Need for Modi govt to review its Jammu policy to avert the impending disaster
Believe it or not, it’s a fact that the trans-Himalayan and highly strategic Ladakh was Buddhist-majority on October 26, 1947, when the J&K Maharaja, Hari Singh, acceded J&K to the Indian dominion. Today, the Buddhists are a minority; they constitute only 40% of Ladakh’s total population, as against Muslims, mostly Shias, who constitute 46% population in the cold-desert region. The Buddhists constitute a majority (66.40%) only in the Leh district. As for Hindus and Muslims, they constitute 17.14% and 14.28% population, respectively, in this district. In the Kargil district, Buddhists are only 14.29%, as against 76.87% of Muslims.
The history of relations between Leh and Kargil post-1947 was one of ideological conflict as the Muslim leadership in Kargil all along made a common cause with the pro-autonomy Kashmiri Muslim leadership. As for the Buddhist leadership in Leh, it religiously stood for India and fought against the special status the erstwhile J&K State enjoyed under divisive Article 370 and discriminatory Article 35A.
It is important to note that it was in 1979 that J&K CM Sheikh Abdullah divided Ladakh into purely religious lines to create a Muslim-majority Kargil district and his immediate objective was to weaken the decades-old movement unleashed in Leh by the discriminated against, under-threat, and enslaved Buddhists calculated to save their religion, culture, and identity, achieving freedom from Kashmir and obtaining UT status. The Buddhists repeatedly threatened that they would go to Tibet if their demand was not conceded. After the Chinese annexation of Tibet, they would even go to the extent of holding out a threat that they would go to China if Ladakh was not granted UT status. One of their demands was: Merge Ladakh with Jammu or Himachal Pradesh. They repeatedly made it loud and clear that they hate any kind of truck with Kashmir and Kashmiri Muslim leadership which was a votary of greater autonomy or semi-independent status for J&K State. It’s a different story that the Buddhists, who finally achieved UT status for Ladakh on August 5, 2019, are today hobnobbing with the Shiite leadership in Kargil to put pressure on the Narendra Modi government to grant full state status to Ladakh, coupled with legislative assembly for the region, overlooking the dangerous ramifications, including the threat to their own very existence. Indeed, Buddhists these days are playing with dangerous tools.
In between, the Nehru administration allowed the newly-created Pakistan to annex what many call PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan and convert them 100%. PoK, which was 100% non-Kashmiri speaking, or which was 100% Pathowari speaking area, and which Sheikh Abdullah disliked because of its demographic profile, was part of Jammu province and Gilgit-Baltistan parts of Ladakh. It must remain a matter of concern that many in the administration, media, and think tanks call these areas PoK, instead of Pakistan-occupied-Jammu and Ladakh (PoJL). The annexation of PoJL by Pakistan led to the massacre of thousands of Hindus and Sikhs and the migration of all those to Jammu who were lucky to escape the wrath of the ardent believers in the concept of two-nation. Remember, Jammu city is also called the Indian capital of refugees as it has been embracing victims of the votaries of two-nation at regular intervals since 1947. According to one estimate, there are more than 1.5 million Hindu-Sikh refugees in Jammu and they migrated from Pakistan, Pakistan-occupied-Jammu areas, and Kashmir.
It bears recalling that one of the immediate fall-outs of the J&K accession to the Indian dominion on October 26, 1947, was the end of the 101-year-old Dogra rule and establishment of an Emergency Administration under the Kashmir-based National Conference (NC) president and a close associate of JL Nehru, Sheikh Abdullah. It’s not a secret that Sheikh Abdullah was a votary of greater autonomy or limited accession and protagonist of a “Switzerland-type independent Kashmir”. Committed communalist and separatist as he was, the Sheikh Abdullah administration unleashed processes aimed at changing the demographic profiles of all three regions – Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh – to promote his agenda and accomplish what he all along worked and stood for since 1932. In 1932, he founded the Muslim Conference, which was renamed as National Conference by him in 1938 to hoodwink and mislead Hindus of Jammu and Buddhists of Ladakh.
The processes, which Sheikh Abdullah unleashed and the biased and essentially community-centric administration that he handed down with the full backing of Nehru, on the one hand, made many Kashmiri Hindus, especially government officials and businessmen, migrate to Jammu and other parts of India, and, on the other, provoked a sort of furore both in Jammu and Ladakh. The situation climaxed to the point in January 1990, when the miniscule minority of Kashmiri Hindus quit Kashmir wholesale to escape their physical liquidation and honour and dignity. This was the sixth and final exodus of the original inhabitants of Kashmir, Hindus, from their land of Vitasta. Not just Kashmiri Hindus, almost one lakh Jammu Dogras (all Hindus) and Punjabis also migrated from Kashmir to Jammu in January 1990. The point is that Kashmir, which was 100% Hindu till 1339, became 100% Hindu-free in January 1990, and that, too, in independent India. Kashmir witnessed six forced migrations of Hindus between 1339 and 1819. It was only during the Sikh rule (1819-1846) and Jammu Dogra rule (1846-1947) that Kashmiri Hindus led a secure, peaceful, and dignified life in the Valley.
That the NC administrated also posed a live threat to the unity, integrity, and identity of Jammu province became clear in 1948 when Wazir-e-Azam Sheikh Abdullah divided its Udhampur district into purely communal lines in 1948 and created the Doda district. His objective was to widen the gulf between different communities, disturb the socio-religious and political equilibrium in the strategic mountainous region and create conditions leading to the establishment of Greater Kashmir comprising Kashmir and Muslim majority parts of Jammu province and Ladakh adjoining Kashmir. The politically conscious Jammu leaders, like Ladakhi Buddhists, also sought separation from Kashmir, but with no result. However, Sheikh Abdullah’s rule ended on August 9, 1953, when he was dethroned and arrested under the charge of “sedition”.
However, those who succeeded Sheikh Abdullah did nothing whatsoever to protect and promote further the identity of Jammu province. As a matter of fact, they allowed those processes to assume alarming proportions. Things assumed dangerous proportions in October 1996, when Farooq Abdullah recaptured state power. During his misrule and misrule of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (PDP), Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Omar Abdullah (NC) and Mehbbooba Mufti (PDP), Jammu district and parts of Jammu province’s Kathua, Samba and Udhampur districts witnessed demographic changes on a massive scale. All of them, without any exception, used the legislative (the obnoxious Roshni Act of 2001) and executive (February 14, 2018, executive order) routes to create a Kashmir-like situation in Jammu province. (Significantly, BJP was part of the coalition government that Mehbooba Mufti-led between April 2016 and June 2018.) While the Roshni Act emboldened their followers and others, including thousands from Kashmir, to occupy “25 lakh Kanal of state land”, mostly in Jammu, on February 14, 2018, executive order barred the revenue magistracy, forest department, and the police from evicting the members of one particular community from the state/ forest land in Jammu, Kathua, Samba and Udhampur districts. Not just this, they also settled thousands of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis at strategic locations in and around Jammu city.
The whole point is that Kashmir became a 100% Hindu-free, Ladakh turned Buddhist-minority region after 1947, and today’s Jammu province is very different from what it used to be before 1996. It’s hoped that the Narendra Modi government and Home Minister Amit Shah would take cognizance of the massive demographic changes in Kashmir and Ladakh and the manner in which the hostile forces have been systematically changing Jammu’s demography. It would be only in the larger national interest if the Modi government reviewed its Jammu policy to avert the impending disaster. And there is but one way in which the impending disaster could be averted and that is by separating it from Kashmir and granting full state status to Jammu province.
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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