Who will the Dogras of Jammu vote for in future?
by Hari Om on 20 Jun 2011 3 Comments

We are a democratic nation, with the right to return to the assembly and parliament persons of our choice. We expect our representatives to take up our cause in the assembly or parliament and help the respective governments to evolve and implement policies that take care of our legitimate aspirations and general civil, political, economic and social rights and interests.


Jammu & Kashmir is part of the system that empowers people to elect a government of their choice and return to the assembly persons through whom they want to be represented. The people of Kashmir, barring those who quit the valley in early 1990 to save their lives and dignity and preserve their culture and religion, have been exercising their franchise at regular intervals and returning representatives of their choice, to discuss and decide questions of supreme importance to the happiness and welfare of the people.


Kashmiri Representatives


The people of Kashmir are fortunate. Their representatives in the assembly, without exception, not only take up their cause in right earnest, but see to it that all their demands are conceded and their needs met and aspirations fulfilled in no time. That is why Kashmir today is the most developed region in the whole country and Muslims of Kashmir the most prosperous section of Indian society in every respect. They have become the most important factor in the political situation of the state and control every institution, political or otherwise.


The commitment of Kashmiri representatives to their respective constituencies has contributed tremendously to the development and prosperity of Kashmir, despite the fact that the Valley has some religious and ethnic minorities whose life is not one of political and economic aspirations. They are the poor Gujjar and Bakerwal Muslims, Pathwari-speaking Muslims, Shiite Muslims and Sikhs, who c=constitute 35 per cent of Kashmir province’s population. Yet they have no representatives in the 87-member assembly. And, even if there are a few representatives out of 46 from Kashmir, they have little or no say despite being part of the government.


Kashmir’s representatives in the assembly (all, barring three, Sunni), irrespective of political affiliation, have consistently fought for their (Sunnis’) cause since 1951, when the legislative-cum-constituent assembly was elected through questionable means. The then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, whose judgment on men and matters was poor and who was bitterly opposed to Jammu and what it stood for (nationalism, democracy, secularism), swung solidly behind Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah of the valley-based, Kashmir-centric, pro-autonomy and anti-Dogra National Conference (NC); the result was the constitution of a sham assembly as far as the people of Jammu province were concerned. The whole exercise was faulty and essentially Kashmir-centric.


Nehru and Sheikh joined hands to enable the people of Kashmir to do whatever they wanted. The understanding between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah at the initial and crucial stage, and subsequent rapport between Kashmiri leaders who succeeded Sheikh and New Delhi, became an additional factor that enabled the representatives of Kashmiri Muslims to further promote the cause of their constituencies.


It is true that New Delhi dismissed the state government three times between 1975 and 1987, in the name of the “national interest.” But the attitude of the Governor’s dispensation as also President’s dispensation towards Kashmir remained unchanged. Rather, Kashmir got more.


The representatives of Kashmiri Muslims in the assembly and parliament and the powers-that-be in New Delhi have worked in tandem to meet the needs and aspirations – reasonable or otherwise – of Kashmiri Muslims. The vote of Kashmiri Muslims has not even once gone waste. This is one part of the story. The other part of the story deals with Jammu.


Jammu Leadership


Compare the Kashmiri leadership with that of Jammu. The Dogras of Jammu province including Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, elect 37 MLAs to the assembly. But there is nothing on the ground to even remotely suggest that they have done anything concrete even once for their constituencies. The bulk of them have always danced to the tunes of the Kashmiri rulers and bartered away the interests of the innocent Dogras.


Even the so-called Jammu-centric parties, including the BJP, Panthers Party (PP) and the Jammu State Morcha (JSM), have failed to come up to the expectations of the Dogras. In fact, the BJP, PP, and JSM MLAs, like the MLAS of Kashmir-centric parties such as the NC, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Indian National Congress (INC) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), have all failed the Dogras. They are more responsible for the all round degeneration of the Dogras.


Notwithstanding the negative attitude of almost all Jammu-based MLAs and notwithstanding the politics of personal power and profit they indulged in from 1951, the Dogras voted for candidates belonging to parties like the Congress, BJP and PP. They returned to the assembly no less than 28 MLAs from these parties, plus the JSM, in 2008. All these formations had contested elections in the name of Jammu and the nation. In fact, the Dogras had no option but to vote for these parties knowing full well that they would not do anything for them.


As expected, these MLAs changed colours immediately after the election. Congress entered into an unholy alliance with the NC and gave unstinted support to whatever the NC-led coalition government did to jeopardize the interests of the Dogras. Congress MLAs from Jammu – 13, including ministers, - gave unqualified support to the anti-Jammu policies evolved and implemented ruthlessly by the NC, and became a party to the decision of the Omar Abdullah-led government to erode the very identity and personality of the Dogras.


The case in point is the 28 April 2011 revocation of the 25 March 2011 order under which the Dogras were entitled to obtain from the concerned revenue authorities a ‘Dogra certificate’. The NC-Congress coalition government revoked the order under pressure from Kashmiri separatists and communalists, on the plea that the issuance of Dogra certificates to those in Jammu desirous of joining the Central paramilitary forces, including the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), would weaken their over 20-year-old anti-India movement and facilitate the rise of Duggar Desh. Yet another refrain of the anti-Dogra forces in Kashmir was that the March 25 decision of the state’s revenue department, headed by the Jammu-based Congress MLA, was calculated to harm the Muslims of the state.


The worst part of the situation was that the Union Home Ministry swung solidly behind the NC and facilitated withdrawal of the March 25 order. It was expected that the authorities in New Delhi would join the anti-Dogra and anti-India forces in Kashmir to prove their secular credentials and demonstrate that they would always be at the back and call of Kashmiri leaders, “mainstream” or otherwise. The Union Home Ministry joined hands with the NC despite the fact that the March 25 order had only envisaged paltry and illusory concessions – relaxations in rules governing recruitment to Central paramilitary forces in terms of height and chest size. Such concessions are available to a number of ethnic groups in India, including Marathas and Garhwalis.


This is just one of umpteen similar instances which indicate the attitude of the Jammu-based Congress ministers and MLAs towards the Dogras. What Congress, in collaboration with NC, did to the Dogras on April 28 was a major onslaught on their identity.


Surprisingly, the BJP, PP and JSM played a somewhat constructive role after winning 15 seats in the election (BJP 11, PP 3, JSM 1). During the last budget session of the assembly (February-April 201) they worked in unison and cornered the NC-Congress coalition on several issues, exposing in particular its anti-Jammu and anti-Dogra policies. They took on those who poured venom on the Dogra rulers, especially Maharaja Hari Singh who acceded to India. They countered the perverted and pro-separatist ideology of the NC and the PDP, and took on the Congress on several ideological issues. They advocated the cause of the refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir, and from the Valley. They sat in the well and staged walkouts a number of times. Some of their interventions were timely and effective.


Thus, they created an impression that they were a responsible and effective opposition committed to the cause of the state, the nation and the neglected, oppressed and marginalized Dogras of Jammu province and other deprived sections of society, even though some of these MLAs had been hobnobbing with top-ranking NC leaders, including party president and Union Minister for Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah, and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. There are reports that some BJP MLAs were “obliged” by the NC-led government. It is said that these BJP MLAs were “rewarded with huge official mansions in Jammu, huts at Cheshma Shahi in Srinagar, besides VIP suites in the MLA Hostel, and so on.” No one has till date contested these reports, which were published very prominently on the front page by a section of print media in May this year.


But these representatives of the Dogras changed colours immediately after the budget session was over, provoking the Dogras to denounce them as a “bunch of self-seekers”, “murderers of democracy”, “unscrupulous” and “violators of the mandate”. In what was termed an “act of political debauchery”, on April 13, when elections to the Legislative Council were held, the BJP MLAs cross-voted on an unprecedented scale, making an “unholy” understanding with the PP and PDP and Congress.


According the reports, the BJP MLAs initially entered into a “deal” with the pro-self-rule and pro-Pakistan PDP for “money”, but ditched the PDP candidate and committed another political sin by voting for the NC and Congress candidates, obviously in lieu of something more substantial. “A huge amount was involved”, say the reports. Thus they displayed a level of dishonesty unheard of electoral history - 7 of the 11 BJP MLAs voted for the NC and Congress candidates. The BJP official candidate got just 4 votes. The BJP high command suspended 7 MLAs and declared the remaining four not guilty. Now the suspended MLAs and those declared not guilty are busy washing dirty linen in public, making a mockery of themselves and the so-called “party with a difference.” All BJP MLAs have fallen from grace and become objects of contempt and ridicule. Just recently, the high command was also forced to expel veteran leader Chamanlal Gupta for his role in the recalcitrance of the party unit in the state.


The PP and JSM MLAs voted for the PDP and Congress candidates, respectively. The PP simply confounded the Dogras and violated their mandate by voting for the PDP candidate, and the JSM MLA, who had won twice in the name of the Dogras defeating Congress and other candidates, voted for the Congress candidate.


The political behaviour of the BJP, PP and JSM MLAs and their misdemeanors, allegedly for easy money and other “benefits”, have created a critical situation for the Dogras. They are in a quandary about whom to vote for in future? They don’t want to vote for the Congress for obvious reasons. They hate and abhor the NC and PDP because both these formations are rabidly anti-Dogra and out-and-out Kashmir-centric and also because they seek a dispensation outside the Indian Constitution, which is utterly unacceptable to the Dogras.


The Dogras are not prepared to repose faith in the ideologically bankrupt and opportunist BJP, PP and JSM as they have brought a bad name to the Dogras by making common cause with parties held in contempt. They cannot depend upon New Delhi which – apart from pandering to Kashmiri communalism and separatism – always makes invidious and humiliating distinctions between Kashmiri Muslims and Dogras, saying the former feel “alienated” from India.


The moral of the story is that the Dogras have been defeated, humbled and let down by their own representatives. They can tackle New Delhi anytime, as they did in 1952-53, 1975, 1984, 1998 and 2008, and they have the capability of replicating what they did in the past to defeat Kashmiri separatism and promote the national cause in the state. This can be seen from the collapse of the Congress-led government on 1 July 2008 and retransfer of land at Baltal to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board, thanks to the splendid role played by the Dogras.


Will the representatives of the Dogras realize their mistakes and imitate their Kashmiri counterparts in caring for their constituents? This is a very difficult question to answer. The truth is that the Dogras need a credible alternative. It’s a difficult situation for them, though they are more in number as compared to Kashmiri-speaking Sunnis, and contribute more revenue and constitute the most trusted patriotic constituency in the state. What an irony!


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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