Kashmir Ground Report-7: Is Kashmir moving away from Jammu?
The gap between Jammu and Kashmir that surfaced in 2008 over the land allotment for the Amarnath shrine, is now widening. The mood in Kashmir is increasingly bitter.
Ashraf Bhatt, who lives in Nava Kadal, downtown Srinagar, has been married for 22 years. He married Dhoom-Dham in Rajouri, which is in the Jammu Division. He has a family-to-family relationship with Jammu. They are badly hurt by Jammu's attitude on Article 370. Ashraf says, "We always kept Jammu with us in the 'Kashmir Movement', but when the biggest assault has taken place on us, the people there are supporting India rather than backing us. This is a betrayal of Kashmir's past and politics.”
60-year-old Imtiaz Farooq, dragging on his bidi, listens to him closely. He says, "It is not that people of every region of Jammu are happy. If you leave out the districts of Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur, people are protesting in the remaining areas, but their sentiment is different from the valley."
Unlike Jammu, there is silence in the markets of Kashmir Valley at this time (all photos- Dilip Khan)
Imtiaz believes that the sentiments of people in the districts like Kishtwar, Rajouri and Poonch falling in the Pir Panjal range are quite similar to the valley, but the 'Hindu majority' areas support the central government's decision. For the first time in 2008, the rift between Jammu and Kashmir started to appear on a large scale. At that time, the state government had decided to allot 99 acres of forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board. Extensive demonstrations started in the valley against this. Mehbooba Mufti's party PDP withdrew support to the Congress and the government of Ghulam Nabi Azad was dissolved. Imtiaz's son Musharraf was involved in that protest. Millions of people took to the streets in the valley. When the government reversed the decision, the people of Jammu started demonstrating.
Ashraf Bhatt says, “When they (people of Jammu) blocked the way, we also started a protest. Lakhs of people attended the 'Muzaffarabad Chalo' rally. The government was blown away.” When the Jammu highway was blocked, more than a million people traveled towards Muzaffarabad in PoK on 11 August 2008 on an appeal by Hurriyat leaders to protest against this. The security forces had to open fire near the LoC. From then, a wall has come up between Jammu and Kashmir for the first time.
According to Anupnag Taufiq, who sympathises with the Hurriyat Conference, “We want to keep Jammu with us too. We want the control of India in the entire region to be over."
When asked why they believe in the Hurriyat, Taufiq's answer is, "I only accept Geelani saheb (Syed Ali Shah Geelani). I will follow what they say.” Syed Ali Shah Geelani advocates joining Kashmir with Pakistan. He may have repeated the slogan of 'independence of Kashmir' on different occasions, but officially he believes that Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan. Taufiq does not know the official line of 'Geelani Saheb', but he knows that he will support going with either 'Azadi' or Pakistan." The people of Jammu will not go with Pakistan. There are a lot of Hindus there.” So do they support the Kashmir movement without Jammu. The answer is yes.
The distance between Jammu and Kashmir seems to be increasing.
Mohammed Bhai, who runs a houseboat in the Dal Lake, feels that there has never been unity between Jammu and Kashmir. The thinking in both areas has always been different in terms of religion, but for the last 10-12 years, this difference is reflected in the 'political' as well. According to Mohammad Bhai, "a lot has changed in the valley. People here are seeing the latest decision as a major attack. At such a time, if a region is not with us, then how will people talk of taking it along?" The separatist leader Yasin Malik is a supporter of 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir'. He believes that on both sides people should raise their voice for an 'independent Jammu and Kashmir'. Mustafa Hasan, who considers Malik's Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front as an 'ideal' for Kashmiriyat, also feels that the ideology of Jammu is changing.
According to him, “The BJP and RSS have instigated people there. A part of the Hindus now wants to be with 'them', but even today, there are millions who believe in the ideology of Yasin Bhai in the Jammu region." Mustafa continues, "You leave the Hurriyat. Look at how the attempt has been made to suppress the voice of Kashmir through delimitation.” This is the major issue of discussion between the parties and political activists taking part in electoral politics. After the Central Government divided the old Jammu and Kashmir into two parts, the work of re-determination of seats in the transformed Jammu and Kashmir Assembly has started in the Union Territory. The Election Commission has indicated that this work will be completed in the coming 10-15 months.
Aamir Altaf, who voted for the National Conference in the last election, feels that after Article 370, delimitation will be the biggest injury inflicted on the Kashmir Valley. In Baramulla, he said, "You see, when all this is completed in 2021, the seats of Kashmir Valley will be reduced and the seats of Jammu will be increased. The whole matter is clear. The BJP wants to rule the entire state by winning the seats in Jammu. They have nothing to do with Kashmiris.” Altaf is badly hurt by the decision taken. He says, "Now I will not go to vote. What will I do by casting a vote? Who did what as Chief Minister? Those who were Chief Ministers were also arrested and those who were stone throwers were also arrested. What difference did it make? Now the most important task is to save the identity of Kashmir." Interestingly, Jammu has been left behind in this identification.
Aamir Altaf's house
Hasrat Mansoor of Pulwama feels that the people of Jammu are running away from 'real politics'. He says, "Now the whole matter has become Hindu-Muslim. Jammu has become Hindu and we are Muslim. This is true. Hindus are with Hindustan, Muslims are with Pakistan." Why with Pakistan? "Because when we are persecuted, we raise our voice." At this time, you can go anywhere in the valley, and even the people who supported India, now want to see Lahore.” Hasrat has a glint in his eyes. Are the slogans of 'Azadi' over now? Hasrat says, "Either you will go there or you will be free."
An elderly man who runs a medical shop near Lal Chowk in Srinagar says, “The people of Jammu were also involved in Kashmiriyat. We want them with us too. If it does not happen then it will be a fraud with Kashmiriyat. A fraud occurred in 1990. But, this time the cheating is not on our side, but on their side. People of Jammu should understand the situation. At this time, we should unite against the decision of India." If Jammu is cut off from Kashmir's agenda, will the Hurriyat (independence) only belong to the valley? A school teacher from Baramulla says, "Look, we have seen the dream of freedom." If not this century, we will realise it in the next century. "We Kashmiris do not get tired nor sit silent. When the elections were rigged in the valley in 1987, there was silence here for four years. After four years, the silence broke, and no one has been able to keep quiet till date. Now if Jammu itself is getting separated from us, we will not bother about them."
The house of Hasrat Mansoor.
Amidst all these prejudices about Jammu, most of the people in the Valley believe that Kashmiris were further weakened by adding Kargil to Ladakh. People clearly feel that the government has created such a situation in which the voice of the Kashmir Valley becomes weak in electoral politics. According to Imran Akhtar, if Kargil had been with Kashmir, the voice of the valley would be stronger, but that too is not to be now.
[Autotranslated from Hindi]