By: Anmol Gupta
Fifteenth of August has been and shall always remain a red letter day for all Indians. After all, following centuries of servitude it was on this glorious day that the dream of an India where Indians were the masters of their own destiny fructified. While our country gained freedom and every Indian rejoiced, the Dogra rule was overthrown and the reins of ‘Jammu’ were handed over to Kashmir & Kashmiris. And, thus began a new subjugation for the people of Jammu. One can be quite sure that if Maharaja Gulab Singh had any inkling that his purchase of Kashmir from the British (the treaty of Amritsar, 1846) and the subsequent creation of this artificial state of Jammu and Kashmir will eventually lead to the suppression of his future generations, he may have had second thoughts about his conquest.
Going against the basic principles of Democracy, Jammu has been given an unfair representation in the state assembly, thereby ensuring the permanent dominance of a Kashmir Centric Government in the state. Even otherwise, the treatment meted out to Jammu by every successive government in the state is comparable to that offered to the colonies of Imperialist states of the yesteryear’s. Just like the British, the Portuguese or the French squeezed revenues out of their colonies, the Kashmiris are guilty of diverting funds generated out of Jammu to Kashmir. As in the British times when most of the important officials in India were British, in Jammu one finds the bureaucracy full of Kashmiris with some estimates pointing that over 70% of the employees of the J&K Govt belong to the Kashmir region. The irony does not end there, for like the English who ruled over a multi-ethnic India, the Kashmiris dominate the multi-ethnic region of Jammu.
For Jammu, the association with Kashmir is a curse for its people in every sense. Today if there is lack of industry or other employment opportunities in Jammu, a large part of the blame is to be attributed to Kashmir. On account of the permanent nature of disturbance in Kashmir, industrial houses have hesitated to invest even in Jammu because of the common perception that terrorist activities are prevalent in the entire state. Also, with a view to address the turbulence in Kashmir, successive central governments have tried to entice the populace of Kashmir with economic packages and largely ignored Jammu. Even in the case of Tourism, while the tourist spots in the valley have been developed, the regions of Poonch, Bhaderwah, Doda and Kishtwar in spite of possessing immense natural beauty remain underdeveloped.
While a strong undercurrent of resentment aimed at Kashmir exists in Jammu, this has still not blown into a full fledged struggle. A plausible reason for this maybe that the people of Jammu have been programmed to believe that the division of the state will come to mean that Kashmir ceases to be a part of India and hence, in larger interest of India they have restrained from agitating for a separate state within the Union of India. Every six years they have been accepting a government for which they never voted (PDP has won 3 out of the total 37 seats in Jammu). But, it is time that we the people of Jammu questioned the current arrangement and cease to be the proverbial sacrificial goats that we have become. It is time that Jammu is given the reigns of its fate like the Himachalis, the Punjabis or the Gujaratis. It is time to end this artificial union of ‘Jammu’ and ‘Kashmir’ which makes little sense when the people in Jammu neither share the aspirations nor have anything in common with Kashmir be it the Culture, Cuisine, Customs or language.
Separation of Jammu from Kashmir will be immensely beneficial to the people of Jammu in economic terms and otherwise. Jammu in every sense is an economically self sustainable region. The mighty Chenab criss crossing across Jammu holds great Hydro Electic power generation capacity. The plains between Jammu and Kathua provide ideal grounds for the setting up of industry and for agriculture. Places like Poonch, Bhaderwah and Doda hold immense tourism potential. While religious spots like Vaishno Devi, Shiv Khori, Machail and the likes will always retain their value for the faithful.
As far as Jammu and Kashmir are concerned, there is a case for rectifying the error made at the time of Independence. There is a case for giving the people of Jammu what is rightfully theirs. A case for letting the people of Jammu become the masters of their own destiny and hence, a case for Jammu’s Azaadi from Kashmir.