As the Proverb goes- “One Story Is Good Till Another is Told”
Our Constitutional History exhibits that even the most comprehensive, well-structured and well-written doctrine I.e The Indian Constitution has provisions for change under the Constitutional Amendment Act. So, constitutional change is inevitable but fundamentally in a democratic country it should be in compliance with the will of “The People”.
But in the erstwhile state of J&K, it has never been the case. Today, after 111 days of the abrogation of Art 370/35A, there is clout of uncertainty, dilemma and disconcertment over the Future of J&K. As the entire matter is subjudice in SC, so, we’ll not go into questioning the constitutional validity of it or was it a constitutional baffling but we’ll deliberate upon the apathy and agony of the people and primarily the youth of J&K.
The 111 day achievement of the UT of J&K reveals the actual ground reality. Today, the J&K Bar Association is on protest, the students from Jammu University are on protest, ABVP is on protest, many political leaders have tonsure their heads in protest and the list of true voices of dissent is long.
The youth of J&K have been the worst sufferers of this political turbulence and logjam. And for them the path from the last seven decades has-been a difficult one. Today, from a disorderly state they have been pushed to a state of crisis. The erstwhile state of J&K is without cellular internet services for the last 111 days. The communication dawdles and internet hangback has worst affected the student community. Primarily among them are research scholars and candidates preparing for next year’s civil services and competitive examination. One such student from JU remarked that the students from J&K have always shown resilience. You shut down the internet services in any of the states of India and that too for a day and you’ll see complete mayhem on streets.
Without internet services, the life of common businessmen has crippled and the trader community is the worst hit. As per JCCI (Jammu Chambers of Commerce and Industries), the total losses incurred in the last three months is estimated at around ten thousand crores. An IT company in Kashmir was forced to shut down and many lost their jobs. A student activist from Jammu University, Sohail Malik made a very valid point- “Those who are talking about global investor summit, foreign investment and other development projects in J&K in the near future. I wonder who will invest in an area where there is no internet connectivity for the past 111 days.
“Ask No Questions and Hear No Lies”. But in J&K we are not allowed to ask questions, reprimand or even appeal. It reminds us about a Sher by Rahat Indori-“Jhoothon Ne Jhoothon Se Kaha Sach Bolo, Sarkari Elaan Hua Hai Sach Bolo”.
The announcement made by the Former Governor of J&K, Shri Satyapal Malik, post the dilution of Article 370/35A, to create and fill 50000 posts for the youth of J&K has turned out to be a Political Satire or Jumla in the large theatre of political rhetorics. Today, after more than a hundred days the youth of J&K has only two questions, where are 50000 Jobs and why is the media silent? Over this, there has been no major advertisement for jobs in the last three years. With internet suspension and ambiguity over jobs, how do you expect a student to compete with a cycle in his hand with someone who is flying to the moon on rockets?
“Don’t Spoil A Ship For A Ha’parth Of Tar”
From clamp down to internet suspension to ceasefire violation to jobless youth to the brutal killings of innocent truck drivers to huge losses to apple traders/business community and to the state of the dilemma of losing our cultural identity, it has been a chronicled sad story of J&K, post the abrogation.
Today, the J&K Bar Association is up in arms with the administration and the government on the ill-conceived order to shift land registration from HC to the revenue department. It was a provision put in place by the then Maharajah to keep a check on illegal transfers and land grabbing. Over the last three months, around 450 public prosecutors have been removed post the abrogation. The entire legal fraternity has shown concerned over shifting of the HC premises in Jammu from Janipur area to Raika- Bahu.
Post the abrogation every voice of dissent has either been muzzled or branded as anti-national. In a recent act of barbarism, the police administration in Jammu used brutal force against the students from Gujjar-Bakarwal Community, who were peacefully protesting and demanding change in the menu of the hostel canteen.
The frequent escalation in the border villages of J&K across the LOC has forced the locals to shift to camps and bunkers. The ceasefire violation in the mid of August 2019 coincided with the clampdown and information blackout in the state. Many students from Kashmir, Poonch and Rajouri Districts of J&K who were living in Delhi or other parts of the state were not able to contact their families. One such student recalls those days as the most difficult times of his life. He always wondered whether his family is alive or dead.
Another story in Kashmir is about the “Turbaned Population” i.e the Sikh community. Majorly living in Tral and Baramulla districts of Kashmir, the Sikh community has been a true adherent of their faith. With a population strength of around 80000, the community has a long shared culture and spiritual history in Kashmir. The first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji visited Kashmir And Ladakh in the 15th Century. While driving to Pahalgam you’ll find a Gurdwara Sahib in Mattan built in the remembrance of the Great Sikh Guru. In the heart of Srinagar, the “Chatti Patshahi Gurdwara reminds the populace about the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji. Being a minority community in J&K, the Sikhs have been more or less silent on the recent change in the status quo. In the ongoing crisis, many of the young Sikhs in Kashmir are planning to go to countries like Canada or the USA for higher studies and Jobs.
On the other end, in the phase of political turbulence, the Jammu division saw a period of tax extortion in the form of illegal toll plazas and change in RTO fees. The transport community was the worst hit and even called for a Strike. The tagline of “Vikas before Poll” turned into “Toll before Poll” whereby administration installed two toll plazas within a radius of 60 KM, thus violating the norms and regulations of NHAI. The move saw a strong resistance from the general public and many prominent activists like Amandeep Singh Boparai went on for a prolong Satyagraha demanding complete rollback of the toll plazas. The opposition parties termed it as “Kesari Jaziya”. It is important to note that it all came when the state was already in a crisis, businesses were facing losses and student community was at loggerheads.
Action speaks louder than words but in J&K actions and words were totally different. While Kashmir gathered world attention, the people of Jammu were a forgotten story. The common strategy of Divide and Rule and the New-Strategy of Divert and Rule has been fundamentally applied to J&K. A State with a legacy of 173 years has been downgraded and divided losing its 70 years of statehood. The irony is that being a UT we are even devoid of rights given to a Union Territory.
Historically, the Dogra Community has been known for standing up for their rights and warrior spirits. But after 173 years of their legacy, when the very same state they ruled was bifurcated and downgraded, they stood in silence.
General Zorawar Singh, one of the brave Generals of the Sikh Empire under the reign of Maharajah Ranjit Singh and Maharajah Gulab Singh, expanded the territories of J&K up till Ladakh and Tibet. The very same territory for which the Great General sacrificed his life stands divided.
Today, a state which never came under the British Rule has been reduced to a glorified municipality.
As Mohd Iqbal rightly remarked on the Treaty of Amritsar, 1846-
“Their Fields, Their Crops, Their Streams, Even the Peasant in the Vale, They Sold, They Sold all, Alas! How cheap was the sale”
The remarks still hold valid in a larger territorial context.
A state where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Gujjar-Bakarwal and many ethnic groups shared a cultural history for over a 1000 years awaits for peace, prosperity and tranquillity.
Mere changing of numericals and names of places/institutions would not help in bringing prospects of development and creating a peaceful environment. Government has to play a constructive role in bridging the gap and stitching the miseries of the common populace. They need to shelve the politics of “Divert and Rule”.
Kanwal Singh and Sohail Malik are Student Activists from Jammu University. You can contact them on the email id: firstname.lastname@example.org
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