Rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu has shaken the whole world.
But certain Jammu based groups, self-proclaimed saviours of the region, did not find it appealing to their conscience. It was not enough to fill their appetite for hate. They started an agitation to scuttle and sabotage the process of law to save the perpetrators of this most heinous crime from justice.
Though this incident shook the conscience of the whole civilised world, forcing even Secretary General of the United Nation to issue a statement seeking justice for the little girl, these groups in Jammu remained unfazed till they were consumed by their own blind hate.
This agitation to save the culprits is actually the manifestation of hate for Muslims, sown by successive governments in Delhi as a counter-narrative. The state is, unfortunately, harvesting its crop of hate.
Bar Association is considered to be the intelligentsia in any society, but in Jammu, they are spearheading the campaign to save criminals from the process of justice.
Who better than lawyers are supposed to know the law? But their demand for a CBI investigation was to make state police look controversial. The charter of demands put forth by Jammu Bar Association had put forth three points: one withdrawal of the minutes of the meeting held by chief minister whereby administration in Jammu province was asked to stop harassment of Gujars and Bakerwals in Jammu.
Ever since BJP-PDP came to power, Gujjars in Jammu province have been targeted on one pretext or other. They have been thrown out of there habitations in Jammu, Samba and Kathua regions, and also from the other districts of the province in the garb of removing encroachments from forest land. This nomadic community has been part of forest ecosystems for centuries and their livelihood comes from cattle breeding. In the last four years they have been attacked, booked by police as cattle smugglers, there can be nothing more brazen then calling Gujjars cattle smugglers. Though belatedly Chief Minister tried to do some damage control even that was not acceptable to Jammu Bar and its allied organisation, just because Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir are Muslims.
The other issue that is being talked loudly is that of Rohingyas, who also happen to be Muslims, calling them a threat to Jammu’s demography. There are only six thousand five hundred Rohingyas live in Jammu, which includes women and children. These poor people have been granted asylum by the United Nations. They do manual hard labour to earn two meals but still are not acceptable as they are considered a threat to the demography of Jammu. People who oppose Rohingyas are the same people who seek state subject rights for West Pakistani refugees.
To clear doubts, if any on all these issues especially Kathua, Muslims members of the Bar Association Jammu initially resisted agenda of the Jammu Bar, but when they felt voiceless in front of the majority, they walked away silently protesting. There are about 250 Muslims members in Bar Association Jammu and none was taken into confidence thus giving the entire issue a communal, anti-Muslim shape at the outset.
The fact is that lies are manufactured and circulated to demonise Kashmiris and Muslims. Most of Jammu based newspapers have been running a vicious campaign against Kashmiris over the years by raising the bogey of discrimination, creating an element of hatred in the minds of common Dogras. As a result, whenever they see more Muslim names in any selection list, they call it discrimination with Jammu. Though at times, most of the Muslim names that figure in the selection list are from Pir Panchal and Chenab valley regions, both parts of Jammu administrative unit.
From newspapers to different social and political organisation of Jammu, almost everybody has been allowed to create the wedge between communities for the last two decades.
They call themselves nationalist thus have a license to challenge the very existence of all others who dissent with them. Hatred for Kashmiris (Muslims) has become the most potent weapon, politically. One will find it in the armoury of all Jammu oriented political parties, be it Congress, BJP, Panthers Party or any other local organisation.
What is interesting is that every debate is being linked to the demography of Jammu. But nobody is asking how the demography of Jammu was changed in 1947 when Muslim majority Jammu Provence was reduced to a minority. As per British government census, there was fifty-two percent Muslims living in Jammu city alone who were reduced to less than three percent. Likewise, the population of Muslims in Jammu province was sixty-five percent which was reduced to thirty-five percent after the genocide of Muslims in October and November of 1947.
When Lal Singh, ex-forest minister, told Gujjars, “gujroo 47 bhool gya (Gujjars have you forgotten 1947), he was, in fact, referring to this genocide of the Muslims.
Those among Muslims who survived the 1947 massacre were mostly Gujjars, and they have maintained good relations with Dogras of Jammu since then. But once BJP came to power in the state, they have also been shown their place.
Kashmiri politicians, on the other hand, irrespective of political beliefs and ideologies have always failed Muslims of Jammu. So has Kashmir’s so-called civil society.
They are held in their own hole oblivious to history and geography of the state. They are no good; nothing can be expected from them. Muslims of Jammu are caught between the devil and the deep sea as they are politically deprived. They have become pawns in the hands of different political parties.
There are, however, sane voices in Jammu who have always resisted these divisive forces and fought to uphold the secular ethos of Jammu. They have always stood as a bridge between communities whose voices feel suffocated due to utterances of fringe elements. It’s imperative these sane voices prevail and the intra-community intra-regional dialogue is initiated to defeat the nefarious design of these communal elements in the interest of the whole state.
(Author is a senior lawyer who practices in the High Court and at District and Sessions Court, Doda. The ideas expressed in this article are personal.)