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.