WILL WE HAVE TO PICK UP THAT STONE TO BE HEARD?
The first time around when there was terror unfolding in the valley we, the Dogras watched in pain and mute horror. In the aftermath we opened our hearts and hearths to our shell shocked and exiled brothers, the Kashmiri Pandits.
The second time around we watched in growing frustration as we were portrayed as the rabid, fundamentalist, right wing Hindus as the peaceful Amarnath Yatra became a major issue in the state with national political parties also playing mischief and trying to get as much mileage as they could from it. Immediately after being misunderstood, misrepresented and being shouted down by over-zealous and biased TV Hosts in various programs, the youth and the old alike catapulted into action. A host of online groups were launched. An immediate need to address our identity crisis was deemed necessary. The demand for a separate state Duggar Pradesh became louder than a whisper. We did all this because we woke up to the fact that yes indeed we were the step-child.
The third time around the problem has magnified, made only glaring by the fact that we lack good orators, and courageous and visionary leaders. Our Hindi is not so great and our English, a language better understood by the majority of those who form opinions and take vocal stands, even worse. With an escalating sense of abandonment we have watched the coverage of the drama in the valley. We have waited that someone; anyone will ask us what we feel and what we want. We are amazed that mainland India, the political leaders and the media have blinders on. They refuse to see that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has different ethnic groups with different loyalties.
The Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, a Dogra signs the Instrument of Accession, Nehru, a Kashmiri Pandit blunders afterwards and yet amongst all…the Dogras (Hindus and Muslims) , the Kashmiri Pandits, Ladakhis( Buddhists), Gujjars(Muslims), Bakerwals (Muslims), Sikhs. Paharis, Poonchis (Muslims and Hindus) it is only one group which asks for Azadi and Autonomy or accession to Pakistan!!! Has anyone questioned why? Has anyone demanded to hear from the other actors of this high strung drama?
We the Dogras have always been voiceless. The Kashmiri Pandits who did manage to get well deserved sympathy after the mass exodus are becoming victims of weak memories and are out-shouted by their brothers who continue to live in the Valley.
I am a generation who has grown up witnessing and hearing about gross injustices playing out in the state. Despite being a larger geographical area and with a greater population the Jammu Region has only 37 seats compared to the 47 from the valley. 70% of the government jobs go to the Kashmiris as opposed to all the other communities from the state. All the money flowing into the state goes to the valley. Kashmiri ad hoc government employees earn more than their Dogra counterparts. The Valley wants the Central University and IIM (Indian Institute of Management) to come up in Srinagar as opposed to Jammu or Ladakh. They created a hue and cry to oppose it coming up in Jammu!!
We have seen systematic ethnic cleansing in the valley. We have witnessed the Kashmiri Pandit exodus from the valley and the massacre of the Sikhs in Chattisinghpora. We are aware of the continued threat to the Hindus, Sikhs and any India supporter. I have heard of my people complaining that we are suffering the mistakes committed by Nehru. We have suffered terribly under the draconian Article 370. I know Ladakhis do not want to be administered by the Kashmiris from the valley. On one hand a Dogra girl will have no right to property in her home state if she marries a non-state subject, even if it is a Dogra from Himachal Pradesh or Punjab. And on the other hand grooms from POK and Pakistan are brought into the state under any pretext. Sometime back there was even a discussion in the Assembly that a non domicile daughter in law should lose her right to property in the state in the eventuality of the demise of her husband. Is this not a gross violation of basic human rights? The Kashmiris from the valley are buying lands and apartments all around me in Jammu but I cannot dare to do the same in the valley. Is this not an extension of subtle but sure ethnic cleansing?
On what grounds is it justified that just one of the many players gets to decide that they want to break away? After the systematic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandit after torture, killing, rapes and worse how can one expect a fair plebiscite and a just demand for autonomy?
There have been demographic changes on the other side of Pir Panchal too. Hindus have been driven away in the Jammu division too, by home grown militants, foreign mercenaries and ISI operatives. Village Defense Committees have had to be set up and innocent villagers have been armed so that they can fight the so called “Freedom Fighters” who rapes his women and kills his kinsmen. A detailed study of the Operation Hill Kaka in the Mendhar Region highlights the fact that villagers, Muslim Gujjars helped the Army to flush out the terrorists hiding in the adjacent mountains. Their human rights were brutally violated and they snapped out of the mass and false propaganda to fight against the militants. My family member too, an innocent civilian Doctor posted in a mountain hamlet has been shot at and managed to escape with 3 bullet wounds to his body and 70 bullets to his car. Is this in any way in tandem with the insincere voice from the Valley which says we want the Pandits back?
There is no denying that stories of Sufi traditions and harmonious co-existence are a thing of the past. The present generation of Kashmiris in the valley, hate India, very clearly mirroring policies and even getting covert direction from Pakistan but the Dogras and Kashmiri Pandits reciprocate the sentiment keeping their fervor of Azadi from this tyranny and violence alive. I have heard Kashmiri Pandits who have been driven away from their homes say that they prefer to destroy/burn Kashmir rather than see it separate from India.
We have seen how money coming from the Centre has been lapped up in the Valley. We are put off by the double standards, practiced in the valley. There are the well- to- do Kashmris who are getting richer and louder day-by day. As opposed to the poor Kashmiri who is sitting on a rickshaw, going down some dusty lane in Central India selling carpets in attempt to make ends meet. His children cannot go to school because the more powerful Kashmiri tells him not to do so or the militant beats him if he dares oppose. Meanwhile the children of the well off Kashmiri get degrees in quick succession, out of the state and holds placards in front of UN agencies in far away lands.
We believe that the stone pelting, Indian flag burning, Kashmiri has many faces. Some who actually believe their cause? Some who are brainwashed and are victims of the herd mentality. And there are many who are being paid for it. It has indeed become an organized crime. We believe that these stones that are being thrown today have been collected over a period of time and there is a certain going rate for a day of stone throwing.
As a people of the state we are pained by the human rights violations occurring in the valley and beyond. But we see that the abuse is happening from the armed forces as well as the militants. We agree on the concept of gradual de-militarization. But we will never agree to Autonomy. We dare not compare notes on our sufferings but that does not stop us from being victims too. We are a people who not want to be invisible anymore. And unfortunately we are beginning to come to terms with the fact that we may be heard and seen only if we pick up that stone too.