Tuesday, February 19, 2019
 News Details
Demographic ‘invasion’ unnerves tolerant, peaceful Jammu
Straight Talk

K B Jandial

While the Constitution has made India a secular and democratic nation, political parties have negated this basic feature by dividing the people on sectarian lines and threatening peaceful coexistence of people of all religions and communities. They did it by exploiting religious, caste and regional susceptibilities of India’s innumerable communities and faiths through vote bank politics that serve the interest of particular groups of voters, often to the exclusion of the interest of others. Regrettably, no effective system is in existence to prevent use of sectarian card for petty political ends.

J&K is no exception to divisive politics. Over the years, political parties have been tailoring their policies and utterances to pander to their respective vote bank sentiments including of the separatists. Kashmir has no dearth of incidents, issues and events that throw up enough opportunities for political parties, pressure groups and divisive elements to divide the people on communal, regional and even on separatist lines.

Unlike Kashmir, Jammu has a history of communal amity and peace. It has withstood all provocations and threats to harmony in the past including terror strike at revered Shri Raghunath ji historic temple. But today, Jammu is gradually slipping in to a situation where peace and amity is perceived to be threatened. It impelled the social organisations, civil society, and intellectual groups to go into huddle to share “security concerns” that loom large over Jammu. Some people are dropping vague hints of possible migration of Dogras from Jammu like that of KPs from Kashmir in early nineties. Some of them feel that Jammu is being made Kashmir in terms of strife to the benefit of separatists. Are these concerns genuine or mere castles of despondency?

Certain incidents and developments have taken place in and around Jammu in the recent past and its inapt handling by the Govt have prompted serious debate on possible “migration” from Jammu openly, in smaller as well as larger groups. It all started when political parties, especially the coalition partners, took divergent public stance on certain sensitive issues to pander to the sentiments of religious diehards or nurture respective vote bank.

The most regressive act of rape and murder of eight year old Gujjar girl, Asifa in Rasana village of Hiranagar that shocked the State, made to be a crime against a “Muslim” girl allegedly by a “Hindu”. Rape is rape and murder is murder whose criminality, brutality, savagery and despicability is not dependent on the religion of the victim and the accused. While all are condemning the incident and want justice to be done to the victim but none has stopped playing religious and political slugfest on this ghastly incident. This type of politics is as contemptuous as the crime. The shameless politics on it doesn’t allow this debate to die down even when the status report stood filed in the State High Court. More than the incident, the investigating agency has become the bone of contention.

The beginning of its aftermath was wrong. While condemning the brutal incident the locals formed “Hindu” Ekta Manch to protest against the Crime Branch’s “harassment of Hindus” in the village and to press for impartial CBI probe. Would it not be better had the protestors made the forum without prefixing ‘Hindu’? BJP Ministers too had supported CBI demand which the party has now dropped while the hunger strike to press it continues in the village. Across the country, CBI probe is considered to be more professional and fair as compared to the local police who is conveniently influenced by the local Govts. But in this case, CM Mehbooba rejected it saying that she had full faith in Crime Branch. Moreover, the investigation was nearing completion. Does she suspect that Modi Govt may influence the probe? Expectedly, she does want to be seen bowing to BJP or “Hindu” pressure. CM’s avoidable harsh tweet against the agitators too added to public anger, denting her position as CM who is the custodian of the interests of all.
Had the religion of the victim and the alleged accused been the same, would this gory incident have generated this type of hyped debate on communal lines? Shamefully, just after 60 days of Asifa’s reprehensive incident another rape was committed in Jammu but with a difference. The alleged accused belonged to same religion. It was committed allegedly by a cleric Shah Nawaz of West Bengal on a seven year old girl Muslim student of a local madrassa in village Kattal Battal of Nagrota. This rape was neither politically exploited nor much reported by the media as it didn’t serve the vote bank politics.

Some well-known intellectuals took note of the developing situation and issued a statement calling for restraint and strengthening harmony- a time tested treasure of Jammu. But it didn’t change the narrative of “insecurity” in Jammu. While the agitating people have come under the umbrella of “Hindu” Ekta Manch against alleged harassment of locals in the name of investigation, hurriedly constituted All Tribal Coordination Committee and Jammu “Muslim” Youth in Jammu too jumped in to the fray and took out a candle march seeking justice for Asifa. On the face of it, both “Hindu” Ekta Manch and Jammu “Muslim” Youth are “seeking” justice for the unfortunate Asifa but that is far from the real objective.

Terror strike on Army Station, Sunjwan on 10th Feb this year and later, stone pelting are alarming. Terror strikes are not new to Jammu as terrorists managed to strike in the past after regular interval by breaching the IB but this time terrorists had come from Kashmir with overnight shelter here. The low intensity incident of stone pelting on army station a week later is appalling. It is first incident like of “Kashmir Intifada” in Jammu. Both the incidents alarmed Jammu, more because the elements who harboured the slain terrorists and stone pelters remained unidentified till date, at least in the public domain. The feeling that the harbourer is next door sends a chilling warning of more terror strikes. The accusing finger goes to no other than the Rohingyas refugees settled nearby.

Government’s lackadaisical response to deport Rohingyas from Jammu is another burning issue that causes unending security concern in Jammu. Living here for five to six years now, they have now established local markets and gradually entered into the social fabric of Jammu. Many Rohingyas are doing menial jobs in neighbourhood colonies and some of their girls got married to locals. Some others have even got Aadhaar and Voter I-Cards besides PRCs. There are evidences to show their links with Kashmir’s terror groups. But Kashmir politicians are using Rohingyas as their communal and political agenda for short-term political gains, but the fact remains that they are potential security threat in Jammu.

Jammu’s fear on this count in not unfounded, going by the experience of similar illegal entry of Bangladeshis and Rohingyas refugees in Assam in the past that changed the demography of at least nine districts where the indigenous population is now a minority. Is Jammu too poised to become another Assam? Why and how these refugees travelled thousands of miles from Myanmar border to “settle” at Jammu where exist well known fundamental restrictions on settlement of non-state subjects due its unique law? Was there any agenda or conspiracy to counter the long pending issue of non-Muslims West Pakistani refugees? Won’t Rohingya settlement annihilate Dogra identity? Nobody has any answer to these probing questions. The Governments, previous as well as the incumbent have preferred to look aside. While the SC is debating a larger humanitarian issue of these persecuted refugees, in J&K it is a question State Subject law, security concern and demographic “invasion”. Why doesn’t the Govt deport and relocate them in other states nearby Myanmar borders?

Coupled with this emergent issue is the gradual but lawful settlement of Muslim families around Jammu. It is a fact that Jammu has been be a peaceful, comfortable and communally harmonious city of the otherwise strife-torn State and it could be a reason for Kashmiri Muslims to buy property in Jammu to spend four-five winter months. Other Muslim families from Jammu region like Poonch, Rajouri and Doda too becoming a part of Jammu’s social habitat. It can be explained by similar migration of other non-Muslim families in view of much better urban amenities that exist in the winter capital.

“Controversy” has been created by the minutes of the Tribal Affairs Department on the “decision” directing the administration against “dislodging” Tribals without consultation of the Department, if found to be occupying state land. This relevant “decision” was contested by the Ministry’s MoS and reportedly endorsed by CM, but not yet withdrawn. Some people take it as attempt of ruling PDP leadership” to settle non-locals in Jammu urban areas.

In Asifa case, the Crime Branch believed that “dislodging Bakarwal community” from Rasana village was the prime motive of the crime. The motive itself is worrisome as it unfolds growing “intolerance’ to the presence of some communities in the neighbourhood” which was not the sentiments in Jammu. This could become a virus in Jammu where people often talk about “encirclement” by Muslim settlements. Jammu’s today narrative in most of social media and interaction in compatible groups is the growing “demographic invasion”, even of “two and half districts” of Jammu, as some Kashmiri leaders often “taunt” Dogras whenever they are confronted with the demand of trifurcation of J&K. Alluded “migration” of Dogras would never happen as they cannot be expected run away from any challenge though some are predicting it to happen soon. Whether it actually happens or not, but it does haunt Jammu.

Is there a grand “design” in these settlements in Jammu? Is Jammu’s pluralism and tolerance a palpable factor for these settlements? Is Dogra identity threatened in their own land? It is difficult to rationally look at these developments either way. Kashmir leadership with separatists in the lead had successfully stalled the lawful and humanitarian proposal for creation of colonies in Kashmir for migrant Kashmiri Pandits and local Ex-Servicemen by trumpeting a “well-conceived conspiracy to change the demography of Kashmir”. Buddhist majority district of Leh too has quietly prevented Kashmir’s “entry” into its territory while Kargil Muslims have bought property without any local resistance. Does anything like this ever possible in Jammu given its tolerant and pluralistic character with Hindu-Muslim bhaichara going strong?
Despite absence of any such resistance, individual or collective, Jammu still get flaks from all and sundry. Recently, Yashwant Sihna’s Concerned Citizens Group too has echoed similar views. Its recent statement on Jammu said that “there is perception among the local citizens that in the coming days the situation in Jammu would be difficult to handle. … increasing communal divide could make the situation in Jammu quite provocative.” Analysing the situation aptly it said that the Kashmir valley has been on the boil off and on but the Jammu region becoming politically volatile is a new phenomenon. “Not only is Jammu getting polarized communally, even the State Legislative Assembly has been polarized after the terrorist attack on the Sunjwan Army camp.” “Pakistan Zindabad” by NC’s former Speaker in the Assembly on the day of Sunjwan terror strike exposes the nature of politics Kashmir politicians can play.

All these developments provide opportunity to some sections of population to mobilize people on the “lurking danger” on Jammu. Some believe that Jammu could soon become “disturbed area” like Kashmir that could suit the cause of separatism. Jammu Bar Association has already taken lead in launching agitation in support of these “concerns” while JPPF and many other local nonpolitical groups are thinking on similar lines.
Are the State and Central Governments concerned about growing situation in Jammu arising out of people’s perception on “demographic invasion”, security risks from Rohingyas etc? But coalition partners are motivated by political expediencies to remain in power rather than addressing issues. What are the options before Jammu? All inclusive Jammu civil society has to take a matured call.

(The writer is former Secretary Information, health, transport, CAPD departments and a member of Public Service Commission, feedback: [email protected])

(Disclaimer: The views, observations and opinions expressed in above write up of Scoop News are strictly author's own. Scoop News does not take any onus or liability for the veracity, accuracy, validity, completeness, suitability of any of information in the above given write up. The information, facts or figures appearing in the write up in no way manifest the position, standpoint or stance of Scoop News and the Scoop News does not assume any encumbrance or answerability of the same. All disputes are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of competent Courts and Forums in Jammu City Only)

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