A recent video on my social media handle caught me by surprise wherein Dr Karan Singh was lamenting over the distorted course of history in Jammu and Kashmir in particular and India in general regarding the achievements of Dogra Raj. Dr Singh while addressing to a gathering said “Do any of you have any idea how the Jammu and Kashmir state was created…. And how Dogra forces from Himachal and Jammu captured and conquered these areas. They fought pitched battles at 15000 feet…..We fought, our ancestors fought……The creation of Jammu and Kashmir was one of the major geopolitics event of 19th century…….This consolidation of J&K state was something for which the Dogras have never received the credit that they deserve.” Dr Singh, during this discussion raised some pertinent questions, which, we as the new generation must find answers to. Why Dogras (signifying the entire population of Jammu province, regardless of their religion, caste or language) couldn’t provide a strong buffer to the ubiquitously pervading Kashmiri separatist narrative which has ultimately became the sole narrative of this erstwhile state. Why weren’t we able to secure for ourselves, a position at National coffee table circuits and seminars which steered the perceptions of this nation? And why we failed to tell our history beyond the usual repetitive score of “Land to the tillers”?
Let’s answer all these questions one by one. Firstly, the colossal aura of Kashmir which successive Governments, both, at the centre as well as state created, failed to appreciate that Kashmir is not J&K and J&K is not Kashmir. Kashmir encompassed a mere 8% territory of the erstwhile state of J&K with about 55% of total population. Hence, the consequent action thence emerged made it an easier option for the establishment to ally with a group of people, who were fairly uniform in their approach and had some sort of ideological coherence. This culminated with the “Abdullah Raj”, after the ascension of Sheikh Abdullah, whose dalliance led to the emergence of a bogus tale of Kashmiri nationalism and cultural superiority. This monochromatic agenda had the ultimate aim of pushing minorities – Dogras,Pandits,Gujjar Bakarwals,Paharis, to the wall and establishing a state of pure-blooded Kashmiri Muslims with relative autonomy relying on Indian gravy train. Additionally, this fake aura started to use language and religion as its functional appendages, which, via stoking passions, attracted the youth of Pir Panjal, Doda and Kishtwar into its fold and the very first bastion of our struggle against this narrative collapsed remarkably. The Jammu also failed to provide a credible deterrence in the face of this extremism- all the more so because of subservient political class which preferred to remain under the hold of Kashmiri leadership and the vacuum therefrom brought the growth of Jammu to a grinding halt.
Secondly, the people of Jammu were conspicuous by their absence because of their behavioural traits. Research has indicated that people south of Pir Panjal are simple, modest and unassuming. They didn’t understand the political nuances, much less the machinations of Kashmiri leadership and the straitjacketed approach that followed. Jammu was reduced as the second fiddle to Kashmir valley, and this continues unabated even today. The incorrigible hatred that Kashmir had for the Dogra Raj wreaked havoc upon the aspirations of the people of Jammu. They were sabotaged and their identity was shattered to the hilt. Dogra History was clobbered, distorted and misrepresented. Jammu was politically emasculated and the layers of power started to manifest in the hands of elites of Kashmir. In the face of this discrimination, there emerged a counter nationalism wave in Jammu which tried to approximate the collective anger of the region but all in vain. Even, lately when Jammu started to figure in national TV Debates or seminars, the trend couldn’t sustain for long as it got overshadowed by Kashmir, for the former lacked the virtue of generating higher TRP for the channels, despite Jammu also being terror infested for long. How can anyone ignore the agony of Jammu’s border villages who day in and day out face an incessant shelling load from across the border? I have a right to ask as to why 90% of tourism funds were allocated for Kashmir despite Jammu having 10 times more tourist inflow. All of this insinuate towards a specific set of people who used to call the shots for the entire state while sitting in their palatial bungalows at Gupkar.
Thirdly, telling history remained the fiefdom of few Kashmir centric leaders and intellectuals. Be it PN Bazaz, Bamzai, Sheikh Abdullah or even Rahul Pandita, everyone portrayed Dogras as villains and creators of the problem, without any sound basis. While Abdullah’s “Aatish e Chinaar” found an ample of bibliographical space with the history writers, why wasn’t “Gulabnama” accorded the same academic space. If Bazaz is being quoted today, why have they missed Pannikar or Justice Mahajan. This entrenched dichotomy was responsible for the segregation of people, ideas and culture. Historical literature when, is juxtaposed with propaganda, here in J&K, the distinctive line almost gets blurred. This selective reading of history begets skewed interpretations and flawed understanding of events. Even the intellectual class of Jammu has failed to obverse such gross calumnies, reflecting their intellectual ineptitude. When the unsubstantiated/baseless assertion of mass killing of 5 lakh Muslims in Jammu during 1947(some even say 1 million) becomes the sole and final justification for KPs killing, with even mainstream commentators finding the former assumption suitable to further their political ends, expecting anything saner from the politico-administrative class shall be a major faux pas. This nexus wants to eschew the history of Dogra Raj, which in itself was a major milestone in our historical line and an anathema for many. I don’t recollect any other such incident from the Indian subcontinent where a series of Hindu rulers ruled a Muslim majority state for over a century and that too as diverse and plural as J&K, with an utmost dedication and religious tolerance.
Hence, it becomes quite clear from the above discussion that even after the revocation of Article 370 and the consequent reorganisation, the tables haven’t turned much. The valley still has the key to political power. Jammu continues to be a cash cow for the political parties without any accountability in return. Therefore, any more such continuation of the same policies shall prove to be detrimental in the long run. J&K administration and Central government, therefore, collectively must devise a mechanism wherein Jammu gets placed equal to that of Kashmir. Delimitation based on 2021 census, Revision of J&K Board’s history textbooks, Renovation and retrofitting of Dogra Heritage, Increased Tourism funds for Jammu, Assistance to border residents, Renaming of Jammu Airport and SKUAST-J etc are some of the major demands that, I believe, every Jammuite must be asking from this administration.
Using Kashmir as the face of India’s secular character and a hedge to Pakistani two nation theory has long outlived its utility now. New Delhi, therefore, should re calibrate its policy vis a vis J&K, if the former really wants to see this UT flourish and prosper. There might be many a slip twixt cup and lip but that shouldn’t deter New Delhi for fomenting a new political culture. Abetment to the same players will be but a howler. And, we as citizens of Jammu province must resolve that whenever the wheel of history rotates in future, we, in the hindsight, shouldn’t appear as spineless. Jammu’s civil society and academia must gather vibrancy and brace itself up for the long haul. That’d be a real tribute to our history, culture and forefathers, which Dr Singh was talking about.