Amarnath Land Controversy - Online Article

The Story of Kashmir, the latest land dispute in Jammu and Kashmir is yet another case of three parties seeingthree completely different things in what is one entity: J&K. Here he looksat the three extreme views: in Jammu, inKashmir and in New Delhi.

Like a pair of utterly dissimilar twins, Jammu’s Hindus and Kashmir’s Muslims are in a bitter brawl. Throw in their guardian,the Government of India, and you are witnessing a horrible psychodrama. Whathas been taking place over the last 57 days is an explosive clash of narrativesthat tell the same story where three protagonists are seeing different,conflicting things.

Over the last many weeks, these narrativeshave swayed from resentment and fear to open hatred. Neither side comprehendsthe other’s logic; both see fanatics on either side. Worse, each side isconvinced that the government favours — and colludes with — the other.

The consequences can be much more terriblethan they already are. Combined with the conviction that the other sidecomprises evil-doers, the cause to escalate violence is already there in thebag. In Kashmir, talk of 'occupation', 'economic blockade' and ‘fanatics inJammu’ is bound to feed into the larger discourse of pan-Islamic victimisation,particularly in the minds of a generation that has grown up during themilitancy years and has followed the ongoing global war on Islamic terrorism.

Before anything else, the government has toregain credibility. Brute repression hasn’t helped in the past and won’t thistime either. Consistent policies and firmness are vital. The government mustre-establish communication not only with leaders on both sides but also withthe public in Jammu and in Kashmir.

To engage, one must first understand. And tounderstand, one must first see what the disparate narratives of Jammu’s Hindus, Kashmir’s Muslims and of the Governmentare. These are views that must be heard. And, of course, they’ll be jarring tomany

What Kashmir Thinks

That governor S.K. Sinha had a soft spot for Hindutva wasall too evident. He regularly met VHP leaders and lengthened the Amarnathyatra from 14 days to two months. Also, Raj Bhawan became pretty much theoffice of the Shrine Board he headed. The board brought in all yatra suppliesfrom outside the state, sidelining local Muslims who have traditionallybeen serving yatris and have been all this while making enough money tolast the year.

And that wasn’t all. The majority of theGovernor’s appointees to the board were Sangh Parivar men from outside Kashmir.Why? To give these men a long-term foothold in the Valley, of course —short-circuiting Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that is supposed toguarantee us of controlling our own affairs.

Sixty-fiveper cent of the population in J&K is Muslim. But you’ll find that mostsenior civil servants and police officers are Hindu. You know what that means? It means that the Indian government doesn’ttrust a Muslim to run important departments like Home or Finance. Nocommissioner or secretary in the state government is a Muslim. There have onlybeen two Muslim DGPs — ever. And most top police posts are with non-Muslims.

Jammu has been seeing development; the Valleyhas been neglected. The government has been soft on Jammu agitators. It hasbeen brutal against us.

Sure, Kashmiri political parties haven’t beenas pure as Gulmarg’s snow either. The PDP has been playing dirty. It firstapproved the land transfer, then brought down the state government. TheCongress did nothing for the Valley while Ghulam Nabi Azad was CM. It did theright thing to rescind the land transfer. A by-product of the agitation herehas been the bringing together of the two Hurriyat factions.

All this is funny — if it wasn’t tragic. Wewent out of our way to help yatris when the agitation started in June. Theyatra itself had nothing to do with the mess at all. But we felt betrayed whenMuslims were killed in Jammu. For 20 years, we presumed that the people inJammu sympathised with the horrific human rights abuse we have suffered.

That presumption has now gone out of thewindow. That Hindus in Jammu killed even Muslims from beyond the Valley —including Gujjars, whom Indians used to claim to be pro-Indian — once againshowed us the true face of India. They hate Muslims.

WHAT JAMMU THINKS

You know why the Valley is making such a ruckus over ahundred acres of land? Because they are fundamentalists who want to disrupt theAmarnath yatra. They’ve always dominated the state since 1947 and have been a pampered lot. Look at all thedevelopment and allocations in the Valley while we are neglected year afteryear. There’s never been a Hindu ChiefMinister in the last 61 years. Come to think of it, there’s not even been aHindu Minister in important portfolios.Even when Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had aHindu Deputy Chief Minister, he gave more important portfolios to MuzaffarBeigh of his own party. Tells you a story, doesn’t it?.

The People’s Democratic Party isanti-national. Its leaders protect terrorists.They raised the land transferissue for cheap electoral benefits.They brought down the government and causedthis crisis. If we don’t protest, they’ll hand us over to Pakistan. After all,doesn’t PDP president Mehbooba Mufti openly talk of legitimising Pakistanicurrency here?

Secessionist organisations like the Hurriyatare manufacturing an agitation on the highway at Pakistan’s behest. They justneed an excuse to secede. The army should crush them. The government must havean advisory committee of army officers to run states like J&K. Otherwise,along with pseudo-secularists, they’ll finish this country.

The Congress practises vote-bank politics,pandering to minorities at our expense. The central and state governments bothtook the land back from the Shrine Board under pressure from thesefundamentalist Muslims. And then what happened? The governments spinelesslysuccumbed when Kashmiris had demonstrated for only four days. Have they respondedto our agitation even after a month? Why can’t they agree to give a little plotof land to Hindus when there is such a strong public sentiment in favour of it?

Article 370 gives a special status to thestate only to pander to Muslims. These terrorists in Kashmir hold us to ransomwith threats of secession, and Congress governments meekly bow before theseanti-national threats.

Kashmiri Muslims killed Pandits and burnttemples in 1990, forcing an exodus. They also snatched the best jobs. And stillthey’re not satisfied. If we allow them to get away this time, there will be nospace for Hindus in J&K today — and in the country tomorrow.

J&K GOVERNOR’S VIEWS:

Accusing thePDP of misleading the people of Jammu and Kashmir, former state Governor S K Sinha on Saturdaydescribed the Amarnath land row as a conflict between nationalist andanti-national forces.

"PDP is considered as pro-India party.But they lead march to Muzafarrabad. Despite knowing fully well about theBaltal land, they are busy misleading the people," Sinha said on thesidelines of a function here

Terming the Amarnath land row as a"non-issue" picked up by the extremists, he said "the presentconflict in Jammu and Kashmir is not between Hindus and Muslims as such, butbetween nationalist and anti-national forces"

REASON OF AMARNATH LAND CONTROVERSY

Nearly amonth ago, the government of India and state government of Jammu and Kashmirreached an agreement to transfer 100acres of forestland to the Amarnathboard, the body that organises the annual Amarnath yatra.


The land wassupposed to be used to build facilities for Amarnath pilgrims. Almost lakhs ofpilgrims make the journey every year.

Initial resistance to the land transfer was based onenvironmental concerns. Some environmentalists argued that the land transferwould hamper the region's delicate ecological balance. There were also reportsthat the SASB was planning toconstruct dams across River Indus to generate electricity for the shrine. 

One of the reasons behind the controversy is thegovernment policy of bringing religious bodies under the state's control. The Governor heads the Hindu shrine boardsand the chief minister heads the Muslim Wakfs.

The protests, took a more political tinge as stateelections are scheduled to be held later this year. The People's DemocraticParty said that it would withdraw support to the Congress-led state governmentif it did not revoke the land transfer agreement. The opposition NationalConference and the Communist Party-Marxist (CPM) - have also opposed thetransfer of land. BJP said that it would hold widespread protests in Jammu ifthe decision to revoke the agreement is made. 

Now the state is polarized, as the discourse has becomean issue of Kashmiris vs non-Kashmirisand Hindus vs. Muslim.

The separatist groups say the transfer of land to theShrine Board is part of a "conspiracy to settle non-local Hindus in thevalley with a view to reducing the Muslims to a minority". The controversyhas led to unity among the separatists - the hardline and the moderate factionsof the All Party Hurriyat Conference(APHC) - have decided to carry out a joint campaign against the landtransfer.

Two people were killed and seventy-five injured whenpolice fired into a crowd in Srinagar protesting the transfer of forested land.In addition to protesters, some Hindu pilgrims making pilgrimage to Amarnathwere also injured when mobs attacked their vehicles with rocks. Angry riotersalso threw rocks at vehicles in the cities of Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama,Bandipora and Baramulla. Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, leadersof the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), which planned the protests, wereplaced under house arrest. 

In Jammu, BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) activists orchestrated counter-protests, supportive ofthe land transfer, and threatened to shut down the city on 26 June. 20kilometers away, in Nagrota, BJP supporters blocked a highway and burned tyres.Throughout the Srinagar area, most public buildings, including schools andgovernment offices, along with many businesses have remained closed. Indiamoved hundreds of security forces into the region with Indian authoritiesrestoring the Amarnath pilgrimage route after a brief disruption. 

As the land transfer controversy has become an occasionfor all sides to trade communal allegations, many believe It has more to dowith the Kashmiri sub nationalism where every move aimed at the transfer ofland to non-state subjects has been opposed.

NEW PROPOSAL OF GOVERNMENT :

According to the report, a new proposal hasbeen formulated by the all-party delegation headed by Union Home minister Shivraj Patil. As per the new proposal,all the controversial decisions that led to the stir in Jammu and Kashmir willbe withdrawn. 

The proposal includes earlier decision of theCabinet to transfer the forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and also thelater decision to revoke that order. In place of these controversial decisions,the old high court order will be made operational. The old high court orderguides the state government to safeguard the interest of Amarnath yatris. 

Meanwhile, a day after the failure ofall-party delegation talks with Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti (SAYSS) inJammu, on Sunday (August 10) another meeting was organised in Srinagar. Theall-party talks in Srinagar was chaired by Shivraj Patil and attended by formerJ&K chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad, PeoplesDemocratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti, Congress leaders Saifuddin Sozand Mohsina Kidwai, Arun Jaitley (Bharatiya Janata Party), Amar Singh(Samajwadi Party), including local Kashmiri leaders.

Patil, in view of the ongoing violentprotests over the Amarnath land row, appealed to people of Jammu and Kashmir tomaintain communal harmony in the state.

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