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    OpinionsHow Jammu and its kind people are being abused

    How Jammu and its kind people are being abused


    How Jammu and its kind people are being abused

    Manu Khajuria

    The nobility of the Dogras must be celebrated.

    This August, during a visit to the beautiful Purmandal Temple, 30 km from Jammu, I saw a local Jammuite, a Dogra man, sense the discomfort of a visitor attempting to cross the shallow riverbed. He quietly offered to carry him across the river on his back.

    He did this without expecting anything in return. He would not only carry a substantial weight across his back at the end of a long day but also reach home late. This man epitomised the essential Dogra qualities of selfless service, calling minimum attention to self, humble in behaviour but tall in character.

    This contented and quiet nature of Jammu's people is being abused though. Jammu carries the burden of the state unacknowledged. Time and again it is overlooked and taken for granted. Those who are recognised as representatives of the state by virtue of the power people have vested in them, do injustice to Jammu.

    They forget that they do not work or speak for just one region, but the entire state of Jammu and . The access they have to national and international platforms, gives them an invaluable opportunity to correct the semantics and present the state in all its composite and pluralistic glory. Yet the sidelining of the other parts of the state is done repeatedly, with a sense of impunity.

    Jammu and Kashmir is an extremely sensitive state, due to geopolitical reasons. It shares borders with Russia, China and Pakistan. A large portion of mainland Jammu remains in the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Ceasefire violations, terrorism, infiltration bids from across the border, ambushes on highways, cast long shadows on the psyche of the people.

    There were 437 ceasefire violations till November this year, killing 37 and injuring 179. In a recent report to the Rajya Sabha, the state reported that 200 terrorists were active there. People live in the shadow of fear and death due to a multi-pronged attack orchestrated by Pakistan.

    This constant state of strife and a struggle for limited resources, makes it very hard for the three very different regions of Jammu and Kashmir to look beyond the means of survival and form friendships. Moreover, regionalism is vetted by self-serving politicians who play one region over the other because it suits their votebank .

    The Jammu region has been a silent spectator, going unnoticed, unheard and mostly unspoken for in the last 70 years. The state has been identified with just one region, Kashmir, and the uniqueness, aspirations and value of Jammu remains largely ignored. The national and international perceptions about the state are built after taking cues from state politicians and the mainstream media, both of whom have not been able to get either the semantics right or projected the voice of all regions, fairly and equally.

    Last year in September, I attended an event in London, called “Conversation on Jammu and Kashmir”. The speakers were AS Dulat and Dr Farooq Abdullah. The moderated conversation came to an end with no mention of Jammu. As a JKian and a Jammuite, I could raise the issue of semantics and Jammu always being forgotten in any dialogue on the state, only during the Q&A session at the end.

    I pointed out that by referring to the state as Kashmir and only discussing that particular region, we do a huge disservice to the entire state. Veteran politician and former CM Abdullah's reply to me was: “Jammu ko kaun poochhta hai“; and “Jammu kisko chahiye“, implying that the subject and victim of Pakistan's nefarious designs on the state is Kashmir alone. All this was said in Abdullah's inimitable style, followed by laughter by an audience which was mainly non JKian and Pakistani.

    “Who wants Jammu?” is not just a rhetorical question, it is a mindset. The answer to this though lies not just in what Jammu is today, but what Jammu has always been.

    In the 1700s, Jammu's King Ranjit Dev invited people of all faiths, who were fleeing unfavourable political climate, to come and settle in the state. Jammu became a safe haven for refugees, who made their homes there and started businesses. It should be a shining example to the Valley, which was cleansed off its Hindu population.

    Jammu has shown how a shared regional identity is above religion. In fact, recently CM Mehbooba Mufti praised Jammu for its ability to remain calm and defeat any mischievous attempts to derail peace this summer, when Kashmir came to a standstill, with stone-pelters ruling the streets and holding the Valley to ransom.

    Jammu is of paramount importance to the state and the nation. Firm in its loyalty to the nation, Jammu stands bravely at the frontline, braving a hostile neighbour. The Jammu region is “shaheedon ki dharti”, steeped in martial traditions, with almost every village sending the bravest of the brave to serve the country.

    The Dogras of Jammu are an inspiration because of villagers like Rakesh Kumar and Vikramjit Singh who despite being unarmed, overpowered and caught the Pakistani terrorist Usman Khan alive last year.

    Jammu is a sought-after destination, for students who have to leave the Valley and its calendar of bandhs to pursue an education. Jammu catered to the sudden influx of thousands of Kashmiri students this summer, taking in its stride, the stretching of its already limited resources. Extreme weather and tough terrain mean that students from also make Jammu their home, in their quest for a higher education. Jammu has been welcoming to them too.

    Jammu had done the same in 1989 when the Valley forced its Hindus to flee. It made room for the Kashmiri Hindus who had no choice but to leave their ancestral homes or be raped, looted or murdered. Jammu accepted them, without any expectation of gratitude and that was admittedly less forthcoming from the traumatised Kashmiris who pined for their homes in the Valley and remained hot, bothered and anguished in Jammu.

    Jammu was and is still wanted by the Kashmiri Hindu who holds on to his claim to the state and chooses to live in Jammu city instead of Srinagar. Jammu is also that break for the many Kashmiri Muslim families, who flock the city in winters, during the Durbar move. They are seen enjoying a regular family day out in the city's only mall, relaxed and far removed from the volatility of the Valley. They want Jammu to escape and to forget.

    Despite a major portion of mainland Jammu being in Pakistan's illegal occupation (POJK), its border villages being under constant fire, incidents like Nagrota, attacks and ambushes on its  highways, Jammu absorbs these shocks, providing enough stability for the economy to flourish.

    Jammu has always been a commercial hub. During the pre-Partition days, people moved to Jammu for business and Raghunath and Urdu Bazaar stand as evidence to the buzzing trade that Jammu did.

    The Jammu region even today remains the highest revenue generator in the state. Everyone wants Jammu, from small and big businessman to the Kashmiri taxi driver who feels safer in a more predictable environment in the winter capital of the state.

    It is a credit to Jammu's ability to provide space to all opinions, that an Er Rashid MLA can come to the city, as he did some days back and say, that people of Jammu align with Kashmir when they want to get benefits, why do they not support people facing repression?

    MLA Er Rashid needs reminding that Jammu stands by all. The Valley's repressed get a taste of normal in Jammu. The persecuted in the Valley make Jammu their new home. The young Kashmiris make their way to educational institutions in Jammu as their schools are shut or burnt down.

    Jammu also provides a safe haven to the Nationalist Kashmiri who feels threatened in the Valley. Er Rashid disregards the benefits of visionary Dogra rulers who gave seats of higher education and hospitals to Kashmir.

    Er Rashid is not only dismissive of these and many more similar “benefits” Kashmir enjoyed thanks to Dogra rulers, but he would also like to ungratefully rename the Maharaja Hari Singh hospital.

    Bank, a government institution, made news on social media for its reported plan to do a 2017 calendar with 12 youth achievers. Newspapers carried reports of the 12 achievers' list, all of whom were Kashmiri Muslims from the Valley. The list, which completely ignored Jammu and Ladakh, caused much furore.

    There have been reports that the news is unconfirmed but the ruling party PDP's state youth president shared the news report on social media proudly, without finding anything wrong with the skewed and divisive nature of the list. He later deleted it once questions were raised. He too probably forgets, that he is the party's youth president for the state and not just Kashmir.

    A few weeks ago, he had forgotten to mention the Dogra Yuva Sahitya Akademi Award winner, congratulating only the Kashmiri scholar on his Facebook page. It is curious that these oversights, mistakenly or purposely, repeatedly disregard the sentiment of the people of other regions of the state.

    Raja Jambu Lochan decided to make Jambupura, the current day Jammu, his capital, when he saw a tiger and goat drinking water from the same bank of the river Tawi, and his ministers explained that this meant that the soil of the place was so virtuous that no living being was the enemy of another.

    The nobility of the Dogras of Jammu must be celebrated. It is time that people who divide, mislead and play dirty games to suit their political agendas in Jammu and Kashmir, understand that the character of peace and contentment is not indicative of a laid-back attitude but a result of people's spiritual moorings.

    It takes immense courage and humanity to share when there is not plenty to go around and Dogras do just that. Their generosity and simplicity are not to be mistaken for weakness. The quiet demeanour hides an indomitable spirit that saw them stretch the boundaries of the country up to the northern Himalayas in one undefeated battle after another.

    It is this sense of duty and service that makes Jammu invaluable and the city, the true capital of the state. High time we acknowledge that there is no Jammu and Kashmir, without the Jammu in it, and start listening to what it has to say.

    She is a community worker and freelance writer seeking answers with special focus on Dogras and the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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