Jammu politics needs a catharsis!

By Sahil Mahajan 

The dynamics of Jammu politics have changed dramatically. It is not in a healthy state of affairs as it is experiencing self-inflicted retreat, suffering from marginalization of the kind that it has not seen ever before since 1947. The say Jammu’s politicians had in 1950s, 1960s and even until 1980s has waned. The result of which is uncertainty over the capacity of the political leadership to deliver.

This is an outcome of the neglect of critical issues of the region over decades. A hard fact is that most of the leadership of the region since 1947, though that exactly is not the year when Jammu and Kashmir got Independence, as it was at war with Pakistani invaders who had launched a full-fledged war against the erstwhile state to annex it, both geographically and the communal lines. It was a strange historical feature, in which Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra king belonging to Jammu, had lost power, paving the way for Kashmiri leadership to take over. That’s the time when Delhi and Srinagar colluded, and Jammu was left to nurse its wounds of loss of power.

For the first few years since the change in the government, Jammu lived in its illusion of the past, as it believed that it is still ruling the state. It took quite a number of years for Jammu to comprehend the truth in its entirety that the power has slipped out of its hands, and it had to reconcile to its fate of playing a second fiddle.

The rapid speed of events in Kashmir after 1947, especially after the matter was taken to the United Nations by Government of India, pointing out to the aggression of Pakistan on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which had acceded to India, and become an integral part of the country, But the sense of the conflict refused to go away.

Jammu was pushed into multiple roles, rather owing to its nationalistic outlook and absolute loyalty toward the Indian nation it took upon itself to defend the national interests, fight ideologically the anti-India and pro-Pakistan forces. It was not looking toward any rewards, but doing its duty.  Sheikh Abdullah, who had led the movement against Maharaja’s rule in Kashmir, was an eyesore for Jammu ‘s leadership. There was celebration in the streets when he was deposed and arrested on August 9, 1953. That defined Jammu’s politics that Kashmiri leadership had to be opposed at all costs. The Sheikh’s arrest was followed by plebiscite movement, which only strengthened Jammu’s impression that Kashmiri politics veered around anti-India sentiment.

Opposing such movements in Kashmir was a highly moral and politically correct stand that Jammu’s leadership took. In hindsight, there should be a study of the times and role of the leadership of the region. Unfortunately, not much of work has been done on this very aspect so far. 

The ideology of conflict in Kashmir became an albatross around Jammu’s neck. Delhi was more interested in containing the conflict in Kashmir than anything else. It created a chasm between the forward-looking Jammu and the conflict ridden Valley. This continues even to this day. Kashmir was seeking its own position, cashing in on the idea of being unique in the Indian Union, while Jammu, a patriotic land in Jammu and Kashmir was made to compromise and suffer.

This situation is now bearing a negative impact on Jammu politics. Electorally, its share has increased in the future Assembly from 37 to 43 – the Delimitation Commission added six more seats to its previous number, the important aspect however is whether the region has got the right kind of political say in the decision making. It is for the political leadership to ponder. It is certain that they would find that they lost their prestige somewhere, and the people are looking for options or they find themselves in the no-option zone.