Jammu’s crisis of identity

B L Razdan
I read with interest Mr K B Jandial’s article: “Jammu Identity: Why Don’t We Assert It?” published in the Daily Excelsior of 12.04.2021 and found it to be very well researched and even enlightening. The neglect of Jammu began with the sad departure of Maharaja Hari Singh from the scene. The rechristening of Muslim Conference as National Conference was only in the name even as it stood by its original agenda of anti- Maharaja and anti-Jammu. More specifically, it was promoting Muslims at the cost of Hindus with Kashmiri Pandits being the immediate target. That, however, did not mean that they would not treat Jammuites similarly. Jammu was a huge area and Dogras being known for their valour, they did not want to open this front at once. They devised a long term strategy that would eventually lead to the same fate of Dogras as KPs met in 1990; but after a time lag.
The marginalization of Jammu began with the mischievous delimitation in which a Kashmiri’s vote was more precious than that of a Jammuite and which ensured that the real political power always rested with the people in the valley. When late Sheikh Abdullah had noticed that a major chunk of the World Bank grants was going to be spent in the Jammu Province because it had more number of districts, by a single stroke of pen, he increased the number of districts in the Valley to corner most of the funds for the benefit of the people in the Valley.
Then came the bureaucratic power in which the marginalization of KPs began right away even as through a sleight KAS and KPS mostly went to the aspirants from the valley and other second rate services like accounts, food and supply and such other innocuous departments would go to the aspirants from Jammu. What has come to light recently about Jammu & Kashmir Bank prescribing lower cut-offs for aspirants from the valley has been happening all along; only we were clueless and naïve about it. The State Public Service Commission would also toe this very line.
When several decades back, the Supreme Court ruled that KPs had been illegally discriminated against in matters of promotion to the post of Headmaster, the state government dilly-dallied till it was hauled up for contempt. Even this Judgment was used by the state Government to promote the interest of their favorites among the valley people. A lot of time was deliberately wasted on litigation before the state High Court and later at the Supreme Court and still no effect was given till even after the contempt hearing was fixed. By that time they were actually waiting for most of KP teachers to retire and suddenly they created hundreds of posts of Headmasters only to benefit the Kashmiri Muslim teachers though some KP teachers too received some marginal benefit. At that time the Government projected KP teachers as villains even before teaching community of Jammu, who would be treated like KPs if teachers from the valley would agree to go to the far flung areas of Jammu. This “divide and rule” policy was not only typical of the British; it was practiced by the valley politicians with greater finesse.
Abrogation of Article 370 should indeed have been a defining moment for Jammu to reassert its lost identity. I do not, however, entirely agree with Mr Jandial that this moment has washed away and Jammu is struggling to find its feet to get its composite identity recognized. Jammuites should blame their leadership for not asserting themselves even when the opportunity is on the platter. This should have been clear to them in the wake of the Gupkar Declaration which was made without so much as even sounding any leader from Jammu. This is a clear signal of how Jammu people do not at all matter in the minds of the valley leaders. I did ask some of Jammu leaders about it, but they never replied. They made a bit of a noise and eventually started doing what they have been used to doing all along, i.e. playing a second fiddle to the leaders from the Valley.
A perusal of the list of the beneficiaries of the now trashed Roshni Act says it all. The Hon’ble court has endorsed many of the irregularities pointed out in the CAG report during the hearing of two Public Interest Litigations (PILs) which raised questions as to why revenue of only Rs 76 crore had been raised against the claimed target of Rs 25,448 crores; why huge rebates and extensions of operations had been granted without authority; and, why over 80% of the land had been given to the unauthorized occupants for free. The beneficiaries of this systemic plundering were mostly from the Valley. The few non-Muslims whose names figure may have been made to pay the difference in cash to the powers that be or may be the few crumbs they are used to throwing before Jammu leaders. It also raises serious doubts about the integrity of the high ranking bureaucratic elite who had no qualms in making hey illegally when the opportunity came their way. Would they not have done the bidding of the Valley leaders while in active service of the Government?
Jammu has been treated like a colony by the political leadership and state bureaucracy in which persons owing allegiance to Al Fateh and their sympathizers were infiltrated and given powerful assignments to rule over the people of Jammu, part overtly and part covertly with the active support of the State PSC. Al Fateh agenda never went out of their mind in as much as they could pursue it more effectively and with redoubled vigour given the power they wielded in the Government. It was amusing to notice that the most corrupt and communal bureaucrats was encouraged and even conferred awards of integrity by the State Government for doing its bidding.
It is not only the state parties that revelled in the subjugation of Jammu; even the Congress Party did so for vote bank politics. In the guise of development, the predominantly Muslim areas of Jammu province were connected to Srinagar, which resulted in businesses being shifted from Jammu. Doctors in Rajouri, Poonch, Doda told me personally that it now took the medical representatives from Srinagar less than half the time to reach these places than it took the MRs from Jammu to reach there. Evidently, what Srinagar gained was a loss to Jammu.
Postponing the process of delimitation indefinitely was a ploy to lull the people of Jammu into complacency so that in the mean time the demography is effectively altered and to take them by surprise once they would be outnumbered by the people from the Valley settled here and the Rohingyas, who were issued Adhaar Cards and Voter Identity Cards for the purpose. The valley leadership has been publicly supporting their occupation of the forest land. It is time that the people of Jammu see through the devious and cunning ways employed to undermine them. It is also time that Jammuites take charge of their destiny in their own hands, as did the Ladakhis, and refuse to play a second fiddle to the Valley leadership. They should ask for fair share of developmental funds commensurate with the land area of Jammu Province and not on the basis of adhoc creation of districts and lopsided allotment of the number of seats in the State Legislature.
Of course, the news of the creation of J&K as a Union Territory was not received as enthusiastically in Jammu as expected. The reason, it was later found, was because some of the Jammuites used to receive crumbs from the valley leadership. With skeletons tumbling out of the state cupboard one after the other, Jammuites have realized how and to what extent they have been shortchanged.
(The author is formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.)