By Sahil Mahajan
In 1990s, there was a common refrain across the political spectrum, especially in the opposition that the government had no Kashmir policy. Those were the days of high violence in Kashmir and Pakistan had upped anti-India narrative, broadcast from its soil, and that unfortunately also got amplified in Kashmir. The government’s first priority, as it appeared, was to fight terrorism. The fight against terrorism in Kashmir that had dented the image of India, despite being a priority, was lost in the confusion. The military solution had its focused approach, but there also was a political approach which created confusion as the political voices sought to press the government to talk to the militants, or their overground sympathizers. This dual approach made the people to question whether there was a Kashmir policy?
Jammu, despite this chaos and confusion, had become an anchor against all the tides. It hosted thousands of Kashmiri Pandits who fled the Valley under extreme fear and sense of persecution. Kashmiri Pandits chose Jammu region for three regions , it was a Hindu-dominated place where they could feel a sense of safety among their co-religionists , and it was safer place where the terrorist were not having their footprints as deep as in the Valley, and thirdly, they were guided by the fact of the state subject protection , that is Jammu was part of the same state which encompassed Kashmir as well, Jammu, however, was guided by the emotions to protect fellow Indians who were under attack from Pakistan and Pakistan sponsored militants.
All these years, Jammu played its role, with all the humane and magnificent nationalist approach. It had to share its resources and jobs with the fellow Indians that it had hosted. In that era, a fact may be little known to many, that the police officers and men from the region were posted in Kashmir to play a frontline role in fighting terrorists because of the multiple factors. There were several Jammu officers who made the supreme sacrifice.
Today, when more than three decades have passed, and the terrorism has been tamed to a large extent, there are still questions about the policy. The questions are related to Kashmir policy, which in essence means that Jammu, as a region which withstood the menace of terrorism, rescued and sheltered the victims, and saved the would-be victims from getting persecuted, finds little or no mention in the policy-frame.
The policy needs to take care of urges and aspirations of the people. What is Jammu asking for, (a) recognize its importance as a region filled with people who have made sacrifices of all kinds all these decades (b) it should be given its due place in the policy framework with a meaningful outlay how the government wants to tap the region’s potential and enrich it with the policies (c) what is the future roadmap for the region in coming years. What is the vision for Jammu for the next decade?
Everything that the region wants is within the constitution, it also upholds the integrity of the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu has been an anchor in the crucial times, and the fact is that it still is the bulwark against all the hostile forces from across the border and within, and it also reserves rights to enrich its economy and live in tune with its own traditional values. And, Jammu needs to do one more job, ask the government to frame a Jammu-centric policy , and at the same time the social activists and political class should sit together to arrive at a consensus to work out a policy paper , which may give ideas to the government how to go about the things in Jammu and Kashmir, and in Jammu, in particular.