What ails Jammu?
Two diametrically opposite reactions to a similar situation were witnessed in Jammu and Srinagar on February 11. In the valley, residents were seen distributing food and tea among the stranded non Kashmiri passengers and truck drivers at Qazigund and other villages along the Srinagar-Jammu highway.
And in Jammu, stones and bricks were pelted on valley residents stranded in the city due to highway blockade caused by arctic weather conditions.
The worst of it came three days later (February 14) when Kashmiri residents staying in Jammu and their property was attacked by communal ruffians in the aftermath of the militant attack on a CRPF convoy at Letpora Highway in Pulwama district.
Partisan role of police
Dozens of shops, hotels and other property was damaged and destroyed by the attackers in the city pockets under the very nose of the police and other organs of the state administration.
According to an eye-witnesses account, number of cars and personal vehicles were set on fire by the hooligans at Gujjar Nagar on February 15 during a general shutdown called by the traders and business community.
Police, initially, watched as mute spectator to the actions of these road rowdies but when it evoked an angry reaction from the local residents, they felt the grievousness of the situation. The state administration clamped curfew across the city. Though it indeed helped averting any major public disorder but the attacks on Muslim property continued in vulnerable areas.
At Narwal Chowk, this writer saw around half a dozen meat shops and hotels belonging to Kashmiris with damaged shutters and window panes. Narwal police station is barely 20 meters away from the damaged property.
Similar incidents were reported in other vulnerable areas.
Two faces of Kashmiri Pandits
Kashmiri Pandits residing in the city reacted in two extreme ways to the plight of stranded Kashmiris (read Muslims). Majority of them, mostly who live in Jagti, set up food stalls for them after the news of February 11-attack broke.
At Dugra Nagar Chinoor, a Kashmir Pandit gave shelter to a group of 25 Kashmiri Muslims after the tension broke out in the city. They were on a religious tour to Ajmer. On their way back to Srinagar, they were caught in curfew in Jammu.
Next day, neighboring people (who also happened to be Kashmiri Pandits) got to know about their presence in the house, they laid a siege to the house hurling abuses and insults on the trapped people as also on their “host”. They sought the house-owner to throw them out. But the Pandit ‘host’ advised them against venturing out. The trapped people continuously called police to rescue them to some safe place. They told the police that their lives were in danger. But the police completely ignored their pleas and prayers.
The trapped people, after two days of fright and terror, finally somehow contacted a Kashmiri police officer. He took out his personal vehicle, arranged a load carrier and reached the spot and rescued some 37 persons trapped at different places in the area.
No sane voices heard
Though the louts vandalizing Muslim property formed only a small section of local population but the silence on the part of the entire population gives one the notion that all these nefarious actions against Muslims had the social approval.
Not a single word of condemnation against the attackers or sympathy with the victims was heard from any quarter. Right from politicians (of all hues including Congress, National Conference, PDP, Panthers Party and others) to the people in power and the man in the streets, there looked a sort of camaraderie at all levels with the attackers.
What ails Jammu?
Historically, Kashmir was under the rule of Jammu’s Dogra Maharajas for around 100 years. But with the fall of this rule in 1947, following number of reasons—a massive peoples’ campaign against Maharaja, partition of India and emergence of Pakistan and tribal attack—the balance of power tilted overnight towards Kashmir.
Jammu reacted to it with the massacre and forced migration of Lakhs of Muslims. But it little helped them in regaining their political supremacy.
Seventy years down the line, today, Jammu’s identity is not even the pale shadow of its yesteryears. Jammu has lost everything—political power, language, culture and even social customs. Only a small section of Dogras speak their mother tongue—Dogri. Majority of Jammu people feel pride in speaking Punjabi.
The worst of all: Jammu has lost at the intellectual and academic levels too. No doubt some highly qualified people could be found around but they seem less educated, and more motivated. That could be understood from the tweet of a very popular name—Professor Hari Om—in the city. In one of his recent tweets, he asked for cancelling admission of Kashmiri students from Jammu University. That is the level of intellect and understanding of an academician. How common people could be thinking is not difficult to imagine.
It is for this fact that not a single word of condemnation was heard from any quarter in Jammu on the brutal rape and murder of an 8-year old nomad girl in Kathua, last year. That exposed yet another facet of Jammu—that human values, for them, are not superior to communal or political beliefs.
With advent of the Hindu extremist groups in power (BJP being their political face) at the centre and in the state, the Jammu Dogras had expected some kind of U-Turn in the political and power equation of the state but its failure made them more desperate. The attacks on Kashmiri Muslims in Jammu are the demonstration of this frustration.
Clarification: By Jammu we do not mean, Jammu as region. The major parts of Jammu region including Rajouri, Poonch, Banihal, Ramban, Doda, Kishtwar, Bhadarwah and parts of Riasi (which are known as Pirpanjal range and Chinab valley) politically form a single constituency with the valley of Kashmir. The problem is only with only two and half out of 10 districts of the region.