Jammu begins to choke Kashmir
- Shortage of essentials in valley as confrontation escalates
MUZAFFAR RAINA (Kolkata, Telegraph, Aug. 7, 2008)
http://telegraphindia.com/1080807/images/07river1.jpg Wading in: Protesters from the outskirts of Jammu cross the Tawi river to beat curfew and enter the city that has been ringed by the army. After wading for 45 minutes, the protesters reached the other side. Barring a few who outwitted the security forces, all were sent back, but this time they were told to take the land route. (PTI picture)
Srinagar, Aug. 6: Haji Ali Mohammad Bhat has been driving up and down Srinagar’s troubled lanes for hours in search of his daily dose of insulin.
“I have gone to several localities in Srinagar in search of insulin but I am not able to get a vial. Many medical shops are closed because of a strike, but the few that are open say they have run out of stock,” Bhat, a diabetic and an owner of J-K Radios, a shop in Lal Chowk, said.
A two-week-long economic blockade of Kashmir, enforced by the Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti in Jammu by jamming the life-supporting Pathankot-Srinagar national highway, has begun to bite the common people.
The Jammu blockade, allegedly supported by the BJP, and a gathering Kashmir backlash are also threatening to slice the tenuous umbilical cord that has held the state together for so long. In an intra-state feud rarely seen before in India, one part of Jammu and Kashmir is pitted against the other in a confrontation that can assume communal overtones.
The army opened fire and killed a man on the highway today when the protesters demanding land for the Amarnath board stopped a military convoy escorting supplies to Kashmir.
The 400km Pathankot-Srinagar highway is the only dependable road that connects Kashmir with the rest of the country. The Valley is dependent on this road not only for its supplies but also for export of fruit and handicrafts. The other route via Manali and Leh is longer and not all-weather.
The Centre is thinking of airlifting supplies to the Valley if an all-party initiative spearheaded by the Prime Minister fails to make headway soon. Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said in Delhi that the IAF was at the ready for an airlift and was waiting for orders.
Army headquarters is worried that there should be so much unrest in the rear areas of the state in which the defence force is heavily deployed along the Line of Control and also for counter-insurgency. The agitation in Jammu is blocking the supply lines for the troops, too.
The Valley is running short of almost everything: fuel, medicines, edible oil and food, although the government claims it has enough stock.
“Most of our stocks will last at least a month, but there is some shortage of petroleum. Some life-saving drugs were airlifted from Delhi. The supplies are coming but they are not up to the mark,” said Kashmir divisional commissioner Masood Samoon.
Not many are willing to buy the argument. “Our stock could last for a week and we are feeling the pain now. The government is lying. A number of vehicles on the way to Kashmir have been looted,” said Jan Mohammad Koul, president of the Kashmir Traders Federation.
“From drinking water to consumer goods and vegetables, the Valley gets everything from outside,” said Nisar Ali, a professor of economics at Kashmir University.
The blockade has affected every aspect of life, even the marriages that are numerous at this time of the year. Many have cancelled marriage parties as no event is complete without wazwaan — the local cuisine of mutton and chicken. Abdul Khaliq, a mutton dealer from Hazratbal, said stocks had run out.
Not just supplies but exports, which Ali estimates to be worth Rs 3,000 crore, have taken a hit, too. Fruit growers say their losses have crossed Rs 100 crore.
“We cannot send fruit to Azad Pur and other markets in the country. Some have rotted in vehicles and some are rotting in the orchards. We have no cold storage here. What shall we do?” asked Ghulam Rasool Bhat, president of the Baramulla Fruit Growers and Dealers Association.
But angry voices are slowly making themselves heard. The fruit growers have given the government time till tomorrow to re-open the highway, failing which they have threatened to cross the LoC and sell their produce in Pakistan.
The traders have, on the other hand, decided to boycott all goods manufactured in Jammu. “Anybody who buys any product in Jammu will be treated as a traitor. This has been communicated to all traders here and we are publicising the names of the products that come from Jammu and have to be boycotted,” Koul said.
Nisar Ali said the economic blockade would hit Jammu harder than Kashmir. “We have no industry here. Some industries have come up in Jammu because it enjoys some natural advantage. Kashmir is a big market for their products and their loss will be bigger.”
With inputs from our Delhi bureau
Reclaiming India --- Tarun Vijay. Yes, dhanyavaad Tarun, its Jammu Hindu revolution.
Reclaiming India by Tarun Vijay
6 Aug 2008, 1553 hrs IS (TOI)
None should say Omar is not allowed in Jammu. Let him come, listen and speak. Like any other Indian should feel free to visit Kashmir or any other part of the nation. He is welcome to visit my home even if he denies me a piece of land in Kashmir. Why should a few words uttered by him make me change my Indian-ness? If he spoke in Parliament as a Muslim, asserting his Islamic identity, let denial of land to Hindus be his Islam and my Hinduness must keep my nation as a free democracy where difference of opinion is a natural phenomenon unlike Islamic countries.
I had listened to Omar Abdullah when he was in Vajpayee's cabinet and felt he had great potential to be an influential Indian leader. He spoke for India and brilliantly too. Now, if he has chosen to be just a regional one, it's his choice.
But he must stop to think why he can own a bungalow in Delhi or Bangalore and at the same time deny that privilege to a fellow Indian in Kashmir?
Kashmiri Muslim leaders would like to enjoy the fruits and liberties of a Hindu majority democracy but vehemently deny that to Hindus in their area of influence. Why?
When they are in a minority they crave and get special privileges. But once a majority, every single right to be at par is refused to other minorities.
It's the same phenomenon all over the globe. A direct consequence of turning Wahabi. Wahabi intolerance and separatism is poisoning Muslim brotherhood too. A brilliant report in TOI elaborating how Wahabi elements are gaining ground in the small towns of Gujarat and the softer, humane version of Islam, the Bareilevi school, which is resisting their aggressive expansionism makes an interesting reading and gives a frightening picture of the inter-communal strife within Muslim society.
Kashmir is predominantly Sunni and Wahabi. Hence the intolerance that denies even the basic features of Kashmiriyat.
And see what the de-Indianised intellectuals wrote on the front pages in Delhi's newspapers: "All over a piece of land!" Really?
Then why are the Indian soldiers defending a barren piece of dead snow in Siachen? Or what's that piece of cloth known as the Tricolor? Is it worth dying for?
Jammu is witnessing a mass patriotic uprising, unprecedented till now. It's a Second Ayodhya enveloped in the Tricolour outshining the 1952 Praja Parishad movement, which demanded one flag, one constitution and one head of the state. Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee was martyred for this cause in the jail of Sheikh Abdullah, grandfather of Omar. The situation hasn't changed in the last 56 years. It has in fact worsened.
Such a mass movement goes beyond the controls of any party or organisation. For the last 20 days, the roads are empty and markets closed. The sudden eruption of protests has seen grandfathers and grandsons and mothers and grandmothers ringing bells against Muslim separatism and shouting at the top of their voice: "Har har Mahadev". Such a protest by every single member of families who had never come out for a public demonstration can't be engineered. It's an uprising, a spontaneous expression of anger accumulated in the last five decades of misrule by people of suspect loyalties. The Doctor's Association, Bar Association and Govt. Employees Association, Sikhs, Gujjar-Bakkarwal Muslims and Congress MLAs defying their party, the Hotel Association and every single sect of Hindu society have joined and supported the movement.
One young man, Kuldeep Kumar Dogra, took his life in utter disgust after reciting a patriotic poem before the hunger strikers in Jammu. Policemen in plainclothes forcibly took his body away and tried to burn it in his village in the dead of night without even informing his family. A monk saw them burning the pyre with country-made liquor and used car tyres and managed to alert the villagers. The policemen ran away seeing the protesters swelling in number. And none of the human rightists raised a voice of dissent. Did the policemen belong to India or an enemy country?
In fact the whole movement is a revolt of Tricolour people against unpatriotic politics on Kashmir. It's an effort to reclaim India in a region where the central leaders and regional parties have abandoned the idea of pan-Indian nationalism and geographical integration. India has been reducing every day in the valley and the seculars keep on counting their votes and encouraging separatists at the cost of an Indian identity.
After all, the Amarnath Shrine Board was created on the recommendation of the Nitish Sengupta Committee formed by the state government in 1996 when more than 250 Amarnath pilgrims died in a snowstorm. That made the state government realize that facilities are inadequate and hence a committee was formed under the chairmanship of retired senior IAS officer Sengupta. The government accepted the recommendations of the committee a year later and decided to create a separate board on the pattern of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board through an act passed by the Farooq Abdullah goverment in 2000. The Secretary, Tourism Depaetment, was appointed CEO of the board.
Initially, toilets and other facilities were added but they proved inadequate as neither the office of the shrine board was set up nor any staff worth its name was appointed. It was only when Gen. SK Sinha took over as Governor in 2003 and hence became Chairman of the Shrine Board that the office was established with Arun Kumar, IAS, as its full-time CEO. Kumar changed the entire gamut and pilgrims were provided with livable camping facilities.
Earlier, mahants and local interest groups were taking home all the offerings of the shrine. Now the shrine board regulated the income, spending it on providing more facilities to pilgrims and regularizing the fare structure regarding pony hiring, collies, camping sites, toilets and emergency medical help. The chief mahant was given huge compensation and other Muslim helpers were employed in the board. Kumar also introduced bacterial toilets using the latest Japanese technology which was environment- friendly and turned night soil into usable fertilizer for local farmers. Prior to this, concrete toilets had proved a colossal waste as they would get choked and the entire structure needed to be demolished. But this had proved profitable for the local contractors; hence, when the new green technology was introduced the contractors' lobby protested and the then Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayed, halted the work in 2005. As a result of it, the Shrine Board approached the High Court which gave a stay order and the work continued.
It's noteworthy that during the while that the Secretary, Tourism was acting as the CEO of the Shrine Board, all the toilets and camping facilities were constructed on government land and nobody objected. It was only when the bribe channels were stopped for the politicians' protégés that they objected to government land being used for pilgrims. Hence, after the stay was obtained from the High Court, the Shrine Board asked the state government in 2005 to regularise use of government land by formally transferring a few plots of land to the board en route to the Amarnath shrine. It took three years to take a decision and finally on May 26 this year, the state cabinet passed a proposal diverting (not selling or leasing) 38 hectares of land near Baltal to the Shrine Board on a temporary basis at a cost of Rs 2.5 crore. The Minister of Forest, under whose jurisdiction the land was diverted for the Shrine Board's use, was a member of the PDP headed by Mufti.
After the order was signed, word spread that a huge amount of land had been given to Hindus and now they would come and outnumber Muslims. It's a plot against Kashmiri Muslims, it was argued. An anarchical agitation began with Mufti, the Hurriyat and Omar Abdullah uniting to deprive Hindu pilgrims a camping facility.
They needed to support their false presumptions and Arun Kumar's press briefing was used for this purpose by communalising his innocuous statement regarding environment and Hindu-Muslim solidarity. Kumar's entire press briefing is audio recorded and though he has been suspended and an inquiry instituted, nothing can be proved against him. In fact he is being punished for providing pilgrims better facilities.
This is the genesis of the whole issue.
The same government has given hundreds of acres of land to Baba Gulam Shah Badshah University in Rajouri and to the Islamic University in Pampore. None objected. The all-encompassing nature of Hindus is taken for granted as is their timidity.
You can tell the facts to those who would like to consider them and not to those who play petty communal politics. Governor Vohra acted on the advice of North Block and not only took back the letter for land allotment on behalf of the Shrine Board without taking board members into confidence, but also gave the charge of providing facilities to the pilgrims back to the state tourism department, which means the same murky business flowering again. With the Shrine Board having no CEO at present, since Kumar's suspension hasn't been revoked, yatra arrangements are in limbo. The Governor's secretary, who has a hundred other tasks, has been asked to take care of the yatra.
Hindus have never been treated so contemptuously as is being done under the UPA dispensation. Kashmir is the land of Shiva, the greatest place of the Shaivite school of Hindu dharma. At every mile there was a Shiva temple, but most Hindu temples have been razed in the valley during the Islamic Jihad. More than 70 lakh pilgrims visit Vaishno Devi and Amarnath every year and contribute enormously to the economy of the state. Yet, Hindus have always been looked down upon and driven out of their homes and hearth. This is the Kashmiriyat of the valley's politicians and patriotism of their protectors in Delhi. The Kashmiri leaders, so possessive about a hundred acres, never raise their voice to take back 78,114 sq km of Jammu and Kashmir under the illegal possession of Pakistan. Thousands of square km of land to Pakistan can be tolerated, but "not an inch" to Hindus.
It was the political expediency of the communally "secular" leaders that created the land row, but now the agitation has gone beyond the land issue becoming a symbol of the struggle to ensure India's return to the valley. The un-Indian elements have to be defeated so that the honour of the Triclour can be protected in our land. The only fear is that the politicians of Delhi may compromise, betraying the cause of the people anytime.
This is the time when a complete abolition of all those acts which segregate the valley from rest of the country are being demanded, including the obnoxious Article 370, and a grand plan to have patriots shifted from various parts of the country to Kashmir valley is implemented, with priority given to soldiers who have served in the area.
Jammu's agitation to reclaim India in J&K has to be supported by every patriotic Indian. It's a pain of Indian nationhood and not just of the Jammu region. Failing this movement will fail India.
The author is the Director, Dr Syamaprasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.
tarun-vijay. blogspot. com
Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation
(centre for civilisational values and policy research)
11 Ashok Road, New Delhi 110001
tel. no.-011-23382569, 23382234.
http://timesofindia .indiatimes. com/articleshow/ msid-3333783, flstry-1. cms
Appeasement is never good for a nation
Lalit Koul | August 06, 2008 | 15:48 IST
10,000 forest trees are chopped down to build the Mughal road in Kashmir. No one makes a noise.
Acres of land in the Kashmir valley are given to install mobile phone towers. No one screams.
Acres and acres of land in the Kashmir valley are allotted to lay sewage and drinking water pipes. No one objects.
But when 40 hectares of uninhabitable land is handed over to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board to provide better facilities to the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims, all hell breaks loose.
Why? Because the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board caters to Hindu pilgrims who want to visit the Amarnath shrine in the valley of Kashmir. It is as simple as that.
Politically correct politicians, policy-makers and administrators might try to tell you that it is not about religion, but the fact of the matter is that it is all about religion. It is a design by communal forces within the valley to completely Islamicise the valley by removing every symbol of Hinduism and other faiths from the valley.
Today, these communal forces are preventing the setting up of facilities for the yatra, tomorrow they will even go to the extent of banning the yatra altogether.
The land transfer fiasco has already consumed the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Congress government and is on its way to now adversely damage the state's economy. The fear psychosis has already resulted in a sharp decline of tourists to the valley. Counter-strikes and bandhs announced by the pro-land-transfer parties within the Jammu province have paralysed the life in that part of the state as well.
So far it has been a win-lose situation in favour of communal forces in the valley.
Let us take a hard look at the arguments presented by the locals who opposed the transfer of land:
1. The allotment would have adversely affected the environment around the area. One wonders where these tree-hugging environmentalists were when the same government allowed the felling of 10,000 forest trees to build the 89 km-long Mughal road.
40 hectares of land that was going to be used to provide temporary shelters and night-time facilities to pilgrims was in fact going to help in proper maintenance of the current day waste that actually pollutes the environment. But who can argue with senseless politicians who instigate people to come out on the streets?
2. The allotment is the government's ploy to settle Hindus from outside the state to change the demographics of the valley. Look, who is talking! One has to only go back 18 years in the history and check who changed the demographics of the valley.
Islamic terrorists changed the demographics of the valley by ethnically cleansing Kashmiri Hindus from the valley. I wonder where these we-do-not-want-to-change-demographics-folks were when Kashmiri Hindus were slaughtered and the valley's demographics were altered.
One would like to ask a few questions: a. Is 40 hectares of land enough to settle so many Hindus that it would change the demographics of the valley?
b. By putting this argument of demographic change, are the valley's Muslims implying that Hindus are not welcome in the valley anymore? And I do not mean the Hindus from outside Kashmir. I mean the Hindus from the state of Jammu & Kashmir itself.
What if the Hindus, who hold the state subject certificate of J&K state and are legally allowed to purchase land in any part of the state want to purchase land in the area around the Holy Amarnath? Are the valley's Muslims saying that those Hindus cannot buy the land there and settle down? Is that what they are implying? Are they trying to protect the environment by preventing the Hindus from settling in the valley?
Another argument Kashmiri Muslims present is that the land cannot be allotted to the Shrine Board because Article 370 does not allow anyone outside of J&K to own land. Their argument is that since the J&K governor is the chairman of the board and he is an outsider, this transfer of land is illegal.
How dumb does one have to be to understand that the land is transferred to the Shrine Board which is an institution based in the state of J&K and created by the J&K government. The land is not transferred to the chairman or the CEO of the board per se.
Having touched upon the outlandish arguments of those who oppose the allotment of land, let us look at some facts and the real story:
It was during the first three years of the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-Ghulam Nabi Azad coalition government that the original proposal of land transfer was initiated and cleared. It was under Mufti Sayeed's leadership that his forest minister Qazi Mohammad Afzal and law minister Muzzafar Hussain Baig originally cleared the proposal. It just so happened that due to red tape, the proposal was finally approved by the cabinet when Azad had taken over as chief minister during the second three-year part of the six-year term.
The same PDP led by Mufti Sayeed was originally okay with this proposal. But as soon as the PDP smelt that terrorist outfits like the Hizbul Mujahideen were not in favour of the allotment of land and realised that it could become a polarising issue to whip up sentiments to garner votes in the upcoming assembly election, it backtracked.
Since it is an election year, the National Conference and other smaller political parties would not let the PDP cash in on this opportunity alone. They jumped into the fray and whipped up sentiments by fooling the local Kashmiri Muslims. And that leaves the Congress. How could the Congress not try to cash in on this polarising issue in an election year?
Azad did not waste any time and revoked his cabinet's decision to appease the Kashmiri Muslim vote bank. He did not just stop there. In addition to revoking his own order, he also effectively disbanded the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. Now that is some level of appeasement! That is the real story behind the story.
It is an issue created by Mufti Sayeed to polarise the vote banks. It is his design of playing politics with the religious sentiments of lakhs of Hindus from all over the country.
Now that we know the real story behind the story, how about the Hindu pilgrims who want to visit the shrine and what about their fundamental rights to practice their religion with complete security, dignity and honour?
Isn't it a shame that Hindus living in India, where 80 per cent of population is Hindu, cannot freely visit the shrine and expect better facilities? It is only in India that the majority community has to make all the sacrifices in favour of minorities because our politicians believe in appeasing Muslims at the cost of Hindus.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on a television debate on this issue asked why there is a need for land and new facilities when the pilgrimage has been going on for many years.
Does Omar Abdullah mean to say that there is no need to improve the facilities provided during the treacherous pilgrimage? Is he implying that if the yatris were okay for so many hundred years, then why change and improve the facilities?
I have never heard him say such things with regards to the Haj pilgrimage. Every year Muslims from Kashmir and the rest of the country want better facilities and subsidies for Haj pilgrims. But when it comes to providing better facilities to Shri Amarnath pilgrims, it becomes a sore point for Kashmiri Muslims and their leaders.
Heavy rains, snowstorms, landslides and hostile environment took away 256 lives during the yatra in 1996. And Omar Abdullah has the audacity to promote the status quo!
Some of you might argue that it was not the valley's Muslims, but the political parties and terrorists who opposed the land transfer order and forced people to come out on the streets.
I can buy that argument, but that does not absolve the valley's people from their responsibility? They cannot always support these fundamentalist forces and then at the same time claim innocence.
They did the same in 1989 and in the early 1990s when they either stood as mute spectators or as vocal supporters while Kashmiri Hindus were ethnically cleansed. As a good citizen, it is incumbent upon them to raise their voice against these dreaded forces and stop this madness.
If they sincerely believe in peace, then they need to stand up and reject these terrorist outfits and their masters. Conversely, if they don't, then they are as much party to the madness as the principals and thus need to be held accountable.
Appeasement policies are never good for a nation, particularly for a nation like India that is so diverse in ethnicity and culture. Whether it is amending the Constitution during the Shah Bano case, releasing terrorists during the Rubaiya Sayeed kidnapping case, freeing dreaded terrorists during the IC-814 hijacking or continuing the temporary Constitutional provision of Article 370, all such policies will one day result in the nation's doom.
It is incumbent upon the leaders of the nation as well as the citizenry to be on guard and not allow such appeasement policies to take effect in a nation that is based on the concept of secularism, democracy and fairness to one and all.
Lalit Koul is the President, Indo-American Kashmir Forum, a US-based advocacy group. He can be reached at email@example.com
Jammu's Hindu uprising
Kanchan Gupta | August 05, 2008 | 14:30 IST
Jammu is burning. And as of now it appears unlikely that the rage sweeping through the entire province can be doused in the coming days. On Monday, the police, clueless as to how to handle the situation and directed by an inspector general of police who is an outsider, shot at protesters in Samba. They did not shoot to injure or scare away the crowds chanting slogans against Governor N N Vohra and waving the national tricolour. They shot to kill by aiming their guns at the protesters' heads.
The brutal response of the administration and Vohra's inability of to gauge the extent of popular disquiet and outrage have only strengthened the resolve of the protesters to continue with their agitation. The relentless bandh and blockade of highways has been extended by another five days. People continue to defy curfew and army pickets, pouring into the streets in hundreds, something unprecedented in India.
What we are witnessing in Jammu is a Hindu intifada: The young and old, men and women, youth and children are locked in an unequal battle with the police -- and, since Friday, the army -- demanding the immediate revocation of the government order cancelling the transfer of 800 kanals of land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board. The land was meant for creating temporary facilities for pilgrims who trek to the Amarnath shrine every year, braving inclement weather and jihadi attacks.
It's been more than a month that the Hindus of Jammu have taken to the streets, burning tyres, taunting policemen, braving tear-gas and real bullets, violating curfew and blockading the highway to Srinagar. The images emanating from Jammu are eerily similar to those that emanated from Gaza and the West Bank during the Palestinian intifada. More tellingly, the tactics that have been adopted by the protesters are those that have often brought the Kashmir valley to a standstill. If you look at the photographs of the Hindu intifada, you will get a sense of how Jammu has decided to give Kashmir a taste of its own medicine -- in this case it is Dum Dum Dawai (a public thrashing).
The details of the land transfer fiasco are well-known. The Congress-Peoples Democratic Party government headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad had instructed the forest department to transfer the land to the SASB. Within days Muslims in the Kashmir valley, led and instigated by pro-Pakistani separatists, took to the streets, insisting no land should be provided for pilgrim facilities.
The All-Parties Hurriyat Conference spread three canards: First, the transfer amounted to alienation of 'Kashmiri land'; second, it would lead to intrusion of 'Hindu culture' in Muslim Kashmir; and, third, it would cause ecological damage.
Amarnath pilgrims deserve better
The PDP, sensing an opportunity to revive its pro-separatist -- if not brazenly anti-India/anti-Hindu -- image in the run-up to the assembly election in Jammu & Kashmir, joined the protest and subsequently withdrew from the government. To his credit, Azad stood firm and refused to budge from his government's decision, till N N Vohra took over as governor, replacing Lieutenant General S K Sinha (retd).
Vohra, in his capacity as ex-officio chairman of the SASB, wrote a letter to Azad, returning the land and also offering to relinquish the board's task of organising the annual yatra, thus making the pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine subordinate to the valley's Muslims �ber alle (above all) politics and Delhi's equally odious politics of Muslim appeasement.
Vohra reportedly sent his letter to Azad at 8.30 pm on June 28. "The news of that abject surrender provoked an explosion of outrage across Jammu," says a senior member of the Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti, a broad-based organisation without any political affiliation which is at the forefront of the protest.
"The governor has violated the SASB Act. He cannot act unilaterally. Any decision of the board has to be endorsed by at least five members," says Professor Hari Om, academic and vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Party's Jammu and Kashmir unit. "He is also in contempt of the high court which had passed an interim order approving the transfer of 800 kanals of land to the board in Baltal," he adds.
For all his efforts to appease the Muslim protesters in the Kashmir valley by 'returning' the land that had been allotted for Hindu pilgrims, Vohra was unable to save the Congress-PDP government. The PDP pulled out from the ruling alliance on June 28; on July 1, Azad, obviously under mounting pressure from his party bosses in Delhi, reversed the earlier decision.
Images: Pilgrims' progress
Meanwhile, in Jammu there was a spontaneous shutdown on June 30. "I don't recall such a massive bandh in recent years," says a lawyer who has been involved with the protest; he does not wish to be named, fearing harassment by authorities. Neither do the protesters wish to be identified because they fear they will be picked up from their homes by the police who take their instructions from Srinagar.
So, every morning, afternoon, evening and night, students, workers, professionals, senior citizens and housewives take to the streets, engaging the police in dogfights, hurling tear-gas shells back at their tormentors, chasing cops when they are outnumbered, retreating into narrow alleys when the men in uniform re-gather, and then surging out all over again. Their faces masked with handkerchiefs, they hurl stones; their eyes reflecting their rage. Scores have been shot and wounded; three of them have died; a young man was chased across rooftops by the police -- he jumped to his death.
"Each death only makes us more determined. We are not going to be bullied by the valley anymore. Jammu wants a voice of its own. Jammu's Hindus will no longer tolerate oppression by Kashmir's Muslims," says a young protester, still in his teens, from his house in downtown Jammu. His voice has just begun to crack.
The day after the June 30 bandh, Jammu flared up with street marches and protest rallies. The authorities responded by clamping curfew, in an effort to force people to remain indoors, till July 7. Women came out of their homes and dared the police to shoot them. An enduring image of the Hindu intifada is that of an aged woman, a Pandit who was forced out of the valley along with her family and three lakh other Pandits in the early days of jihadi terror, threatening a Kalashnikov-sporting policeman at a curfew picket with her tattered and torn slipper.
On July 7, the Congress-PDP government officially exited office; the next day the Sangharsh Samiti suspended its agitation, giving the governor a fortnight's time to either have the land restored to the SASB or resign from office. "Vohra did neither. He only added fuel to the fire. He has been insensitive and his actions have only served to provoke the protesters," says a senior official in the Jammu administration.
"Years of neglect of Jammu by Kashmir has resulted in what you are seeing today. The people are frustrated. The Pandits have at last found a platform to vent their anger. Jammu has more people than Kashmir, but the lion's share always goes to the valley," says Professor Hari Om.
Jammu province has 37 assembly seats and two Lok Sabha constituencies. The Kashmir valley has 46 assembly seats and elects three Lok Sabha members of Parliament. Of the 37 assembly constituencies in Jammu province, 25 have a Hindu majority population; the remaining 12 have a Muslim majority profile. "Our voice naturally gets drowned," says an advocate who is a member of the Sangharsh Samiti.
The natural beneficiary of the Hindu intifada would be the BJP. It could end up sweeping all the Hindu majority seats in Jammu province and even emerge as the single-largest party in the next assembly. The Muslim vote in the valley would be divided between the National Conference and the PDP. The Congress could get wiped out -- it has little to claim as support in the valley; following the intifada in Jammu, it can't look forward to winning 15 seats in this province as it did in 2002.
This should have set alarm bells ringing at the Congress headquarters in Delhi. Strangely, the party's 'high command' doesn't seem to care. Or so it would seem from the near non-response to the protest.
Vohra and his patrons in Delhi have "clearly underestimated the determination of Jammu's long-suffering Hindus who have had to cope with denial and deprivation for decades as the state government focuses only on the Kashmir valley," the advocate- activist says.
This explains what happened on July 22. Kuldeep Raj Dogra, in his mid-30s, who was participating in a hunger strike at Jammu's Parade Ground, decided to do something tragically dramatic: He consumed poison, stood up to read out a passionately patriotic poem he had penned, faltered and fell dead. "It was his way of registering his protest against Omar Abdullah's speech in Parliament... he was incensed by the National Conference leader's duplicity," says Professor Hari Om.
The police panicked. They forcibly took away Dogra's body to his hometown, Bisnah, 15 km from Jammu, and "tried to cremate it using old tyres, kerosene oil and liquor", according to a Sangharsh Samiti leader. His widow Shilpi tried to prevent the cremation and raised a hue and cry. The police have been accused of "insulting, abusing and assaulting" Shilpi to silence her. But a huge crowd gathered and snatched Dogra's body from the police. It was taken to Jammu and the situation subsequently just went out of control.
Since then, the Hindu intifada has gathered both force and speed. Curfew has been clamped on all of Jammu and Samba. The army has been called out. The governor has been virtually forced to remain confined within the Raj Bhavan by protesters who continue to gather at the gates in large numbers with every passing hour. Vohra's 'eight-point formula', which included 'allowing' the SASB to 'maintain infrastructure during the yatra period', to end the deadlock, has been spurned. The Sangharsh Samiti is adamant that it will settle for nothing less than restoration of the 800 kanals of land to the SASB for Hindu pilgrims.
Just how determined the protesters are can be gauged from the manner in which thousands of them laid siege to the airport after hearing that Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti were flying in. They had to be flown from the airport to Raj Bhavan in a helicopter after the protesters refused to let them through.
Since Friday night, the intifada has escalated and spread to virtually every corner of Jammu province. Protesters, defying curfew, have been relentlessly pouring out into the streets throughout the night, daring policemen and army personnel to shoot them. Two men were shot dead, 35 were injured when the police fired on protesters ransacking the district magistrate's office in Samba. By mid-afternoon on Saturday, the intifada was truly raging in Jammu and beyond.
All trucks headed for Srinagar have been stopped by protesters at Samba and on the Jammu-Pathankot national highway. No trucks are being allowed to enter Jammu from Srinagar. Kashmir's Muslims could yet get to know what it feels like to be at the receiving end of popular fury and mass anger, as opposed to the valley's made-in-Pakistan rage.
Kanchan Gupta is associate editor, The Pioneer. He is based in New Delhi