Harsh Dev Singh
A national electronic media correspondent only recently described Jammu as the ‘city of dead souls’. No offences I suppose. Infact, a much needed wake up call. Lest we perish. He has given us an occasion to introspect, to do some soul searching. To awaken in the face of multiple dents being inflicted upon Dogra honour and pride every other day. To rise to the occasion and seek all that which is legitimately due to us. We are being consistently deprived, denigrated, demeaned, discriminated, belittled and humiliated by rulers from both sides, Kashmir as well as New Delhi. We have however preferred to remain silent. Strange though as we claim to be the inheritors of a huge Dogra legacy by mentioning the names of legendary Zorawar Singh, Rajinder Singh, Mehta Basti Ram and so on. But we certainly have floundered rather miserably failed to protect even the freedoms that these Dogra warriors fought to defend.
True that Dogra land is fast losing its grace, its sheen and steam. And so do the Dogras. Once considered a clan of warriors they seem to have become weak, exhausted and rendered irrelevant in the changed scenario in J&K. Not only has their role squeezed in the socio-politico landscape of the new UT, but their culture, language and history appears to be rapidly dissipating. The magnificence of our pristine glory is getting overshadowed by the perpetual dominance of ‘outsiders’ over the affairs of our erstwhile state. The Dogra rulers created the state of J&K. Our ancestors scripted sagas of valour in the chequered history of J&K which was known to be the only Dogra state in the country. The Dogra state stands dismantled and dis-appearing with it is the narrative of Dogra pride and honour. We are surely sinking and even faster than the titanic. It is in this context that the statement of the said national TV Journalist needs a serious thought.
We surely need to ruminate on our predicament. Dogra land has been made to bear the brunt of most hostile discrimination by the Dogra leadership itself who claimed themselves to be the champions of its cause. They have continued to serve either their Kashmir masters or New Delhi masters. The incarcerated land of Dogras therefore has continued to face deprivation and neglect in terms of development, funds allocation, employment, tourism promotion, power, Industrial promotion, health facilities and even in matters of life and death. The Govt did not spare the Dogra land even in times of corona by remaining focussed on Kashmir and discriminating against Jammu in the matter of allocation of oxygen plants, ventilators and provision of staff and other health care facilities as if the lives of Dogras were not as precious as those of others.
While the lion’s share has always to go to the highly mollycoddled Kashmir, the Dogra land has got to remain content with whatsoever falls in its kitty. We seem to have accepted it as a sort of fait accompli. So much so that even the self respect and dignity of Dogras has been compromised to keep the other side in good humour. The present day rulers are not only subscribing to the slogan of “Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat, Insansiyat” but have in a way discarded ‘Dogriyat’ and the values it symbolizes. The recently held IIT convocation organized in Dogra heartland had the participants flaunting Kashmiri ‘Pherans’ and ‘Pakhtooni/Afghani’ caps which was a prescribed dress code. Does this not amount to humiliation of Dogras?
Dogras are made, rather forced to reconcile in the name of nationalism and patriotism. It is the Kashmir situation that determines the policies to be framed for Jammu region. The 4G connectivity remained banned in Jammu only because of alleged adverse security situation in Kashmir. The share of Jammu youth in Govt employment has consistently dropped to abysmally low levels with none in the Govt to respond to shrill cries of aggrieved youth of the region. Huge settlements of outsiders permitted in the Dogra heartland have posed a grave threat to not only our very culture, language and identity but our survival as well. Not only the Biharis, UPites and Assames but Rohingyas and Bangladeshis have been illegally settled posing a grave threat to our very safety and security. And whenever objections are raised to the settlement of Rohingyas in dogra land, the BJP Govt silences our leaders with ‘Jumlas’ of their early eviction.
Not only that the outsiders have been made eligible for Jobs in J&K through the new domicile law which too would eventually deprive the Jammu youth of their already negligible Job avenues. The educated youth of Dogra land employed in Govt Jobs under a proper procedure are often disengaged while allowing their Kashmir counterparts to continue. This was seen even recently in the Deptt of H&ME wherein more than 1500 health professionals of Jammu region were summarily thrown out of their Jobs without assigning any reason. 10,000 posts of SPOs sanctioned by centre were all provided to Kashmir with BJP leaders claiming that it was necessary in national interest.
While the Central and State govt conceptualized and enforced a policy for rehabilitation of militants and stone-pelters, the victims of Amar Nath land row were left high and dry. The govt even acknowledged during BJP-PDP rule that there was no policy for ex-gratia to martyrs in J&K. Maharaja Hari Singh was dishonoured in Assembly and holiday declined on his birthday. Service tax was imposed on helicopter services to Mata Vaishno Devi. Dogra certificate to Dogras was declined. Kashmiri was thrust on Jammu region colleges. The common masses of Jammu had to take to streets to get Dogri subjects sanctioned for Jammu colleges. The tall slogans on providing Dogri satellite channel were conveniently forgotten. The CBI probe into Rasana case was denied by disregarding the aspirations of Dogras who were dubbed as ‘rapists supporters’. The developmental projects of dogra land have come to a grinding halt. Artificial Tawi Lake, Dogra Heritage of Mubarak Mandi, Development of Tawi on pattern of Sabar Mati and Jumbo Zoo project initially approved after the name of Raja Jambulochan all seem to have been abandoned.
Are the aforesaid developments in tune with the basic instincts and core susceptibilities of Dogras as a class? Do they not amount to an insult to our very self respect and dignity? The authoritarian installation of Toll Plazas around the city of temples by our elected Govt, opening of liquor shops in almost every nook and corner of the city of temples and arbitrary denial of 4G for around 18 months are a stinging rebuke of the present regime tramping upon the very self respect of the people of Jammu region. These leaders further tried to trivialize the significance of 23rd September by saying that people should do double the work on the birthday of Maharaja Hari Singh quite unmindful of their earlier assurances on the subject. Further the very existence of dogra state founded by a Dogra ruler became a subject matter of unfettered discretion of those who ascended to power on the strength of our votes. The arrogant rulers invoked Governor’s Rule and then used the Governor’s consent to dismantle the historical Dogra State and demote it to the level of UT.
The Dogras do feel heart burns over repeated betrayals and multiple dents inflicted upon their self pride. But still silent. Why so? Where are the so called champions of Dogra cause? Where are the Dogra writers and columnists? Where are they who swore by Dogra pride on the drop of hat? Is it not the time to support and strengthen the real Dogra leadership that can effectively counter and confront Kashmir and New Delhi leadership? But sadly the self proclaimed champions and even mandated parties continue to sing songs in praise of their Kashmiri or New Delhi or even Gujarati masters. And in the process, the Dogra land continues to suffer, to lose, to bleed. Why should we not promote our own Dogra leadership rather than running after those parties which are using us as mere pawns in the game of chess. Much water has flown down the river Tawi. Shall the common Dogra not stand up to oppose and depose those who have cheated us all along for their vested interests shall we stay silent and allow the future generations to keep on bearing the monstrous onslaughts of a hostile leadership. Are we so option less? Why should the Dogras and their mandated leaders surrender before those who have literally drudged us after their empowerment? We have to come out of the mindset of helplessness, hopelessness that has engulfed us? For how long shall the common Dogra continue to hesitate in strengthening the hands of those who are truly fighting for the cause of Jammu? Lets find the solution to our problems by ourselves rather than expecting it from outside parties or their leadership. Let’s show that Dogras and their real leadership still has the courage and capacity to bite the bullet. Mere shrugging of shoulders would enslave us for times to come. Dogra power must exhibit itself. Long closed lids must burst open. Long silenced voices must speak again. Let’s show that we are still alive. Ours is not a city of dead souls.
(The writer is former Education Minister & Chairman J&K National Panthers Party)
Harsh Dev Singh