Jammu anger: Religious or regional?
Posted by jagoindia on August 12, 2008
Jammu anger: Religious or regional?
Supriya Sharma, Radhika Bordia
Tuesday, August 12, 2008, (Jammu)”The issue has taken 35 days, and still going on. My question is, why it took just seven days to resolve an issue in Kashmir while it’s not been resolved here. Isn’t it discrimination? Jammu is not being given adequate coverage, which it deserves. I want the nation to know what exactly the situation is, so people also know what’s happening here,” said Raghav Agarwal, Jammu resident.
Just outside Jammu airport this is the compelling appeal of a 20-year-old that Jammu’s voice be heard and heard right.
Across the country slogans like this on national television have convinced many that this is a religious movement, spearheaded by Hindutva groups battling over land for a Hindu shrine.
However, listen closely, there is more being expressed.
“They have always discriminated against Jammu. Jammu has a much bigger population than Srinagar, but we have less seats,” said a Jammu resident.
“This agitation is a reaction to the ill-treatment of Jammu,” said another Jammu resident.
And this isn’t simply the voice on the street.
“This time people of Jammu decided it was the end of it. They will not tolerate this type of treatment that we are considered as second class citizen,” said Jagdish Singh Jamwal, retired Major General.
“As a bar association member and a Jammu Muslim, I have taken a very strong decision to support the movement by the Sangharsh Samiti,” said Sheikh Shakeel, lawyer.
“The leadership has come up on its own. Forty different organizations have joined together and they are not political,” said General Jamwal.
“This is not a communal agitation. Firstly, when you focus on this religious issue, it happens to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back. And at the base of it all what is now coming out is actually a manifestation of grievances over issues that are rather secular in nature. You have a region that has suffered a lot,” said Dipankar Sengupta, Economist.
The current standoff may be totally unprecedented but observers of history say it fits entirely into a pattern, a pattern where the state has experienced the competitive pulls of the politics of religion and the politics of region.
The two often collapsing into each other perhaps because identities overlap. And so if the Valley is overwhelmingly Muslim Jammu predominantly Hindu but it isn’t that simple.
To understand the conflict it is important to understand the state’s topography, which very naturally divides the state into three distinct regions: Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh.
Each of which has a unique demography.
If Muslims are concentrated in the Valley in Jammu they form 35 per cent of the population. In half of the six districts they outnumber Hindus.
But like Hindus, Muslims too are diverse by language and ethnicity. So if there are Kashmiri speaking Muslims, there are also Pahadi Muslims and in the plains of Jammu they speak Dogri.
In fact, the most celebrated Dogri singer is Muslim: Ghulam Mohammad.
Another distinct presence is that of tribes like Gujjars and Bakkarwals.
Nomadic shepherds, mostly Muslims, migrate between Jammu and Kashmir and are uniquely placed to observe the contrasts of both religion and region.
Here, in the mountains of Rajouri 100 kilometres outside Jammu, a family of Muslim Gujjars told NDTV that they support the agitation.
NDTV: The slogans make this seem like a Hindu-Muslim conflict. It’s being said that Hindu sentiments have been hurt. Sentiments of all have been hurt?
Gujjar Muslim Sentiments of all have been hurt. When the land was given once, why was it taken back?
They are powerful voices that reaffirm the regional colour of this upsurge. But then take a look at this:
There are reports that Gujjar huts have been targeted, a shocking reminder of the dangers of the protests turning communal. Something NDTV witnessed directly in Kalakot.
Here, as Friday prayers take place inside a Masjid, slogans outside swing from regional to provocative.
“All the money that comes from the Centre for the state goes to Kashmir. They don’t allow for the growth of Hindu or Dogra power,” said a Jammu protester.
NDTV: If there is regional discrimination, even Muslims here are affected. So why shout slogans that will intimidate them? Even Muslims here support this cause.
Jammu resident: Even Muslims here support this cause. We are against the discrimination faced by Jammu, whether it is the disparity in college seats or employment. But we are also against the attempts to give this agitation a communal colour.
NDTV: Do you feel fear?
Jammu Muslim: Yes, they were trying to provoke us with slogans, questioning our loyalty to the nation.
NDTV: As leader of the Sangharsh Samiti here, don’t you see it as your responsibility to ensure peace, especially at the time of prayers?
Naveen Chadha, local leader, Sangharsh Samiti I had gone away for lunch. When I returned I ensured everyone had quietened down. There has been no violence. Muslims here have nothing to fear.
We have lived together for years. Hindus have raised Muslim children, and vice versa. We don’t want any disturbance. We want this brotherhood to remain intact. Political parties, who want to grab votes, have created the issue.