Satish Singh Manhas
A year or two ago all Kashmir based political parties cutting across ideological lines and even being north-south poles and bitter opponents assembled in Srinagar at the residence of former chief minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah and formed an all party umbrella with the name and style of Gupkar declaration. What was the uniting force behind the bitter political allies turning together was the abrogation of Article 370 by the union government. The Gupkar declaration was called as the Gupkar gang by their opponents and the entire umbrella was portrayed as anti national or against the Jammu region and its political and economic aspirations by their political opponents. This Gupkar alliance was even labelled as, “a new Hurriyat in J & K“. What was more interesting was that it was labelled as an opportunist umbrella which cannot protect from any heat as well as rain but can be a show piece only. But what message that declaration gave to the general masses and a common man in Jammu was that all the Kashmiris or Kashmir based political parties are united and are against the interests of Jammu, although that impression remained short lived and today again all those factions of that declaration are where they were prior to their coming together. But what the instant message public got was that it (Gopkar declaration) pitted the sentiments of Kashmir against Jammu and vice versa although for a brief period. But it definitely gave a feeling of being separate from each other be that Jammu from Kashmir or vice versa. A dent in the general social fabric was created. That was the only brief achievement of Gupkar declaration.
In the same manner and on almost the same analogy, a new declaration in the name and style of Jammu declaration was created a year later probably as a response to the Gupkar declaration. Fortunately both had one thing in common and that was restoration of Statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. Gupkar demanded 370 also and Jammu was silent on this aspect. But this time too, a separate Jammu state demand by Jammu declaration without any mention about Kashmir aroused the same feeling of pitting one region against the other. The Jammu declaration as proposed by a group of Jammu based political leadership envisages the separate political narrative for Jammu in politics and in administration and economics. But does this in the manner as that of Gupkar not lead to isolation of Kashmir from Jammu. Of course! Yes
Interestingly, a few days back I was surprised to come across a social site with the name and style of “Reasi declaration” being disused on social media and other local social circles. Initially, these things look funny but in the long run if such narratives start emerging from every nook and corner of this small state, it will definitely lead us all to a disastrous divisive consequence. What basically these declarations are? I am pretty sure that if this trend comes and goes on, tomorrow we will definitely see Udhampur declaration, Doda declaration, R S Pura declaration, Chenani declaration and I am pretty sure that my village will not lag behind to have its own PANSHYAI declarations etc & etc. Where these declarations will lead us to, I mean Jammu and Kashmir? Is this a good sign or a deliberate exclusion of region from a region which will percolate down to sub region and then to district, sub district and finally to a village level declaration.
Looking a few years back, what was the consequence or achievement of NC’s autonomy, likewise where is the PDP’s self rule. In the same manner where is the Gupkar declaration standing today? What, these declarations achieved other than pitting one region against the other. Does this type of narrative not lead us to division, be that political, economic or even emotional and sentimental? Are these declarations a healthy sign for our democracy and unity and integrity of the state in general and social cohesion in particular? The answer is a big no. Did autonomy achieve anything for Kashmir or Jammu, did self rule have anything for Jammu, Kashmir or the entire J and K. Again a big no. Are these declarations not political stunts and to befool the general public and create a social and political divide. Can these narratives play a proactive role for taking any region forward? Fingers crossed!
All these narratives say that Gupkar, Jammu, self rule, autonomy, Reasi etc are nothing but a political tool to garner the votes temporarily and influence the public. But in the long run, where does it take us all? It will take us to political and social division which ultimately has the potential to lead us to territorial division as well. Our state Jammu and Kashmir is the result of martyrdom of great warriors like General Zorawar Singh, Brigadier Rajinder Singh who gave their life for this land. So dividing it publicly, politically, economically will be a dishonour to their sacrifice who gave their blood for the entire J and K upto Tibet and Baltistan. So these local narrative creations must be abandoned and a unifying narrative for the entire UT is the need of the hour which can only restore its pristine political and geographical glory. That will be a great tribute to the great martyrs like General Zorawar Singh, Brigadier Rajinder Singh etc.
Declaration here and there every now and then will create a fragmented thinking among the masses and can give the feeling of a separate entity even at the local level; this can prove to be disastrous for the unity and integrity of Jammu and Kashmir. The same had happened in the case of the USSR before 1990’s which ultimately led to the disintegration of the USSR. So keeping in view the consequence of the narratives in the past world over, as it has only bifurcated EVEN THE STRONG Nations’ LIKE USSR, Germany etc. This trend of raising the voice as a different declaration seems not that healthy for politically sensitive and socially volatile states like Jammu and Kashmir. Uniting the state completely and restoration of its previous status of statehood should be the narrative of all parties and individuals which will suit the general public and this will help contain the feeling of antagonism of one region against the other. Already Kashmir and Jammu have seen exploitation in their respective sphere be that political or otherwise. Separate narratives like Jammu, Reasi, Gupkar, Self Rule, Autonomy etc will definitely be a hurdle in the settlement and return of kashmiris in their land. Let’s all create a narrative for the entire Jammu and Kashmir leaving aside these local and personal or individual specific narratives. Region centric narrative is disrespect to the sacrifice of Shyma Prasad Mukherjee who gave balidan for the one Jammu and Kashmir.
Had our ancestor rulers thought of likewise narrative region wise we would have been somewhere else on the political as well as geographical map. It was their strong political will and administrative acumen that we are one J and K, an integral part of India. Let’s not disrespect their sacrifices. Today one solution, one united J and K, uniting politics and one economics IS the need of the hour. If any region feels lagging behind that is not because of a particular narrative but that is because of poor leadership and lack of its assertiveness and their will to get due for the people of their region.
Strong and assertive leadership of a region, class or community has, nobody can deny it’s due. So it’s time for Jammu leadership to be assertive because mere being in power can’t do the things right. You have to make the mare go, or else playing these narratives will definitely prove to be a disastrous trend and in the future every Tom, Dick and harry will create its own narrative at local level and then there may emerge a lordship type mentality as was prevalent in Afghanistan prior to its Soviet occupation and even today. If this narrative trend continues, definitely a time will come when we will confront narratives like Rajori against Poonch, Doda against Kishtwar, Reasi against Ramban , Udhampur against Jammu, and Kathua against Samba . So let’s all not fall trap to these illogical narratives and try our best in our own way to keep the state united. Together we all as the public of Jammu and Kashmir can do all this and after all, politics, political power and political parties all are temporary and what is everlasting and permanent is our society. There is an old saying that “society is supreme”.
Satish Singh Manhas