Srinagar: Jammu is at a crossroads of history, wrote National Conference lawmaker, Devender Singh Rana in an op-ed in The Indian Express on Friday.
He said that the land known for the heroic sagas scripted by Mian Dido, Raja Ranpat, Bawa Jitoo, Jambu Lochan and other valiant heroes, is struggling to retain its glorious ethos and identity after the challenges to Article 35A of the Indian constitution.
“A place that had been a shining example of cultural assimilation and co-existence finds itself pushed to the wall: Its cultural identity and very existence is at peril now,” he said referring to the attempts being made to abolish the law which empowers J&K legislature to define its permanent residents.
“Why does the state of Jammu and Kashmir in general, and Jammu in particular, feel compelled to fight for the rights bestowed by the Indian Constitution, 70 years after Independence? Why should Jammu worry about preserving its race, language, history, legends and tradition in the multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-racial canvas of India? What has gone wrong that the peaceful, compassionate and tolerant Dogras, ingrained with secular ethos, feel challenged by the overt and covert attempts to remove Article 35A of the Constitution?” he asked in the write-up.
The Nagrota lawmaker asserts that Article 35A of the Constitution is more relevant for the Duggar region of Jammu than Kashmir and Ladakh for a variety of reasons.
The Supreme Court of India is hearing a petition against Article 35A after Diwali this year. The petition has been moved by a right wing NGO – ‘We The Citizens’.
“There is a strong apprehension that its repeal will lead to the economic deprivation and erosion of cultural identity of the Dogras,” he added, “n fact, this was the motivation for the last Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, to bring laws in 1927. On the plea of the Dogra Pratinidhi Sabha and Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, the Maharaja sanctioned laws to safeguard the interests of his subjects, especially the Dogras of Jammu, and to shield them from domination by elite and affluent non-state subjects, mostly from neighbouring Punjab.”
“The enactment of the State Subject Laws had not been sought either by the people of Kashmir or Ladakh, but by the Dogras of Jammu, who had legitimate apprehensions that wealthy businessmen from Punjab will take over Jammu’s economy and dominate social life in ways that the region will cease to be a Dogra homeland. The laws have withstood the test of time for the past 90 years and hugely helped in preserving the identity and interests of the Dogras,” he wrote.