadic protests over AIIMS force the Government of India to agree to the demand,” said Chairman KEA, Muhammad Yasin Khan.
He said people in Kashmir would be dealt with iron fist in case they raise the demand for IIT and IIM. “We will be labeled and crushed,” he said.
Senior Peoples Democratic Party leader and MP Tariq Hamid Karra said New Delhi “should not discriminate with Kashmir”.
“If Jammu deserves AIIMS, give them. But Kashmir also deserves IIM and IIT. Why deny Kashmir its rights. Why discrimination and injustice with Kashmir?” he asked.
However, Karra said he was disappointed over “insensitivity” in Kashmir towards the matter.
“It is unfortunate that we in Kashmir are insensitive and don’t come forward on such occasions,” said Karra, asking mainstream and separatist parties, trade bodies and civil society to unite and seek IIT and IIM for Kashmir.
BJP spokesman Khalid Jahangir too supported the demand for IIT and IIM for Kashmir.
“Kashmir too should be given IIT and IIM so that people in the Valley get better opportunities to pursue their careers,” he said. “This shouldn’t be seen as a move to ensure equitable development for all regions. Our aim is prosperity and development of all the three regions of the state.”
Opposition National Conference said the Government was “creating regional animosity” by its contradictory stands on different issues.
“We welcome AIIMS for both Kashmir and Jammu. But why should there be a different yardstick when it comes to setting up of IIT and IIM. If you apply one yardstick for AIIMS, same yardstick should be applied for IIT and IIM,” said National Conference spokesperson Juniad Azim Mattu.