The world is moving towards a new world order, in which de-globalization and nationalism are some of the central themes. Nations are adopting an inward looking approach to strengthen themselves. Brexit was the first wave which has washed over other nations too.The populist movement has swept the US with the rise of Donal Trump and European countries like France, Greece, Spain, Demark and others are seeing anti-EU forces gathering strength.
The fundamental change in the social psychological frameworks is hinged upon a new sense of threat to identity, history, culture, and heritage. This in turn is altering and creating new political ecosystems. Jammu is a microcosm of the same, though conditions are being created intentionally, heightening the latent fear that already existed in the region. The deliberate overlooking of the unfolding situation by concerned authorities makes it worse.
An already strained infrastructure of Jammu, the refugee capital of the Nation, is breaking under the continuous settling of refugee populations. Social engineering which leads to definite demographic changes, poses a threat to the security and cultural identity of the locals. Every day increases their sense of losing ground, like the recent influx of Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims. Aadhar cards, ration cards and even fake state subject papers are being illegally procured by them. The intentional islamisation of Jammu’s iconic symbols of history and faith, as seen in recent case of the Bahu ropeway project, is an example of the many instances of heritage hijacking.
Discounting the migrants who come to Jammu for better economic conditions, Jammu remains home to a most diverse refugee population. Since 1947 and after the wars of 1965 and 1971 it has made room for them, sharing space and resources. Notably Jammu facilitated the integration of these groups but never forced them to assimilate. Whatever assimilation or conformity of this population to the local character, customs and language has taken place, it has happened willingly and over time. It is to Jammu’s credit once again that many young Kashmiri Pandits who still cannot return to their homeland because of fears of persecution, see Jammu as their hometown now. Many are seen to be adding Jammuwala to their names as a suffix and declare proudly that they are born KP but raised Dogra. Even the Kashmiri Muslims who throng Jammu in winters or even during times of strife in the Valley, find peace, stability and work here. The environment of fear in the valley is seeing Kashmiri Muslims settling in Jammu. Jammu has never forced its culture, language and ways on the refugee and non local populations, pursuing a path of coexistence.
Considering Jammu’s history of inclusiveness the city’s murmurs of concern over the steady trickling of foreign nationals from Bangladesh and Myanmar warrants immediate attention. That murmur is rising in crescendo. The city has reacted in unison to the settlement of Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims, from Myanmar. India is amongst the few countries where they have found a safe haven and the single largest group of Rohingyas is settled in Jammu Region of Jammu Kashmir. It is in the interest of both the locals and the 13.5 thousand Myanmarese and Bangladeshi refugees living in camps in Jammu Province, that a realistic workable solution must be reached at the earliest.
Reportedly the security forces by their own admission see the Rohingyas as a ticking time bomb, vulnerable to exploitation by terror outfits which operate in the state. 17 FIRs were filed against 38 Rohingyas for various offenses including those related to illegal border crossing. A border state made restive by Pakistan sponsored terrorsim, the fear of Bangladeshi and Rohingya youth being lured into a radical path is very real. The killing of a Burmese militant in Kashmir who had infiltrated from Pakistan in 2013 and the alleged involvement of another in 2014 Burdwan blast raises fear of Pakistan’s ISI cultivating young Rohingya men and the reality of the Harakah- Al-Yaqin, a militant outfit made up of men of Rohingya heritage, operating from Saudi Arabia with links in Bangladesh, Pakistan and possibly India. Madarsas being used as a breeding ground for hardline indoctrination is common knowledge and Rohingya run madarsas, in Narwal Bala area in Jammu city makes the local populace nervous.
The Council on Foreign Relations, in a report said that weak infrastructure and a lack of employment opportunities exacerbate the cleavage between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar. Even in Bangladesh which houses thousands of Rohingyas Shinji Kubo, the country representative of UNHCR, proposed aid to the poor Bangladeshis living near the Rohingya refugee settlements to counter local resentment against the them. Jammu is already stretched thin as far as resources and infrastructure go. The failure of adequate services from electricity to health care, due to an ever increasing immigrant population is a genuine issue.
Jammu’s unease must be viewed in the backdrop of its tolerant character and turbulent politics. The Region is home to the Dogras, a unique ethnic but multi-faith community, who founded the State of Jammu Kashmir as we see it today. Any modicum of stability that the state has, is due to Jammu. The provocation to lapse into anarchy are many. There is a perpetual environment of fear and instability due to a hostile neighbour which sees Jammu’s villages at the frontline of ceasefire violations and infiltrations. Long periods of shut downs in the Valley have a crushing impact on Jammu’s economy, a Region which is the state’s biggest economic contributor. Despite this Jammu remains calm when the Valley boils over. At such times, it even accomodates the thousands coming from the Valley to Jammu city, in pursuit of peace and stability.
As a state we have been battling the dangerous consequences of planted foreign elements. General SK Sinha, in his book Governor Musings, writes of radical hardliners being planted in the Valley after 1971, with the intention of starting a proxy war. A war which has not seen an end till date. The fact that Jammu Kashmir shares its borders with Pakistan, Russia and China, besides being the only Muslim majority state in India, the centre and state must be extremely sensitive and proactive to every development taking place here. Jammu is where most of the state’s Hindus reside especially after the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley and its concerns must be a priority.
Jammu is not new to purposeful machinations to keep it on the edge, but to live without fear, is the fundamental and human right of the people. There has been a lack of proactive response fromthe ruling party and the opposition has also not shown any seriousness in dealing with the people’s issues. For the last seventy years the Dogras and Jammu Region has time and again spoken of being invisible to centre and state, their aspirations and interests ignored by both.For the Chief Minister, who is the head of the state it is not enough, to provide facts and figures on the Rohingyas in the Assembly. She must address and allay the latent fear of her people who have historically been empathetic to refugees and can be credited for singularly upholding the secular and pluralistic fabric of the state. Ironically in doing so their own identity has taken a beating and is eroding fast.
The lack of a sincere hearing followed by corrective steps from the centre and state, has created a huge trust deficit. It is not a surprise then, that from harmless residential committees coming together to protest on the streets, mushrooming of vigilante groups to protect the localsinterest, to blatant hoardings in the city asking the Rohingyas to leave, Jammu is witnessing a reaction from all quarters. Recently in a press conference a civil society group demanded the government take action in the next fifteen days or be prepared for consequences.
When the world is moving towards strengthening of identities, culture, heritage and history, Jammu isseeing a rapid decline in the same. Once an example for the whole world, it now lives in latent fear. Not only state government but the Centre also has not been serious about Jammu and its issues.Their policy towards Jammu Kashmir must be reviewed to prevent the rising fear and the worsening of the security situation. A region which remains fiercely loyal to its Nation, cannot be sidelined by the Centre.
The power to prevent and mitigate an untoward incident lies in understanding and managing the factors leading to it. Jammu today is sitting on a tinderbox. It is watching a reel play that can only have a bad ending. This film has been in production for long and the people of Jammu have been forced to play out their characters in scripts written and directed by others. Today the good guy in a script full of villains, Jammu is unitedly protesting against more altering of its history, identity and unique cultural symbols. It is saying no to narratives which are dishonest and manipulative. It wants to take care of itself before it can take care of anyone else. Jammu has spoken and it must be heard.