Asikni | The lifeline of Jammu

Rajan Gandhi
Rivers have been the lifeline of life in any form, be it humans, plants, or animals; all survive on water. Even the earliest civilizations existed only on the banks or basins of rivers. Indian civilizations were no different, and if we still see the pattern of rural villages and modern cities, they still strive near some water source. One of the most important rivers for the Jammu Division of Jammu and Kashmir is the river Asikni, now known as the Chenab.
Manda, in Akhnoor, is situated on the right bank of Chenab River, 28 kms northwest of Jammu, and was considered the northernmost site of Harappan Civilisation established to procure wood from the Himalayan Sub Hills and send it to Indus Valley Civilisation via this “Original Vedic River Asikni”. In Hindu mythology, Asikni (in Roman: Asikn), also known as Panchajani and Virani, is a consort of Lord Daksha in the Puranic pantheon. The name meant “dark-coloured waters, due to them being rich in minerals. Well-known historians mention Asikni in their books. Even in Greek literature, Hesychius of Alexandria, a clear mention of our Asikni; their Aacesines is there. Original Vedic River Asikni’sreligious significance is depicted in the Vedas and Puranas; it has been revered and worshipped for thousands of years. The mention of river Asikni is there in our Rigveda (VIII.20.25, X.75.5).The present name Chenab is derived from Persian, ‘Cheen’ meaning China and ‘Aab’ meaning water, in some total “water from China.” In today’s context, the river Chenab (or Chandra Bhaga) is formed after the two streams, the Chandra and the Bhaga, merge. The Chandra and the Bhaga originate from the southwest and northwest faces of Baralacha La Pass, respectively, in the Himalayan cantons of Lahul and Spiti valleys in Himachal Pradesh. The Bhagariver originates from Lake Surya Taal, a few kilometres west of the pass of Baralacha La in Himachal Pradesh. The Chandra river flows through the Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh before entering the Jammu Division, where it flows through the Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, and Reasi districts. It enters Pakistan and flows through the Punjab province before emptying into the Sutlej, forming the world-famous Panjnad River. Jhelum and Ravi join Chenab, Beas joins Sutlej, and then Sutlej and Chenab join to form Panjnad, which then merges with the Indus and Kabul rivers to form Satnad and its final journey to the Arabian Sea.
Asikni, after flowing for about 46 kms receives its first major tributary, the Miyar Nalla, on the right bank. The river then flows for another 90 kilometers crossing the Pangi valley before entering the Padder area of Jammu province in Jammu & Kashmir. The river flows a distance of 56 kms before it is joined on the right by its biggest tributary, the Marusudar, at Bhandalkot. Further covering a distance of 34 kms up to Thathri and then takes a westward course. In this reach, about 17 km downstream of Thathri, Niru Nallah joins the Chenab on its left bank. The river Chenab thereafter flows generally in a northwest direction for another 41 kms, until it receives a tributary, the Bichleri, on the right bank. Afterwards, the river traverses in a westerly direction for a distance of about 50 kms. In this reach, several small streams join in, namely Chaini, Talsuen, and Ans on the right bank, and Yabu Nallah, Mandial, and Painthal Khad on the left bank. Downstream of the Ans River confluence, the river changes its direction and flows in a southerly direction for about 45 kms up to Akhnoor, whereafter it enters the Sialkot district of Pakistan. The total length of the river from the confluence of Chandra and Bhaga to Akhnoor is about 504 kms. The Tawi and Manawar Tawi join the Chenab in Pakistan. With this network of tributaries and the vast area covered, the influence played by Asikni and its tributaries on the lifeline of the Jammu Division can be concluded immediately.
As per the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan, with the World Bank as a third-party signatory, Chenab has been assigned to Pakistan, and India can use Chenab water for non-consummative purposes only. Till 90’s the potential of Chenab remained unutilised, India realised the potential and Salal and Dul-Hasti projects got conceived, planned and built. The swan story of these projects continues, with scores of projects in Himachal and many in Jammu and Kashmir on the Chenab or its tributaries, generating almost 9000 MW of power and still counting. Asikni, true to its name, has proved to be the lifeline of the Jammu Division. Not only does it provide hydroelectric power, but it also transports free wooden logs from the forest department to the plains of Jammu, the world’s best fish species, and two canals-Partap Canal and Ranbir Canal from Chenab-as the main sources of irrigation, with the world-famous basmati rice of R.S. Pura as the product of its water. The utility of Asikni doesn’t end here, as Jammu’s water thirst is proposed to be quenched by Chenab alone; there is simply no other alternative; the river Tawi has no more feeding capacity; and a major source of groundwater is getting lower year after year. Plans are there to lift Chenab water and bring it to Jammu, where it will be filtered and then supplied to Jammu. The whole project was to be funded by the Asia Development Bank, but after objections citing the Indus Water Treaty, ADB refused to fund it, and since then the project is in cold storage. This is how internal subversion leads to stumbling blocks being raised in Jammu’s development projects-an eye-opener.
This fertile and full game-changer potential of hydroelectric energy has been the main reason the word ‘Chenab Valley’ was coined. There is no historic background to Asikni Valley anywhere, neither among the Vedic Purans nor in any historical memories written by any foreign tourist to ancient India. Yes, “The Dixon Plan” had pointed out Muslim-majority areas of erstwhile Udhampur and Kishtwar across one side of Chenab. Dixon assigned Ladakh to India, the Northern Areas and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) to Pakistan, proposed to split Jammu into two parts on religious grounds and envisaged a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley after merging the Muslim majority part of Jammu Division with Kashmir. Though never accepted by either India or Pakistan, the division of Jammu as per the Dixon plan got engraved in the mind of Pakistan, and from that day until now, plans are being made to make it happen. Doda was carved out of Udhampur in 1948, keeping in mind the Dixon Plan only. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s famous Musharraf Plan was nothing but a modified version of the Dixon Plan. Though the Musharraf Plan was rejected, like the Dixon Plan, then and there, some Government officials in Jammu and Kashmir still dream of implementing the Musharraf Plan. “Chota Kashmir and Chenab Valley” are terms coined by these elements only, backed by Kashmir-centric politicians, to somehow associate even some areas of Jammu Division with Kashmir, so much so that these elements claim Basohli Paintings as Mughlai and from Kashmir on the official Twitter handles of the Jammu and Kashmir Government. The same mindset misled the Ministry of Culture and tried to organise the Asikni-Wazwan event, which, after much furore, was ultimately cancelled. How Asikni and Wazwan are correlated-a religiously pious Asikni with a non-vegetarian Wazwan-is nothing but efforts to somehow give distorted versions, far from reality, to get this portion of Jammu Division associated with Kashmir, though they have nothing in common except religion.Asikni and events, except religious and cultural ones, must be avoided.
The subversive elements are cleverly working on alternative plans, but unfortunately, unknowingly, our GoI and even the Army become part of these diabolical plans and actively participate in or sponsor these “Chota Kashmir” or “Chenab Valley” events. They should parse the history, read the Dixon and Musharraf Plan, and then only they will realise what damage they are doing to the Indian cause. The plan will get murkier with the huge reserves of Lithium found in the Reasi district; a water-intensive extraction will be there, and again, Asikni flowing through Reasi will be our saviour. Subversive elements will now plot new feckless but illusory plans to somehow sabotage this tremendous opportunity for development for Jammu Division. Ulterior and drivel motives are there for decades. It is time to expose them and make course corrections.
The current Indian Government is keen on projecting the historical significance of places, such as the Mughal gardens at RashtarpatiBhawan, which are now Amrit Udyan; Allahabad is now Praygraj; Aurangabad is now Sambhaji Nagar; and Faizabad is now Ayodhya. Asikni is the lifeline of the whole Jammu Division, as such, the time has come to reclaim the glorious past of Asikni, and the Government should rename Chenab as Asikni, once and for all putting the Musharraf Plan in the dustbin of history. The impertinence of Asikni, a religious symbol of our centuries-old culture and traditions, should be stopped, and these iniquitous methods have to be exposed and condemned at every level. A peek into historical aspects is a must before blindly allowing redacted versions. Agencies must analyse the whole game plan and report wrong doing by black sheep in administration. The condescension of the subversive elements must stop immediately at all levels. Enough damage has already been done; historical blunders have to be rectified, and the sooner we do it, the better it will be.