J&K’s 149-year-old Darbar move tradition ends
Ending the 149-year-old practice of Darbar (Secretariat) move from the original capital Jammu to Srinagar for six months and vice-versa and ordering all secretariat employees, including Special Secretaries and Additional Secretaries, to vacate government quarters, flats and bungalows in Jammu and Srinagar within 21 days clearly suggest that something epoch-making is happening in the newly-created UT of J&K. These moves are in a way vindication of the age-old stand of the suffering people of Jammu province. They had been demanding a separate and full-fledged secretariat in Jammu for years.
These well-meaning and well-conceived changes are also as historic as the abrogation of Article 35A, Article 370, J&K’s special status and the creation of UTs of J&K and Ladakh in 2019. These have all the potential of helping the people of Jammu province surmount the difficulties — financial or otherwise — they faced during all these years when the Secretariat would be in Srinagar for 6 long months. Secretariat employees from Jammu, unlike their counterparts in Kashmir, hardly liked the practice of Darbar move for obvious reasons, including the disturbed conditions in the Valley and the kind of politics the Kashmiri politicians indulged in.
The practice of the Darbar move was introduced by the Dogra Maharaja, Ranbir Singh, in 1872. There were potent, cogent and political reasons for that.
But more than that, these path-breaking changes are of great importance for the people of Jammu province as far as their social, cultural, economic and political life is concerned. These changes will have a direct bearing on the Jammu province’s demographics.
The practice of the Darbar move was introduced by the Dogra Maharaja, Ranbir Singh, in 1872. There were potent, cogent and political reasons for that. One was to check the conspiratorial activities indulged in by certain disgruntled elements in Kashmir and imperialist Britain, which had signed the Treaty of Amritsar with Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu in March 1846 under compulsion. Had the princely Punjab States fallen before 1846 as other princely states across India fell before the canny and intriguing British Imperialists, the powers-that-be in London would not have signed the Treaty with Maharaja Gulab Singh or would not have added Kashmir to the Dogra Kingdom. Punjab fell only in 1849. London wanted to destabilize the Dogra rule to promote its interest in frontier Ladakh and check the Russians, who wanted a strong foothold in Afghanistan. The other was the movement in Kashmir aimed at getting “freedom from the Dogra rule”. The religious leadership in Kashmir had been consistently opposing the Treaty of Amritsar since 1847 and urging the British Government to cancel it, saying “they sold the life, dignity and honour of Kashmiri Muslims to the Dogras of Jammu for Rs 75 lakh”. Under the Treaty, Maharaja Gulab Singh had to pay Rs.75 lakh in lieu of Kashmir.
It needs to be underlined that it was on June 20, 2021, that Lt Governor of J&K Manoj Sinha made a historic announcement. “The administration has completed the transition to e-office, there is no need to continue the practice of the ‘Darbar move’ of government offices…Now, both the Jammu and Srinagar Secretariats can function normally for 12 months. This will save the Government Rs.200 crore per year, which will be used for the welfare of the deprived sections,” he said. His announcement was welcomed by almost all in Jammu for reasons not really difficult to fathom.
It bears recalling that earlier on February 5, 2020, the then Chief Justice of J&K High Court Geeta Mittal had in her 93-page historic judgement rejected the practice of Darbar move on several counts. Her judgement directed the authorities to act on her verdict in the interest of the people of the state, administration of justice and Darbar move employees.
That Lt Governor Manoj Sinha administration was committed to ending the practice of the Darbar move and mitigate the hardships of the people of both the regions further became clear on June 30, when it cancelled the residential accommodation of the Darbar move employees in Jammu and Srinagar. It asked all the Darbar move employees to vacate the official accommodation within 21 days. Some of the officials included Special Secretaries (19), Additional Secretaries (61) and officers of the rank of Directors and Director Generals (nearly 40).
There are about “3300” Government quarters in Jammu city, including about 200 Government quarters, located mostly at Janipur, Toph Sher Khanian and Company Bagh (Near MA Stadium), and almost “1600” in Srinagar. The Government also used to hire for six months every year nearly “200 private houses and bungalows for senior officials, bureaucrats, political persons, former ministers and legislators”. Not just this, every year, the Government used to hire for six months “nearly 1200 hotel rooms in Jammu for “Move” employees and provide them breakfast and dinner free of cost for the full six months”.
That there are 3300 Government quarters in Jammu city and 1600 in Srinagar for the “Move” employees and that the authorities also used to hire 200 private houses and bungalows and 1200 hotel rooms in Jammu for the “Move” employees to speak for themselves. It vindicates the oft-repeated complaint in Jammu that the number of Darbar move employees hailing from Jammu province was only about 15%, as against 85% from Kashmir.
As was expected, some Kashmiri politicians have opposed the decision of the Government to end the practice of the Darbar move. Former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti, who consistently urges PM Narendra Modi to talk to Pakistan to resolve the so-called Kashmir issue, termed the decision as “insensitive”. CPIM state secretary MY Tarigami said: “The move to jettison the tradition of Darbar move has created confusion”. Former minister and president of J&K Apni Party Altaf Bukhari said: “Doing away with Darbar move practice is not good for integration”.
Their opposition to the landmark decision of the Narendra Modi Government is politically motivated. It needs to be noted that Jammu’s demographic profile has been changing drastically since 1996. Till 1996, there were only three non-Hindu localities in Jammu city. Today, the number in Jammu city and around is almost 50, some of which have huge townships and almost no-entry zones. Similar is the story of places of worship. It would not be out of place to mention here that Pakistan realized it as early as 1994 that if Islamabad was to accomplish what it calls the “unfinished agenda of partition” and annex J&K, it had to change Jammu’s demography.
It’s time for all of us to appreciate the revolutionary changes introduced by the Narendra Modi Government in J&K. These will help the people of and improve the working of the administrative apparatus in both regions. These will also help the government and security agencies to defeat the evil game plans of Pakistan.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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