As a person who calls Jammu Kashmir home and hails from the Jammu Province, the more one tries to make sense of this the more confounding it gets. It contradicts with how we feel; in the summer of 2009 in the US my Father spent all his evenings with an elderly Muslim gentleman from Jammu’s twin city of Sialkot Pakistan, choosing him over Hindu senior citizens his age who hailed from other parts of India. How can shared culture, history and heritage be ignored and everything painted with a broad brushstroke of religion. It is easy to hide behind and whip up a sentiment against a perceived villain with an arrow poisoned by religion, the much abused and potent opium of the masses. The unashamed politicization of religion has been common practice in our State since the days of Sheikh Abdullah when he used the Hazratbal Dargah in Srinagar after the Juma Namaz for his most vitriolic speeches to formulate opinion against the then Bakshi regime and India, creating a political and religious mass hysteria. The blatant mix of politics and religion has continued and so have the speeches after the Friday prayers in Kashmir.
Any feeble opposition to this false communal branding is silenced by bringing up the much regretted massacre of Muslims in Jammu in 1947; a time when the entire Indian sub-continent was bleeding. Does this shameful blot in our history which rests heavy on shoulders belonging to both religions and regions obliterate every shining example of our people living together peacefully in Jammu Province. Stories of Hindu villagers bringing stone slabs when a Muslim neighbor passed away and the Muslims fetching wooden logs and milk when a Hindu friend died; of the many Dargahs devoted to Sufi Peers dotting our landscape which people of both faiths hold in reverence; the beautiful Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar which was last restored in the reign of the Hindu Dogra Ruler Maharaja Pratap Singh; of the pride the Dogra Hindus feel for an Ustad Allah Rakha or Malka Pukhraj; of the organic relationship with our Gujjar community who are largely responsible for the distribution and supply of milk in our region; of the acceptance of Urdu which was promoted as a medium of education by Maharaja Hari Singh to encourage literacy amongst Muslim youth.
There has been a lot of forced migration from the Valley, POJK and the militant infested hilly areas of Jammu Province to Jammu City and the adjoining districts, even by Muslim families. Is this not testimony enough. Muslim families from the Valley now increasingly own property in Jammu City but there is no evidence of it happening the other way round.
The people of Jammu especially the Dogras have a legacy and tradition of valour. In face of both overt and subtle attack on our basic nature, an attack which is mischievous and also threatens the larger peace, I looked for this famed valour in all the necessary but non traditional places and came up empty handed. The fact that everybody’s magnificient obsession remains Kashmir and no one is asking Jammu for their response is a contributing factor. I concluded that there is barely any popular counter narrative from the people who have these allegations hurled at them time and again. The case has been tried and verdict of guilty passed even without taking into account our side of the story.