The latest land dispute in Jammu and Kashmir is yet another case of three parties seeing three completely different things in what is one entity: J&K. Here he looks at three extreme views: in Jammu, in Kashmir, and in New Delhi.
Like a pair of utterly dissimilar twins, Jammu's Hindus and Kashmir's Muslims are in a bitter brawl. Throw in their guardian, the Government of India, and you are witnessing a horrible psychodrama. What has been taking place over the last 57 days is an explosive clash of narratives that tell the same story where three protagonists are seeing different, conflicting things.
Over the last many weeks, these narratives have swayed from resentment and fear to open hatred. Neither side comprehends the other's logic; both see fanatics on either side. Worse, each side is convinced that the government favours - and colludes with the other The consequences can be much more terrible than they already are.
Combined with the conviction that the other side comprises evil-doers, the cause to escalate violence is already there in the bag. In Kashmir, talk of 'occupation', 'economic blockade' and 'fanatics in Jammu' is bound to feed into the larger discourse of pan-Islamic victimisation, particularly in the minds of a generation that has grown up during the militancy years and has followed the ongoing global war on Islamic terrorism.
Before anything else, the government has to regain credibility. Brute repression hasn't helped in the past and won't this time either Consistent policies and firmness are vital. The government must re-establish communication not only with leaders on both sides but also with the public in Jammu and in Kashmir To engage, one must first understand. And to understand, one must first see what the disparate narratives of Jammu's Hindus, Kashmir's Muslims and of the Government are. These are views that must be heard. And, of course, they'll be jarring to many.
'Those pampered Kashmiris'
What Jammu thinks
You know why the Valley is making such a ruckus over a hundred acres of land? Because they are fundamentalists who want to disrupt the Amar- nath yatra. They've always dominated the state since 1947 and have been a pampered lot.
Look at all the development and allocations in the Valley while we are neglected year after year There's never been a Hindu Chief Minister in the last 61 years. Come to think of it, there's not even been a Hindu Minister in important portfolios. Even when Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had a Hindu Deputy Chief Minister, he gave more important portfolios to Muzaffar Beigh of his own party.
Tells you a story, doesn't it? The People's Democratic Party is anti-national. Its leaders protect terrorists. They raised the land transfer issue for cheap elec- toral benefits. They brought down the government and caused this crisis. If we don't protest, they'll hand us over to Pakistan. After all, doesn't PDP president Mehbooba Mufti openly talk of legitimising Pakistani currency here? Secessionist organisations like the Hurriyat are manufacturing an agitation on the highway at Pakistan's behest. They just need an excuse to secede. The army should crush them.
The government must have an advisory committee of army officers to run states like J&K. Otherwise, along with pseudo-secularists, they'll finish this country.
The Congress practises vote-bank politics, pandering to minorities at our expense. The central and state governments both took the land back from the Shrine Board under pressure from these fundamentalist Mus- lims. And then what happened? The governments spinelessly succumbed when Kashmiris had demonstrated for only four days. Have they responded to our agitation even after a month? Why can't they agree to give a little plot of land to Hindus when there is such a strong public sentiment in favour of it? Article 370 gives a special status to the state only to pander to Muslims. These terrorists in Kashmir hold us to ransom with threats of secession, and Congress governments meekly bow before these anti-national threats.
Kashmiri Muslims killed Pandits and burnt temples in 1990, forcing an exodus.
They also snatched the best jobs. And still they're not satisfied. If we allow them to get away this time, there will be no space for Hindus in J&K today - and in the country tomorrow.
'They hate Muslims'
What Kashmir thinks...
That governor S.K. Sinha had a soft spot for Hindutva was all too evident. He regularly met VHP leaders and lengthened the Amarnath yatra from 14 days to two months. Also, Raj Bhawan became pretty much the office of the Shrine Board he headed. The board brought in all yatra supplies from outside the state, sidelining local Muslims who have traditionally been serving yatris and have been all this while making enough money to last the year. And that wasn’t all. The majority of the Governor’s appointees to the board were Sangh Parivar men from outside Kashmir. Why? To give these men a long-term foothold in the Valley, of course — short-circuiting Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that is supposed to guarantee us of controlling our own affairs. Sixty-five per cent of the population in J&K is Muslim. But you’ll find that most senior civil servants and police officers are Hindu. You know what that means? It means that the Indian government doesn’t trust a Muslim to run important departments like Home or Finance. No commissioner or secretary in the state government is a Muslim.
There have only been two Muslim DGPs — ever. And most top police posts are with non-Muslims. Jammu has been seeing development; the Valley has been neglected. The government has been soft on Jammu agitators. It has been brutal against us. Sure, Kashmiri political parties haven’t been as pure as Gulmarg’s snow either.
The PDP has been playing dirty. It first approved the land transfer, then brought down the state government. The Congress did nothing for the Valley while Ghulam Nabi Azad was CM. It did the right thing to rescind the land transfer. A by-product of the agitation here has been the bringing together of the two Hurriyat factions. All this is funny — if it wasn’t tragic. We went out of our way to help yatris when the agitation started in June. The yatra itself had nothing to do with the mess at all. But we felt betrayed when Muslims were killed in Jammu.
For 20 years, we presumed that the people in Jammu sympathised with the horrific human rights abuse we have suffered. That presumption has now gone out of the window. That Hindus in Jammu killed even Muslims from beyond the Valley — including Gujjars, whom Indians used to claim to be pro-Indian — once again showed us the true face of India. They hate Muslims.
'We did not expect this'
What the government thinks
Although it is forest land, we have provided facilities for Amarnath yatris here for years. The Tourism Department, which handled facilities for yatris even before the Shrine Board was formed, provided excellent facilities this year too. In fact, yatris would have had to pay the Shrine Board were it not for the Centre providing subsidies so as to offer free facilities. The J&K government decided to make the Governor the head of the Amarnath Shrine Board as he would be more acceptable than the Muslim Chief Minister.
Governor Sinha was intent on getting the land transferred to the Shrine Board. Jammu ministers backed it, making it a prestige issue. So let us remember that the state cabinet approved it. When the issue blew up in everybody’s faces, we responded to the Kashmiri people. When statements of Arun Kumar, at that time Principal Secretary to the Governor and Secretary of the Shrine Board, provoked people, the Chief Secretary pulled him up. As for the Jammu agitation, we handled it with moderate firmness.
The new Governor didn’t believe in brutal use of force. He faced a tough problem, since many civil servants sympathised with the agitation and even went on to assist the agitators. As for the so-called ‘economic blockade’, the fact is that the Jammu-Srinagar highway was only affected for three-four days. After that, the Army has kept it open. The Home Minister tried to solve the problem by leading an all-party delegation to Jammu — and then to the Valley too — for talks with the agitators and political parties. When the Sangharsh Samiti refused to sit if the Kashmiri political leaders were present, they volunteered to leave to facilitate the discussions.
The Home Minister was busy meeting politicians and officials in Srinagar. That’s the only reason why he couldn’t find the time to meet the local traders. Such vast numbers of Kashmiris were not expected to take to the streets on August 11. Trucks prepared to go to Muzaffarabad from Srinagar had been confiscated or disabled the previous evening. But the Governor didn’t want to impose curfew in Kashmir so soon after taking charge. The Army hasn’t been deployed.
The CRPF and state police have exercised extraordinary restraint, given the abuse, pelting and direct provocations by agitators. The local police have done sterling work, even though some have been killed, injured, beaten and there has been arson at police stations and officers’ homes. We are not perpetrators.
David Devadas is the author of 'In Search of a Future: The Story of Kashmir'