District status for Bhaderwah

Dr Aatif Javed Qazi

Bhaderwah a sub-division of Doda district of Jammu Region is the mini kashmir of J&K. It is a sparsely populated area which has the distinction of being one of the oldest tehsils of Jammu region. It is strategically located since it is adjoining the Kishtwar district on north east of Jammu province and the other neighbouring state is Himachal Pradesh. It is connected by a 40 kms long single mountainous, high altitude road that remains cut off from rest of the world including its district headquarters at Doda for 3 months in a year. The road that connects the Bhaderwah town and Bhalessa was seen as the only lifeline for the Bhaderwah tehsil but unfortunately wasn’t opened even when it is close to its completion. Bhaderwah is a valley lying on the middle of the Great Himalayan Range. Bhaderwah is one of the most isolated parts of Himalaya region. Pleasant climate, beautiful landscape, snow-capped Himalayan Mountains and sparkling rivers make Bhaderwah a perfect tourist destination. Both Hinduism and Islam are the religions of the area and are practiced with harmony. The Valley is also dotted with numerous historical and ancient sites. The Valley is bestowed with abundant natural beauty but its remoteness has kept it underdeveloped, isolated and away from the tourist map.
If we will go to the history, political system of the previous that time, the Doda District wass carved out of the Bhaderwah jagir that shows the Bhaderwah limits were not confined to the limits of Bhalla but the entire Doda district was Bhaderwah jagir and after wards Bhaderwah was made part of Doda district on latter’s formation.
The region of Bhaderwah has been marginalised in terms of all developmental needs. The region of Bhaderwah sub division comprises over half of Doda District in terms of area. Internally, it is disconnected with the other areas of Chenab valley like Kishtwar and Inderwal, by deliberately not opening the road that connects through Jai Valley of Bhaderwah. While rest of the country is preparing for a digital revolution, the marginalised population of Bhaderwah is still struggling to get basic road connectivity.
Ever since Bhaderwah was grouped with Doda district, it has been struggling to get equal share of resources from the administration. While Bhaderwah makes up more than half of the area of Doda District, it is barely represented at the upper echelons of the bureaucracy in Doda or Jammu. It lacks even the basic infrastructure of health care and education. Thus isolation, remoteness and vastness of the area coupled with a partisan administrative apparatus sitting far away at Doda has forced the local residents particularly the youth to demand a separate district status. Though it is one of the oldest Tehsils of the state yet it has been deprived the district status which it deserves due to its peculiar geographic location.
Another major injustice was done to this region when Bhaderwah assembly constituency was notified by including the other areas of Bhalessa abd Chirala along with sparsely populated Bhaderwah Valley. Though, on paper Bhaderwah constituency exists it has never been represented by a local Bhaderwahi because of apparent population skew. Only ‘outsiders’ have been representing the constituency defying the basic principle of representation and ignoring the interests of the people of Bhaderwah valley. To give true representation to the people of Bhaderwah Valley there is a need for a fresh delimitation of a new assembly constituency giving representation to Bhaderwah as well.
Thus, the people of Bhaderwah sub-division have been victims of two grave injustices; administrative neglect due to its clubbing with Doda district and political marginalisation. The population dynamics of the Constituency is such that a native of Bhaderwah sub-division can never be elected and the region cannot have its own voice in the state legislative assembly adding to its woes of remoteness and consequent lack of development.
As usual the genuine demands of the Bhaderwahis have met with stiff resistance from certain sections in Doda both on political and regional grounds.
There are some opposing it on administrative grounds as well stating that it is very sparsely populated for upgradation to a district status. The least populated district in India is Upper Dibang in Arunachal Pradesh which has a population of approximately 7200, which is much less than the population of Bhaderwah.
Aren’t the Bhaderwahis entitled to dream of better representation in the state assembly and holistic development of their neglected but strategically important region? Bhaderwah deserves justice and the injustice done needs to be undone.