It would be only desirable if the CM’s controversial directions were withdrawn to allay the fears and apprehensions of the people of Jammu province.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir is in complete disarray. It is a divided house. There are many sensitive issues on which both the parties differ. Both have contradictory and mutually exclusive stands, as both the parties represent different constituencies. The PDP is a Kashmir-based party and its constituency is Kashmir, which almost 100% Muslim. The BJP represents Jammu province, which is overwhelmingly Hindu and for the state’s complete integration into India. It is also struggling since 1947 for political and economic empowerment or for an equal status with Kashmir in all matters.
However, I will focus only on the latest controversy triggered by a startling revelation made on March 7 in Jammu by a leading Jammu-based Supreme Court lawyer Ankur Sharma, as this controversy could lead to the collapse of what late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had described as a “coalition of North and South Poles” in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi while taking oath as Chief Minister in Jammu on March 1, 2015.
Actually, Ankur Sharma released to the press a 5-page note on the meeting on tribal affairs. It was a high-level review of the meeting of Tribal Affairs Department. The meeting was held on February 14, 2018, in Jammu. It was chaired by none other than Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Hindus & Sikhs are to face a war like situation endangering their religious identity.
The meeting, among others, was attended by Choudhary Zulfikar Ali (PDP), Minister for Department of Tribal Affairs; Ajay Nanda (BJP), MoS Tribal Affairs; Chief Secretary; Principal Secretary to Government, Home Department; Principal Secretary to Chief Minister; Commissioner/Secretary, Forest Department; Divisional Commissioner Jammu; Commissioner/Secretary to the Government, Forest and Environment Department; Director, Tribal Affairs; Vice-Chairman, Jammu Development Authority; Deputy Commissioner, Jammu and Samba; and Inspector General of Police, Jammu.
What did Ankur Sharma say while addressing a press conference? Ankur Sharma, who has been relentlessly fighting for minority rights to minority Hindus in the Supreme Court, accused the Mehbooba Mufti government of facilitating “jihadi agenda” and “changing demography of Jammu province, especially of its four strategically vital districts of Kathua, Samba, Jammu and Udhampur”(Tribune, Daily Excelsior March 8).
“You have heard of the ISIS Jihadi John but here (in Jammu and Kashmir) we have Jihadi Mehbooba,” he said (Rising Kashmir, March 8).
To make his point based on the minutes of the meeting, Ankur Sharma, inter-alia, said: “The most damaging decision taken in the meeting held on February 14 is that the Chief Minister has directed Inspector General Jammu and all the Deputy Commissioners not to provide any police protection for eviction of tribal people without the permission from the Tribal Affairs Department. Chief Minister through this order has made it clear that the police will help land encroachers who belong to a certain religious community (in this case Muslim Gujjars and Bakerwals). This decision has been taken to change the demography of Jammu region. She has through this order said that if you belong to a certain religion you can illegally occupy the land in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region…Under the administrative orders, immunity is given to infamous people who are encroaching state and forest land in the Jammu region. The whole government machinery cannot do anything against them. Another shocking decision taken during the meeting was that the Chief Minister had directed the police to not disturb or dislocate tribal people till a comprehensive tribal policy was put in place by the government…Through these directions, the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr CP) and Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) have all been thrown to the gallows by this government. All DCs have been asked to not follow the legislative laws and instead follow these Islamic fascist decisions…There are two sets of things which happen in J&K. The first is written as per constitution but second is unwritten to facilitate Islamic fascism. It means no action can be taken against any tribal who has illegally occupied forest or state land or even occupies the press club or any private property. The Chief Minister hurt the religious sentiments of the people of Jammu as she directed the police to take due care of tribal people while booking them under the Section 188 of RPC and Animal Cruelty Act” (State Times, March 8).
Ankur Sharma, in addition, asserted, and very rightly, that Hindus and Sikhs are face to face with a war like situation endangering their cultural and religious identity.
“They cannot overlook the various dimensions of the demographic assault on Jammu which started with the religious cleansing of Hindus from the Kashmir Valley and through funded and subsidised colonisation of Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Udhamour; regularization of fraudulent land grab though the Roshni Act; through denial of minority rights to non-Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir; through planned settling of illegal immigrants (Rohingyas and Bangladeshi Muslims) in Jammu; through induced migration of Muslims from Kashmir; and through encouragement to grab more lands without the threat of any government action,” he in this regard said (Ibid.)
People could come to know about what transpired in the meeting only three weeks later.
What Ankur Sharma said could not be dismissed as something silly and preposterous. He did make a very valid point.
I will quote verbatim the relevant portions from the minutes of the meeting to put things in perspective. The 5-page note, among other things, said:
1. “Hon’ble Chief Minister directed the officers that till a formal tribal policy is formulated and issued, tribal population shall not be disturb/dislocated. In case it becomes absolutely necessary to dislocate any member or family of tribal population, the same should be done in prior consultation with Tribal Affairs Department”;
2. “Hon’ble Chief Minister directed the IGP Jammu, police authorities and all the Deputy Commissioners not to provide any police protection for eviction of tribals without the approval obtained from Tribal Affairs Department” (Minutes of the meeting, p. 2); and
“Hon’ble Minister for Tribal Affairs Department (Choudhary Zulfikar Ali – himself a Gujjar Muslim) submitted that the Department is receiving complaints regarding misuse of Section 188 RPC and Animal Cruelty Act against the tribal population as animal rearing is their profession and they are required to transport their animals from one place to another during seasonal migration. The Hon’ble CM directed that due care be taken while dealing with such cases” (Ibid., p.5).
Indeed, the revelation made by Ankur Sharma was as startling as it was highly disturbing: Startling because the people could come to know about what transpired in the meeting only three weeks later and that too through Ankur Sharma. And it was disturbing because the Mufti Government directly sided with grabbers of state and forest land in Jammu. How else shall one interpret her clear direction to the IGP Jammu; police; Deputy Commissioners of Jammu, Kathua, Samba and Udhampur (all Hindu majority); and other concerned officials to not disturb or dislocate the land grabbers? Her direction that police will not assist the concerned authorities in the Revenue and Forest Departments and Jammu Development Authority could be legitimately construed as the subversion of Cr PC and RPC and a concerted move of her government to scuttle the ongoing cases in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court against the land grabbers.
The Jammu and Kashmir BJP general secretary (organization), Ashok Koul, has termed the minutes of the meeting a “fraud” committed by the PDP.
Similarly, her virtual direction to the concerned officials that they should not invoke Section 188 and Animal Cruelty Act was calculated to promoting bovine smuggling and hurting the sentiments of the Hindus of Jammu province.
The revelations made by Ankur Sharma have put the BJP on the mat. Convinced that these revelations would surely hurt it in Jammu, and even across the nation, the BJP reacted very sharply. The Jammu and Kashmir BJP general secretary (organization), Ashok Koul, has termed the minutes of the meeting a “fraud” committed by the PDP.
Terming the record note of the Tribal Affairs Ministry as “fraud and fabricated”, Ashok Koul said: “No such decision was taken in that meeting. It (the record note) is all fraud and fabricated”. However, Choudhary Zulfikar Ali has rebutted Ashok Koul and said: “Yes, these directions were passed by the Chief Minister during the meeting” (Greater Kashmir, March 8).
It would be only desirable if the Chief Minister’s unwarranted and controversial directions were withdrawn to allay the fears and apprehensions of the people of Jammu province. Their fears are genuine and well-founded, as Muslims from Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Kashmir have been, and are being, settled in Jammu city and around it and in the border districts of Kathua and Samba. This ongoing process of their settlement has alarmed them, and even the security forces. So much so, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had on February 12 said in Jammu that “the demography of the cantonment (Jammu’s Sunjuwan Army Camp), which was attacked by the militants and adjoining areas, indicated the possibility of local support to the terrorists” (Daily Excelsior, Feb 13). She had made this statement after terrorists attacked the Sunjuwan Army Camp on February 11 leading to the martyrdom of 6 soldiers, 2 civilians, and 3 terrorists. Sunjuwan is the area where no less than 50,000 Muslims from Kashmir – apart from thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslims – have been settled and where a number of colonies have come up, which are exclusively for the Muslims. Some of these Noorabad, Faisalabad, Jalalabad, Bathindi and so on (Dainik Jagran, Feb 17)
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.