K B Jandial
Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh have become eighth and ninth Union Territory (UT) of India on 31st October, 2019. With this, the State which Maharaja Gulab Singh created 173 years ago was bifurcated with great fanfare,presumably to transform everything. Three distinct territories ruled by different Rulers became a unified kingdom under Maharaja Gulab Singh at different point of time. With his coronation at Jia Pota on the bank of Chenab River by Maharaja Ranjit Singh on June 17, 1822 Gulab Singh became Raja of Jammu which was under Sikh Rule. The boundaries of Dogra empire were extended up to Tibet when his astute warrior and Governor of Kishtwar, Gen Zorawar Singh conquered Leh in April 1835 and complete Ladakh region by 1838. The third territory was Kashmir which too came under his Rule on 16th March, 1846 with the Treaty of Amritsar, which Kashmiris often call Binama-e-Kashmir despite having hugely suffered at the hands of Mughal, Afghans and Sikh. With this, Dogra kingdom, spreading over an area of 80000 sq miles, came in to being as one entity in 1846 as the Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu, as it was then called. Soon after Gulab Singh’s death in 1857, his son, Ranbir Singh added Hunza, Gilgit and Nagar to Dogra kingdom which continued to be so till 15th August, 1947 when British paramountcy lapsed. But then the process of its disintegration started mostly by illegal and forceful occupation by Pakistan and China.
Both Kashmir and Jammu were not independent entities, being conquered and ruled by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, this was not so with Ladakh which was ruled by Gyalpo dynasty. Had Ladakh not annexed by Zorawar Singh with Jammu Raj, it would have remained separate kingdom like Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal. So, Ladakh is genuinely in the state of public euphoria (mainly at Leh district) having restored its separate identity after 184 of its annexation. Ladakhis’ jubilation, which is nowhere to be seen in either of the two regions of second UT, is justified at their ‘liberation’ from the yoke of Kashmiris and Dogras who ‘ruled’ it till the creation of UT. It is befitting that these celebrations were led by no other than the moving spirit of UT movement, Thupstan Chhewang, former MP who resigned his Lok Sabha seat as well as from BJP early this year for non-fulfillment of the promised UT status to Ladakh by Modi Government in its first tenure. This too had served the right pressure on Modi and Thupstan’s dream saw fruition.
People in Jammu are sore over downgrading State. They look towards Maharaja Gulab Singh and subsequent dynast Rulers as Dogra pride well known for their foresight, vision and valour nurtured a progressive empire which served as an epitome of diversity, plurality, mutual respect and communal harmony. Most of the historians feel that British while leaving India conspired against India and felicitated it’s partitioned and even divided J&K by facilitating Pakistan’s illegal occupation of its vast area through invasion of Princely State and left a festering wound on the Indian soil.
The process of shrinking of the erstwhile second largest princely State of British India started with invasion by Pakistan in October 1947 itself which led to illegal occupation of large geographical part of it by Pakistan and some by China. Golden Dogra Rule had come to an end after Independence with Constituent Assembly of J&K abolishing Dynastic Rule in 1952 and now constitutionally bifurcated into two parts on 31st October, 2019. Is this an occasion to regret division of left over territory of erstwhile princely state? Dogra scion Dr. Karan Singh has counseled on bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir. He said that “all empires invariably come to an end and J&K is no exception”.So, the people of Jammu have to move on and seek redressal of their long pending issues. These include constitutional provisionsto end of discrimination against Jammu and Kashmiri hegemony, Govt jobs on regional basis to correct existing lopsided recruitment,creational of separate bench of PSC and Service Selection Board for recruitment on regional basis, early delimitation of Assembly constituencies, safeguarding and promotion of Dogra heritage including art & culture, early establishment of prestigious educational institutions of AIIMS, accelerating pace of development, scientific disposal of SWM, uninterrupted power supply, concrete incentives for promotion of industrial sector, removal of Toll Tax, and above all restoration of Statehood at the earliest as promised by no less than the PM Modi himself. A new issue has been added with the Government’s decision to acquire over 800 kanal of forest land in Raika-Bahu at Jammu’s outskirts for shifting of High Court which has been opposed by environmentalists, civil society and Bar Association Jammu. Despite continuing strike by Bar Association and consequent disruption of court work, UT administration has yet to take steps to resolve the issue amicably.
Jammu is also suffering from some serious irritants over the years. Twenty seventh October is a red letter day for the people of the erstwhile undivided State as on this day J&K had formally acceded to India. Some vested interests had been creating unnecessary doubts on the irrevocable Instrument of Accession to keep the Kashmir issue alive in line with Pakistan’s claim. The successive Governments in the State too have done great disservice to the nation by not respecting this day. Twenty seventh October should be celebrated officially as Accession Day, more so when in Kashmir, separatists supported by militants force a complete shut down and observe as Black day since 1984.Similarly, there is growing demand for declaring holiday on the birthday of Maharaja Hari Singh who had signed the Instrument of Accession and made the people of J&K a part of the great nation. While birthday of no former Ruler or leader, be he or she of the State or nation is declared as holiday anywhere in the country, Sheikh Abdullah’s birthday on 5th December is a gazette holiday in J&K. The people Jammu would like either agazette holiday is also announced on the birthday of Maharaja Hari on 23 September or withdraw holiday on Sheikh’s birthday as well. Another irritant is the observation of so called Martyrs’ Day on 13 July which is viewed as anti Dogra. Jammu doesn’t consider them as martyrs; at best it can be a restricted holiday for Kashmir. Moreover, 6th August should be observed as J&K Integration Day.
While deciding the calendar of Govt Holidays for 2020, the people of Jammu would expect the new Lt. Governor G C Murmu to consider these irritants and other pending issues. If Modi Govt can abrogate Article 370, Article 35A and withdraw State Flag, emblem and other symbols of separate identity of the State, withdrawing holidays is a minor issue but it would send aright signal and respect the sentiments of nationalistic forces. In the new constitutional arrangement of UT, Jammu expects discernible changes otherwise it would mean a status quo dispensation.
K B Jandial