Jammu: Like the past, the divide is clear this time too
While in Muslim-dominated Kashmir region of Jammu and Kashmir, the entire Kashmir valley is on boil, bringing thousands onto the streets to protest the elimination of a terror outfit self styled commander, the Jammu region in contrast is aloof.
The protests in Kashmir began the day after Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahedeen was killed by security forces in a gun battle. One month, the situation remains tense and Kashmiri separatist elements continue to exploit a common Kashmiri fighting on street.
In Jammu Province, which comprises Jammu, Doda, Rajouri and Poonch, there is sizeable Muslim population, and the political leadership and intelligentsia once again feel burdened and sidelined with respect to happenings in Kashmir.
There is bitter simmering that Kashmir has always forced Jammu into a situation where its shoulders were used to “save Kashmir” in the national interest. “Jammu’ lost its soldiers in 1947, 1965, 1971 and also during Kargil war. In 1990s, the policemen were sent from Jammu to control the situation in the Valley. The entire Jammu region has made sacrifices without asking for its rights and once again, it is Kashmir and Kashmiris who are accorded importance”, rued a former Muslim police officer from border belt of Rajouri-Poonch area, seeking request for anonymity.
Senior journalist Rattan Singh Gill has described the current events in Kashmir as very unfortunate. “The current Kashmir issue is not political rather has its fundamentals in radical Islam, which is fanning in Kashmir like a venom replacing traditional Sufi and moderate tone. The fresh crop of militants is drawing inspiration from transnational Islamic extremism. In contrast to rest of Indian Muslims, Kashmiri Muslims deliberately discard their Indian identity and have coined their own Kashmiri Muslim national, which has been abetted by various mainstream and separatist political groups since decades. One recent example of it are the tweets of former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah over the killing of a dreaded Burhan Wani by security forces. And that of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is questioning the manner in which Wani was killed. A joke-Azad is braying in the Parliament that security forces should have warned the terrorists first and try catch them alive putting themselves to open risk,” he said.
“A handful of people are challenging Kashmir’s accession to India, which has zero standing constitutionally or otherwise. Tragedy is that a Kashmir lobby comprising so-called intellectuals is dictating Government of India’s political decisions on Kashmir without any doubt that they have their individual economic and professional interests. In the past, it was Congress and now BJP is also being guided by this lobby, so it has not really changed much on Kashmir policy of Indian government, though Prime Minister Modi was expected to have a mind of his own,” stated Mr Gill further elaborating that for over six decades all those who have ruled Kashmir have enjoyed power, privileges and pelf, claiming to be people’s representative but deliberately evaded pro-India approach at grassroots level for obvious vote bank. This left adequate space for separatist elements being pampered by Pakistan.
There is a strong demand among people that Jammu should not be neglected politically and economically since it has opened its doors to migrants both Muslims and Hindus from Kashmir, giving its land to them. And in all this, Jammu has lost its basic geographical and demographic characteristics.
Meanwhile, Rajiv Chunni, the chairperson of 1947 refugees group fighting for their citizenship rights in Jammu and Kashmir has stated that whatsoever is happening in Kashmir should be firmly dealt with since it is law and order problem.
“There is no political issue. It is rather the blackmailing tactics of Kashmiris since Indian political class at New Delhi for decades has always been on its knuckles whenever it was threatened with such kind of protests by Kashmiris whether calling for independence or making pro-Pakistan demands. Anyone whether a Muslim, a Hindu or a Sikh should be dealt with firmly when it becomes a threat to sovergnity of nation,” said Chunni, visibly disturbed with Kashmiri rebellion against India.
He suggested that Government of India should deal with the situation firmly and show zero tolerance towards terrorists and their supporters. Echoing the similar views, Farooq Khan, a former senior cop who is credited with weeding out militancy from Kashmir in late 1990s and currently a senior BJP leader at national level, said that the prevailing Kashmir issue is law and order problem and dealt with accordingly. He opined that certain vested interests are bent upon igniting anti-establishment sentiments among Kashmiri populace. Terrorists could never be heros, they were never in the past, not now and would not be so in future. “The government at Delhi and in state is capable of cracking down on elements, whether, they are within the state or outside and peace would be restored in Kashmir”, he added.
When asked about new definition of radical Islam making inroads in Muslim-dominated Kashmir, he said that Muslims need to associate their religious identity with country. Instead of saying, I am Muslim, they need to say I am Indian first and then a Muslim. Of course, there is strenuous task of countering the radical Wahabi Islam steadily taking over the traditional peaceful Sufi form of Islam not in Kashmir but throughout India. Simultaneously, son of a Kashmiri rebel leader deplored the mindless violence in the Valley and questioned the real motive of separatist leaders who allegedly try to keep their family members out of harm’s way. “If jihad is so pious, why don’t you (separatists) or your children pick it (gun) up? Unfortunately, poor people’s sons are dying on streets and they (separatists) are glorifying it,” Junaid Qureshi, son of separatist leader Hashim Qureshi, said. He called on the Kashmiri youth to ask these leaders about their real motive.
“Children of these (separatists) leaders are tucked away in safe environments in schools in Malaysia, America, London or India,” he said. “We picked up guns 26 years ago, what have we achieved? People died. This must end. Youth of Kashmir and their leaders must understand that Kashmir issue can only be solved on table”, he was quoted on saying in media.
The continuing unrest in Kashmir has made a direct impact on trade community in Jammu, with businessmen and traders here claiming to have suffered huge loss due to no transactions with Kashmiri traders. According to estimates, Jammu traders conduct a transaction of nearly Rs 500 million with Kashmiri traders on a daily basis and the current turmoil in Kashmir has blocked the transaction of nearly Rs 500 crore so far.
“The economy of both the regions is inter-linked and dependent. Any trouble in Kashmir has direct bearing on Jammu trade. Due to the current unrest, the supply of goods has come to a halt while there has been no transaction with Valley traders, who, too, have been suffering losses. In term of losses, we have been suffering huge losses and these figures will go up if the situation does not improves soon,” said Yashpal Gupta, president, Associated Chamber of Traders Federation (ACTF).
The ACTF chief said it is the prime responsibility of civil society and trade community in Kashmir to make all efforts to restore normalcy in the Kashmir valley. “They should understand that it (violence and unrest) is not in their interest. They should make sincere efforts to bring peace back in Kashmir,” he said.
Meanwhile, all Jammu province political leadership has appealed for peace in the violence-hit Kashmir, vowing not to politicise the situation there calling it a matter of national security. There has been widespread condemnation of mob attacks on Kashmiri Pandits and non-Muslim truck and cab drivers. The Youth All India Kashmiri Samaj (YAIKS) has termed the situation grim and an attempt to force another exodus. “Hundreds of youths returned to the Valley with a hope that they can again live there but recent targeted attacks have dashed every effort in this direction,” said RK Bhat, president, YAIKS.
Various representative organisations have demanded additional security for the employees, especially living at transit camps in the Valley, which have been facing repeated stone-throwing by mobs. The Kashmiri Pandit Sabha (KPS) has also condemned the stone-throwing incidents at the Haal transit camp. “The camp was under siege and a majority of the vehicles parked in the compound were extensively damaged due to heavy stone-throwing”, said KK Khosa, president, KPS.
by Prakriiti Gupta from Jammu