Religious divide in J&K was never so stark before: Arun Joshi | india | Hindustan Times
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Religious divide in J&K was never so stark before: Arun Joshi

The two regions of a single state today stand sharply divided along communal lines — ‘Muslim’ Kashmir versus ‘Hindu’ Jammu — something that had never happened before.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2008 01:28 IST

Never in the history of the state of ‘Jammu and Kashmir’ have ‘Jammu’ and ‘Kashmir’ been at such odds with each other. The two regions of a single state today stand sharply divided along communal lines — ‘Muslim’ Kashmir versus ‘Hindu’ Jammu — something that had never happened before.

Why has Jammu been on the boil for the past month, ever since the transfer of 40 hectares of land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board was cancelled following strident protests in Kashmir? Why has it taken exactly the opposite position of the people in the valley, and done it so aggressively? What accounts for its prolonged, uncontrolled eruption of anger?

It is no secret that the Hindus of Jammu have never shared the Kashmiri aspiration for a separate homeland. Yet never did they come out so strongly to oppose the 20-year-old Kashmir insurgency. Terrorist killings — which occurred regularly in some of Jammu’s districts as well — failed to ignite its residents. All they did was offer safe refuge to all those, Hindus and Muslims alike, who had fled the terror in the Valley, treating both with equal consideration. Today it does not.

“It had to happen,” observed Varun Gupta, a Jammu businessman. “There is a limit to tolerance.” Talking to residents it becomes clear that the current agitation is like a pressure cooker bursting: the accumulated frustration of decades of discrimination, of being dominated by the Valley and ignored by New Delhi as it worked towards a Kashmir ‘solution’, suddenly gushing forth. The Indian government’s ‘surrender’ to what Jammu dwellers considered a patently unreasonable demand — Kashmiri Muslim fears of outsiders settling permanently in the area proposed to be handed to the shrine board were absurd – proved the last straw.

But eyebrows have rightly been raised about some of the methods the agitators have resorted to, seeking to impose an economic blockade on the Kashmir valley, and calling upon Kashmiri Muslims to ‘quit Jammu’. This has only frayed the bonds that hold the state of Jammu and Kashmir together, and given a further propaganda tool to the separatists to exploit.

“Calls for stopping supplies to the Kashmir valley will undo all the effort put in to restore normalcy to the area,” said former Kashmir DGP of Police, M.M. Khajuria. “It is exactly what certain elements are praying for. The price will have to be paid by the common people who want to live together.”