B L Saraf
This is the ‘Darbar move time, friends So, while making full and enthusiastic preparation to shift to the cooler climes in summers – with a provision to return to the cozy warmth in the winters – our rulers have a ritualistic denunciation of this 145 year old practice. The political ritual developed in 1987 when Farooq Abdullah, after staging a comeback to the Chief Minister’s chair to head NC -INC coalition Government – pursuant to his accord with the then PM Rajiv Gandhi – made a declaration that he would dispense with the tradition of bi-annual Darbar move Rajiv Gandhi lent him full support Both went on to describe the practice a ” retrograde move ” which caused unjustifiable drain on the state exchequer ‘. Now we have Speaker of the Assembly wanting to abandon the practice, on the similar grounds. BJP has endorsed his statement J&K Panthers Party and Dogra Saddar Sabha, Jammu are vociferously campaigning for scrapping the Darbar shift Before it snowballs into another controversy and issue is made of it, the matter must be put in proper perspective
It needs to be recalled that Farooq Abdullah’s attempt to do away with the bi- annual Darbar move was fought tooth and nail by the people in Jammu region A peaceful agitation, against the declaration, was launched here under the leader ship of Bar Association, Jammu. The month long agitation in the autumn of 1987, finally saw the C M backingout of his announcement. Barring the ritualistic noise, thereafter, it has been a happy life for the annual Darbar move
In 1987, we had an occasion to make a comment on the declaration of Farooq Abdullah It is time to make a recollection of that. No doubt the Darbar shifting exercise involves expenditure. In 1987, it was calculated at Rs 3.5 crore. Today it may be ten times more but the benefits in terms of social cohesion, emotional integration and political unity, the shifting of Central secretariat brings in, far outweigh the monetary considerations involved in the process Otherwise also, if the political and bureaucratic class, at the helm, just cut a fraction of their over exaggerated perks and pompous life style, more would be saved even after accounting for the bi-annual Secretariat shifting
It is no denying that there is little common between the people living in two provinces of the state-by way of geography, history social fabric and cultural activity. Yet they have been living harmoniously like a one political entity. The practice of bi-annual Darbar move ‘has with great degree of success cemented the diametrically opposed social and cultural relations between the different peoples, living in the Valley and Jammu region. The exercise besides being a movement of the Capital constitutes a measure aimed at the emotional integration of two different ethnic groups. In fact it provides a raison d’être for nomenclature of the State (J&K).
The Darbar move not only brings capital near to the people of each region but also helps them to hear each other’s heart throb. Surely, there can be no better mode of uniting people than the one of bi- annual shifting of the Darbar For the territorial and political integration of Jammu and Kashmir the practice of bi- annual Darbar move has, indeed, proved a boon. We owe it to our far sighted rulers from the Dogra land
Stoppage of Darbar move will put to a halt the process of coming together of people of different regions of the State. Today, when in India need of the hour is to transcend geographical and cultural barriers doing away with the shift process will mean an inculpable loss to the composite character. It will result in compartmentalization that shall be incompatible with the national and emotional integration of the people. For those who want disintegration of J&K, the stoppage of the bi -annual practice would come as God send opportunity. In Kashmir some people are complaining of an imaginary cultural onslaught and, therefore, want minimum interaction with the mainland this comes close on their campaign to erase all signs of composite culture and paint, left over, in a sectarian color. Scrapping of the Secretariat shift will surely embolden them to proceed vigorously with the unholy design
It is true that shifting of the Secretariat from one region to the other causes inconvenience to the people. But that can be overcome, partly, by resorting to the E governance mode and, partly, by the devolution of financial and administrative decision process to the lower levels In normal circumstances also, the decentralization ought to be a defining mark of good governance Empowerment of Panchayats and the local bodies could solve the problem to a great extent Central Secretariat should be a body to only devise state plans and take decisions for the effective governance of all regions of J&K, retain pivotal role in macro managing things and ensure administrative and political balance of the State. This, certainly, can’t be the place where everyone should run to address his minor problems which can be addressed at the Tehsil level
It is quite distressing that a voice to discard the practice of Darbar move should emanate from the land of Dogra Rulers of the State One gift, among so many, the Dogra Rulers gave to the people of J&K has been the incarnation of bi-annual Darbar move tradition The exercise has, thus far, proved a singular instrument that has imperceptibly and without any clatter cut across the regional and psychological barriers and gave people a sense of oneness It is our duty to uphold the tradition.
At the time when the coalition Government has enough challenges before it – some existential – it could do well without the one Darbar move issue is positioned to become.
For the patriotic people of Jammu it is time to recall autumn 1987 spirit and rekindle the nationalistic fervor Instead of being unwitting facilitators, we must be a bulwark against the fissiparous elements working overtime in State, more particularly in the Valley Party politics can wait. And, for plain politicking there are many other issues available in the political market, to pick from
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge.)
B L Saraf