Lt General Bhupinder Singh (Retd)
Post-independence, amongst the most frustrating struggles has been to assert Jammu’s incalculable contribution, relevance and identity in the national consciousness. Besides the reality of a hyphenated existence with a more ‘pressing’issue in Kashmir, this unimagined identity of Jammu in the eyes of national citizenry, has contributed significantly to the lop-sided development and overall, oversight. The acid test of what the word ‘Jammu’ conjures in the minds of the larger national citizenry, may leave many proud people of Jammu nonplused with the levels of ignorance about its glorious heritage. Sadly, Jammu remains a rare ‘brand’ that truly punches well below its deserved weight, in an era where most other brands tend to overpromise and underdeliver.
Hyderabad cleverly dovetailed its Information Technology (IT) forays towards ‘Cyberabad’, Chandigarh remains the quintessential ‘Planned City’ or ‘City Beautiful’, Varanasi invokes its timeless antiquity and religiousity to be the mystic ‘the City of Lights’, Kolkata has amplified its year-round revelry and festivity in a ‘City of Joy’ that never disappoints etc. Even States like Kerala have invested heavily and reaped the benefit of its ‘God’s own country’ to signify the multitude of religious denominations. Just having all the elements of a brand are not enough, as they need to be chiseled, articulated and creatively posited for public consumption. The benefits of a positive identity or ‘brand’ can never be overstated, and the socio-economic-emotional fillip achieved by a Kerala or by the ‘Heart of India’ for Madhya Pradesh, have been spectacular. But if you cannot conceive the soul of a ‘Jammu’ in a pithy expression, it is destined to remain struggling for its rightful place in the limited bandwidth of nation’s interests.
Each city or state has presumably many options to deliberately or inadvertently arrive at its preferred moniker, one that encompasses as many brand attributes as possible.So, what is ‘Jammu’? Unfortunately, it remains an unarticulated, undebated and unsettled ‘idea’ that needs serious definition, as that can the nignite and galvanise the spirit of the city – and most importantly, about the city, across the country. Jammu must identify its factual and winning unique-selling-proposition (USP) that is emotive and can resonate across the length and breadth of the country. So, my own anecdotal query with some from Jammu meandered around Dogra culture, history and temples – unfortunately, while all of that is true, that is also a very broad canvas and every major city in India can stake claim to its own unique and underlying lineage, monuments and culture. The challenge in a 5000-year-old civilization is the depth of history and culture, that therefore requires a sharper cut at defining an identity for a specific city, within. The zeroing down of a heart-tugging attribute as opposed to a functional/physical structure, is also key – so Hyderabad went beyond the leitmotif of Charminar and vested itself in the ‘future’, Varanasi went beyond temples and settled for the civilisational wisdom that cuts across religious faiths in the ‘city of lights’ – similarly Jammu must appropriate all those existing elements (Dogra history and culture) and yet straddle a unique claim, and if possible, a thriving one too!
I propose a unique claim that only a ‘Jammu’ can make that is fact-based, encompassing all relevant subtexts, and yet both, emotional and thriving. Jammu should be branded as the ‘Most Valourous city of India’, period. Geographically, Jammu is the epicenter of the larger Dogra identity which is scattered in the region that spills into Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. Its claim to valour is not only historical like a Chittorgarh, instead its valourous past predates the great Ranas of Mewar and continues unabated,even today – sadly, while the nation knows about the justifiable heroics of Maharana Pratap, General Zorawar’s unprecedented, unmatched and unsung military exploits are effectively unknown outside the region. Jammu has been at the forefront of what we know as India today, for millennia, as it was blunting the ferocious waves of foreign invasions since time immemorial. ‘Jammu’ has always been the shining-outpost for ancient Bharata, that stood the test of time and did so repeatedly in 1947-48, 1965, 1971, Kargil and remains steadfast, today and forever.
Another unique attribute of Jammu’s valour is that it is not the exclusive preserve of a religion, caste or ethnicity – the Dogra is the noblest personification of the constitutional identity of India. A Dogra can be a Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or any other societal identity, and yet simply be from ‘Jammu’, or a Dogra. The Military garrison of Jammu boasts of a ‘Usman club’ after Brigadier Mohammad Usman, it is the sacred land of Brigadier Rajendra Singh Jamwal, Major Somnath Sharma, Subedar Major Bana Singh and countless others who collectively compose the multicultural and multireligious weave of ‘Jammu’. Which other region or city can claim to be found in the name of three gallant regiments of the Indian Army, simultaneously i.e. Jammu & Kashmir Rifles, Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry and the ubiquitous Dogra Regiment (besides populating other regiments and services)? The most definitive claim to its ‘Valour’ is in the simple calculation of the number of gallantry awardees in the Indian Armed Forces, who hail collectively from ‘Jammu’ – it exceeds all. Regrettably, this is a fact that either Jammu itself does not know or talks about?
Why is ‘Valour’ not instinctively imagined for Jammu, like it is done for Rajasthan or Punjab? This is perhaps owing to the inherent reserve, simplicity and the ‘Gentleman Soldier’ construct of the Dogra, which led Field Marshall Sir William Slim to say about the Dogra soldier, ‘Nor did he fail to live up to his age-old reputation of combining courage with modesty and good manners as a gentleman should’ – sadly this unfailing loyalty, genteelness and fidelity was also ‘Jammu’s’ undoing, as the nation ignored the silent role that it has played and continues to play in defence of India, completely unrecognised.
Interestingly, the City of San Antonio in USA has actually got itself registered as “We are Military City, USA” – a powerful thing to say about its martial traditions that would make any citizen from San Antonio introduce himself/herself with much pride. Jammu is so much more than just a “Military City”, it is the city of a multi-cultural, multi-faith and glorious past that is still thriving in the pulse and bloodline of the nation as its sons/daughters continue to defend this land, as their ancestors have done for eons. Importantly, ‘Valour’ has subliminal portents of nobility, morality and civilisational wisdom – calling Jammu anything else would be to short-sell that profound context of its bravery, hence ‘most Valourous’. This branding can seamlessly stich the Dogra history, culture, religious sites etc., into elements of that ‘Valourous city’. Given its geographical, political and circumstantial context – no other attribute can shame the nation from ignoring its ‘most Valourous city in India’. I put forward my hypothesis to what ‘Jammu’ can rightfully, powerfully and emotionally claim to define its identity, and I hope that the locals ponder, debate and action the same. Imagine the electric sentiment that can be generated at Railway station, Bus stand or Airport with simple hoardings that boldly welcome “Jammu : The most Valourous city of India”, and that is that day that it will get its due of tangibles and intangibles.
(The author is former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands & Puducherry)
Lt General Bhupinder Singh (Retd)