Every region or area in a State has its own aspirations, sentiments and political demands which, if fall within the ambit of the Constitution, must be respected & honoured and sincere endeavors be made to fulfill these. But most of the times aspirations of one or the other politically or strategically important region or area overshadow the aspirations of the other regions leading to perpetual feeling of neglect among its people and the regions are taken for granted. Jammu falls in this category.
The dawn of democracy with Accession to India with end of Dogra monarchy rule in J&K saw this unfortunate trend with Kashmir region remaining the prime focus of every State and Central Govt while Jammu region was made relegated to play a second fiddle to Kashmir. And Ladakh was still far behind in every respect and didn’t remain in reckoning till a peaceful mass uprising in late eighties got them an honourable place in the State by way of statutory Hill Development Council which was further empowered over the years.
Jammu was reduced to a ‘colony’ of Kashmir with its genuine aspirations kept under the carpet with people and its representatives remaining indifferent to these yearnings. People were expected to keep the Kashmiri ‘masters’ happy even when they challenged Indian sovereignty to which Jammu is ever committed. There is divergence on all fundamental issues between both the regions like on the finality of Accession, promotion of further integration with India etc. But the bulk of people in Jammu would not like to confront their six months ‘honourable guests’ on such sensitive and unpalatable issues. On the other hand Kashmiri friends realize that they had been in the messy situation and Jammu alone provides fresh air and real ‘azadi’. While all of the ‘winter guests’ gratefully acknowledge friendly environment but they seldom forget to remind, in interactions, the Muslim killing in Jammu during break-up of the state in 1947.
For the last four years due to a civil society effort, Jammu took up two-day Accession Day celebrations on 26-27 October with gaiety and gusto with many political and non-political organisations holding separate functions and distributing burfi, laddoos and halwa. Though the actual passion and enthusiasm was still yet to reach the zenith yet the spread of functions and the people’s effort kindled hopes of much better show next year.
This time, more than 50 members of Jammu’s civil society including two former Chief Justices of High Courts, four former Judges of J&K High Court, several former IAS, IPS, IFS including one former chief Secretary and one former CVC, two Padam Shree awardees, artists, professional and social activists, in a joint statement, appealed to the J&K Governor and PM to celebrate the Accession Day officially that could counter those leaders who continue to mislead people by holding Accession as “conditional”. But sadly, it was not to be so.
At a RSS sponsored Accession Day function, a fiery BJP Tarun Vijay made the headline by declaring that this year’s Accession Day would be celebrated like Diwali. Displaying emotions he claimed that this time, within the State the Governor would fire “aatishwaji” from Srinagar and Pradhan Mantri from Delhi to mark this historic Day. Regretfully, not to talk of “aatishwaji” not even a ‘fuljari’ was fired. Even simple greetings to the people of the State were missing.
This indifferent attitude of all Central Governments including present one and Kashmiri leaders controlled successive State Governments and now Governor has created an uncertainty about the finality of Accession in the minds of people of Kashmir who openly question it, arguing that it is a dispute that has to be resolved. For them, Accession Day celebration was like pouring “oil into the fire in Kashmir”. Some even in Jammu wanted the celebrations to “wait” till Kashmir returns to peaceful situation. There were few who frankly said that they don’t want to annoy “friends” in Kashmir. With the people of Kashmir hating India and it’s all symbols including Accession, similar feelings are bound to come to Jammu youth as well and one day they too would question the validity of the Accession. The least they can do is to put all the facts of Accession into the curriculum in schools.
While some friends don’t want to make “Kashmiris angry” for nothing, did their Kashmiri friends ever care to the sentiments of Jammu people? The Jammu’s fervor is always in favour of India, greater integration and the national pride, for which Kashmiri friends have no respect. As is evident, it is a one sided love and respect.
Despite Jammu’s fervent appeal to Governor Malik and PM Modi to celebrate this year’s Accession Day officially, they continue to shy away as if the demand is somewhat illogical or illegal. Both looked towards it with contempt which it (the appeal) didn’t deserve. Jammu considers, and so do many legal luminaries like former CJIs late Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan & late Justice A S Anand, Maharaja Hari Singh’s signed Instrument of Accession as final and irrevocable, refusal of Governor and PM to join the people of Jammu in its celebrations notwithstanding. It has hurt the psyche of the people of Jammu whose feeling of neglect and Govt sidestepping its sentiments got compounded. There is no option but to keep pursuing the demand next year and also in next election as Jammu’s representatives have let Jammu down as the earlier ones did in the past. The only difference is that earlier Jammu too was not celebrating it and no such demand was raised but in the last three years it has become a strong and emotive issue.
Other ‘man ke baat’ is the growing concern on declining Jammu’s representation in services. As a sample of this alarming trend, out of the recent selection of 48 Junior AEO (OM & RBA categories) made by Services Selection Board (SSB), Jammu got 5 posts, Ladakh one and remaining 42 posts went to Kashmir. Such brazen regional disparities in selection for Govt jobs rightly led to loss of faith in these bodies with growing demand for separate PSC and SSB for Jammu.
The continued political disempowerment due to “ban” on delimitation of constituencies till the publication of the first census after 2026 is yet another strong irritant in Jammu which too is not addressed by both these Govts. By29th Constitutional Amendment Section 47 (3) of J&K Constitution was amended in 2002 by adding a proviso which says, “until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the State and the division of the State into territorial Constituencies under this sub-section”. It means that the delimitation of Assembly constituencies cannot be done till 2031 census.
In 1995, the last Delimitation Commission gave 46 seats to Kashmir, 37 to Jammu and 4 to Ladakh that are disproportionate to the actual voters in different regions. In 2002 Assembly elections, Jammu had an electorate of 31, 06, 114 against 28, 84,841 of Kashmir, which means that Jammu had 2.11 lakh voters more than Kashmir. Intriguingly, the electorate of Kashmir increased thereafter even when they are not keen to vote.
But still there are questions on irrational size of electorate in constituencies. While in Jammu region, ten out of 37 Assembly segments have more than one lakh electorate with Gandhinagar largest with highest electorate of 1, 68,643 followed by Jammu West with153540 electors against five such constituencies out of 46 in Kashmir with highest 1,20,339 voters in Batmalloo followed by 1,06,856 voters in Kupwara. There is also substantial gap in lowest electors in a constituency with Gurez having 17554 voters in Kashmir and minimum of 41506 voters in Bani in Jammu. The average electors in Jammu segments is 83, 000 against 55000 voters in Kashmir. Can’t this be rationalized to restore the balance of political power in both regions?
Feeling of discrimination in Jammu is not only a mere perception but a stark reality. All Commissions set up to pacify Jammu upheaval including Gajendragadkar Commission in 1967 , Sikri Commission in 1979 and Wazir Commission in 1981 had made a slew of recommendations to address the genuine grievances of discrimination to Jammu but most of these recommendations are gathering dust in Govt repositories. While increasing the number of districts in Jammu, Azad Govt granted four new districts to Kashmir also where there was no such need resulting in creation of four districts in South Kashmir within a radius of just 20 sq. kms area. The only possible motivation was that Kashmir cannot have less number of districts as compared to Jammu.
Then there are issues of non- settlement of PoK’s DPs and West Pakistan refugees which are politically talked about and assurances held out but nothing concrete has so far been done to resolve this human problem.
Another growing aspiration, recent one, is the recognition of the contribution of Maharaja Hari Singh who was wrongly harmed by the Govt of India. The demand for holiday on his birthday has gained support. Some major project should be named after him.
A statutory Autonomous Regional Council is the only answer to perpetual discrimination to Jammu. Luckily, almost all political parties are agreeable it.
Government’s inability to deport Rohingyas from Jammu is another serious issue in Jammu that causes unending security concern among the people. Settled here for five to six years now, they have established Madrassas, local markets, colonies and gradually entered into the social fabric of Jammu. Many are doing jobs in neighbourhood colonies and some of their girls got married to locals. Some others have even got Aadhaar and Voter I-Cards besides PRCs. Jammu’s fears on this count are not unfounded, going by the experience of similar illegal entry of Bangladeshis and Rohingyas refugees in Assam in the past that changed the demography of at least nine districts where the indigenous population is now a minority. Isn’t Jammu too poised to become another Assam?
PM Modi has completed 49 editions of his ‘Mann ke baat’ on last Sunday (28th Oct). He is just one short of half century. During this popular interface with the people, PM had not uttered a word on Jammu’s tolerance to injustice and aspirations. Jammu too has its “Mann ke Baat” but no one has time to hear it. Will PM Modi or Governor Malik listen to Jammu’s “Mann Ki Baat” and address the fundamental issues of these patriotic and nationalist people across the region?