Date: 18/05/2015

Jammu all set for another massive bandh
BJP fails its constituency
Early Times Report

JAMMU, May 17: No one had ever expected that the BJP, which in 2014 won three Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Ladakh and captured 25 out of 37 Assembly seats from Jammu and emerged as the single largest party in terms of popular votes in both the elections, would become so unpopular so soon. Today, it is condemned by one and all. No BJP leader and Minister can face the people of Jammu. Such is the situation in Jammu province.

It was on April 24 that the entire Jammu province observed a massive bandh against the BJP and it was the first ever Jammu shutdown against the BJP. The people, cutting across party lines, the Jammu youth, the lawyers' organization, the business community, transport unions and who not made the bandh a massive affair and the issue that had provoked them to take an extreme step was the BJP's willful onslaught on their region. The BJP handed over the proposed AIIMS to Kashmir overlooking the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's Lok Sabha announcement that AIIMS will be established in Jammu. Ram Madhav, BJP national general secretary and one of the architects of the pernicious and anti-national agenda of alliance, was also a party to this out and out anti-Jammu decision. The action of the BJP shocked the entire population of the province, but not the BJP leaders like Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, who that not only shamelessly said that there was no bandh in Jammu on April 24, but also abused the people of Jammu province by declaring that no power on earth could "snatch AIIMS from Kashmir and it will not be established in Jammu". Nirmal Singh only rubbed salt on the wounds of the people of Jammu to make his Kashmiri masters believe that they have in the BJP ministers their agents, cronies and lackeys in Jammu and that they will always promote the Kashmiri cause at the cost of Jammu and the country as a whole.

The people of Jammu province are all set to observe another massive bandh to expose the anti-Jammu BJP. It could be on any day, as the provocation is grave and the issues very dear to them. On Monday, the premier organization of lawyers, J&K High Court Bar association will strike work for a day. On Saturday, the National Panthers Party made a passionate appeal to the people across Jammu province to come on one platform to teach a lesson to the Jaichands of Jammu and ensure that the proposed AIIMS was established in Jammu and the ongoing artificial lake was completed at whatever cost. On Saturday, another significant development took place. The Congress and a number of other organizations demanded resignation of Nirmal Singh, saying he and the BJP more than the PDP or other Kashmiri parties are responsible for what the Chief Minister said in Jammu against Jammu in the his presence as well as in the presence of another BJP minister. Significantly, even the Jammu-based NC leaders have jumped into the pro-Jammu arena and demanded AIIMS for Jammu and the completion of the ongoing artificial lake project in Jammu' Tawi, also Surya Putri. They said their government started the project and they will not allow the government to shelve it midway.

Reports suggest that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Warehouse organization, lawyers and other important political and social groups would soon meet to discuss the situation arising out of May 15 declarations of the Chief Minister and chalk out programme to defeat the anti-Jammu forces in general and the BJP, which has subverted the Jammu's mandate by signing an anti-Jammu, pro-Pakistan and pro-Hurriyat deal, in particular. Their first action could be a bandh across Jammu province. All of them are blaming Nirmal Singh and his ilk for what is being done to Jammu to promote the Kashmiri interests. They have also not taken kindly to the U-turn of MoS in PMO Jitendra Singh on the issue of AIIMS. At Kathua some two weeks ago, he had taken on and contradicted Nirmal Singh and said that the "AIIMS was always meant for Jammu", but in Jammu, two days ago, he didn't say that. He remained vague. Perhaps, he had been snubbed by the party high command for his Kathua statement, which was, according to sources close to Nirmal Singh, "not appreciated by Nirmal Singh".

All these development demonstrate that things in Jammu would assume alarming proportions. And the BJP is itself responsible for the prevailing discontent in Jammu.


The Sangh Parivar’s dubious role-playing in Kashmir
By Rahul Pandita | May 14, 2015

On 3 May 2015, Kashmiri Pandits from across the country attended a rally at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, demanding a say in any decision regarding their return to the Valley. However, the protest seemed to have achieved little in that direction.

Ravi Kanojia/Express photo
On 3 May 2015, just a little over two weeks ago, a protest was held by Kashmiri Pandits in Jantar Mantar in Delhi. The rally had been announced well in advance over social media and, as a result, hundreds of people from the exiled community, some of whom had travelled from places such as Jammu and Pune, participated in the gathering. It was organised by a few Kashmiri Pandits in Delhi and also had representatives from various Pandit organisations such as Roots in Kashmir, Kashmir Visthapit Sangharsh Samiti, All India Kashmir Samaj, Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch and Kashmiri Samiti among others.

What the protest aimed to achieve was not very clear. Many Kashmiri Pandits currently feel cheated by the Narendra Modi government. They accuse it of succumbing to the pressure of the separatist groups in the Kashmir Valley and backtracking from its earlier announcement of creating a separate township for the resettlement of the Pandits. The protest at Jantar Mantar should have been about the immediate concerns of the exiled community; it should have been a message to the new governments in New Delhi and Kashmir that they cannot take the Pandits for granted. The organisers made a few feeble noises, but none of them could be seen as a direct affront to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Nevertheless, the protest was given ample coverage by most media organisations and some of its organisers dubbed it a success.

The problem lay with certain constituents of the rally’s organising committee who have direct links with the Sangh Parivar. In fact, one of the slogans used at the rally was, “Jahan hue balidaan Mookerjee, woh Kashmir humara hai” (The Kashmir where Mookerjee sacrificed his life is ours!), that I first remember hearing at an event organised by the BJP a little after the exodus in Kashmir.

In 1990, almost all Kashmiri Pandits—about 400,000 people—were driven out of their homes by Islamist extremists. A significant number of the majority Muslim population in the Valley believed that the call for freedom from India that had resulted in this exodus was a mandate of history. Many of them remained silent, or even cheered on, as their Pandit friends, neighbours and colleagues were forced into exile.

Most Pandits took refuge in Jammu city first. Here, they were made to believe that the Sangh Parivar was very concerned about their plight. The reality of course, was quite the opposite. Representatives from the Sangh Parivar, for instance, told the Pandits that they must not stay in Jammu for long, “The locals fear that you will seek your pound of flesh in their resources”. Subsequently, while the Pandits struggled to put their lives together as refugees in their own country, many in the Sangh Parivar and its supporters dubbed the Pandits cowards for “not putting up a fight.”

But in spite of this, for many Pandits, the romance with the Sangh Parivar continued for 25 years and reached its zenith last year with Narendra Modi’s ascension to power. In less than a year, though, the illusion has completely worn off.

I was fourteen in 1990 when my family, like tens of thousands of others, fled from the Valley. In Jammu, there were no threats from mosques and no ominous hit lists pasted on electric poles. But the respite was short-lived. In the first summer heat of the Indian plains, I remember our search for suitable accommodation shortly after we moved. It is then we realised that a landlord is neither Hindu nor Muslim, he is just a mercenary for profit.

I had never heard of the Sangh Parivar before. My father had, though. He told me that in many far-flung villages in Kashmir, people believed that the Jan Sangh was some sort of devil that would pounce upon hapless people if they were to be found alone in the fields. In Jammu, the Pandits were happy that someone was concerned about them.

Two years later, in 1992, Murli Manohar Joshi, the president of the BJP at that time, arrived in Jammu during his Ekta Yatra across the country, with a large number of opiated sadhus, among others. The Yatra was meant to reiterate the importance of national unity, we were told. Joshi and his men were accorded a warm welcome in Jammu and it is during his rally then that I first heard the slogan: “Jahan hue balidaan Mookerjee, woh Kashmir humara hai!”

At that time, I recall trying to ascertain the identity of "Mookherjee" from those participating in the rally. But none of them appeared to have heard of him. Before I could investigate the significance of this man further, the event came to an end. Joshi flew to Srinagar with Narendra Modi, who had coordinated the event, where, under the protection of army soldiers, they unfurled the national flag at Lal Chowk in the city square.

Then came other slogans. “Doodh maangoge to kheer denge; Kashmir maangoge to cheer denge” (Ask for milk, you’ll get pudding; ask for Kashmir, you’ll be ripped apart). This became the new anthem for the BJP. Using the Pandit suffering and its 56-inch stance on Kashmir on one side and the Ram Mandir on the other, the BJP consolidated the Hindu vote and catapulted into a national party.

But the Pandits continued to suffer in exile.

Through these years, our erstwhile neighbours in Kashmir made attempts to aestheticize our ethnic cleansing. “You know, Jagmohan [the former governor of Jammu and Kashmir] did it!” “We had no idea what was happening, we were under the siege of curfews.” “We have suffered ourselves.” “Look, so many of you never left—nobody touched them!” “Kashmir is incomplete without you!”

Kashmir is incomplete without us! That, the separatist conglomerate has also said several times. But nobody appeared to know how the Pandits were expected to return. Would they just forget the betrayal of 1990? Would theystop seeking justice for 700 killings in which there has been not a single conviction so far? Most of the property that Kashmiri Pandits owned before 1990 is now gone—it was destroyed, forcibly occupied, or sold for a pittance by its owners under extreme financial duress. So were they to return, where would they live?

As year after year pressed on, most Kashmiri Pandits stopped asking these questions and began to accept the political apathy to their plight.

Against this backdrop, arrived Narendra Modi. When he uttered “mitron” (friends) for the first time, many among the Pandits believed he was addressing them. In May last year, when he became the prime minister, they were also convinced that he would ensure their return to the Valley.

But as the Pandits looked on, Modi sent his emissaries to Kashmir to clinch a deal with a whole range of local leaders, from mainstream to separatist. In its greed to ensure electoral majority, the BJP accepted even the likes of Engineer Rashid, who is well known for his consistent anti-India stance, within its folds.

This was followed by the party’s inconsistent stance on the issue of the Pandit resettlement. Since the BJP does not want to disturb its cosy ecosystem in Kashmir, it has now backtracked on creating a separate township for the Pandits. For months after the party had assumed power in the centre, spokespersons from the BJP defended their party by saying it was serious about the return of the Pandits to the Valley and that, since the party had come to power recently, it needed more time to work on the reforms it intended to bring. However, a political party that claims it has the welfare of a particular community on the top of its mind does not wait to come to power to start working for them. If the BJP were really serious about the Pandit return, they would have had a blueprint ready to execute that return.

Separatist groups have been quick to declare the BJP’s reversal on this issue as their victory. The Sangh Parivar has, in the meantime, begun to create fissures among the current Pandit leadership. The idea is to negate the resistance offered in the last 25 years and float new faces among the Pandit leadership who are amenable to accepting anything the BJP will offer to them. The Jantar Mantar rally was a part of that agenda.

Long ago, in one of his lectures, Edward Said, a Palestinian American literary theorist, listed four stages of genocide and ethnic cleansing: physical dispossession, cultural effacement, incomprehension, and internal betrayal. The Sangh Parivar is currently aiding the process of the last two stages to make the ethnic cleansing of Pandits irreversible: undermining the efforts made in the last 25 years and creating victim-collaborators within the community to negate the possibility of confronting truth.

In her book on the aftermath of totalitarianism in Eastern Europe, The Taste of Ashes, the scholar Marci Shore quotes a young poet who confronts his older colleagues (who were Stalinists), asking them: “What kind of people were you, actually, and what kind of people are you?”

It is time that the Sangh Parivar is asked that question, at least with regard to its dubious role-playing in Kashmir.

Rahul Pandita is currently a Yale World Fellow and the author of “Our Moon Has Blood Clots”, a memoir of a lost home in Kashmir.

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