Dialogue  July-September  2008, Volume 10  No. 1

Editorial Perspective


Developments in Jammu & Kashmir


The allotment of 39.88 hectares of land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board on May 28, 2008, triggered nine-day protest in the Kashmir Valley in which six protestors were killed in police firing. The order was cancelled on July 1, 2008. Thereafter, there was protest in Jammu . It was both spontaneous and disciplined. For the first time, Jammu raised its voice against the high-handedness of the Valley leaders. The agitation continued for 62 days, during which nine protestors were killed in police firing; two committed suicide. Finally, the land was restored to the board on August 31. While the formal order was awaited, there was another suicide bid in Jammu .

      The objections raised against the allotment of the land to the Shrine Board were based on four grounds.

      It was alleged that land transfer would bring demographic change in the Valley by enabling the outsiders to settle there. While levelling the charge, they forgot that Baltal site remained under snow for more than seven months in a year and no human habitation was possible there. Even if the site was located in, say, Srinagar , how many people would have been settled in less than 40 hectares of land? Was really that microscopic percentage of the population to disturb the religious demography of the state? Did Mufti Mohammad Sayeed not know that the land was allotted only for specific purpose — and for temporary use? Then why were the people instigated to come to streets, calling for azadi?

    Another reason was that it was a forestland. Incidentally, at least four allotments of the forestland were sanctioned by the state Government on the same day the land was allotted to the Shrine Board. The Muslim locality of Bhatindi in Jammu city has been built on the forestland. Forestland has also been allotted to the Railways, among others.

    Ecological factor was also cited for opposing the allotment. Pre-fabricated shelters, which were planned for the pilgrims, do not adversely affect the ecology. Besides, there are several other serious cases of environmental degradation, but no Kashmiri leader has ever raised the voice against the same. Lakhs of people gather at Hajratbal, Charar-i-Sharif, Baba Rishie and other places. Is ecology of Kashmir not ravaged by the same? Then why objection in this case? The stone quarries here and there in the state, the cement factory at Khrew, cutting of thousands of trees and destruction of wildlife for the construction of the Mughal Road from Shopian to Budhal connecting Kashmir to the Muslim majority areas of Jammu, encroachments around Dal Lake, destruction of floating gardens of the lakes for acquiring land posed the real ecological problem. No voice has ever been raised against the same on ecological grounds.

Security concerns: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Government wanted promotion of domestic and international tourism on the premise of improved security scenario. Then why the about-turn in the Amarnath land issue?

    Whereas thousands of Kashmiris have settled in Jammu and are further settling there everyday, a person from Jammu is hardly allowed to reside in the Valley. Sheikh Abdullah systematically settled refugee Muslims in Jammu . Then there was ethnic cleansing in the Valley. Pandits were forced to evacuate and settle in the camps in Jammu and Delhi . Clearly, what has happened in the valley is the questionable behaviour of the Kashmiri leaders who often indulge in blackmail, ever since Sheikh Abdullah’s time. While Sheikh hardly paused to think about the demographic change in Jammu , he ensured that not a single outsider — not even a Muslim marrying a Kashmiri woman — settles there. The behaviour of the Kashmiri leaders, thus, cannot fit in any democratic, secular frame-work.

     Jammu and Laddakh has always suffered at the hands of Valley leaders. Sheikh behaved autocratically from the very beginning. He stalled the entry of the candidates of the Jammu Praja Parishad in the state Assembly in 1951. As the nominations of candidates of the other party were rejected, his party won 73 of 75 seats. Soon, the Assembly turned into the state’s Constituent Assembly and it was easy for Sheikh to have the constitution of his choice. Thus, he thwarted the voice of Jammu in deciding the future of the state. Sadly, the discrimination against the people of Jammu and Laddakh continues unabated.

     As per the 1961 Census, the population of Kashmir was 18 lakh, while that of Jammu was 16 lakh. Kashmiris elected one MP for every six lakh population, whereas Jammu people elected one for every eight lakh population. Similarly, in case of the Assembly, Jammu voters elected one MLA for every 67,741 people, whereas Kashmiris elected one for every 53,288 people. The 1991 Census was not conducted in the state fearing the population of the Valley might be less than that of Jammu due to out-migration of the Pandits, thus inviting attention on the electoral dominance of the Valley. The same happened in 1951 when the constituencies were formed on the basis of the 1941 Census.

    The discrimination against Jammu and Laddakh is done in other matters as well. While funds are asked from the Centre for the development of the three regions, the Valley always ends up getting proportionately more. The communal agenda of the Valley-dominated Kashmir Government, such as taking out Doda from Udhampur and Kargil from Laddakh, hurts the other two regions. Gujjars and Shias, too, are not favourably treated.

    Unlike Pakistan , India did not go to Kashmir as an invader. The document of accession was dully signed and Sheikh was a party to the decision and to sending the Indian Army for thwarting Pakistan ’s nefarious designs. Pakistan invaded Kashmir , although despite signing a treaty with the Maharaja to maintain status quo. It captured Muzaffarabad on October 22, 1947, and Baramula five days later. The population of Baramula, which has a Muslim majority, was reduced from 14,000 to 3,000. Kashmiris resisted Pakistani aggression till the Indian Army reached Srinagar after the accession document was signed by the Maharaja.

      Tehreek-i-Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has emerged as the principal secessionist leader in Kashmir . The PDP has played a key role in the rise of radical Islamism in the Valley. The party, by communalising the Shrine Board land issue, has been responsible in making the state communally surcharged. The PDP Government had soft attitude towards the secessionists from the very beginning; it wanted withdrawal of security forces, open border and even use of Pakistani currency. While showing his love for the people of the other side of the border, Mufti forgot the suffering of real Kashmiris thrown out from the valley due to communal reasons.

      The Cabinet members of both the Congress and the PDP consented to allot land to the Shrine Board. Yet, the PDP withdrew from the Government. It was sheer opportunism, as Mufti had already enjoyed his term as Chief Minister and it was the turn of the Congress to run the state. By doing so, he gave opportunity to the anti-nationals to further polarise the Valley on communal lines.

     It should be remembered that the pilgrimage to the shrine and

Kashmiri Shaivism — Kalamukh Shaivism being the oldest — is not a recent phenomenon. The pilgrimage was not possible without the co-operation of local Muslims. The people were economically benefited by the same. One-third of the share of whatever was offered to the deity went to a Muslim family. This cordial relationship between Hindus and Muslims was systematically destroyed in the state.

     Kashmiri leaders should remember that this country cannot afford to allow weakening of secularism and polarisation of its people on communal lines. What Valley leaders are asking for is not possible on both the counts. India cannot allow the triumph of the Two-Nation Theory. The brinkmanship and the blackmail must end.

The Union Government has always been accused of giving undue importance to the secessionist leaders in the Valley. It established them in the eyes of the people. Hurriyat leaders, once incapable of winning even municipal elections, have generally been given more importance than the elected representatives of the people. This is undesirable and perhaps due to American pressure.

      Another disturbing development is the voice emerging in support of Kashmir ’s secession in the media, especially the English-language press. Earlier, it was Ashok Mitra, Communist politician and intellectual, and the Naxalites. Now there are many. They want to prepare the people to accept secession of the Valley or the nominal link; they want us to accept theological assault willingly. The country needs to prepare itself to face the challenge. There are serious stakes.


Public knows it all

A story under above-mentioned caption was published in the Hindustan Times on the day Delhi Police commandoes stormed terrorist hideout in Jamia. Comments from the public: there was no “cross-firing”, “fake encounter” “planted” by Delhi Police, etc. The running commentary continued. There were further talks in the newsrooms and elsewhere: “He must have shot himself in the foot. They do it so often to win gallantry awards” (comment of an activist associated with a Left-leaning think-tank), “repeat of Ansal Plaza ”, “a desperate move by the Government”…

       Human rights activists became overactive, passing early judgement, making calls to the residents of Jamia and around.

   The media in India , especially the electronic media, often work irresponsibly. The issues adversely affecting national integration and communal harmony are often treated casually. It happened the same way this time as well. Our TV news-channels forgot the need of rigorous editorial protocol. Rather than getting and disseminating well-informed and cautiously assessed information, they indulged in spreading rumours, demonised policemen while one of their officers was fighting for life. The information conveyed to the people was that it was a fake encounter, that the firing was one-sided, that it was actually a bomb explosion, that the terrorists were planted in the middle of the night. The source were roadside commentators, who themselves were uninformed but wanted to be seen on the screen, mischief and rumour-mongers and publicity hounds. What was conveyed through the one-liners was rumour and bazaar gossip. There was a tendency to ridicule the police version. Rather than promoting self-introspection, caution and sobriety, the media promoted fear, mistrust and anger. Rather than informing impartially and educating, they indulged in myth-making and creating confusion.

    Terrorism in India — both jihadi and Maoist — is spreading fast. There are powerful politicians — Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan, among others — who have overtly or covertly supported SIMI. Paswan wants Bangladeshis to be given Indian citizenship. A former Congress Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and a BSP MP met the father of terrorist Abu Bashar to convey their sympathy. Our political parties indulge in competitive vote-bank politics. A section of Muslims, too, sympathises with terrorists. Muslim intellectuals like Asghar Ali Engineer indulge in negationism and invention of the so-called grievance theory. Dr Mushirul Hasan, Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia, a Central University , openly commits the public fund to provide legal aid to the alleged terrorists. These undesirable acts create both complication and confusion.

      Pressure on the police is increasing by the day, thanks to increasing anarchy in society. Bandhs, protests, natural calamities and communal clashes create added pressure. Take the case of Orissa and Karnataka. These states have failed to control violence and attack on churches. The country cannot allow what is happening in the two states. The state governments should act effectively or go. At the same time, the church should also tame the provocateurs inciting riots. The conversion by incitement and fraud should stop.

      Needless to say, the task of the agencies fighting terror and restoring law and order is difficult. The media should not increase their difficulties. Imagine if Inspector Sharma was alive. There would have been protest rallies everywhere by the liberals, human rights activists and Muslim organisations against the police, asking for an inquiry commission and the head of Inspector Sharma. In that way, Inspector Sharma’s death has saved the police department from the combined onslaught of the media and the rights groups. While the police cannot be given clean chit everywhere, the press, too, cannot sit in judgement without properly investigating the issue. While there is need for the police to be transparent, the Muslim community cannot be oversensitive; the media shall also have to change its modus operandi.

      A further point about the Indian media needs mention. They are in the habit of diverting the attention of the nation on non-issues when it requires attention and introspection on serious problems. Recently, there was too much focus on the wardrobe of Home Minister Shivraj Patil. The salvo fired at the Home Minister, whether due to political one-upmanship within the UPA or the Congress or for other reasons and given prominence by the media due to latter’s hostility towards them, was ill-timed, politically motivated and stupid. The prominence of the news-coverage diverted people’s attention from the real problem of terrorism. Incidentally, we may remember the heat generated by the media on “Urine Therapy”.

   - B.B. Kumar

Dialogue A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati

Astha Bharati