J&K: Panthers Party’s Agenda 2011 for Jammu
by Hari Om on 14 Jan 2011 5 Comments

“No truck with Kashmir and Kashmiri leadership. Enough is enough. Kashmiri leadership has converted Jammu into a colony. Kashmiri leadership has destroyed Jammu socially, culturally, politically and economically and the Jammu leadership has always sided with the Kashmiri leadership to jeopardize Jammu’s general political and economic rights. The Jammu leadership has played foul with Jammu to promote its self-interests. New Delhi abandoned Jammu and threw its lot with the Kashmiri leadership. We will not accept the position of servitude and subordination any longer. We will accept no teacher in the art of self-government except self-government itself. We will not accept anything short of a separate assembly, as such a political instrument alone can end the 63-year-old Valley domination over Jammu and empower its people to shape and control fully their political and economic future within India. Regional council or regional development board is no solution to the Jammu problem.


“We should imitate the Ladakhi leadership, which fought together and with single-minded devotion and obtained an autonomous hill development council. No national party would ever work for the political empowerment of Jammu province because it is interested only in Kashmir and vote-bank politics. We need a regional party to defend and promote the Jammu cause and achieve political redemption. If we remain dormant and devoid of political activity any longer, we will completely submerge under the rising tide of the Kashmiris’ exclusive and intolerant nationalism. Time is running out and to mark time would to enable the Kashmiri leadership to further strengthen its stranglehold over Jammu province.”


The above is the consensus reached on January 8 during a unique interaction among prominent persons from different walks of life at Hotel Ashoka, Jammu. The interaction was unique in the sense that the theme under discussion was very sensitive and purely political; yet everyone spoke the same language, with radicals among them not only endorsing Agenda 2011 but going beyond it. Tempers didn’t run high even for a moment during the almost 7-hour-long interaction. Normally debates on political topics generate heat and quite often end in fiasco or without reaching any consensus.


The interaction was unique because the deeply concerned persons enthusiastically ventured out of their homes despite the intense cold wave that engulfed the whole province. The people of Jammu province have been shivering since December 31; they have not seen the sun for days now. Yet some very senior and respectable citizens of the province, including two former Major Generals, braved the vagaries of nature and made it to the venue to put out their views on the plight of Jammu and its political future. It was a wonderful scene.


The initiative wad taken by Prof. Bhim Singh, chairman, Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), and the discussion focused on the party’s “Agenda 2011” for the state in general and Jammu province in particular. This included reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir and separate assemblies, separate budgets, separate chief ministers, separate secretariats, separate recruitment agencies and separate planning commissions for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Other issues discussed were one governor and one chief justice for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh; one state assembly comprising all legislators of the three regions; constitutional safeguards for minorities, Scheduled Tribes (ST), Scheduled Castes (SC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) “under the mandate of Article 370” and reservation in proportion to their total population; and autonomy, self-rule, freedom, statehood and Article 370.


During the lively and fruitful interaction, everyone concurred that: the existing unitary politico-constitutional structure which is out and out Kashmir-centric has outlived its utility and has utterly failed to address Jammu’s concerns; you cannot go on maltreating the people of Jammu province forever; you have to deal with them whatever you may think of them; they may take recourse to unconstitutional methods to obtain a rightful place in the country; everyone assured the Panthers Party unstinted support for the Jammu cause.


Former Major General G.S. Jamwal, once NC MLC, said: “Noone feels Jammu’s pain and nobody tries to understand the Jammu problem; Jammu rightly feels it doesn’t get justice; the Jammu leadership doesn’t discharge its obligations towards the people; Kashmir fought and got what it wanted and it became the issue; Jammu figures nowhere; the Delhi-appointed interlocutors’ attitude is the same and they say ‘our major concern is Kashmir because it has international dimensions’; If UP could be divided; why can’t Jammu & Kashmir, which has nothing in common between them?; Andhra Pradesh may also be trifurcated; Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh can’t co-exist; establishment of separate assembly is a good formula and if not considered Jammu will have to fight; if we wish to prosper, we have to tell everyone that we can’t live with Kashmir. We suffer because we are peaceful. Enough is enough; our patience has ended; we should say Jammu be separated from Kashmir.”


Another former Major General J.S. Jamwal, known for his liberal views, remarked: “Agenda 2011 is a fine agenda, but how to achieve it? We need leadership and to put in all we have to achieve a separate assembly for Jammu; we can achieve it, but determination is needed; we need courage; we don’t have the required courage; maybe our future generation achieve; Kashmir produced leadership, Jammu didn’t; neither New Delhi nor Kashmir would listen to us unless we act as one man with single-minded devotion and with a sense of sacrifice.” There was a streak of despondency and defeat in what he said and it was understandable.


Renowned novelist and poet, Padma Shree, former Director of All India Radio, Jammu, and a non-political person, Jitendra Udhampuri, remarked: “Agenda 2011 is a noble thought; spread the message across the region and the country; we have to get what is our legitimate due; we have to revisit 2008 when everyone in Jammu identified itself with the Amarnath land agitation; we are not united and, hence, we are suffering; there is no alternative to reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir.”


Noted Dogri poet, singer and Sahitya Academy Award winner Praduman Singh Jandraia recited a moving poem written specifically for the occasion. It said: “Nothing less than statehood for Jammu; nothing in common with Kashmir; Jammu is in complete disarray; let us sit up and think about what to do to achieve political empowerment; we have no place even to weep; educated youth are a frustrated lot and there is none to listen to their woes; what should we do because the people are not united; Jammu has become land of the non-Dogras; we have forgotten our culture and civilization; deforestation is going on an unprecedented scale and our ecology is under grave threat and environment polluted; Jammu has become a land of refugees; Dogras are digesting humiliations silently; and time has come for the Dogras to get a separate assembly at whatever cost.”


World renowned folk singer, leading light of Jammu province and highly respected Ghulam Mohammad said he could not make a speech, but would express his sentiments by reciting a poem, which he had written for the occasion. The poem was a scathing attack on the Kashmiri leadership. He made a passionate plea that everyone in Jammu province rally around the Panthers Party and work for Agenda 2011. The upshot of his poem, which touched the heart of all present, was that “separate assembly for Jammu province is the need of the people and exigency of the time.”


Endorsing Agenda 2011, noted Dogri play writer and poet Mohan Singh said: “Jammu legislators lick Kashmiri shoes and they have harmed Jammu to the greatest extent possible; why separate governor and separate chief justice, why not complete separation and full-fledged Jammu state; we are only slaves and we must be freed from the Kashmiri clutches; nationalism for Jammu has become a curse because New Delhi is concerned more with Kashmir and votaries of autonomy, self-rule and independence; let’s tell New Delhi in unequivocal terms that we will be left with no other option but to question, like the Kashmiri leaders, the state’s accession to India; there is an alternative to statehood and the alternative is that Kashmir has ruled over Jammu for 63 long years and let Kashmir allow Jammu to rule the state for the next 63 years.”


Retired District and Sessions Judge and president of Jammu Province People’s Front (JPPF) Pavitar Singh, who along with several other Jammu-based socio-political leaders is spearheading the movement for the appointment of a local Vice-Chancellor of the sanctioned Central University Jammu, hailed Agenda 2011 and bemoaned: “We are responsible for our miserable plight; we should not and must not tolerate injustice; Ladakh is a role model and we must adopt it; the Ladakhis fought and got an autonomous hill development council; Kashmiris constitute only 28 per cent of the state’s population and New Delhi considers them as the most important factor in the state and the remaining 72 per cent population is being willfully ignored both by the Kashmiri leadership and its handful of supporters in Jammu and New Delhi; reorganization is the only panacea left to cure Jammu’s 63-year-old ailment.”


Leading advocate and prolific Urdu writer Sham Sundar Anand Lahar said: “There are elements both in Kashmir and Jammu who are systematically eroding the identity of Jammu province by playing mischief in Muslim-majority areas of Jammu province like Doda, Poonch and Rajouri areas; we are Dogras, we are secular, we are not sectarian and we become sectarian the moment we start talking in terms of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh; make it a point that from today onwards we will call all the people inhabiting the area from Lakhanpur to Pir Panjal as Dogra; follow Nitish (Bihar model); do away with caste system; Kashmiri are one as far as their attitude to India is concerned; even JKPCC chief Saif-ud-Din Soz is no different and he, like all other Kashmiri separatists, says that Kashmir would become independent in case Article 370 is abrogated, which is not the case; we want separate assembly invested with full legislative powers.”


Panthers Party MLC Syed Rafiq Shah, who hails from Kashmir, was no less critical of the Kashmiri leadership; in fact, he was more critical. Reflecting on Agenda 2011, Shah said: “All those who inhabit Kashmir are not Kashmiris; there is discrimination with non-Kashmiris, including Pahari Muslims; Dogras and Paharis are one; they have same habits and are ethnically almost one; we are close to Jammu and have affinity with it; Paharis are being looked down upon because we can’t speak Kashmiri; we are even termed non-Muslims because we can’t speak Kashmiri in the manner the Kashmiris speak it; Jammu must get a separate assembly; reorganization of the state is a must if Jammu is to be empowered politically.”


Retired Deputy Inspector General of Police Ajit Singh Chamak remarked: “We are inheritors of a great civilization; our strength is our culture and ours’ is Vedic culture; this ancient culture is a perennial fountain flowing and it is very much alive; we have to drive inspiration from Guru Gobind Singh and Guru Tegh Bahadur; we (Sikhs) are with Agenda 2011; Sonia Gandhi will not solve the Jammu problem; we have to solve this problem and get a separate assembly at whatever cost.”


Another prominent Sikh leader and president of Jammu & Kashmir unit of the Janata Dal (United) Inder Mohinder Singh Pal declared that though “we belong to a national party, we would work for Jammu statehood and abrogation of Article 370.”


All these prominent persons and others who took part in the interaction advocated the need for a relentless campaign to push Agenda 2011 forward and have Jammu invested with the power to legislate through the instrument of an assembly. This was the first message.


The second message was that Jammu must get an Assembly with or without Article 370.


The third message was that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and New Delhi would not be allowed to consider such divisive demands as autonomy, self-rule and freedom.


It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that everyone in Jammu, barring Kashmiri agents in Jammu, wants a dispensation independent of Kashmir and the possibility of Jammu witnessing a 2008-like situation cannot be overruled.                             


The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research 

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