A misguided discourse

Kashmir Times. Dated: 10/24/2020 10:43:40 AM

Jammu’s political narrative must assert itself without falling into the trap of divisiveness

Fourteen months after the demotion and re-organisation of Jammu and Kashmir along with the dilution of its special status, the most complex region continues to be fraught with divisive voices further seeking fragmentation of the region whose end could only mount unimaginable complexities, miseries and dangers. While Ladakh is drifting away amidst tensions, close on the heels of calls by some political groups for restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir and the Gupkar Declaration by the grand alliance of key regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir with the demand for restoration of Article 370 has come the Jammu Declaration from a conglomerate of 20 political and social organisations including the National Panthers Party. After a joint session meeting on Wednesday, a resolution was passed to oppose the move to demote the erstwhile state of J&K into a Union Territory but seek statehood only for Jammu on grounds of continuum of alleged discrimination with the region. The discrimination theory and the sense of discrimination it evokes at the ground level in Jammu has for years pitted up regionally and communally divisive discourse. The development evokes the pertinent question whether BJP which had tried to consolidate its base in Jammu region by whipping up the frenzy of discrimination has been unable to purge that sense despite a thumping majority from the region in recent elections. While the BJP has been unable to fill the void, the Jammu Declaration alliance has failed to spell out how this regional discrimination continues to be perpetuated and what indeed is the vision for Jammu other than brutalising the contours of geography one more time with repercussions that could be deleterious for multi-regional, multi-lingual and multi-religious province like Jammu.
Can a separate statehood for Jammu fill in the void that engenders a sense of discrimination in Jammu? There is need for not just compiling empirical data on whether indeed this discrimination is real or exaggerated but need to understand that much of this sense also has stemmed from the vacuum of leadership in Jammu, post-1947, that can define a vision for the region that is complex in itself with its geographical, religious and linguistic diversity as well as its many socio-economic inequalities. Jammu’s political voice has not only lacked the articulation of what it aspires for collectively but has also not been able to accommodate the differences within. The stronger Jammu voice has largely been urban centric and at best identifies itself with the plains. While it has remained pitted against Kashmir and focused on a counter-Kashmir narrative, it has eluded both cohesiveness and positive vision for the future. At a time, when Jammu, particularly its youth have begun to feel the brunt of the new changes and the rules in terms of jobs, land, businesses and land transfers, there is need more than ever in Jammu for a new narrative that is positive and attached to the aspirations of its different peoples, while bringing them together. However, the latest political narrative emerging in the region shows that instead of learning lessons from past mistakes, the 20 odd groups is yet again slipping into the same trap of triggering nothing but divisiveness. The demand for separate Jammu statehood is not only misplaced, it is a misguided missile with destructive potential.



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