By Muzamil Jaleel
August 11, 2008
SRINAGAR, AUGUST 10: The Kashmir administration today told the visiting all-parties delegation led by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil that the June protests against the land transfer to Amarnath Shrine Board were “by and large spontaneous” across Kashmir Valley and the “Yatra was not affected by the protests and no harm was done to any Yatri in Kashmir”.
The detailed power-point presentation given by the Kashmir administration, however, emphasised that the separatist Hurriyat Conference emerged “stronger and more confident” which had “otherwise witnessed an erosion in its credibility in recent years”.
On the impact of the land transfer row, the administration said that besides the fall of the elected government, there was “decline in (mainstream) political activity” and “loss to the tourism industry which had witnessed an unprecedented arrival of tourists (prior to the crisis)”.
Listing immediate priorities, the Kashmir administration said “the disruption of the National Highway in Jammu and Punjab should not be repeated” and “safe passage must be provided to merchandise and transporters moving from the Valley to the rest of country and vice-versa”. The administration, however, warned that if the “economic blockade” was not lifted, the problem will be “exploited by both factions of the Hurriyat, there will be an attempt to march to Muzaffarabad by fruit-growers which may lead to further complications besides attempts by separatists to catch attention of the international media”.
In the calendar of events that fuelled the crisis, the Kashmir administration quoted the then Chief Executive Officer of Amarnath Shrine Board Arun Kumar saying “that the land transfer was permanent and not temporary” during a press briefing on June 17. Besides, it also quoted the public mobilisation call given by Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
The Kashmir administration’s presentation came a day after a similar briefing by the Jammu administration. A comparison reveals the different prisms through which the civil and police administration of the two provinces view the recent developments. Consider these:
•The Jammu administration terms the protests in Jammu as an “agitation” while the Kashmir administration calls the demonstrations in Kashmir a “crisis”.
•The Jammu administration emphasised that the “land revocation order has hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindus of the State... the agitation has assumed the dimension of a mass movement... manifestation of perceived discrimination with the Jammu region for the last 60 years”. The Jammu administration stressed that “there is a very urgent need to find some solution to the vexed issue which will be acceptable to the people of both the regions”. The Kashmir administration, however, prioritised the need to end “disruption of the national highway” and “safe passage for merchandise and transporters” to the Valley. It said the protests were “spontaneous” and people did not “follow the detailed programme given by the Hurriyat-sponsored Action Committee against Land Transfer”.
•The Kashmir administration said the crisis had strengthened the separatist Hurriyat and if there was no amicable resolution, the Hurriyat would exploit the situation. The Jammu administration kept silent on the role of Sangh Parivar and even the few arrests made by it during the agitation.
•The Kashmir administration said the green flag displayed by the crowd at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on June 27 were an Islamic banner and not the Pakistani flag. But the Jammu administration said that the “Awami Action Committee flags which resembled the Pakistani flag were hoisted at Lal Chowk”.
Jammu burns with pent-up anger
Jammu, Aug. 9: This might sound like an exaggeration, but that’s perhaps because you’ve been tuned too finely to pervasive political correctness. The trouble in Jammu isn’t merely over 80-odd acres of land around a faraway mountain shrine, it is over reordering the entire political landscape of a state that doesn’t care being polite about its bitter and visceral faultlines any more — Valley versus the rest, Kashmir versus Jammu, Hindu versus Muslim, if it comes down to that.
And, in the ringing words of Lila Karan Sharma, convener of the storm called the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, it is even “Tricolour-carrying patriots of Jammu versus Pakistani flag-bearers of Kashmir”.
History is often a cause-and-effect lesson. The immediate cause of what’s unfolding today probably goes back to 1990 and the exodus of Pandits from the Valley under the sweep of the “azadi” movement. The accumulated causes go even further back the decades. Amarnath is probably merely the latest flashpoint.
Jammu, were you to get a sense of reigning sentiment in this shuttered, khaki and concertina-ridden city, is feeding sackfuls of its old and perceived grudges to these fires.
“We’ve put up with this for 60 years, 60 long years,” says Rati Razdan, a politically unaffiliated schoolteacher who has been at the barricades in Gandhinagar each morning, “all in the name of national unity. Those who blackmail the nation with threats of separation have been pampered, those who have been loyal have been ignored. What am I to do to be heard, pick up a green flag and shout anti-India slogans? Why can we not have land in Kashmir, why must Kashmiris have their way all the time in this country?”
Why does the Valley have more seats in the state Assembly even though Jammu is greater both in population and land area? Why must they have three MPs and we only two? Why must they have all chief ministers and we none? Why do they get 80 per cent of government jobs? Why must they have 60 per cent of power? Why must they have reservation in colleges and technical institutions even though our boys and girls do better? Why is it that we can be thrown out of our homes in the Valley and nothing happens? Why is there such a crisis if we want to set up facilities in the Valley for two months each year? Why do their leaders get to build private mansions in the forests of Jammu’s vaunted Bhatindi outskirts whereas we can’t even be granted land in the name of a shrine? Why are they part of an all-party delegation? They are the creators of this problem, why should they now become judges? And why should we go to them?
Why? Why? Why? Us and Them. Us and Them. Us and Them. Jammu is an angry trigger-burst of questions wherever you go. And they are well aware who they are firing them at. The casting out of all Valley leaders — Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Saifuddin Soz — from the all-party delegation before the Samiti agreed even to come to the Raj Bhavan this afternoon was a stark demonstration of where and how Jammu is marking the divide.
“This is a disturbing flashpoint in the state’s history,” says professor Dipankar Sengupta who teaches economics at the University of Jammu, “this is the first time Jammu has shaken up the country and the Valley, and that is because of the accumulated history of grievances. The Valley has got too much national attention too consistently, it is Jammu’s turn now and it believes it has reasons to scream. It wants corrections.”
Sengupta, like many others you’d call liberal or middle-of-the-road, is not unaware that a virulent brand of Hindu nationalism is the flaming head of this extended tumult. It isn’t as if the consequences of things getting out of hand don’t alarm them. But, equally, they aren’t prepared to damn Jammu’s uproar as cynical rightwing opportunism alone.
“It is true the Sangh is the spearhead,” says Sengupta, “but that is because of the nature of when and how these frustrations have come to be vented. There are more people behind this than just the BJP, although the BJP is very happily behind it. Don’t forget the local Congress is straining to get on board as well, something must be pushing them.”A retired Kashmiri bureaucrat who is settled in Jammu and has no time for the Hindu rightwing, concedes there is more to this than just the row over land around the Amarnath cave. “It is true that the Sangh and its front organisations are in the forefront, it is also possible that the BJP will draw electoral mileage from this not only in Jammu but elsewhere too.
“But remember two important factors: this is still a city ruled by the Congress, the BJP won but a single seat in the last election. But more important, this is essentially a mercantile city. Businessmen and shopkeepers don’t tolerate such long closures if they don’t feel deeply about issues. Jammu has been closed 40 days and there is still no sign things will open up. There’s a sign for you.”
Dangerous divide: Jammu officials put it in black and white
By Muzamil Jaleel
Posted online: Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 0139 hrs Print Email
Srinagar, August 8: The Jammu administration told the visiting all-party delegation today that the Amarnath land revocation order has “hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus in the state” and their protests have “assumed the dimension of a mass movement”. And “public mobilisation” fanned by provocative speeches by religious leaders and “vested interests” had created “regional and communal polarisation amongst the population”.
The all-party delegation will be briefed by the administration in Srinagar tomorrow.
In fact, the Jammu administration today gave data to the all-party team to underline the communal dimension of the agitation. The visiting team was told that 3,758 protests took place in Jammu city, 2,270 in Kathua, 1,850 in Samba, 1,480 in Udhampur, 740 in Riyasi, 115 in Doda, 74 in Ramban, 74 in Kishtwar, 37 in Poonch and 115 in Rajouri district.
The administration provided a detailed Hindu-Muslim population break-up which shows that Hindu-dominated districts saw the most protests and that any communal violence could have alarming repercussions.
As per population details provided by the administration, in Jammu and Samba, Hindus make up 86% of the population while Muslims constitute 5.68%. In Udhampur and Riyasi, Hindus are 73% of the population while Muslims 25.57%. In Doda-Kishtwar-Ramban, 41.46% of the population is Hindu while 57.92% is Muslim. In Kathua, Hindus are 89.8% of the population and 8.14% are Muslims; 37.28% of the population in Rajouri is Hindu while 60.23% is Muslim while Poonch has 5.2% Hindu and 91.92% Muslim population.
The salient points of the briefing:
* 18 cases have been registered in connection with communal violence in which 20 persons were injured, 72 Kulas (hutments) of Gujjars were burnt down, 22 vehicles damaged and several trucks carrying supplies looted. “These are only reported incidents. Many such incidents have taken place, which have not been reported so far,” the officers told the team.
* 117 police personnel and 78 civilians were injured including two policemen who were lynched and are “battling for life” in PGI Chandigarh while six civilians were killed, including three in police and Army action.
* 129 cases were registered against the rioters. A total of 1171 arrests were made but most of them are now out on bail.
* 10, 513 protest demonstrations and 359 serious incidents of violence have taken place across Jammu in which 28 government buildings, 15 police vehicles and 118 private vehicles have been damaged.
The violence has taken its toll on pilgrims bound for Vaishnodevi and Amarnath. In May and June, the average number of yatris per day to Vaishnodevi was 29,126 and to Amarnath 3310. These have dipped to 8619 and 347 respectively. All schools, colleges, government offices and services, including utilities — hospitals to post offices — were paralysed.
The administration was critical of the role of local media in Jammu. “Local media channels and newspapers not only supported the agitation but often fueled it by publishing inflammatory photographs and reports and glorifying violent incidents,” the administration said. “Two local cable networks repeatedly used highly provocative clips for long duration to encourage and incite violence and create law and order problems in gross violation of Cable TV Regulation Act 1995. National channels giving less coverage received threats from agitators”. The administration also talked about the misuse of SMS service to foment “communal violence”.
The administration also gave details about the economic blockade, saying that the “agitators stopped blocking the national highway repeatedly with a view to alter supplies to the Valley, including the supply of LPG, diesel, petrol.”
Source: The Indian Express, New Delhi