THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 28 JUNE, 2018
Cover photograph Courtesy The Tribune
JAMMU/NEW DELHI: Dogra politics has claimed the family of the last ruler of Jammu and Kashmir ‘Maharaja’ Hari Singh and his son Congress scion Karan Singh. The latters grandson Ranvijay Singh was a prominent figure at a torchlight march taken out by controversial Minister Lal Singh in Jammu last night in support of his demand to hand over the Kathua investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Lal Singh took out a torchlight procession in Jammu city with Ranvijay Singh by his side. Ranvijay is the son of Karan Singh’s younger son Ajatshatru Singh, who is a BJP legislator. Interestingly both sons of the Congress leader namely Vikramaditya Singh, and the younger Ajatshatru had joined the J&K regional parties--PDP and NC-- ahead of the 2014 Assembly elections.
Vikramaditya Singh had joined the Mufti Muhammad Sayeed-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while his younger brother was associated with the National Conference. The latter shifted mid course to the BJP along with his wife Ritu Singh and son Ranvijay.
Vikramaditya quit the PDP in 2017 letting the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti know that he had differences with her governments attitude towards the Jammu region, and the fact that issues concerning the Dogra community were not being addressed. In fact ignored, and that whenever he tried to speak about these he was snubbed by the state government.
Significantly, Lal Singh after his expulsion from the Council of Ministers under public pressure following his controversial Kathua march, now claims to be steering a course rooted in the welfare of the “Dogra minority.” During the torchlight procession he repeatedly assured the people that he was “fighting to restore the dignity and the honour of the ethnic Dogra minority which has been facing the worse ever discrimination by the successive state governments.”
He has been insisting that his expulsion is part of a “deep rooted conspiracy to demonise” the Dogra community in the state. Local newspapers have reported him as saying, “Those who dubbed the whole Dogra community as pro-rapists are part of the game plan. They will be exposed. The perception created by some forces that Dogras are pro-rapists was a conspiracy against Jammu and its Dogras to defame and weaken them.”
The Dogra cause has been further strengthened according to Jammu analysts by the decision of Hari Singhs grandson to join Lal Singh. The BJP claims to have distanced itself from Lal Singh, although this is not believed by all as there has been no action against the former Minister who has been conducting a series of such meetings for a CBI probe into the rape and murder of eight year old Asifa. His first rally on March 1 drew widespread criticism from across the country, as a result of which the BJP was compelled to drop him from the council of ministers in Jammu and Kashmir.
Interestingly, Karan Singh’s son Vikramaditya has also made the Dogra community central to his politics after leaving the PDP in particular. He has been working independently for reviving the “ lost Dogra pride” although he has currently taken a more critical stance against the BJP. He criticsed the party for disrespecting the founder of the state Maharaja Gulan Singh by boycotting the Foundation Day of the state at Jia Pota, Akhnoor. He said that the BJP state president and MLAs were invited for the function but they chose to boycott it, reflecting a complete lack of concern for the sentiments of the Dogra community and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
So far a convergence between these various individuals and threads stoking the sentiments and passions of the Dogra community in Jammu is not publicly visible. However, the effort by Lal Singh has been now supported by Hari Singh’s great grandson, and so far independently by one of his grandsons. The BJP officially is maintaining a distance. As seems to be Karan Singh, close to Sonia Gandhi personally and seen as one of her trusted advisors, as there has not been a word in criticism or support from him so far.