Jammu living in shadow of Kashmir
The conflict in Jammu and Kashmir has ensured that identity of Kashmir has remained central to the politics of the state whereas two important regions Jammu and Ladakh have remained in the background. The political immaturity of the Kashmir based political parties, and the successive Central government’s in Delhi have also failed to see the strong imprint of Jammu’s identity around which the politics of the refion is organized. The idenity of Jammu, and it’s politics is centred around discrimination with this region, political deprivation, and marginalization of the people in the scheme of government. Unlike Kashmir Valley which is homogenous as far as religion and language is concerned, Jammu has diversity in culture, language, religion, and basis of ethnicity with multiple identities overlapping each other to form a larger regional identity. Jammu has major Hindu population but it also has a number of towns with Muslim majority areas in the hills living in peace mostly.
There are multiple identities in the region including caste, and tribal roots which are very strong but despite that this region has a shared cultural identity, and mixed society with both Hindus and Muslims following the sufi tradition equally. Another interesting feature is that speakers of Dogri, Pahari, Gojri, and Punjabi which abound in this area are able to understand each other. The festivals, rituals, and marriages are celebrated together and have also common rituals. All these factors ensure that Jammu is different from Kashmir because it has differences in language, religion and culture, and despite that people have common identity. Hindus and Muslims in this region have similar culture and traditions, and identify less from their co-religionists in other parts of the state.
Kashmir and Jammu have remained politically aloof even during the rule of the Maharaja, and after the accession to India, the political evolution has been quite distinct. Even the Muslims of the two regions have rarely come on same platform and have advocate different political ideologies. The main problem between Kashmir and Jammu rose after accession because it gave primacy to Kashmir region, and it’s main party National Conference does not have same support in Jammu region. The anti-feudal movement of Kashmir did not carry much conviction in Jammu region as there was dearth of political leaders who could take up these issues. Instead, the political leadership has been claimed by a vast majority who suffered financially and economically due to change in political dispensation. The political identity of Jammu was also shaped by the partition of 1947, war in Kashmir, and migration of people from across the border. The losses suffered by Jammu land owners, and refusal of state to pay compensation which happened across the country also influenced the politics of Jammu subsequently.
It is because of this reason that Article 370 is seen merely as an arrangement to ensure domination of Kashmir in the scheme of things. That Jammu has less assembly seats despite having more population and area is also a reason of strong political resentment. There is a strong feeling that Jammu has been deprived of financial and political power to ensure the pre-eminence of the Kashmiri elite. The failure of the Kashmiri leadership particularly the NC, and even Congress to empathize with the masses of Jammu region, and be sensitive to the feelings of the people here added fuel to fire. The opposition to Article 370 as such reflects the historic legacy of the political events that unfolded in the state, and the failure of the state and the centre to assuage the feelings of the people of Jammu. The Amarnath protests in 2008 which went on to become a movement also manifested this discontent among the masses, particularly Hindus of Jammu, who have been facing the brunt of the ineffective policies and governance by the politicians centred around Kashmir.
The issue of regional discrimination is so strong that it has led to many agitations in Jammu further distancing Kashmir and Jammu politically and emotionally. The Praja Parishad agitation in 1952, agitations in sixties and seventies and the recent Amarnath agitation led unprecedented mobilization because of the deep feeling of discontent against Kashmiri politicians and government. The people in Jammu want a balanced equation of power, equitable distribution of resources, equity in jobs; and reduction in the Kashmir centric nature of governments and polity. Even in Muslim dominated hill regions there is strong resentment against domination of Kashmir. The lack of development in Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Kishtwar, and even Jammu has lead to deep resentment, and also left a fertile ground for strong regional politics to grow. The power in Jammu and Kashmir resides with valley based political leadership with a token presence of other region which has excluded them from the political process. The identity of Jammu is also be diluted by concepts like Chenab valley but these ideas have been opposed strongly. To ensure that social, cultural and political identity of Jammu region remains strong, and united there is need for politicians and elite to come together and fight against entrenched and vested interest. If the people are united then there is no reason Jammu will be able to get it’s due share in economy and politics of the state, and the nation.