Friday, August 15, 2008

Devil's Labyrinth or Heaven on Earth

Violence in Jammu and Kashmir continues. Jammu has entered its 46th day of agitation and 16th day of bandh.In the valley there has been a call for bandh till the 18th of august. There has been loss of life and property.

Though the row started over the Amarnath Land transfer or rather land leasing issue, it has snowballed into a demand for Azadi for Kashmir by the Kashmiri hardliners like Hurriyat Conference and a do or die matter of honor for the Dogras of the Jammu region.

It is and has been a very complicated issue thanks to its history, various ethnic groups and their religious and political affiliations. If my previous posts have seemed to simplify the matter, that was not the intention.

I have previously stated that the Dogras of the Jammu region are united in their struggle, hindus and muslims alike. But this statement is likely to cause confusion. By Muslims of the region I meant the Dogra Muslims. The demography of the region is the key to understanding the problem. There are now 10 districts in Jammu region: Jammu, Kathua ,Udhampur, Samba, Reasi, Poonch, Rajouri, Doda,Kishtwar,Ramban
Out of these only Jammu, Kathua, Reasi, Udhampur and Samba are predominantly Hindu. The Hindus are mostly Dogras. The districts of Poonch, Rajouri, Doda , Kishtwar and Ramban have Muslim majority.

Historically , Poonchies have rebelled against the Maharaja of J&K a Dogra Ruler. During the partition they fought to get independence from Jammu. They have had an anti India stance since then.Since Rajouri District shares its borders with Pakistan, it is the site of infiltration and militant activity. Due to militancy substantial minority communities have moved to the Hindu dominated districts near Jammu. The militants hiding in the forests in and around Rajouri have either brainwashed or threatened the locals to adopt a seperatist view.

The Dogra Muslims have chosen to support the Hindus in the Amarnath issue. They also agree that the people of Jammu region especially Dogras have faced discrimination. They stand united with their Hindu brothers in demand for justice.
In Ramnagar tehsil in Udhampur District Mr.Dilkhursheed, a Muslim has been made the Chairman of the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti. Prominent Dogra Muslims like Sheikh Shakeel,Member Jammu Bar Association, Abdul Mazeer the Chairman of the Muslim Congregation Jammu, have joined their Hindu counterparts in the agitation.

Kashmir Valley has the history of struggle against the Maharaja. Even during the partition many did not agree with the Maharaja's decision to accede to India. Many in the valley still want independence from India and want a separate country which includes the POK.

Kashmiri Pandits and the Dogras stand united but were not on very cordial terms with each other before. The Pandits appreciate the fact that Jammu opened its doors for them in the 1989 mass exodus but some of them feel that the Dogras were silent spectators during their persecution. Dogras empathize with the Pandits but harbor resentment over the years of discrimination and governance which favored the Kashmiris.

These are the major players but there many more in this circus. The Ladakhis, Baltis. Gujjars ,Bakkerwaals....The more the merrier they say, but here the case is not so. It means more complexities and more difficulty in finding a long term solution to the problem.

Is it Heaven on Earth or the Devil's labyrinth is the question I am asking myself these days.


Piper .. said...

hmm..very very complicated. Will there ever be a solution? Manmohan Singh in his independence day speech,asked the people to unite in their attempts at restoring peace to the nation. What on earth does that mean? Its easy to sit there and make bombastic speeches. But is there really any solution to the whole drama? Do you think things will get sorted out if there`s another partition and J&K becomes a separate nation? Its really very,very sad.. I hope your folks back home are doing fine. Where are they now?

Viv said...

Very true! The demography of the state is indeed more of a circus, with a complex mix of different affiliations and even more complicated ethnic mixes. It is not easy to find a long-lasting solution to this problem, not at least by the means that have been tried out so far. It will call for something really drastic which unfortunately none of the parties to the dispute has bothered to do. Till then, the issue will keep lingering along. Hope better sense prevails!!