Jammu Ambivalence and Elections

Sandeep Singh Sandy
In October, 2019 Prime Minister Modi called “the completion of BDC election in J&K as historic and said it showed people’s unwavering support to democracy…” . Election are again here for completion of three tier system of grass-root democracy but with a difference of full participation from all the mainstream political parties of J&K and therefore, is unavoidable not to accept it again as a unwavering support to democracy. The stage has been emerged (though not recognized overtly) wherein the election and the result of it will have its bearing on the recent amendments (abrogation of Article 370) and resultant rules (land and domicile etc)and possibly be usurped as a mandate on application of recent laws in J&K. The same is quite evident from the text of the election campaign where everything is being thrashed out other than local issues. For that the Kashmir has been braced up with almost unambiguous narrative whereas Jammu is still stumbled in ambivalence, vagueness and confusion.
What has changed?
In order to comprehend the change, a peep into socio-political landscape of pre-370 J&K will be of some help to make an assessment of the change.
We may agree or not but Article 370 and the politics of Jammu and Kashmir are deep knotted and having an intrinsic relationship with the people of the erstwhile state of J&K though both regions attached different meaning to the article before August 5, 2019, however, one has to agree that this relationship does not have tight boundaries of region and instead it also gets overlapped and juxtaposed significantly with religion as well. By and large, it can be maintained that if this article is a raison d’être of self-regulation, autonomy and identity for Kashmiris then same has also been perceived with certain degree of ambivalence, as a source of sustenance of subjugation and dependence of Jammu over Kashmir. And this can be one of the key reasons as to why an article gave identity and safety valve to whole state, when abrogated, has failed to get a straightforward voice from Jammu region.
On the other, the wavering of Jammu which is usually based on old, rhythmic discourse of underdevelopment and subjugation of Jammu by Kashmir has been further layered by political Delhi with their unverified, exaggerated discourse of development and empowerment of Jammu.
Jammu response has been ambivalent to both 370 regime and also to abrogation of the same; however, after a year, this is getting unlocked with the post-effect of 370 i.e., new land and domicile rules and as a result, the regional polarization which was quite evident with abrogation of the article 370 is now getting thinner and gradually pushing both the regions if not be on the same page but certainly to a new possible page.
As far as change in Kashmir is concerned, the call for election boycott by major regional political parties in 2019 has been filled with call for almost united participation in the election with a clear narrative on the line of revocation of new land laws and restoration of Article 370 and statehood to Jammu & Kashmir. However, the response has not been clearly visualized and articulated in political discourse of Jammu region.
What has not changed?
To assess the changed landscape it is of worth to know what has not been changed. In this context, one of the key areas, as hinted, is the political discourse of Jammu. Regardless of revocation of Article 370, continuation of governor rule for last few years, detention of whole political class for almost a year, Kashmir is still a reference point for political mobilization, consolidation and aggrieved position of Jammu. It seems that the Jammu is hesitant and unwilling to revisit its political discourse and this time too in DDC election, as usual prefer to consolidate and mobilize on the easy and this time the wrong turf (while referring to Kashmir) instead of the right one (Delhi) and it seems what has not changed is usual act of Jammu while offering absolute space to Delhi in its political man euvering with J&K.
Further, the ambivalence of Jammu is quite manifested in post- 370 landscapes. It seems that it is precisely because of inability to make clear link between abrogation, outcomes( land laws, domicile law) and repercussion (loss of already limited jobs, further change of demography and identity, escalation of cost of land, urbanization with limited urban resources etc.) in future. Furthermore, the agencies (civil society, political parties) supposed to articulate that unambiguously are yet to be hesitant, indecisive or biased. They are further unable to articulate and convey the link between abrogation and outcome of abrogation. To briefly reflect on just one issue that is of land laws where one has to recognize that the fear of escalation of land price hits the most to emerging middleclass from rural Jammu and moreoever; it is also the same turf where the DDC elections are being held. This is the same class which has genuine urge to migrate and to have minimum urban space for much known reasons of urban migration. The urban Jammu or semi-urban surroundings shall be the destination of everyone in the erstwhile state of J&K due to its plural socio-cultural texture, all weather life in the plains added with better infrastructure along with other amenities of urbanization and therefore, the fear is quite real and not exaggerated one. The support for land laws may be there by some section of the urban/semi-urban Jammu as any appropriation of land is good for them but drastically opposite to the those huge majority who want to enter( for permanent/ seasonal stay or a piece of land during difficult time) from periphery to the urban space.
Though land laws, and possible loss of jobs pushing both the regions to retrieve the same goal but both are not on the same wavelength while articulating the same.
What can be changed?
Realizing patchy past and understanding on certain issues and concerns, both the regions have to come out of old format of pre- 370 mindset and stuff the same with new energy, vocabulary and content.
It has to be understood by Kashmir and now Delhi as well that they cannot dictate the aspiration of Jammu with usual and repeated offers in the election manifestos rather what shall be there for Jammu shall now be in its institutional form only.
Keeping in mind the present political context and the ambivalence of Jammu vis-a-vis article 370, Kashmir needs to come out of this numeric of 370 and has to stuff and articulate it differently and jointly where everyone across the state takes ownership and draws meaning (whether notional or material) out of it.
To stuff those hollow slogans of development and empowerment with some significance, Jammu need to come out of old repetitive narrative of referring only to Kashmir for its disempowerment instead has to come clear with principle based resistance and cooperation, wherever required, to both Delhi and Kashmir. For that shouldn’t Jammu decide what the hindrances are and who is stopping them comprehending the same?
(The author is an Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Science, Univ. of Jammu)