Naseer A Ganai comments on politics of identities and languages in Jammu and Kashmir
On February 2, 2006, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq while addressing a rally at Shaheedi Chowk Jammu said silent majority in Jammu division has all along supported Kashmir cause. “Some people have been opposing our interaction with you and they created doubts between us. But now it is over. We will oppose any solution based on regionalism and religion, and New Delhi cannot ignore sentiments of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Few days after the rally, the National Conference president Omer Abdullah addressed a press conference. Apart from criticizing Mufti’s self-rule, he also talked about rally of Mirwaiz. “I salute young Mirwaiz’s courage. Even I’ll think ten times before organizing such a rally here,” he said.
Eleven months down the line, on January 2, 2007 the Himalayan Mail of the Indian Express carried news report having headline “In Jammu, Geelani cheered.” “Geelani’s provocative speech, pro-freedom slogans in the huge procession just after call for peace and assurance from CM have raised lot of questions,” the report apparently perturbed by the “huge rally” says.
There is no doubt the Government might have got shock by the support, which people earlier accorded to Mirwaiz and now to Geelani. But the pro-freedom leadership also might have been surprised over the support from Jammu province especially in the Jammu district.
Misconceptions about Jammu Division
There are many reasons for it. Kashmiris presume Kashmiri could be found only in Kashmir valley and when they hear people of Gool Gulab Garh, Doda talking and speaking in Kashmiri they often get a shock. Moreover, most of the valley based Kashmiris presume once a person crosses Banihal tunnel, he is in Jammu district. But upto Patnitop, the area falls under Doda district.
The wrong notions about Poonch, Doda, Rajouri, Udhampure even Jammu district has done great damage to pro-freedom politics in Jammu and Kashmir and those who were espousing the cause of self-determination were described as leaders of certain pockets of Kashmir and Kashmir dispute confined to Kashmir valley only. However, there are politicians in Jammu and Kashmir who are well versed with topography and demography of the State and they know what people actually want. Farooq Abdullah is one of them.
In a recent article carried by the Frontline magazine, noted political commentator writes about Farooq Abdullah and his views on trifurcation of the State.
“The BJP regime at the Centre began gingerly to promote trifurcation of the State after the RSS spokesman M.G Vaidya said on September 3, 2000 that “RSS was in favour of trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir.” Noorani writes that the then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah warned, in that event the districts of Doda, Poonch and Rajouri would not live with Jammu and that would trigger something worse than Jammu massacres in 1947. The Chief Minister, Noorani says, was alive of implications and he then quoted Farooq’s statement carried by this paper on December 2000 “India will be left with two and a half districts while so-called Greater Kashmir would go on a platter to Pakistan eventually.”
Jammu has six districts. Three of its six districts have a Muslim majority-Doda, (64 per cent), Poonch (89 per cent) and Rajouri ( 61 percent). The other three districts are Udhampure, Jammu and Kathua with Gool, Gulab Garh Tehsils having Kashmiri speaking Muslim population. That is why Farooq said on trifurcation Indian will be left with two and half districts. It clearly indicates that aspirations of people of these areas are not different from the aspirations of the valley.
Ladakh is not all about Leh and Ladakh Union Territory Front or Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA). The Kargil population constitutes 50 percent of total population Ladakh. And Muslim leaders of Kargil oppose Union Territory status for Ladakh and LBA. There is large section Kargil who prefer to identify themselves with Kashmir valley rather than Leh.
Ethnic Kashmiris and others
No doubt Kashmiris living in the valley have suffered immensely during past 16, 17 years and pro-freedom leadership will have excuse that they were so pre-occupied with Kashmir that it didn’t get time to show their support base in other areas. But if they have started coming out and organizing rallies in Jammu division, it will shatter many myths and theories that Kashmir dispute is confined to Kashmir alone and ethnic Kashmiris are only people who want right to self-determination.
The people of these areas have been fed with lies about Kashmir and Kashmiris. The Gujjar and Pahari leadership blamed Kashmiris for every problem confronted by their communities. But when you look at leadership of Gujjars and Paharis, that is elite leadership having assets worth crores and remotely linked with their people. The Gujjar and the Pahari leadership who have over the years tried to projected Kashmiris as hate figures among their communities, have no qualms when it comes to establishing relations with Kashmiris.
The Gujjar and the Pahari leaders have relations with Kashmiris and they even tie nuptial knots of their sons and daughters with Kashmiris.
Years on, people who reside in Teetwal, Tanghdar and Uri and other areas were fed on lies that Kashmiris have discriminated against them or they treat them as second class citizens. But when in these 50 years once Kashmiri got chance to help them after the earthquake, the people in these areas saw the real Kashmiri. Out there with everything to help their brothers in distress. Even today people of these areas remember this and they say “Kashmiris came like anything and with everything.”
Moreover, Kashmiris should remember that people of Poonch, Rajouri, and Doda and other areas of Jammu division are not today’s victims. They have been victims all along and always they had pinned hope that Kashmir would relieve them. The first struggle against Maharaja didn’t start from Srinagar. But it was from Poonch and it was brutally crushed. Alister Lamb describes massacres of Poonch from September 1947 to December 1947 as genocide of Muslims. The genocide perturbed so much to Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah that he said, “whatever is happening in Poonch is direct result of oppression of Maharaja. Maharaja’s Army has started war against the people who are fighting for their rights.”
Noted Kashmir commentator P.G Rasool writes in his book Kashmir 1947, that on October 22 1947 speaking at Budshah Chowk, Sheikh Abdullah said it is sheer lie when people say State was attacked by tribals. Those who are coming are not outsiders but the state subjects. And to quell the struggle of people of Poonch, Dogra Army has gone on killing spree forcing brave Poonch people to take weapons against autocratic rule. These are very people who are being portrayed as tribal attackers.”
But after few days Sheikh when appointed as Prime Minister by Maharaja took U-turn and started his movement against “tribals” who few days ago were state subjects.
And after 1947 it is enough if these people are living.
Their concerns, our concerns
Opening of road between Doda and Desa is long dream of thousands of people. In Poonch, Rajouri opening of Mughal road is dream, which so far has not materialized. Opening of road links could bring people who share same aspirations, close to each other. And once people having same aspirations, get close it erases many doubts.
The pro-India politicians had many doubts about Pakistan presuming it as most backward country of the world. But when they returned from Pakistan tour last year they had different perceptions. The then BJP president Nirmal Singh described “Islamabad like Europe.”
Media creates false images of people, their culture, their history and when there is no interaction one starts believing what media tells them. But once people become close to each other, particularly those who have common aspirations, common goals but are divided by artificial walls, closure of roads, they realize injustice has been done to them. So if the resident of Poonch, Rajouri says Kashmir have discriminated against them, Kashmiris should take it in the right spirit. It is not a complaint but mistrust sown in the minds of people who share common goals and interests, and it should be taken in that sprit.
Because understanding of issues at this juncture is of utmost importance. Two persons were killed in Leh and they got hill council. Kashmiris have lost one lakh and they don’t know what is in store for them.
So those who have given sacrifices of one lakh should remain at guard that others should not reap benefits on their account. That they should not be divided in the name of culture, language. Or in the name of identities and politics in Jammu and Kashmir. That in case of settlement, decision of those who have given their blood as an investment, should prevail.
Pahris, Gujjars too have responsibilities. The ST status does not help to elevate communities economically. It only helps in getting lower rung government jobs, and creates rift among the communities who share same past and same future outlook.