In this small piece I want to talk about the nature of Jammu’s politics. But before I proceed further let me clarify as to what I am referring to in the name of ‘Jammu’. There is a broader entity called Jammu which comprises of the six districts. This entity is the most colourful entity within the state having a cultural and social plurality. Within the overall heterogeneity, the districts like Jammu-Kathua are Hindu dominated, Udhampur-Doda shows mixed trends having both Hindu and Muslim community in sizeable proportions and Rajouri-Poonch areas are Muslim dominated. I will attempt an analysis of politics of this broader entity Jammu at a later time. Right now I am attempting to focus this article on central ‘Jammu’ which is known as ‘Duggar-Des’ i.e. Jammu-Samba-Kathua-Udhampur region. I must confess and admit that the thought of writing this little about the place that I identify with has made me very uncomfortable, as I find myself unable to locate the exact and precise area to talk about in context to the region’s politics and political aspirations. My basic problem starts from the realisation that in the name of ‘Jammu’ and its aspirations, there is nothing like a mass-based politics.
I am tying to make an effort to understand that why people over here are not mobilised to an optimum level? Why there is a general apathy to political issues. More pertinently why such issues are not raised with which people can identify as a whole?
Let me first of all talk about the Dogra identity and the politics that is raised in the name of this identity. It is no doubt that the Dogra identity is a very inclusive identity and runs across the Hindu-Muslim divide. It has been a great cementing factor in the age of divisive tendencies. Hindus and Muslims across this Dogra belt are culturally integrated as one unit of being Dogras. However, the potentials of the Dogra identity politics have not been tested by the political elite who speak in the name of this identity. At the most, one can see some signs of chauvinism, but not much politics with which the common Dogras, living in the rural, far-flung and treacherous mountain or the Kandi belt can identify.
Until recently, the one issue which was raised in the name of Dogra identity politics was that of inclusion of Dogri in eighth schedule. It was after fifty-nine years of wait that Dogri finally got the recognition which was asked for. But even this demand was not mass based. It was an elitist demand articulated in the city of Jammu, or at best in the towns of Udhampur or Kathua. There was no mass mobilisation on this issue. Even the political parties based in Jammu did not vigorously campaign for it. It was the NC government under Farooq Abdullah to first pass the resolution in the state assembly demanding inclusion of Dogri in eighth schedule. On a deeper analysis we can say that even this issue was not having such mass support which it should have and the inclusion was not totally because of some struggle or movement. First of all, what so ever was being demanded was demanded by a little chunk of elites and interest groups, and secondly the main thrust on the issue came because a language like Bodo which is patronised by only hundred-thousands of people was given priority over Dogri by the central government. The reason for lack of common people’s enthusiasm and overt support to the movement becomes evident if we try to find as to what does the inclusion of Dogri in eighth schedule means? It means that: Now onwards papers for UPSC exams will be in Dogri. Or in Lok Sabha, one can ask questions in Dogri. Or Dogri will get its due space in Doordarshan.
Now how can a common man be mobilised on such like issues? It is for sure that no advantage is going to come to an ordinary person by the inclusion of Dogri in the Eighth schedule. It is only Dogri experts and literates’ upto the required level who will reap the benefits and that is why they were supporting the cause. One thing that this inclusion served was that it signifies the emotional satisfaction for several lakh Dogri people. This however is not enough to articulate and mobilise people who don’t even know what eighth schedule is, forget it if they know about its benefits, if any.
One reason which obviously comes into mind for lack of people’s participation and mobilisation on political issues is illiteracy and ignorance of people. Most of the poeple in Dogra belt (except those living in the urban areas) are not that educated and aware and are mostly pursuing the agriculture as their profession and these people are so cut off from the city life that they do not have direct dependence on formal political structures and processes. These people are so engrossed in their daily needs and requirements that they have no time to spend on giving a thought to political issues articulated by the elite. Moreover, the issues that are politically raised do not touch the heart or soul of these people. And the issues that these people would be interested in, are not articulated at all by any of the political group.
The issue of a lack of a mass-based politics of Jammu or a politics that addresses the issues of masses or aims at mobilising the people at the grassroots level, is linked with the crisis of leadership. A pertinent dimension of the politics of Jammu is the absence of a dynamic and efficient leadership. Jammu can’t boast of a leader like Sheikh Abdullah who had a charismatic personality and who could change the politics of Kashmir from its elitist base to a mass base. There is not even a single leader of Jammu of such stature and personality that can legitimise politics and make it a perpetual process. With the coming of democratic process and modernisation phenomena, elections and parties came to forefront. But to the disappointment of people no party and no leader could claim the support and loyalty of masses. Thus Jammu became only an instrument to form government by acquiring required number of seats in the Assembly which has a huge share of the Valley. People here vote on party and parochial lines. They are moved by caste, religion and gender but rarely on genuine issues.
Political parties operating in Jammu whether national or regional seem to be at similar level of alienation. No political party has such agenda which can mobilise people. BJP until recently was talking only of abolition of article 370. How a layman can relate to an issue as ambiguous as article 370 itself? Congress talks of discrimination against Jammu region, failure of the government to set up a finance commission for allocation of funds among three regions of J & K on equitable basis (when it was in opposition).Regional parties generally talk of separate statehood status for Jammu. All these demands depict more of political aspirations of the elite and less of regional aspirations of people. It isn’t so that there are no issues in the region, but somehow neither the people claim forcefully nor do the leaders address them. Backwardness, unemployment, illiteracy are some of the issues which no political leader is comfortable to talk about. Unemployment in itself is a huge issue but is not referred to or talked of with such vigour that is required. From a government statistics it becomes clear that out of total number of unemployed youth in the state of J&K, 69.5% belong to Jammu region. There are other issues as well. For instance, there is the issue of availability of water for the purpose of irrigation and drinking. Not to talk about the needs of the rural areas, even the urban areas face problem of drinking water. Jammu is falling short of 5.55 million gallons of water daily. Similar is the case with power supply. People and leaders only complain that Valley is reaping all the benefits but apart from that they are not raising the issues which touch the common people. Level of literacy and education is a problem for the state as a whole. But no political party is bothered about it. The Dogra belt has another very important issue that is almost politically invisible – the lowering sex ratio. This belt, especially the districts of Jammu and Kathua have a dangerously low sex ratio and far less girls are allowed to being born than they would have naturally been, had the sex-determination test not been used with impunity here. All these issues have been pushed under the carpet as the political leadership and the parties operating here do not seem to be interested in these.