The fast-deteriorating situation in Jammu needs to be viewedhings in Jammu seemingly are heading towards a full-scale confrontation between Jammu civil society and “callous” authorities and Rohingyas and Bangladeshis putting up in about 40 colonies within and outside the winter capital of the State, Jammu, and Samba district. On April 7, 2017, Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) took an extreme line and warned the illegal settlers to quit Jammu within 30 days failing which it would launch a movement to identify and kill these foreign nationals.
The stand which the JCCI took on the issue evoked a very strong reaction from its counterpart in Kashmir, as also from the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis.
“we warn the State and the Central Governments that such settlers should be deported within a month and the people whose land the foreigners have settled be booked under Public Safety Act (PSA), otherwise the Chamber shall have no option but to launch an ‘identify and kill movement’ against such criminals,” said Rakesh Gupta, president of the JCCI while addressing press conference in Jammu. He justified the threat, saying that “it shall be no offence to deal with such criminals and drug traffickers, who have illegally entered the State” (The Tribune, Apr 8, 2017).
The JCCI further claimed, and rightly, that “neither the Government of Jammu & Kashmir is a signatory to any United Nation’s treaty, nor does Article 370 of the Indian Constitution allow illegal foreign settlers permanent settlement in the State”.
The stand which the JCCI took on the issue evoked a very strong reaction from its counterpart in Kashmir, as also from the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis. President of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Mushtaq Ahmad, dismissed as “unethical” the JCCI’s stand and condemned the threat against the Rohingya Muslims in Jammu. “Identify and kill movement threat is akin to taking law and order into one’s own hands. The JCCI must withdraw the statement as soon as possible,” he said. Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) chairman, Mohammad Yasin Khan went a step further. Condemning the JCCI’s stand, he said: “How could you (Rakesh Gupta) use words like ‘identify and kill’ in a civilised society and what is preventing the government from filing a FIR against him. If Jammu Inc feels unsafe due to Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslims, why it was silent over the issue of West Pakistan refugees,” (rising Kashmir, Apr 9, 2017). In other words, he treated West Pakistan Hindu and Sikh refugees (all legitimate Indians) at par with Rohingyas and Bangladeshis.n the other hand, the Rohingyas and their supporters held a protest demonstration in the Muslim-dominated Talab Khatikan locality, Jammu. They denounced the JCCI and “warned against signalling out a particular community” (Rising Kashmir, Latest News, Apr 8, 2017). The JCCI’s stand also evoked a very strong reaction from Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. In Kashmir’s Srinagar, She said: “Whosoever tries to take law and order in his/he hand and found involved in threatening or intimidating people will be dealt with sternly”. (Greater Kashmir, Apr 9, 2017).
These foreign nationals were a “threat to national security” and “their settlement in Jammu was an “attack on the Dogra culture, Dogra demography and Dogra identity”.
If the JCCI took an extreme stand on the issue and threatened direction action against the illegal immigrants, the Jammu Citizen Forum (JCF), an amalgam of civil society members comprising retired bureaucrats, police personnel, lawyers, journalists, JCCI and many socio-political groups, on April 8 2017 took out a massive rally in Jammu. Hundreds of concerned citizens took part in the rally. The organisers submitted a detailed memorandum to Jammu & Kashmir Governor, NN Vohra. The memorandum urged the authorities to deport all the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis. The upshot of the whole stand of the JCF was that “the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis have their links with militant organisations and are involved in criminal cases” (State Times, Apr 9 2017).arlier, several other socio-political groups, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal (BD), Ram Sena (RS), Dogra Liberation Front (DLF), Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), the Shiv Sena (SS) and business leaders had also repeatedly drawn the attention of the authorities to the burning issue and sought their eviction from Jammu, saying that these foreign nationals were a “threat to national security” and “their settlement in Jammu was an “attack on the Dogra culture, Dogra demography and Dogra identity”. The VHP and Jammu-based premier association of businessmen and industrialists (JCCI) had even submitted memorandums to the Divisional Commissioner and urged him to deport the illegal settlers (PTI, Dec 6, 2016), but with no result.
More significantly, MoS in PMO Jitendra Singh, who hails from Jammu, and the state unit of the BJP too had expressed grave concern over the illegal settlement of the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in Jammu. While the state BJP president and MLA from Jammu West Sat Sharma took up the issue with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Jitendra Singh pitched for a probe into the whole issue so that these foreigners could be deported and those who helped them settle in various colonies in Jammu and Samba and managed for them AadharCards, Ration Cards, Voter Cards, water and electric connections could be identified and proceeded against. “Why some people, who have vested interests, have not objected to their stay in Jammu, while continuously raising questions of identity cards to West Pakistan (Hindu and Sikh) refugees. I think they want a demographic change in Jammu by supporting these foreigners staying here,” (State Times, Feb 12, 2016)Speaker of Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly Kavinder Gupta (BJP MLA from Gandhi Nagar, Jammu) had openly charged former Congress minister “Raman Bhalla with settling Rohingyas in Gandhi Nagar constituency” and made a startling revelation that “he made the election authorities delete the names of several Rohingyas from the voters’ lists”.
Sadly, however, the Chief Minister took a stand that scuttled all the efforts of the critics of the illegal settlement of the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis. She told the Legislative Assembly that the “deportation of the Rohingyas from Jammu will not be appropriate”. In a written reply to a question raised by BJP, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who also holds Home portfolio, said: “There were 322 foreigners and 13,433 Rohingyas and Tibetan Muslims living in Jammu & Kashmir. These include 7,690 Tibetans and 5,743 Rohingyas. While Rohingyas are mainly staying in Jammu and Samba districts, Tibetan Muslims are staying in the Ladakh region. The government has not initiated any step to deport these refugees…Initiation of deportation proceedings against them would not be appropriate as per the international law,” (The Tribune, Jan 11, 2017).
f course, the Union Home Ministry, according to April 4, 2017, PTI report, decided to explore ways to deport Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslims from Jammu, but this approach of the Union Government has not clicked. The PTI report, inter-alia, read: “More than 10,000 Rohingya Muslims belonging to Myanmar are currently living in Jammu & Kashmir (read Jammu), and the Central and the State Governments are exploring ways to identify and deport them…The issue of Rohingya Muslims, who are living illegally (since 2008), was discussed at a high-level meeting convened by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and attended by Jammu & Kashmir Chief Secretary Braj Raj Sharma and Director General of Police SP Vaid. We are exploring ways on how to identify and deport the Rohingya Muslims, a Home Ministry official said”.
The fast-deteriorating situation in Jammu needs to be viewed in this context.
That the JCCI threatened direct action against the Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslims on April 7, 2017, and the JCF held a massive protest rally against them only suggests two things. One, there is trust-deficit between the Jammu civil society and the authorities. Two, the patience of Jammu is ending and ending very fast. The ball is in the court of the authorities. They have to appreciate the local sentiment to avert the impending confrontation. Besides, people across the nation must know how this illegal immigration took place in strategic State province.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.