Monday, May 17, 2021
 
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Jammu Identity: Why Don’t We Assert It?
Straight Talk



K. B. Jandial

Post Article 370 abrogation was thought to be a defining moment for Jammu to reassert its lost identity. But regrettably, this moment has washed away and expectations belied. Today, Jammu is struggling to find its feet to get its composite identity recognised. Instead of succumbing to despondency, why can’t Jammu convert this ‘failure’ to an opportunity?

Jammu’s identity is defined by its long admired distinct composite culture & khand mithi (sweet) languages and rooted in religiosity centered around globally revered Shree Mata Vaishno Devi, Sudmahadev & Mantalai, Shri Raghunath ji temple with idols of 33 crores deities, Bawe-wali-Mata, Peer Kho, Ziarat Shadhara Sharief, Ziarat Peer Baba Budanshah, Shiv Khori, Gurdwara Dera Baba Banda Bahadur, Gurdwara Nangali Sahib & Churches. It is rooted in pious rivers like Devika, Uttarvehni, & Suryaputri Tawi; and the mighty one, the Chenab on whose eastern bank at Akhnoor, Gulab Singh’s coronation as Raja of Jammu was performed under Jiya Pota tree on June17, 1822 by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the beginning of the Dogra Rule. Valour and sacrifice had been synonym with Dogras. Dogra rulers Rajas and Maharajas like legendary Lambhulochan, Gulab Singh to Hari Singh, Gen Zorawar Singh, Maj. Somnath Sharma, PVC, Brig. Rajinder Singh MVC, Sub. Maj. Bana Singh PVC, and many more who are proud icons of Dogra’s unparalleled valour. But then there are Dogras who are immortalized into Duggar’s folk ballads like Baba Jitto (symbol of asserting tillers’ rights) Data Rampat alias Data Ranu (sacrificed his life for dispensing justice) & Main Dido (symbol of resistance against non-Dogra Rule). Besides, its identity is also defined in Jammu’ cultural icons like K L Sehgal, Malika Pukhraj, Dinubhai Pant, Allah Rakha, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ram Nath Shastri, K S Madhukar, Sansar Chand Baru, Padma Sachdev, Nain Sukh etc. World famous Basohli miniature paintings, folk lore & dances too contribute to Jammu’s composite splendid identity. This identity separated Jammu from Kashmir & Ladakh.

In a way, Jammu is at a cross-road of its contemporary history and trying to assert its identity and relevance that has diminished and ignored ever since J&K became the part of India, interestingly at the hands of last Dogra ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh. Concerns on it and perpetual discrimination are being expressed at many fora including during the low key celebrations of the 175th Foundation Day function on 16th March at historic Dogra Sadar Sabha to commemorate the birth of the unified Dogra’s State of Jammu & Kashmir under the suzerainty of British Empire. Hopefully, it could become an annual feature to show case Jammu’s political, linguistic, cultural identity and make these rallying points for projecting Jammu’s identity.

Regrettably, the Govt of India had always overlooked the pioneering role of Dogra rulers in integrating diverse regions in to one unified State and extending its boundaries up to Tibet after conquering Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan which became India’s national boundary on October 26, 1947. How can the Govt forget that it was the legendary Gen Zorawar Singh, also called Napoleon of the East, whose conquests against Tibetans including the Mount of Kailash, extended J&K’s frontiers all the way to the edges of China? Even when India is faced with hard negotiations with China amid military build-up on the edges of Ladakh including Galwan Valley, few in India realise that India’s borders with Tibet & Xinjiang as also with the Wakhan corridor and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, are in fact the legacy of this great Dogra General. While contributions of gallant Dogras were never recognised by the Govt , in peculiar rarity, the defeated Tibetans honoured great Dogra warrior by creating his Samadhi at a hilltop in Toyo which is venerated even today. Back home, even Dogra MPs could not project contributions of Dogras in any debate in the Parliament including on border dispute with China. The documented historical facts of conquering entire Ladakh up to the edge of China in 1841 could have effectively countered Chinese manipulated claims on border dispute.

Jammu’s identity has been overshadowed by Kashmir ever since Dogra Rule came to an end in 1949 with forced exile of the last ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh. Jammu is trying to find its feet in cauldron of identity crisis. And with this started the process of ignoring Jammu’s identity.

Much before the Constituent Assembly of J&K abolished the Dogra monarchy by a resolution on 12 June 1952, there was shocking resistance by the Dominion Govt on the inclusion of word “Jammu” with Kashmir in the Constituent Assembly Indian. It all started with the introduction of 4-A para in the Schedule to the Constituent Assembly Rules by Sir Gopalaswami Ayyangar on 27th May, 1949. It allowed the “Ruler of Kashmir” to nominate the representatives of the State “on the advice of his Prime Minister” to fill four seats in the Constituent Assembly. Pertinent issue here is not the nomination of 4 members but the name of Jammu & Kashmir State recorded as “Kashmir” in the first schedule to the draft constitution which carried names of the States acceded to India. Jammu’s name was erased by the then Govt. This was the beginning of the despicable treatment Jammu was to get in years to come.

K. T. Shah, member of the Constituent Assembly from Bihar had moved the amendment that “before the word 'Kashmir' wherever it occurs, the words 'Jammu and, be inserted." While agreeing that Jammu and Kashmir, no doubt, describes the State better, Ayyangar expressed his inability to change the nomenclature of the State from Kashmir to Jammu & Kashmir (as the amendment had sought) on the pretext that they have to change it at many places in the draft Constitution and thus made a case to accept ‘Kashmir’ in the constitution “that means Jammu & Kashmir only”.

Noticing the unfavorable mood of the House, Pt Nehru put forth another proposal. He said that since there was a slight confusion in people's minds, it would be better to describe the State as "Kashmir State" and then put within brackets, the words "otherwise known as the State of Kashmir and Jammu". Thus, after the words 'State of Kashmir' in the proposed paragraph 4-A, the words within brackets would be inserted, viz., “otherwise known as the State of Jammu and Kashmir". It clearly revealed how uncharitable the Govt of India was towards Jammu and Dogras.

It has become a fad to keep criticising Govts for waning Jammu’s identity without asserting it by the people. Jammu’s rage on IIM convocation robes was shot lived and like it people accepted humiliation at different occasion with indifference and the result is before everyone. It’s little encouraging to find Dogra Sadar Sabha to keep some hope alive by occasionally flagging these issues concerning Jammu’s identity.

Dogri Sanstha is yet another important institution that can be trusted for safeguarding Jammu’s art, culture and Dogri language. But the Dogras, by and large, are unconcerned and hardly speak this sweet language. The Dogri Sanstha, apart from promotion of Dogri literature, has to take up the challenge of popularizing Dogri language among common man especially among the younger generation who has to make it language of communication in every home. Dogri is Dogras’ first identity of which there can be no better ‘ambassador’ than iconic & Vedic scholar, Dr. Karan Singh.

Lt. Governor, Manoj Sinha mentioned JKAS (Jammu & Kashmir Administrative Service) with the name of the District Information Officer, Udhampur Sajad Bashir Somberia in his condolence message on his demise. Perhaps, it is for the first time that the top constitutional authority of J&K has added Jammu with the popularly known KAS. Not many would know that ‘Jammu & Kashmir Administrative Service’ is actual name of the UT’s premier civil service. In the SRO notification issued by the General Administrative Department for recruitment through Public Service Commission in 2018, all the three premier services are mentioned as (i) Junior Scale of Jammu & Kashmir Administrative Service (JKAS) (ii) Jammu & Kashmir Police (Gazetted) Service (JKP)&(iii) Jammu & Kashmir Accounts (Gazetted) Service ( JKAS(Acct). But, still the Govt in every order mentions these services without Jammu despite Jammu are prefixed in their nomenclature like JKAS.

While GAD should mention JKAS for KAS with the name of the officers of the service, why don’t all these officers, especially of Jammu start writing JKAS instead of KAS in their name plates and also in all official communications? It won’t attract any disciplinary action, first it is the actual name of the Service, and secondly it doesn’t offend anyone, not even the colleagues from Kashmir as ‘Kashmir’ continues to be there.

Public demand is growing as never before, for official recognition of the contributions of the founder of Dogra Rule, Maharaja Gulab Singh and other Dogra rulers. It necessitates public celebrations of days or events important for Jammu & its people like coronation of Gulab Singh, making of an integrated State of J&K (Foundation Day), accession day etc.

Jammu also needs to celebrate its iconic festivals which are many. These include historic Mela Pat, Lohri with multicolored chajja which is imitation of peacock feathers, Navratras with Mela Bahu Fort, Panchari Mela to name a few. The famous Ram Lila( at Dewan Mandir which produced many stalwart artists) is another unique feature that needs to be revived in its originality.

Along with these festivals, Jammu needs to revive and celebrate Jammu’s folk dances. There are many folklores & folk dances which enthrall everyone and could become true identity of Jammu. There is perhaps no match to the fascinating Kud dance popular in Bhaderwah- Kishtwar -Bhumag belt. Surma nema nema, Paranda, Gitro, Phumniyan are few of other colourful dances of various areas that were once brand Jammu and should be promoted as such. Bhaakh is another folk that represents Jammu’s cultural richness.

Jammu has to wake up and change its attitude. People have to start asserting Jammu’s identity and feel proud of it. Jammu cannot wait for the Govt to recognise Jammu’s composite identity and instead start promoting it at every level. Think of wishing each other with Jai Duggar, Jai Hind.




(The Author is a retired IAS officer, feedback: [email protected])




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