04, Apr 2018 | CJP Team
The Concerned Citizens’ Group (CCG) visited Jammu and Kashmir earlier this year to take stock of how people are being affected due to increased cross-border firing and growing communalism. They travelled to the villages of Kapurpur, Bera, and Jeora Farm in Jammu (along the international border or IB), the village Ganiah on the LoC, as well as to Uri. Here are some of their findings with respect to the communal polarisation of Jammu.
The report by the Concerned Citizen’s Group, notes that people in Jammu feel that cross-border shelling at the LoC and International Border (IB), should not be considered a “localised activity” and stressed that it has “wider ramifications for the state.” They reportedly said that larger issues in the conflict between India and Pakistan have begun affecting “individual thinking and perceptions”. As per the report, Jammu’s residents feel that its situation will be tough to tackle as time progresses, given the growing disillusionment with the government and the deepening communal divide.
The religious divide in the state has clearly been deepened in recent years as communalism has taken deep roots. People point out that even the Courts in Jammu and Kashmir are divided – the two benches in Jammu and Srinagar gave differing rulings on unfurling of the state flag, for example. This has caused fissures in the state’s social stability.
The most recent issue that spotlit the communal divide was the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim Bakkarwal girl, Asifa, allegedly by a Hindu, in Kathua. This was seemingly aimed at intimidating the nomadic Muslim Bakkarwal community from where they were currently living. According to the report, local BJP leaders, along with an organisation called Hindu Ekta Manch, held rallies where they waved the Indian flag and shouted slogans that implied that Muslims were pro-Pakistan and needed to be tackled quickly.
A prominent Muslim businessman from Jammu expressed his discomfort over this, noting that had not previously felt unsafe in Jammu but was “feeling insecure” now. “What am I to make out of the Hindu Ekta Manch taking out a protest march waving the national flag over the Asifa rape case shouting – ‘Those who want Pakistan will be sent to Qabristan (burial ground)?’ The only person who needs to be sent to Qabristan is the rapist. Even in the case of a rape, we are totally divided. This is frightening,” he said.
The report alleges that communalism is being promoted by political leaders for short-term political gains. Some prominent citizens complained about local civil society groups not pushing back against “the communal narrative surrounding Asifa’s rape and murder.” However, others said Jammu lacked civil society, and that “communal politicians” were dominating the space for civil society.
Jammu and Kashmir’s Legislative Assembly has also been “polarised” following the recent attack on the Sunjuwan army camp. Increasingly the perception is that there is a ‘Hindu Jammu’ ruled by the BJP and then there is ‘Muslim Kashmir’ ruled by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) – i.e. there is a communal division of labour between the two political allies which govern the state. Many believe that the PDP-BJP government thrives on communal divisions by promoting polarising voices to represent the sentiment in Jammu and in the Valley. This divides and alienates people. This was described as ‘soft separatism’ by a public intellectual.
Many felt that there was a need to contest the separatist narrative or even a communal ‘Jammu narrative’. It was suggested that a beginning could be made not only by civil society demanding justice in the Asifa rape case but also through institutional means such as focusing on school education — including lessons about local heroes in school curriculum and making school prayers and activities inclusive.
There was local resentment that the Central government seemed focused only on the Valley because of the separatism there and ignored Jammu. The growth in Jammu had become hostage to the concerns about the Valley, they claimed. There were complaints that projects that should have rightfully come to Jammu are implemented in the Valley because the militants there had picked up arms. Whatever be the truth about the causes of resentment in Jammu, what was clear was that the Central government needed to pay attention and balance the demands of the people from all the regions of the state – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
The Group comprised Yashwant Sinha (former Finance and External Affairs Minister), Air Vice Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak, Sushobha Barve (Executive Secretary of Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation) and Bharat Bhushan (Journalist). Wajahat Habibullah was unable to join due to pressing personal commitments. Yashwant Sinha was unable to accompany the group to Srinagar and Uri. The entire report may be read here.