Manu Khajuria is a freelance writer/ commentator, activist from Jammu Kashmir. A native of Jammu Region and proudly tracing her roots to Bumnal a small village in Bishnah Tehsil, her focus is the Region, it’s history, culture and current issues. She is also a Founder Voice of Dogras, a community organization which espouses the rights of the Jammu Region and its unique cultural identity. Voice of Dogras also sees itself as the voice of Jammu Kashmir, speaking for one and all. It celebrates the pluralism of the State and will work to protect it by building bridges between the different communities which call JK home. A Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, alumna she is currently residing in London. In a frank chat with Deepak Raj, this Daughter of the Duggar talks on various issues.
Excepts of the interview :
* You are working for an organisation ‘Voice of Dogras. How did you conceive the idea VoD, and what are its objectives ?
Voice of Dogras is a community organisation. It was conceived as a platform to espouse the rights and the cultural identity of the Dogra community. Voice of Dogras aims to work on the identity, culture and history of the Dogras in particular and Jammu Region in general. It believes in equal space and voice for all stakeholders of Jammu Kashmir.
* It is debated that Kashmiriyat has lost its relevance after 1990, while Dogriyat has come into prominence. Do you agree with this trend !
It is Dogriyat which not only brought together diverse ethnicities and religio-linguistic communities, creating the beautifully diverse and vast state of Jammu Kashmir but most importantly it was Dogriyat that kept them all together. Where on one hand unparalleled courage and military skills saw the Dogras building this state one conquest after another, diplomacy, justice and brilliant statesmanship saw them maintaining what was carved with their blood and sweat. The qualities of secularism and tolerance, courage and valour and sacrifice and service which is what is Dogriyat is the foundation upon which this state rests on. It is critical that Dogriyat is given due recognition and revisited. It is Dogriyat that built this state and it will be Dogriyat which will save it.
* You have been ardent supporter of Maharaja Hari Singh, the last ruler of Jammu & Kashmir.You have tried to resurrect him through you writings. Why do you find it important to do so ?
I have written on Dogra culture, history and identity including current issues pertaining to both Jammu region specifically and Jammu Kashmir in general. My support and writing for Maharaja Hari Singh is me speaking up for and standing by my history and legacy. As a Dogra and a JKian, the Dogra Maharajas including Maharaja Hari Singh is a part of my history. The 101 years of Dogra rule, saw no demographic changes, no forced migrations from the state and the pluralistic fabric of the state was protected as fiercely as the battles that saw the state growing in size and power. Maharaja Hari Singh famously declared Justice as his religion. As a just monarch, he worked for the welfare of all the communities in the state. In all spheres education, health and industry the state foraged ahead, thanks to his vision and progressive ideas. I think it is high time we acknowledge and give credit where it’s due. The Dogra rule is a best case study which must be taught in schools, universities, discussed, debated and emulated both in the state and nationally. Within a correct historical narrative lie valuable lessons on vision, leadership, community cohesion. For a Dogra like me my history is my identity and my voice and for all JKians, it will be the means to heal, correct and work towards sustainable peace and development.
* On one hand you speak for the whole of state, on the other VoD espouses the cause of Jammuites only. Does not it means there is contradiction in your view point ? Or are you trying to balance the two narratives. While doing so, does not it mean there is ambiguity in your approach to the present socio-political climate of the State
Dogra besides being a ethno-linguistic community, is also a geography and a character. The geography is from Sutlej to Chenab, Lakhanpur to Bannihal,the entire Jammu Region, but the Dogra character is a vision and leadership for the entire state of Jammu Kashmir and all those who call it home. The telling of my story in no way murders yours. In fact in the telling of my story is the space for all stories. Voice of Dogras believe in respect and equal space for all stakeholders – Dogras, Kashmiris, Ladakhis, Gujjars, Paharis..all religions and all ethnicities of JK.
In the celebration of Dogra identity, there is a celebration of all identities of the state. Dogriyat has always been visionary, inclusive and fair. There could be no better approach than Dogriyat to positively address what ails the present socio- political climate of the state.
* What is your stand on Rohingyas who are present in Jammu ? Do you think that they have been settled here under a plan !
I have written about this issue extensively. Jammu is the refugee capital of the nation and home to different communities who sought refuge, some forced to migrate from outside the state and some from within. It is not new to the character of Jammu Region to accept and give room to those seeking it. As I acknowledge the humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingyas, as a JKian I cannot close my eyes to the socio-politically charged atmosphere of my state. The fears of demographic changes,forced migrations from within the state and a highly sensitive security situation demands that the issue is dealt extremely careful and in a way which is first in the interest of the people of Jammu Kashmir who have been living in the shadow of wars, terrorism and cross-border firings for the last seventh years now.