Article 370 gave corruption and cruelty only: Kashmir made slaves of us Dogras and Jammu. This tyranny had to end
Kashmir's leaders ruined their region with militancy, were cruelly indifferent to Ladakh and totally oppressive to Jammu. It's time for that to change and us Dogras to regain our voice.
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In the last few days, following the abrogation of Article 370, I have been getting calls about celebrations all across Jammu city.
I have personally witnessed one in my mohalla — and the reasons to celebrate, as the people of Dogra would say, even with cautious optimism, are many.
For starters, equal rights for women, Dalits, West Pakistani refugees and the Gorkhas.
And this automatically means an end to the slavery that had been imposed upon the Jammu region, and especially Dogras, by the Kashmiri hegemony since 1948.
With the expected delimitation, we are now hopeful for a larger representation in the Assembly too. It will finally level the playing field for all stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
The last 70 years, even with the maximum funds flowing to J&K, were not ones of development or welfare for us. This money has always only been pocketed by a few families in Kashmir — corruption of a level not seen in any state. On average, a little more than Rs 3,000 is given per Indian citizen for development — this sum was around Rs 14,000 in J&K.
The money never came to the common man. We can now see that changing.
A window of hope: We were helpless spectators of our ruin — but all that will change now. (Photo: Reuters)
The Jammu region is the most underdeveloped with no network of roads, and even those that exist left in pathetic condition. The state of infrastructure is unspeakable too — from schools to hospitals. We see that changing now as well.
There are also crucial changes that can't be measured in bricks and mortar.
For years, the Dogras have lived in mortal fear of their Kashmiri political masters. They would speak of the wrongs done to them in hushed tones, in the confines of their homes, but never openly, fearing for their jobs, postings and promotions.
That fear is now gone.
As is the existential threat we Dogras lived in. The last vestiges of our history and culture were eroding rapidly. We were helpless spectators of our own ruin. The end was near with the way things were going. But it doesn't need to go in that direction anymore.
The young were forced to leave their homes for jobs. Our cities were fast becoming old and grey, with unemployment at its highest levels. The youth was waiting for the elusive government jobs in an environment of a dead private sector. A lady I met recently said, “My son can return home now, as new jobs and opportunities will be created.”
Considering the strategic location of the state, the Dogras are also expecting some filtering process on who can buy the land and live along the borders. Nationalist Dogras have been on the frontline at our borders, acting as a defence, complimenting the armed forces throughout. Considering the stakes and the security issues, the territorial integrity of India must be given the highest priority.
Though I am sad as a Dogra to see the break-up of a vast and glorious state created by my ancestors, the communal Kashmiri leaders had left no other option.
We had been pushed to the wall. No one could see a way out but this. I will never forgive the Kashmiri leadership for breaking what the Dogras built. They did this by their sheer arrogance and corruption — playing with separatism, so their fiefdoms could be safe, allowing terrorism so their coffers could be filled.
A new dawn: The totally neglected Ladakhis finally have what they wanted and deserved. (Photo: Reuters)
Jammu and Ladakh never mattered. Union Territory has been a long-standing demand of the Ladakhis and they finally got what they wanted and deserved. I am sad to see them go — but happy that a new dawn awaits them.
Finally, you are either an Indian or not.
There is no in-between.
The Kashmiri leaders never spoke of Jammu and Ladakh. The only character they said they would protect unto their death was the 'Muslim character'.
The 'unique identity' professed by the Kashmiri leaders meant, in fact, fighting against secularism and equality for women, Dalits and refugees. They had no room for justice. They did not even have room for the Kashmiri Pandits or the poor Kashmiri Muslim in the villages who was a helpless pawn in their evil game. They were indifferent to Ladakh and oppressive towards Jammu. Dogras have been made invisible and voiceless for seven decades.
This was not a 'special' identity.
This was an identity that was regressive and communal.
It was not worth protecting. It had to give way.
As a Dogra and someone from the Jammu region, I hope the nation will recognise and acknowledge us, our history and our patriotism now. We will finally be empowered stakeholders in our own land.