Sandwiched between the Kashmir Valley and the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab are the “Duggar” lands of the valiant Dogras of Jammu region who withstood the vicissitudes and ravages of the violent sub-continental history. As a composite part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, along with the predominant Kashmir region and the moonlike haven of Ladakh, the plains of Jammu region have been in a state of perpetual neglect, a far cry from those days of glory when it was the epicentre of the princely state of J&K, in the pre-Independence days.
The Dogra-ruled Jammu was one of the four states that were given the highest “21-gun salute” status in recognition of its premier protocolary status during the British Raj days. The Jamwal dynast, Raja Gulab Singh, along with his legendary Gen. Zorawar Singh established the state of Jammu that included the wazarats of Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh, Frontier illaqas and jagirs of Poonch, Bhadrawah and Chenani, and also the provinces of Jammu and the Kashmir Valley.
This Jammu-ruled state was the largest princely state with an area of 84,471 sq km. Contrary to the present situation and perceptions of the past, Jammu was a liberal, inclusive and progressive region having high socio-economic and civic infrastructure.
Jammu’s independent status ended with the signing of the Instrument of Accession in favour of India on October 26-27, 1947. One of the three preconditions of the Union of India for signing the accession treaty with the Dogra ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, was the installation of the virulently anti-Dogra-rule leader from the Kashmir Valley, Sheikh Abdullah, as the immediate “Prime Minister”. Later, the chaos, continued mishandling and the unsettled borders with its overenthusiastic neighbour, Pakistan, ensured that the wounds fester and morph into a full-fledged armed insurgency in the Kashmir Valley, driving the national attention and imagination, essentially towards the Kashmir Valley. That the Jammu division has approximately 43 per cent of the population (26 per cent of land mass) and the Kashmir Valley 55 per cent of the population (16 per cent of land mass) further ensured that the practical representation amongst the state lawmakers in a participative form of democracy further veered the focus disproportionately towards the Kashmir Valley, as opposed to a more equitably-proportionate attention towards the perennially-neglected Jammu region. In the scheme of things, the Kashmir Valley has been consistently accorded the lion’s share of all investments, focus and priorities, with Jammu penalised for its “safe” fate.
Today, with Pakistan’s interference and the regressive domestic politics, the societal divide within the state has spun the demographic reality of the three divisions (Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh) to assume the simplistic fractures of religious differentiation.
Even the legitimate socio-economic grouse of the “Jammu region” versus the “Kashmir region” narrative has boiled down to a predominantly religious perception, which detracts, diminishes and short-sells from the irrefutable nuts-and-bolts of the Jammu’s case of discrimination. The terribly tragic Kathua incident followed the consistent script of trivialisation, politicisation and communalisation, which ended up giving a wholly undeserved “Jammu-versus-Valley” colour to the issue, ably supported by the inelegant statements and ineptitude of some local politicians. The very relevant and unanswered questions and concerns of the Jammu citizens on the sudden arrival of the Rohingyas in their midst got unnecessarily and unintelligibly intermixed with Bakarwal community, who are of a distinct ethnicity from their co-religionists in the Kashmir Valley, and have absolutely no bearing on the Rohingyas from Myanmar! The lazy perceptions and simplifications around disparate issues juxtaposed, muddied and inadvertently shamed “Jammu” into portents of insensitivity around the case. Yet again, the genuineness of the Jammu’s multiple concerns were frittered away, failed by its own politicians. The Jammu region is a forgotten footnote in the national perspective, but it punches way above its weight in terms of national service, commitment and glory. The patriotism and martial ethos of the region feeds the bulk of Indian Army’s highly-decorated regiments i.e. Jammu & Kashmir Rifles (former Princely State Forces), the Dogras and the Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry — besides populating other regiments and services. From the highest gallantry award winners like the Param Veer Chakra Capt. G.S. Salaria to Subedar Bana Singh, Jammu region is an embarrassment of riches in valour and service to the nation. Despite this, the sense of deprivation in Jammu is all psychological, material and, above all, political, which despite the PDP-BJP experiment could not table and address the Jammu perspective, in its entirety or sincerity.
The Sikri Commission (1979) had presciently noted the injustices to Jammu region by stating that “there existed discrimination and favouritism in the field of development, employment and education in the context of different regions, which was giving rise to irritations and tensions among the people of state” — a finding that was consistent with the earlier Gajendragadkar Commission. Symbolically, the “J” is missing in various state administrative services like KAS (Kashmir Administrative Services), KCS and KPS. The Kashmir-centricity feeds a sense of contempt and subjugation when Jammu region (along with Ladakh) is doled out pittance, from both the Centre and the state, which are skewed heavily towards Kashmir. The inequity manifests in the continuously sub-optimal allocation towards development of Jammu’s tourism, infrastructure, education facilities and overall representation in various state platforms.
However, the worst sleight for Jammu is the hurtful sense of a “wronged” history and narrative. Despite the unparalleled gallantry, avowedly secular and deliberately multicultural reign of the Dogra rulers, the widely believed script does extreme injustice to real history. Since Independence, Jammu has carried the national “burden” of surrendering its rightful share of budgets in favour of Kashmir, wilfully initially, and not so any more. Even the recent Kathua case dimmed the perception of Jammu owing to those very politicians, who, like their predecessors, have done little to address the longstanding woes of Jammu. The growing cries of “anti-Jammu”, are clearly not reaching New Delhi or Srinagar....