Amazing Visions of Jammu : Janus Faced

Prof R R Sharma
Jammu has been hailed as a City of Temples. Most well known of these is the Raghunath Temple. There are several other temples, located in most parts of the City. The existence of such a large body of temples is rooted in the temple culture which generates a specific Weltanschauung (World View or philosophy of life). Jammu is located at the foot hills of Mata Vaishno Devi which attracts followers from all parts of the country. A few months ago Gen. Bhupinder Singh published his essay, which added altogether a new name to the nomenclature: Straight from the horse’s mouth. “Jammu, The most valourous City of India”. I was surprised by the unusual narrative. I had never read or heard of a city being hailed as “Valourous”.
The adjective “Valourous” is used to describe noted homo sapiens, who have excelled in brave-deeds. In Indian History, for example Razia Sultana, Jhansi Ke Rani etc are the well known icons, known for their great valour. There are several cities is India, which have to their credit their valourous legends. Their names are mentioned by Gen. Bhupinder Singh such as, “Hyderabad, Varanasi, Chandigarh, Kolkota” Most hilarious is his description of Kolkota He writes “Kolkota has amplified its year long revelary and festivity”. I am, rather amused Kolkota is known for its great ”sons of the soil” such as Rabindranath Tagore, perhaps the first Indian to be honoured with ‘Nobel Prize’ There are several other Bengalis, who are well known and admired in the whole country. Theses include Subash Chander Bose, a legendary freedom fighter. Rabindranath Tagore composed the National anthem. There are well known filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Bimil Ray, etc. Professor Abhijit Banerji, an ecomomist (and a formar JNU Research Scholar), was awarded The Nobel Prize for the year 2019, and let us not overlook The Noble Laurate, Professor Amartya Sen. Let us not forget another great Bengali revolutionary and thinker Aurobindo Gosh. Let me clarify that I am not a baised Bengali, but a Dogra of Jammu.
The two most so called ‘Valourous Cities’ are located is Russia. These are Leningrad (now Petersburg) and Volgagrad (I have lived there for four years). Both of these cities were under the occupation of German Fascists of Nazi Germany. A huge number of Russian Citizens of these two cities perished because of hunger, diseases etc. We therefore may take the liberty of calling these as the “Valourous Cities of Russia” or Europe.
While some call Jammu a ‘Valourous City’ , in recent times, Jammu has the distinction of being officially declared as “one of the dirtiest cities of the country”. This has been done by the Union Ministry of Urban Development. Apparently, it is a down hill Journey from the ‘Most Valourous’ to “one of dirtiest Cities of India”.
However, let us keep our focus on the valour of Dogras and their warriors. At once, the name of Gen Zorawar Singh comes to mind. Of Course, he is a well known (and adored warrior) To respect his memory, I as The Vice Chancellor of Jammu University dedicated The University Auditorium to Gen Zorawar Singh. At a later stage, I decided to consult Dogra history of the period. A soon as you proceed further, you realize that there is no written or recorded history of Jammu. This is adequately supported by the research works of Dr. Sukhdev Singh Charrak, Dr. Anita Bilawari, Jammu (1991). Jammu largely relied on oral bardic tradition “Woven Around” the ancestral history of Maharaja Gulab Singh, there are so many details which can be used to write a well research narrative of Dogra history. Problems of legitimacy of modern Histriography of Jammu are also available in the proceedings of Punjab University history Conference held in 2011. Professor Shyam Narayan Lal, a historian of merit, has done an exhaustive research on Jammu.
Let us get back to Gen Zorawar Singh who moved up in the hierarchy due to the patronage of Raja Gulab Singh, Zorawar Singh recorded victory after victory and reached Leh,and then Tibet. The Victory was, however, shortlived.At this stage, China entred into the fray along with the Tibetans. In the course of Battle Gen. Zorawar Singh was fatally wounded. The moot point is that Gen. Zorawar Singh did very well against smaller hostile forces. The entry of China changed the complexion of the game. There are some warriors, who compare Zorawar Singh with Napoleon. This is indeed a great misnomer. History informs us that the Napoleon conquered the entire Europe, and went right up to the doors of Russia. The Russians allowed him to advance deeper and deeper into the Russian Territory and then he suffered heavy losses and turned back. Thus it is said that “General Winter of Russia” overcame Napoleon. By the time severe Russian Winter set in, forcing the Napoleon and his great army to turn back.Obviously, Gen Zorawar Singh should not be compared with “Napoleon The Great”
The modern Jammu is indeed ‘Janus faced’. It is time to break from the shackles of fast narratives, These have to be unmasked. Let me draw your attention to the writings of Karan Thappar, who writes his column in The Hindustan Times on every Sunday. Additionally, the Google says : “Karan Thappar is a senior interviewer, Journalist and Television Commentator, working with “The Wire”. He has been associated with CNN-IBN etc.
His famous tough-talk with Mr Narendra Modi can easily be found on Google. Mr Modi couldn’t face his tough and penetrating questions, and therefore “walked out of the Studio”. Similarly, legendary film star Amitabh Bachhan was subjected to similar pointed questions. Likewise he had a tough talk with US President Barak Obama , which ended in sharp arguments.
Karan Thappar is thus a reputed journalist. He published in The Hindustan Times of September 5, 2019 a longish article which read “Let’s us not be selective about the past in J&K” He talks about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. It is rightly looked upon as an “ethnic cleansing” It was indeed unforgiveable and unacceptable : while doing this, we also must recall as to what happened to Jammu Muslim in 1947 i.e just after the independence. At that time, it was a Muslim majority city, but literally in weeks, communal mass killings and forced migration turned Jammu into a Hindu Majority City. Both the contemporary accounts and those of historians put the number killed or expelled in “Hundreds of Thousands” Citing Mahatma Gandhi, Thappar assesses “Some Two Hundred Thousand Muslims were killed or expelled.”
He mentions several renowned historians, such as , Christopher Snden, Arjun Appoduri, Swami Nathan Aiyar, to lend strong support to the narrative of mass killing of a community. Jammu thus emerged as a Hindu dominated City out of this turmoil. Karan Thappar aptly asserts. “This is not a matter of intellectual honesty. It goes far deeper, It touches upon the unity of multiple people and their identities that Constitute India, If memory becomes selective, it also becomes one sided.”
The Dogras of Jammu are not a homogenous Community. Therefore the Voice of Jammu is deeply fragmented and devoid of common causes. Gen. Bhupinder Singh is closer to reality when he says that the major political parties are peddling peripheral agenda, subliminal emotions and jingoism that short- sells the much needed development focus. He seems to hitting the “bull’s eye” when he argues : Dogras kept punching above their weight in terms of national contributions to culture, fine arts, armed forces. He also mentions the “shameful” Kathua rape case, involving the Bakkarwal and Gujjars.
The narrative has moved beyond the intended purpose. There are several political outfits, who claim to speak for Jammu. These self styled Dogra leaders are infact, harming the cause of Jammu. It is not clear as to what they mean by Jammu. Is it only Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Udhampur ? What happens to Rajouri, Poonch, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, Ramban etc ?
The ethnic group like Gujjar and Bakkarwal, adhere to their ethnic identity. Dr. Javed Rahi, an eminent scholar is well versed in Persian, Urdu, Punjabi, Dogri and English. He has a Ph.D on tribal culture. There are very few who come up to level of excellence of Dr. Rahi. Prof. Bhim Singh, a distinguished Dogra political leader, who obtained the degree of Bar-at-Law from London University, Instituted an award of “Dogra Rattan” to be bestowed upon those Dogras who distinguish themselves in Dogri Language, Literature and history. The awards were given by the Governor of the State. The award was for a particular year. Reluctantly, I mention that I was one of the recipient of Dogra Rattan award in the year 2009. Obviously, Prof. Bhim Singh was devoted to the cause.
Lastly, Salim Beg a former Director General of Tourism and Chairman of the national monuments took the lead to contact eminent personalities for the purpose. The petition was signed by over 122 eminent personalities who came together to sign the petition to be submitted to the Lt. Governor to draw his attention to the dilapidated State of Mubarak Mandi, which has a great historic and cultural value. There are several other buildings and monuments, both in Kashmir and Jammu which demand restoration. In addition to the historic buildings or monuments, mentioned earlier, I may refer to ancient Buddhist site at Ambaran and Historic Akhnoor Fort major part of our ancient culture etc. Some of the signatories included formar INTAC chairman H.S.K Misra, formar Dy. Chairman of Legislative Council, Mr. S. K. Tang, Dr. S. S. Billouria (Former Chief Secretary), former Prof. of Jawahar Lal Nehru University Prof. Amitab Matoo, Prof. R.R. Sharma, former V. Chancellor of Jammu University & Dean of School of International Studies, JNU, Parvez Dewan, former secretary Tourism etc.
The moot point is that most of the Dogri organizations and groups take up issues which are fairly divisive and unrealistic. The demand for the creation of Independent State of Jammu is not only divisive, but also “A misguided missile with destructive potential”. No body seems to be bothered by a report that The Cultural Academy has become almost defunct as it is in shambles. Jammu seems to be held up, moving neither forward nor backward. It seems to be stuck in the cusp of time. Does it resemble mythical “Trishanko”? Ultimately it is not a possibility. There is famous saying by Nehru, which reads : “Creation is the sign of life, not stagnation or repetition”. However, much before Nehru, Hegal, Marx, Aristotle had made a similar significant statements. The stagnation was rightly ruled out. Eventually, Jammu is bound to be part of the Universal Flux. Hope I have not created an impression of being self-righteous. Every effort must be made to safeguard heritage sites. Hope Dogra Centric civil society groups will also think of our cultural heritage and to keep it alive.
(The author is former Vice Chancellor University of Jammu & Former Director School of International Studies, JNU New Delhi.)