Within 36 hours of being restored, the 2G internet services were snapped in five districts of Jammu division. On the intervening night of August 16-17, the low-speed internet (2G) services were resumed, after a gap of 12 days, in few districts of Jammu with Hindu-majority population including, Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Udhampur, and Reasi. After curfew-like restrictions and internet ban, Jammu was seen limping back to normalcy but the abrupt snapping of internet a second time, has raised certain speculations about the ground situation in Jammu. The administration has said that the step was taken to keep a check on the rumour-mongering but the locals have something else to say.
Rising Tensions on the Ground
NewsClick spoke to Muslim residents in Jammu who are witnessing a general feeling of uncertainty in the current environment and are fearing an imminent exodus. A young woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “There is a lot of fear and rumour on the ground. The other day, a friend of mine told me that this place is no more safe for Muslims. As a Muslim, I have never faced any discrimination in Jammu but these days, divisive politics has come to dominate the minds of the people and it has resulted in fear. My father was telling me, in these times of uncertainty we should plan shifting to Doda. We have a house in Doda, and if things go wrong, our family will take refuge in Doda.”
Another boy said, “ I have never felt like this (that it is unsafe) in Jammu. Although nobody is saying anything openly, there is a feeling of uncertainty.”
Also read: It’s Andha Kanoon (in J&K). Anyone Can be Arrested: Akbar Lone
As per a resident, who requested anonymity, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal have already held a few rallies and were planning to organise more in other areas that would have resulted in communal riots in sensitive Jammu. “Bajrang Dal had planned for a celebration rally. West Pakistan refugees had a similar programme. So, precautions (banning 2G services) were taken up to avoid reactions. It is said that the bike rally was held in few corners of Jammu city. This could add fuel to the already simmering tensions.” West Pakistani refugees are those who came to Jammu and Kashmir after 1947 partition, and are dominantly Hindu population.
According to NDTV, VHP and Bajrang Dal had held a bike rally in Jammu. “So, to avert any protest and violence, cellphone internet was suspended,” NDTV said.
Demand for Statehood
The demand for separate statehood is also shaping up in Jammu. After the internet services were resumed, residents took to social media to express their demand. A Facebook post by Amandeep, a resident of Jammu, which went viral said, “Dogra certificate wapas laagu karna chahiye aur locals ko 80 per cent job reservations milna chahiye J&K mein. Hum Indians hai par hume apne culture ko bhi bachana hai. Jai Jammu Jai Dogra. (Dogra certificates should be reintroduced and locals should have 80% reservation in jobs in J&K. We are Indians, but we have to save our own culture too. Hail Jammu Hail Dogra.)”
“Internally, there has been a discussion going on between locals about Dogra rights but nobody has dared to come out and protest. But this time, Dogras are discussing about their rights and job reservation. They are also concerned about the demography. If their anxieties are not catered to, locals might come out on the streets,” said Rabinder, another resident.
Also read: Art. 370: Fear of Losing Identity, Land Rights Grips Jammu Residents
Former minister and district president of Congress in Samba, Manjit Sigh held a public meeting in which he raised the demand for “separate statehood to Jammu division.” Singh was quoted by the local online media portal, Daily Excelsior as saying, “Jammu people always stood by the nation and they should not be betrayed with Union Territory. Jammu division deserves to be a State, instead of a Union Territory… The honour of the nationalistic people should be respected and hence, their demand for separate statehood be fulfilled with all rights reserved.”
Meanwhile, opposition leaders including National Conference leader Devender Rana, People’s Democratic Party leader Firdous Tak and ex- BJP minister and now, Dogra Sambhivan Sangathan founder, Lal Singh have been put under house arrest. These opposition leaders had criticised the government’s decision. Speaking about the house arrests, Singh said, “Congress was always accused of imposing Emergency in the country in 1975, but present-day situation is more than an Emergency in Jammu and Kashmir where no voice is being heard by the Government and leaders are being put behind the bars.” The public meeting addressed by Singh was attended by more than hundred people who expressed their demand for separate statehood.