Kashmir may be an integral part of India but it is and always has been an inseparable part of Jammu and Kashmir. Yet the turbulent times that the state is facing right now makes one wonder if it is really “Jammu” and “Kashmir”?
Time and again, it has been a complaint of the residents of Jammu that the state (that once was) has always been recognised as Kashmir while Jammu is largely ignored. It is to the fault of the people of Jammu as well who, despite being cordial, true nationalists have never known how to create or present their narrative in the national or international forums. The “Kashmir Humara hai” slogan did not arise from somewhere in Bhopal or Uttar Pradesh. History reveals that it was the voice of Jammu that only got magnified and picked up by the rest of the country.
It is not possible to enter Kashmir without going through Jammu. It is not possible for Jammu province to exist independently without Kashmir and vice versa. Mentioning these details is significant in today’s time to highlight how distinct both these areas are and yet how inseparable. After Central government’s decision on Article 370, a celebratory atmosphere arose in Jammu while Kashmir went in a complete lockdown due to anger and dissent. Approximately a month after the decision, things have turned normal in the majority of the districts in Jammu with schools, offices, mobile connectivity working properly. Apart from lack of Internet, the occasional sight of barbed fence at the edge of the road and the mention of the historic decision in conversations, there is no sign that some major change has swept through Jammu province. But when one looks at Kashmir, it is as if someone has left them in an identity crisis while keeping them under lock and key. Tight security, absence of children from schools, complete communication blockade is proof that things are far away from normal in Kashmir. Can such a phenomenon be seen in any other part of the country? Can you imagine half of Bihar being okay with the other half suffering a complete communication blackout? Now one might argue that the demography plays a huge role in this but how long will we stay divided in the name of religion. India was not created with religion as one of its fundamentals. The country that was created in the name of religion does not have a model that should be reciprocated. A state is not made up of pieces of lands. It is made from the people living in it and State-subjects or not, the truth is that both the people living in Jammu and people living in Kashmir are residents of Jammu and Kashmir. Their cultural identity may be restricted to the province or the district they belong to but their citizenship is that of J&K.
There is disagreement in both the provinces about opinions, ideology and the decision that was taken, but, Jammu is known for its secular identity- “where the lion and the lamb drink water from the same pond.” Isn’t it the duty of the residents of Jammu to show solidarity with Kashmir now? To urge the administration and government to remove the communication blockade from Kashmir, to show the people of Kashmir that their neighbours, their fellow citizens of the state stand with them and will give them space for dissent. Will Jammu’s silence on Kashmir not be written in history as a black mark on the secularism of Jammu? While international media is trying to showcase as much as it can about the conditions Kashmiris are living in, where is Jammu’s media? While there are curbs on the press freedom of journalists in Kashmir, why are the pens of Jammu’s writers running dry of ink? In any country where different communities co-exist, it is the job of the majority community to make the minority feel comfortable, accepted, despite the differences. J&K is a Muslim-majority state but India is a Hindu-majority country. India’s bridge to Kashmir is not an Article in the constitution or a reorganisation of boundaries. India’s bridge to Kashmir is Jammu’s Dogra who must stand against the government if he has to, to assure Kashmir that the Indian democracy should be their choice. That can only be done by accepting dissent, standing together and building confidence in the people of Kashmir. If Jammu speaks today for Kashmir, it will be setting an example history will never forget. It will shine Jammu’s name a bit brighter when someone mentions the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The ideological battle can be won later on. The need of the day is for humanity to win. If Jammu feels that they are suffering without the internet, they must also empathise with Kashmir where even phones are not working. If Jammu feels that Sec 144 for a couple of days is bad for their business, they must understand what turmoil Kashmir is facing. If Jammu is allowed to be happy after the amendment of Article 370, they must also allow the anger of Kashmir.
Durbar move is not a practice confined to shifting secretariat. It was a practice aimed at cultural integration. If Jammu cannot imagine the end of Durbar Move, they should stand now for bringing normalcy in Kashmir, not through force, but through kindness. No government can do what people can.