Jammu Exists : Listen to us as well

Ansh Chowdhari
The J&K administration has recently released a calendar for the year 2020, which has invited a gamut of opinions of varying hues, ranging from extreme right to extreme left. This has marked a major focal point in the newly devised administrative apparatus in this UT, for it ruffled feathers of those privileged leaders in the powerplay of the valley who had consistently leveraged the New Delhi’s inherent bewilderment vis a vis J&K to the hilt. In this whole process, it was the people of the Jammu region who had to face ultimate discrimination at their hands.
At the outset, ‘Dogra’ wasn’t a much-known entity of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The narrative began and ended with the Kashmir and Kashmiris only. But, what people don’t regard is the fact that it were the Dogras who have kept the flame of nationalism lit brightly in this state, even during those difficult years in early nineties when militancy was raising its ugly head. Since independence, Dogras have played a pivotal role in the development of this state by keeping the idea of India alive at the expense of losing their own worth and dignity but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. We have been instrumental in keeping the state intact. Even before Independence, if it wasn’t for the Dogras and its soldiers, the state would had had a different fate altogether.
But sadly, the narrative that has ruled our conscience, literally as well as symbolically, since last seven decades has largely been Kashmir centric, for the region of Jammu always playing a second fiddle to the former. The recent abrogation of Article 370 and the consequent reorganization of the state has no doubt, given a voice to the oppressed and marginalized. But, a question arises, as to why the power elites of Kashmir never understood the pain and agony of a single mother who wasn’t able to transfer her property to her children just because she was married to a non-JKiian or the woes a person whose children were not getting admissions into the Government educational institutions, I guess, I have the answer- because these problems were mostly Jammu centric. They considered it as an extended ‘liability’ which they shrouded under the garb of triviality.
This decision of Indian government to abrogate 370 was passed by our Parliament wholeheartedly, reflecting the ingenuity and willingness of the Indian state to ameliorate the oppressed and the downtrodden. The move, in no way, sought to harass the Muslims of the state, as is being claimed by Pakistan. On the face of it, the move also aimed to curtail the hold of separatists and secessionists riding on the gravy trains of Pakistan and ISI, who were threatening the security of India by instigating the gullible Kashmiris for the so called Aazadi using the tag of Islam and Jihad. These machinations of Pakistan were unbearable, so it became pertinent to nip those devious tendencies in the bud itself. Also, the decision was a testament of the great forbearance that the people of Jammu depicted under great provocation.
The abrogation of 35A coupled with other reforms that the Union Government has recently undertaken has ushered in an era of equality, liberty and fraternity in this UT. I don’t understand as to how one can justify the discrimination of women, Jammu based Schedule Castes, Gurkhas and West Pak Refugees- who braved the tribal brutalities in 1947, and that too in the world’s largest democracy. They have heaved a euphoric sigh of relief after braving 72 year long incessant state sponsored discrimination. The recently released calendar, therefore, has sought to reverse some of the narratives which were holding back the entire Jammu region at the expense of some families in the valley. The deletion of Martyr’s Day and Sheikh Abdullah’s birthday mark a departure from the earlier practices of appeasement of Sunni Kashmiri Muslims.
Broadly speaking, the Indian Government has killed two birds with one stone. It has brought the discriminated into the mainstream and gave voice to Dogras, Ladakhis, Gujjars and Bakerwals. But sadly, what finds recognition at the international level is the voice of Kashmiris. What about another half the population of the state that has overwhelmingly welcomed this decision? No international media shall highlight such stories, for anything except Kashmir is untouchable for them. For them, the state starts and ends with the Kashmir. Jammu, virtually has no representation. Surprisingly, many in the Indian media as well refer to the state as ‘Kashmir’, which is factually incorrect, for Kashmir is just a 15 percent territory of this state.
It is, Jammu which has partially freed herself from the shackles of Kashmiri hegemony and is now free to chart its own developmental agenda in line with the region’s aspirations and cumulative will. Well, in the short run, we shouldn’t be expecting much of the windfall to be accruing from this restructuring but in the medium as well as long term, gains will surely be clearly visible. For real gains, Jammu needs to be vocal, articulative and strong. We can’t be just armchair commentators. It has to be a multi-pronged strategy for Jammu to vie for a position equal to that of Kashmir. But, in the meantime, it’s necessary that we fill the prevailing chasm between the two regions and work for development and peace.
Now, the onus lies upon the residents to bring normalcy and peace back to the state. The Government has already lifted communications blackout and broadband is functional in the whole UT, barring few patches. 100% of the state is out of curfew. The few civilians who lost their lives during that period were killed either by the terrorists or the stone pelters. But the propaganda machinery has overlooked all these facts and in turn, has brought grist to the Pakistani mill. It’s therefore, necessary that the world understand J&K from a perspective that is not Kashmiri.Chinua Achebe says “If you only hear one side of the story, you have no understanding at all”. Now, as the calendar has entered the third decade of 21st century, it’s essential that we sit back and think as to how Jammu in particular and J&K, in general can match up to the rest of the nation and project a developmental trajectory.