Art. 370: Fear of Losing Identity, Land Rights Grips Jammu Residents
Image Courtesy : Kamran Yousuf
Jammu: In the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, the people of Jammu, shrouded under a heavy military cloud, are having their moment of epiphany. The uncertain situation has brought the people together who are now trying to make sense of what has transpired. While a section of people, mostly with political affiliation to Right-wing parties, are in celebration mode, the public is pondering over the repercussions of the decision made by the central government. On August 5, the Centre announced the abrogation of Article 370 that conferred special status to J&K in Rajya Sabha and also proposed bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The decision saw celebrations across the country while the region was kept under a siege with almost a total communication blackout. Even as Section 144 was imposed in the Valley, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Right-wing parties were given a free hand to celebrate. With an end to the celebrations, the reality has hit home for few. Currently, Section 144 has been relaxed and the situation in Jammu city is slowly getting back to normalcy but internet services are still down.
In Jammu city, an uneasy feeling has gripped the air. An auto driver, requesting anonymity, said, “Ab logon ko samaj aa raha hai ki kya hua hai. Kashmir ko sabak shikhane ke liye hamara istemal hua hai. Jammu and Dogra ko phir se kuch nahi milega. Pata nahi kya hoga ab. (Now, people are realising what has happened. We have been used to putting Kashmiris in line. Once again, people from Jammu and the Dogra people are not going to gain anything. Don’t know what will happen now.)”
A sense of fear has descended upon the people after the scrapping of Article 370 regarding losing their identity, culture and usurping of their land rights. A resident of Jammu city, Ramesh, said, “After 10 years, nobody will know who is Dogra. Our culture and identity will be compromised with the influx of outsiders. Jammu will be another Delhi.”
Murmurs of separate statehood for Jammu can also be heard on the ground. Founder of Dogra Sambhivan Sanstha (DSS), ex-Forest Minister and former BJP leader, Lal Singh, who subscribes to the idea of separate statehood of Jammu has been put under house arrest. His arrest has disappointed a section of Dogras, according to whom, Singh is fighting for their dignity. Not just Singh, other Opposition leaders, including Devendra Rana from National Conference (NC), have also been put under house arrest.
A resident requesting anonymity said, “This decision was a blunder by the Modi government. A big Dogra movement is taking shape under cover. It can erupt anytime. Dogras and Rajputs have become conscious of the deceit. If the movement erupts, it will burn the entire Jammu. The thought of having separate statehood for Jammu is taking shape.”
The residents of Jammu, especially a sizeable chunk of Dogras, believe that their land will be usurped and outsiders will settle down in their place. Another resident said, “People of Jammu have always maintained that they are up in arms when it comes to change in demography. Now, we are being told that domicile option is being worked upon. We don’t know how far it will be successful. For how long should Dogras bear the brunt of everything?”
Even though the residents of the Hindu majority Jammu city are convinced that the step was taken to contain militancy, they are worried about the situation in the valley. “We are being told that the step was taken to contain militancy in Kashmir. But it is sad to see how civilians in Kashmir are suffering because of this. Now, I feel this is not the way to curb militancy. Militancy will be increased. Everyone will fear entering Kashmir now,” a resident of Jammu said.
Meanwhile, a majority of Kashmiri Pandits, mostly living outside Jammu, are celebrating the episode and terming it as “integration of Kashmir with India,” while few are publicly criticising the communication blockade in Kashmir and steps taken by the government.
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