Hue and Cry in Jammu

Col J P Singh Hue and cry in Jammu is often read in the annals local papers. It is more after abrogation of Article 370 and separation of Ladakh as UT. Jammu’s hue and cry is about its cultural and political identity. J&K is the creation of Dogras but they lost this insignia after independence. Dogras have been vanguard of the nation. Vision of Maharajas Gulab Singh & Ranbir Singh and conquests of Gen Zorawar Singh, who extended Indian boundaries upto Central Asia have not been given their due. Jammu region is the land of ethnic Dogras like Kashmir is of ethnic Kashmiris. Jammu city is the epicenter of the 26,293 Sq Kms vast area inhibited by 50 lakh Dogras. Hence the hue and cry which resonates more in Jammu just can’t be wished away. Ironically whenever Jammu’s issues such as identity and discrimination are taken up, names-calling starts. It is dubbed as divisive, communal, parochial etcetera. Lot appears in the media to demolish such views. It is because of eternal bitterness between two distinct regions. To illustrate this a look back to May 2008 mass agitation is necessitated. Govt allotted 99 acres forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board to set up temporary facilities for Hindu pilgrims. It became a big controversy with mass protests in the valley against the land transfer and in Jammu region supporting it. Jammu went on unprecedented 63 days continuous strike while Kashmir saw largest single day demonstration in its history. It became more of Jammu Vs Kashmir issue when actually it was a Hindu Vs Muslim issue per se. 63 days is no short a period to ignore. This made the regional and ideological division wider and distinct. Thus no one, such as ‘those who want Jammu to take the lead and redefine the politics of J&K’, should be under the illusion that bitterness afflicting the two regions will magically go away because Article 370 has been abrogated. ‘Jammu has to co-exist with Kashmir’ and ‘hence should stop wasting energies on promoting the idea of separate state of Jammu’, a coercive warning of a sort, should appreciate that relationship is a complex affair. It is either good or bad. In case of Jammu vs Kashmir it is very bad and plenty of it has been said about it in the past 73 years. J&K Assembly passed ‘Resettlement Act’ in 1982. It was seen as a proposal to reduce Hindus and Sikhs of J&K to more minority by allowing large number of Muslim refugees of 1947 from Pakistan and PoJK and their off-springs return to J&K. Many who would have no ancestral link with J&K were feared to accompany them into J&K. There were protests in Jammu against the Act. An inevitable consequence was an increase in demand in Jammu that it be detached from J&K and Pak refugees be settled in Kashmir. Calling RSS as Hindu extremists, Farooq Abdullah reacted to Jammu protests saying that RSS is an extremist organisation and it should be banned as has been done to all other Delhi considered Muslim extremist organisations. In October 1983 a cricket match between India and West Indies in Srinagar had to be abandoned when the crowd representing Muslim feelings chanted anti India slogans. This was reflection of first phase of general Islamic Jihad against Hindus whose first victims were Pandits. It became very difficult for Indira Gandhi to ignore dictatorial and anti Hindu tendencies of Kashmir and Hindu nationalist voices from Jammu while severe tongue lashing of Jammu and Delhi continued. To teach him a lesson, Congress abetted a split in the NC in May 1984 and dismissed Farooq from heading the Govt. Despite that Jammu people continued to be treated as second class citizens by Kashmiris. They were subjected to discrimination even more after the unfortunate demise of Indira Gandhi. Separation of Jammu from Kashmir, as an issue, was always there but waxed and waned at various times under different circumstances and situations. Post abrogation of special status of J&K and separation of Ladakh as UT, focus totally shifted on Kashmir. Delhi continues to outrage Jammu’s sentiments in order to further pamper and appease the already pampered and appeased Kashmir little realizing that Jammu is getting restive. Dogras of Jammu region earlier also made it clear many times that they will pursue their own identity if the central leadership cops out. Once upon a time Jammu was the heartland of Jan Sangh. But in 2002, a new political party “Jammu Mukti Morcha” undermined BJP and brought it down to one MLA. Ignored Jammu sought its identity outside the BJP. It has been 7/8 years since BJP has established its hold over J&K. All we have seen is Kashmir appeasement at the cost of Jammu. If Jammu’s identity crisis is not resolved, Jammu may again look for a solution outside BJP. If Ladakh is separated from Kashmir why not Jammu? Moment this is said, suddenly a different reaction comes; if Jammu is separated, Kashmir won’t stay with India as if Jammu has tied Kashmir by its umbilical cord. Kashmir got attached to Jammu only in 1846. Jammu had separate identity since the time of Raja Jambu Lochan. But after the independence, Jammu’s identity got shrouded in the mist of obscurity. Hence Congress veteran and former Sadar-e-Riyasat Dr Karan Singh, who never speaks loose like other politicians and had been close to Pt. Nehru and Indira Gandhi, more than three decades earlier had suggested separation of Jammu from Kashmir and its merger with Himachal. It is obvious that he had put forth his suggestion after taking into consideration that people of Jammu have not got their due in state’s political and economic setup. He had been of the view that Kashmiri leadership had all through denied justice to Jammu and Ladakh. He had on many occasions in the past reiterated that solution to the Kashmir problem has to be such that it meets needs and aspirations of Jammu and Ladakh which are distinct from Kashmir. To restore Jammu’s distinct identity, a unified effort is needed. Younger generation is too occupied with chasing their dreams in the contemporary world. For Jammu and being from Jammu is not their cup of tea having seen their parents discriminated. It is only people of my generation who feel the pinch and talk of Jammu like the Kashmiri Pandits talk of their Kashmir, their favourite streets and bazaars, gardens and parks, farms and orchards, schools and colleges, their houses and Havelis. Let there be no such circumstances when Jammu people will have to tell similar tales to their grandchildren. Jammu is seeking separation because its needs double empowerment. First is political empowerment. So long it is part of J&K it will be subservient to Kashmir because of more number of seats of Kashmir in the Assembly. Imbalance will remain even after delimitation. Second is economic empowerment. Area, terrain and population is the criteria for allotment of development funds. Under the current system of DDCs, where funds are allotted District wise, Jammu is the sufferer. Districts in Kashmir are much smaller and already highly developed. Akhnoor and Bani, for example, deserve to be Districts. So long as geographical area and population of Jammu remains as it, and funds division is equal yet there will be inequality. And so long as funds will flow down from Kashmir, there will be discrimination. Therefore both political and economic empowerment of Jammu is dependent on its independent entity. Jammu as a separate state will be an ideal place for all to live in communal harmony and cherish its past glory. Breathes there a Dogra with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, Jammu region is my land, Give it to me, it is my native land. (Dogras don’t brag like Kashmiris. They never said Jammu is their’s. Now they are saying. Hence the quote above).