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Being Muslim in Jammu

A dangerous stereotyping of Jammu's Muslims has been made by right wing organisations in both Jammu as well as in the Kashmir valley. The average Muslim in Jammu is at a critical juncture even as the controversy over the transfer of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board rages on.





Being Muslim in Jammu

Zafar Choudhary

A dangerous stereotyping of Jammu’s Muslims has been made by right wing organisations in both Jammu as well as in the Kashmir valley. The average Muslim in Jammu is at a critical juncture even as the controversy over the transfer of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board rages on.

Zafar Choudhary ( is editor of Epilogue, published from Jammu.

Economic & Political Weekly

august 23, 2008

arly, on the morning of July 31, a “news flash” on local cable television networks in Jammu informed us that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Ashok Khajuria had been admitted to the cardiac care unit of the Medical College Hospital. Later in the evening we learnt that Khajuria had a massive heart congestion and had been kept under observation. He is now under constant observation. We all wish him well, a speedy recovery and good health but at the same time we pray with all humbleness that he does not return on the television screens at least as long as the present agitation on the Amarnath shrine land is going on in Jammu. We also pray that Khajuria halts his press conferences for a while. Seen every couple of hours on the television screens as beamed by the l ocal cable networks, the print space Khajuria occupied in newspapers (before falling ill) used to be spine chilling reading next morning. Almost on a daily basis, Khajuria would get an average of 1,200 centimetres space put together in 20 odd newspapers hitting stalls every morning in Jammu and other parts of the region. It is fortunate that the national press is not offering Khajuria and his colleagues the

kind of space they claim to deserve.

Right Wing Propaganda

So what did Khajuria say? Mussalmano, apne apne ghar khali kar do…mein apko chetawani deta hoon…warna Jammu ke log aap ke ghar khali karane to tayyar baithe hain (“Muslims, vacate your houses…I am warning you…or else, the people of Jammu are ready to throw you out”). A section of the press projected this as heroism. And suddenly a wave of panic was triggered across the town and its peripheral areas. Some Muslim organisations hurriedly composed press releases and some of their leaders rushed to the same television channels to announce in unequivocal terms that they stood in solidarity with the cause of Jammu and wanted the temple land returned immediately. Many still were seen joining the ‘bum bum bole’ slogans in subsequent p rotests. The scope of this write-up and the context in which it is written do not p ermit me to go into the details of why Muslims immediately endorsed what was

Call for Papers


The Centre for Trade and Development (Centad), New Delhi will hold its 4th South Asia Conference on Trade and Development in December, 2008. Centad is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that conducts policy research and advocacy on issues around trade and development, with a focus on South Asia. Centad’s research focuses on understanding the real impact of international trade regimes on realising development for the people of South Asia. Centad’s research focuses extensively on how various global regimes like the WTO, multilateral environmental regimes like the UNFCCC, international developmental organisations like the UNCTAD, and regional trade agreements impact trade as well as developmental interests of the peoples of South Asia, particularly on issues like livelihood security, food security, energy security and public health.

The South Asia Conference on Trade and Development is an annual conference organised by Centad that brings together representatives of diverse interest groups from all South Asian countries for analyzing the implications of contemporary developments in different international economic and developmental institutions including the WTO from the perspective of South Asian interests. Eminent academicians on trade and development issues as well as policy makers, trade negotiators, chambers of commerce, research think-tanks and civil society organisations from the South Asian countries take part in this conference. The conference facilitates an exchange of views from the participants regarding the prospects and concerns that the different countries from South Asia have, with the objective of developing a shared understanding of the developmental interests and concerns of the countries from South Asia with a focus on the impact of trade and development regimes on vulnerable groups in South Asia.

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    august 23, 2008


    happening around in Jammu. After these Indians as they are. This is exactly where
    statements from Muslims hit the headlines, their fault lies. Both have a poor idea of
    Khajuria and his colleagues again returned the sentiments of Jammu Muslims.
    to the screens. “Muslims of Jammu are
    most secular and they have always stood Jammu Muslim’s Trauma
    by us. Our adhyaksh ji (president) has Traditionally, the Muslim majority in Jam
    been misunderstood. He was actually mu has remained reluctant to be a part of
    addressing the Muslims of Jammu, partic or even get identified with the Kashmiri
    ularly living in the areas of Bathindi, Sun movement. This was for a specific reason.
    jwan and Sidhra, and who are supporters The kind of trauma Muslims of Jammu
    of Syed Ali Shah Geelani”, said Hari Om, a had to undergo during the years of divi
    historian and spokesman of the BJP. sion of this state has few parallels any-
    Hari Om got away with this lie of his. where else in the subcontinent. There was
    Why should the supporters of Geelani hardly any family in the region which es
    be attacked? Why not attack Geelani caped the horrible wrath of communal
    himself? If he is talking strictly about hooligans. It is not necessary to explain all
    Geelani, the man lives at a place which that here but importantly the events of
    Khajuria and Hari Om proudly refer to 1947 permanently changed the way the
    as ‘atoot ang’ (inseparable part) of Muslims of Jammu would live or think. A
    India. They should go there and do to majority of them was either massacred, or
    him first what they want to do with his pushed to the other side of the divide;
    supporters. To make their job easy, Geela many fled to save their lives thus leaving
    ni spends most of his winters in Jammu behind a terrorised and harassed minus
    where he rents a house in the heart of the cule minority. Things were unimaginably
    city and not in the outskirts (Bathindi or tough for those who were left behind.
    Sidhra), where Khajuria suspects his They had to make a fresh beginning. And
    s upporters reside. in the new scenario they found it in the fit-
    It needs to be understood here that the ness of things to have cordial relations
    mention of Syed Ali Shah Geelani is not with the immediate neighbours. In times
    just about the person but about his thought of joys and pains they had to fall back
    – a rather misunderstood and variedly upon the neighbours who were the Shar
    portrayed thought. But, the question is if mas, the Guptas and the Singhs. Whether
    Khajuria or any other Hindu rightist in out of compulsion or free will these rela-
    Jammu or Muslim rightist in Kashmir tions grew by years to shape up the com
    could identify and classify the groups of posite culture of Jammu. The fact is that a
    Muslims in Jammu region as those who Muslim of Jammu had very little to deal
    owe their allegiance to Geelani’s thought with someone of the same religion in
    or as those who are opposed to Geelani’s Kashmir as much as he had to with his
    thought. The answer is obviously no. Nei- Hindu neighbour.
    ther has any Khajuria nor has any Geelani Forty years were perhaps too short a
    been able to read the pulse of Muslims in time to forget the scars of 1947 that the
    Jammu. The Muslims of Jammu do not resistance sentiment, dormant in the
    own exclusive allegiance to anyone or valley for four decades, again erupted into
    their thought. a movement. This being piloted by Mus-
    If one asks Geelani as to why is this the lims, came to be known as Islamic resist
    case, he will blame the ‘la-deen qayadat’ ance movement in Kashmir. The Muslim
    (un-Islamic leadership), while Khajuria of Jammu again was at the crossroads but
    will find the fault in their being Muslims he/she preferred to continue the same life
    and thus natural supporters of the Kash which he/she had been practising for the
    miri movement, Pakistan, independence last 40 years. Neither the Jammu Muslim
    and any anti-India issue under the sun. expressed nor the Kashmir Muslim sought
    The Geelanis have regrets that the Jam to know his/her stand on the movement.
    mu Muslim is not a part of the Kashmir Therefore, the movement of Kashmiri
    movement as much as the Kashmiri Mus nationalism whether directed towards
    lim is. The Khajurias have a grouse that independence or other aims could not
    their Muslim neighbours are not as much get the kind of support from Muslims of
    Economic & Political Weekly august 23, 2008

    Jammu the way its leadership has always claimed.

    The separatists’ leadership may see this observation with an element of contempt but it would not be possible for them to name the leaders or constituent parties of any faction of Hurriyat Conference or any other separatist organisation drawn from the Jammu region. Let us not conclude that there is none in Jammu who adheres to Geelani’s or the Mirwaiz’s positions on Kashmir. There may be some people but it is difficult to pinpoint them or stereotype them. The Kashmiri leadership never reached out to the Muslims in Jammu; they never explained to them what they stand for and never enquired from them what they want. But the Kashmiri leadership has always maintained that they represent the “majority sentiments in Jammu and Kashmir”.

    Crucial Juncture

    The Muslims of Jammu are today at a crucial juncture of history. Perhaps for the first time after 1947 they are passing through a decisive phase which New Delhi and Kashmir must make quick efforts to understand. Particularly in the districts of Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Reasi, Udhampur and Rajouri the men of wisdom among the Muslims are introspecting as to arrive at a decision that could shape their future course. The average Muslim who is not exposed to the daily media feeds and niceties of politics too is gaining a new consciousness and is rushing to the community leaders for guidance. The controversy surrounding the transfer of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board has given the Jammu Muslim a new cause for action. When led by the leaders of the ilk of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mirwaiz Farooq, Omar Abdullah and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the Muslims of the valley spilled on to the roads. Perhaps they did not spare a minute to think of the consequences of such action beyond Pir Panjal. As convention has it, news from Kashmir reaches New Delhi much faster than it does from Jammu. After eight days of protests in the valley, the land earlier allotted to the Hindu shrine was withdrawn. Now Jammu is gripped in a violent rage for close to 40 days and an early normalcy is still not in sight. The basic point here is that the


    H indu majority of Jammu is complaining that its sentiments have been hurt by the Kashmiri Muslims. There is an anger and frustration which is being given vent to in many manifestations. Neither the leadership nor the agitation, per se, is focused against the Muslims of Jammu. But just imagine when hundreds of people s urround a Jammu Muslim with anger against one like her/him, writ so large on their faces that the Muslim has to be either with them or against them. When being with them, on this particular issue is not on your agenda, going against them is a direct invitation to attract their wrath. So what should the Jammu Muslims do? They


    are actually thinking about this. The present agitation may end sooner or later as the government of India too is seen concerned about the deteriorating condition but the time has come for Jammu Muslims to construct an identity of their own and let it be known to their neighbours as well as co-religionists in the valley.



    august 23, 2008

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