Jammu leaders dumped Jammu for political and economic benefits

Jammu is bedevilled of many ills. Its age old culture is threatened. It is being said to be turning communal, intolerant, insecure and rattled. A sudden torrent of abuse and criticism is worrying because it has been echoed by none other than a former Union Minister. Currently Jammu is surrounded from all the sides by inimical elements. It is sitting on a volcano is obvious after repeat terrorist attack on Sunjwan military station in February 2018 before which more ghastly attacks at Kaluchak and Nagrota military camps, stone pelting on army picket and attack on media persons in Rohingyas settlement at Bathindi. Communal overtones in Rassana murder incident, violent Nowshera agitation and killing of four militants in Sunderbani are the other shockers. Adding fuel to the fire, Hon’ble chief minister gave blanket sanction to the tribals to settle anywhere in Jammu with anti-eviction instructions. Such news anguishes the most because the hidden message seems different. We see Jammu’s culture of brotherhood exemplified by ‘a lion and a goat drinking water together at the same pond’ being shredded apart. Chronic discrimination, suppressive statements, illegal immigration and local disturbances affect our daily lives.

Why Jammu is in agony is because it has been let down by its own leaders. Interestingly, over the period of time, Jammu leaders dumped Jammu for political and economic benefits such as a ministerial berth, a job to the sibling or a wine shop. That is Jammu’s misfortune. It doesn’t happen in the valley. Therefore common man is anguished and feels that a hard working and upright person like Jagmohan or Basant Rath can only redeem Jammu. I don’t buy that argument. The emergence of this line of thinking does not hide the truth. Those of us who look at someone other than own leaders for rescue must look at the helplessness in which Jammu leaders are stuck in playing second fiddle in power sharing and the Kashmir imbroglio. It is not easy for them to rescue themselves or us from the abyss. But that doesn’t absolve them of accountability to the voters. Most certainly people are going to ask the BJP legislators, at an appropriate time, what have they done to redeem Jammu after Jammu gave them an unprecedented mandate and sent them to the seat of power. It was certainly not for Bijli, Pani or Sadak. It was for something big. Hence local leadership is the first agony. Connected to it is identity.

Quest for distinct and decisive identity is missing in Jammu. Opposite is happening in the valley. While Kashmiriyat is the keyword in the state, Dogriyat is unheard of. Jammu is at the verge of losing its identity firstly because of minority status of the region and secondly because of aggressive advent of Kashmiriyat. The paradox of Dogra identity is that if you are a supporter of Dogriyat, you are considered anti-kashmiriyat and subjected to oppression. The Dogriyat thus remains confined to the royal palaces and obviously so because Dogras ruled Jammu for centuries. They are natural fulcrum of Dogriyat and have a role in redeeming Jammu. (Jesus Christ came to redeem humanity of its sins). I feel one of the erstwhile royals can provide legitimate leadership to steer Jammu out the abyss because of their historical bonding with Jammu identity.

The other anguish is migration from the valley which is increasing Jammu population many folds and changing its demography. Unplanned growth of Jammu is telling upon its resources. Anti eviction instructions of the chief minister will further increase the migration which has the potential of angry backlash and communal undertones. Another irritant is Article 370. Constitutionally and administratively Jammu is discriminated by Article 370. It was incorporated  in the constitution of India with democratic and political provisions biased in favour of valley. Article 370 devolves political powers to the state to an extent that the centre is unable to question its pro-majority or anti-minority policies. The perception about Article 370 in Jammu and Ladakh is that it deprives these regions of political power, development funds and govt jobs. (Whatever jobs the people of Jammu and Ladakh get, majority of them are with the intervention of courts).

Many ills mainly derive from Article 370 which was rather surreptitiously inserted in the constitution by Presidential Order as a temporary provision on the suspect plea of strengthening secularism since it was the only Muslim majority state. No cabinet and parliamentary approval was taken for this. Unfortunately temporary provision has become ‘touch me not’ sword in the political sheath whereas the word secularism is just not found in the preamble of State Constitution. Invoking Article 370, in my view, will be the most important step in redeeming Jammu.

What else devils Jammu is the angst over District / sub-district status. Smaller size districts in the valley and proportionally much larger in Jammu is fuelling the Nowshera agitation. Same anger is manifesting in other places. The passions raised by such issues are dangerous. The situation is likely to aggravate further and take communal overtones. Before it goes out of control, Nowshera must be given district status and a commission appointed to grant more districts in Jammu. Chronic corruption, nepotism, oppression, insecurity, pervasive fear of terror attacks and potentiality of use of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis for fomenting communal tensions further anguish Jammu. Another major issue in Jammu is delimitation and rotation of reserved constituencies. Despite being in the ‘agenda of alliance’, nothing has been done in this respect. Delimitation Commission must be constituted soon.

Rumbling of discontent in and around Jammu raise the question whether all will get together and demand reorganization of the state. Statehood to Jammu has become a political exigency and UT status to trans-Himalayan Ladakh is a national security requirement. Creation of homeland for persecuted Pandits is also a civilisational necessity. Today or tomorrow the Indian state has to come around to these realities. Only way to contain separatism and militancy in Kashmir is by re-organising the state. While the real dangers are mired in speculations, time has come for Jammu to rise to the occasion before it is too late. A victimized frog like tragic story justifies my plea. “Put a frog in a vessel full of water and start heating the water. As the water temperature begins to rise, the frog keeps adjusting to the rising temperature wriggling its limbs till the water reaches boiling point to which frog can’t adjust anymore. At this point frog tries to jump out but can’t because it has lost all its strength in adjusting to the rising temperature. Soon the frog dies. What kills the frog is not the boiling water but its inability to decide when to jump out”. Jammu need to adjust to the changing situations but be sure when to decide not to. This time we need to face the situation collectively. Let us jump while we still have the strength. Leadership, if needed, can be provided by someone so far out of the power politics.

 

A window of hope can be opened for the people of Jammu by a short spell of Governor rule. It will create a conducive atmosphere among the people for seeding the hope of toning the administration to provide good governance which is necessary to allay apprehensions in Jammu.    Finally, a warning to the vested interests, ‘your meddling in Jammu affairs for vote bank politics is bound to land you in a pit like the ‘Alice in the Wonderland’. Once in the rabbit hole, you wouldn’t come out of the wonderland despite various openings coming your way. Unlike you Jammu is too deeply integrated with the rest of India. If BJP’s ultimate goal to make India a Hindu Rashtra succeeds, think where will the Kashmiriyat and Dogriyat stand?

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Author

Col. J. P Singh (Retd.)