Why I wrote a book on Jammu Muslims

Even though a deep undercurrent of exclusion from major political narrative prevails, they are largely seen reconciled with status quo.

 |  3-minute read |   23-06-2015
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In any discussion about the Kashmir issue, the Kashmir Valley assumes prominence, while at the regional level Jammu is dealt through its Hindu majority sentiment. The Muslim of Jammu is lost in oblivion. The fact that Muslims of Jammu make 31 per cent of the region’s population, 13.4 per cent of the total population of the state and 20 per cent of the total Muslim population of the state makes them a subject for study.

Consider a couple of more important facts. That 70 per cent of the whole territory of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, excluding Gilgit-Baltistan, is carved out of the pre-1947 Jammu province, and 56 per cent of the population is drawn from it. That the territory of the Jammu province which is on the Indian side of the ceasefire line lost its Muslim population by more than 400,000 clearly suggests that over the timeline of conflict, the Muslims of Jammu were placed in an entirely different situation than their Hindu neighbours in the region as well as their co-religionists in the Valley. Therefore, my book is essentially to fill a wide historical gap in scholarship on Jammu and Kashmir, most of which has brushed aside a painful history of the Muslims of Jammu province.

Even though a deep undercurrent of exclusion from major political narrative prevails among the Muslims of Jammu, they are largely seen reconciled with status quo. I am afraid, this "reconciliation" is mainly out of isolation. For the most defining 18 years - between 1947 and 1965 - their struggle was leaderless and lonely as Kashmir's most accepted leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah didn't own them for pre-1947 reasons. And within the region they were seen through the prism of pre-1947 developments when their leadership was definitely inclined towards the Muslim leaders in West Punjab.

I think more than 2.3 lakh Muslims died during the Partition in Jammu. The tragedy is that there is no authentic figure on the exact human loss in Jammu in 1947.

I can say with confidence that my estimates are closest to the possible actual figures and perhaps the first in-depth investigation. I have, at the very outset, discarded the figures dished out by Pakistan and several Western authors to rather rely on a scientific approach. I have considered the district-wise census figures of 1941 and 1961, and looked at decadal growth to arrive at a possible figure for 1951. This deficit is then collated with the number of Jammu refugees in today's mainland Pakistan to understand what their number might have been around 1950. So, I have found a little over 400,000 Muslims lesser than their expected number in 1951 to assume that a little over 2.3 lakh died and close to 200,000 migrated to Pakistan to live as refugees.

I have been coming across questions from some Hindus in Jammu as also from Muslims in Kashmir ever since I started research for this book in 2011. This in itself explains how identities are fortified on both sides of the Muslims of Jammu, who are not expected to have a discourse on an identity of their own.

Pick up any statistical indicator of development or even political representation over the last six decades, and you will find the Muslim-dominated areas of Jammu province - Rajouri, Poonch, Doda etc - to be traditional non-priority areas. In fact, these are the dismal human development indices of Muslim-dominated areas which when put together show the mean index of the Jammu region slightly lower than Kashmir Valley.

(As told to Naseer Ganai.)

Writer

Zafar Choudhary Zafar Choudhary @zafar_choudhary

He is a Jammu-based journalist, political analyst, involved in Track II initiatives. He is the author of 'Kashmir Conflict and Muslims of Jammu'.

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