Rumours were rife once agaiun. Political rumours in J&K have developed a pattern now – they are preceded by feelers out of New Delhi and succeeded by meetings at the Gupkar Road.
The feelers this time included the reinforcement of troops in the valley. First time after the abrogation of article 370 in 2019. Of course, those who know better say that the troops were done with their election duties in other states and had to return to Kashmir for the perpetual task of keeping the country safe. This could be a fact, or this could be a camouflage for another fact. Most people took it for a fact when the latest 5:00 PM address of Mr. Modi circumscribed tightly around the virus and the vaccine. Then emerged in the social media the images of Gupkar Alliance leaders huddled around a few empty tables at the residence of Mehbooba Mufti. Their masks were proudly on and their spokesman, Sajjad Lone, was conspicuously missing. The official declaration was that the alliance is on the side of people who are suffering, and that the central government will do what it wants.
The president of the alliance, Dr. Abdullah, exuded helplessness, cluelessness and vulnerability while admitting that they were aware of the chatter, but did not know the details. A couple of days later the LG, Mr. Manoj Sinha offered a reassurance that the rumours were just smoke sans fire, but, as expected, it cut no ice with the people of the union territory. After all, the memories of the former Governor, Mr. S. P. Malik and his dysfunctional fax machine are still vivid in their minds.
So, what if the rumours are indeed true and the UT of Jammu and Kashmir is split into two units – the state of Jammu with the South Kashmir added to its districts along the Chenab River and the UT of Kashmir, north Kashmir to be precise? What would it bring to an end? What would it give life to? Take a look at Kashmir to begin with. The common Kashmiri will utter a few expletives in honour of Mr. Modi and then persuade himself to chug along. Those in the profession of politics, however, will feel outsmarted and humiliated. Yet again. Not that anyone cares but they will accuse New Delhi of disempowerment. Not because they will cease to represent their constituencies, but because they will not have anybody to torment and oppress. As a matter of fact, they hate to let go of Jammu for much the same reason as the British hated to let go of India.
With the Jammu region separated out, they will lose around 6 million people they had been treading over for seven decades. They will be forced to find ways to come to terms with their new identity, one stripped of supremacism, invincibility and entitlement. They will be compelled to fend for themselves without all the revenue they would collect on account of tourism in Jammu (religious and otherwise), tax from its people and biddings on postings and approvals by the employees and entrepreneurs of this region. They will have to ask their “innocent” youth to leave the traditional trades of stone-pelting, sloganeering and online activism, and acquire skills actually important for a civilized life. They will have to exhort their people to start working genuinely hard to make money and support their spoilt lifestyles. At the same time, the security forces will have a smaller area to cordon and the miscreants will have fewer places to hide.
The abrogation of article 370 had already blunted their teeth; the separation of Jammu and south Kashmir will damage their jawline beyond repair. There could be sporadic resistance too but the Home Ministry would have the experience of the autumn of 2019 to deal with it. This will be a perfect climax for an era of terror, an era of subjugation of minorities and an era of corruption – both moral and economic. This isolation of the hotbed of terror will play out well for the region as well as for the entire country, and New Delhi will get to speak more unambiguously to the Gupkaris and the Geelanis.
Now let us look at what the bifurcation signifies for Jammu. The independence from Kashmir will bring real freedom to the people of Jammu and an irrevocable integration with the mainland. It will guarantee peace, security and a life of dignity to more than 53,50,813 people of Jammu division and more than 16,40,000 people of South Kashmir. The reorganization will rescue them from the hell that “the paradise” is and offer their children a chance to choose, move and work freely and have a meaningful life commensurate with the modern world and the Indian democracy. The bifurcation will allow for fresh leaders to emerge and instill competition into the local politics. It will enable the local entrepreneurs to get their papers moved or cleared quickly so that they can see their businesses evolve in real time. The ultimate beneficiary will be the common citizen of the state of Jammu. The government will truly be of the people and by the people of Jammu. Of course, to make it work for the people they will need to work incessantly like people in other states of India.
After all, orders may be issued overnight but the intended outcome will require surmounting a century old inertia. With the patronage of the Kashmir based politicians withdrawn, the bureaucracy, corrupt but stretchy as it is, can also be made to mend its ways and become sensitive to the needs and expectations of the local people. Some political leaders from Jammu region have successfully demonstrated this capability during their tenures as ministers. At least, Jammu will stop living on the left overs of Kashmir and can chalk out its own destiny in sync with its own culture, potential and aspirations. It can identify its own strengths and seek to utilize them as an equal stakeholder in the union of India without having to bow down to the hegemonic tendencies of Kashmiri politicians. This further paves the way for a place of honour for its immensely patriotic and well-meaning people. They can take back charge of their forests, waters, mountains and redraft the contours of Jammu’s march ahead in future. The demographic invasion of Jammu by the Kashmiris has strangulated its natural resources and altered the nature of its economy to make it Kashmir dependent. Jammu has also been a target of cultural blitzkrieg for the past few decades. While its own heritage has been facing abject neglect, the pheran, the nanwai, the Kashmiri language and the Urdu signboards painted in green have been silently ushered into the mainstream here. The separation from Kashmir will make a reversal of all this possible and free up the intellectuals and academicians of Jammu to tell their side of the story to their children. As they saw it and knew it.
The future generations can hope to have local heroes to look up to, something that has been made impossible by either systematic obliteration or institutionalized appropriation of all that could have been Jammu’s pride. Indeed, the bifurcation of J&K will unveil the real benefits of repealing the draconian articles 35A and 370. It will lead to real empowerment of Jammu and provide one last chance to the extremists and separatists of Kashmir to introspect seriously. Till then, Jammu is keeping its fingers crossed and hoping for the rumours to become reality.