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Invisible Jammu in Re-organised J&K
9/22/2019 11:26:13 PM

Col J P Singh

Jammu is just not heard about whenever re-organisation of J&K is raked up in any forum as if it has been forgotten across India in the din of Kashmir narrative. As of now, opinion that matters is that of Kashmir. Pakistan, China, UK, Canada, France and UNHRC, all are talking about Kashmir. Jammu is totally invisible. Hearing arrogant Kashmiri rants on the TV, print & social media, maligning Delhi, is becoming boring and at times irritating. Jammu is invisible partner in the current J&K Union Territory arrangement. It is Kashmir and Delhi everywhere. J&K might as well have been trifurcated by which Jammu would have got some well deserved visibility. Neither we have enough guts to speak it publically and nor will we be heard. That is why perhaps the silence.
So the choice is to analyse it on the paper! What has Jammu lost? Jammu has lost its identity. It is Dogras of Jammu, who led by Maharaja Gulab Singh and his legendary General Zorawar Singh, created an empire which became largest Princely State of British era and second largest single entity after United Provinces of British rule. We lost our state to Delhi, which was created by sweat and blood of our ancestors who extended its boundaries to Tibet, China, Russia, Afghanistan and NWFP. Being a part of a UT, Jammu lost that pride. Jammu has been downgraded to an appendage.
Most of us (my vintage) were born as Dogras in Dogras ruled J&K. Though we grew up under the shadow of different ethnic and caste identities but remained Dogras. Dogras as a distinct ethnic group, which ruled Northern India for centuries is well known to the world. In J&K, the Dogras Raj came up with the meteoric rise of Maharaja Gulab Singh in the beginning of Nineteenth Century. History bears the testimony. He laid the foundation of a dynasty which ruled J&K for over a century. The partition of the sub-continent in 1947, accession of J&K to Indian Union, communal flare up and trans-border migrations brought about drastic changes in our social, political, religious and ideological equations. Dogra identity was effected in that milieu. It was verily exploited by Sheikh to malign Jammu. Vindictive and hegemonic behavior of Sheikh, whom Maharaja handed over executive powers on 5th March 1948 sealed the fate of Jammu. For the preservation of Kashmir identity, Sheikh negotiated Article 370 with Pt Nehru which he manipulated to create a Constitution granting Kashmiri rule in J&K till eternity. 70 years of suppressive baggage of 370 made us submissive. Now we are fragmented and invisible. Yesterday we were a suppressed ethnic minority in our own fief. Today we are mute spectators. We are split in far too many layers of identities such as Brahmin, Rajput, Khatri, Mahajan, Mirpuri, Punjabi, Gujjar, Bakarwal, Schedule Caste, migrants, refugees etc. But what is more important is that they do share a common identity ie Indian but not as Dogras. So aren't Kashmiri. Even if they too are divided in layers of identities, they don't classify themselves in caste and sub-caste. One-thing is clear that they have a common identity ie Kashmiris. No common identity in Jammu region. Due to ethnic, religious, social and cultural diversity, social fabric of Jammu is very fragile. Indian ethos is the essence of Jammu's composite culture but not the Dogriyat. That is why Kashmir is in the forefront socially, economically and politically. Jammu has been a loser since accession. It lost safeguards granted by 'Instrument of Accession'. We lost 'state subject status' which was our identity given by a Dogra ruler. We lost Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) given by another Dogra Ruler, a very effective and people friendly statute of the state. We lost Dogra Certificate which granted us preferences and concessions in military enrolment because we had proved our battle-worthiness all over the world. We will lose our jobs because of far greater competition. Gradually we will lose our land and natural resources to outsiders. Jammu will soon lose its cultural inheritance. Architects of the edifice will disappear. What have Kashmiris lost. They say they have been betrayed and humiliated. Is it more than Jammu? Jammu is betrayed. It was seeking Statehood since long. Under the leadership of Pt Prem Nath Dogra, Jammu had raised voice for abrogation of Article 370 and separation of Jammu from Kashmir in 1948-49 & 1952-53. Ironically Jammu's voice was muted by mightier duo of Pt Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. (Nehru's letter to BC Roy, CM of West Bengal dated 29 June 1953 on the Praja Parshid agitation over Trifurcation). But the spirit never died down. Others who raised voice for separation from Kashmir included Dr. Karan Singh (BK Nehru's memories, 'Nice Guys Finish Second), Pt. Trilochan Dutt, Prof. Bhim Singh, Prof. Verinder Gupta of Jammu Mukti Morcha, Ashwani Kumar Sharma of Jammu Statehood and Sham Lal Sharma of Congress, now in BJP. The problem had been that Jammu never asked it in one voice. See how Kashmir is united. No shop/college is open. Selected schools are open but attendance is minimal. One voice! On the contrary everything is normal in Jammu. So located at the gateway to Kashmir Valley and being used as bridge both ways, Jammu is vulnerable the burden of chasing ideologies. It is vulnerable to demographic invasion from both sides. Jammu is seen as collaborator with Delhi. Trust deficit between Jammu & Kashmir is increasing. That brightens the prospects of separation. Nothing is lost forever. We can still get what we want if we unite. Ladakh is an example.
Vulnerabilities of Jammu are; its demography, heritage, agriculture & forest land, rich & abundant natural resources, fragile ecosystem, economy, languages & culture and most importantly the jobs of the unemployed youth. It is being talked about in the society because NO safeguards such as granted to various states under Article 371 were assured during the passage of the Re-organisation of J&K Bill-2019. Dangers to demography and identity are looming large. Almost all the political leaders, cutting across the party lines, are discussing the prospects of influx of outsiders and exploitation of Jammu. Many of them worried about their political future in the UT.
Seeing bleak prospects of Jammu in any/every political scenario because of 67% Muslim majority, which carries an eternal bias towards Dogras/Hindus which are 32%, Ch. Lal Singh, a Dogra leader of high standing, raised a regional NGO, 'Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan' to unite Jammuite as Dogras to counter Kashmiri hegemony. Later he formed a regional political party, 'Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan Party' to raise regional issues. It didn't do well in the Parliamentary Election probably because Rassana was overtaken by Balakote and regionalism by nationalism. Yet it will be a strong voice of Jammu under the changed political scenario being entrusted to raise regional concerns. More clarity will come once the restrictions are lifted on holding public meetings, press conferences and rallies. My wish is that all parties and NGOs get together and from a 'United Dogra Front' and seek safeguards akin to other Himalayan/Northeastern States (Article 371) as and when the political/administrative process starts lest the 67% vs 32% mars it prospects. (views above are personal).
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