Jammu and Kashmir: Where the Rule of Symbiosis Binds
The highway that connects Jammu and Kashmir
Webster dictionary defines symbiosis as, “a relationship between two people or groups that work with and depend on each other”. Biologically it means, “The relationship between two different kinds of living things that live together and depend on each other”. “The bird lives in symbiosis with the hippopotamus”. “The bacteria exist in a symbiosis with the plant's roots”. The people of Jammu and Kashmir had a forced marriage through the Treaty of Amritsar. Kashmir along with its inhabitants was sold by the British for rupees seventy five lakhs, in English which may be called a tuppence, to the Dogra Maharaja of Jammu. They had to endure this relationship for exactly a 100 years. In 1947, with the partition of the sub-continent they had a glimmer of hope for getting emancipated from centuries of bondage but unfortunately the ideological tug between the two newly created countries locked them in a virtual Gordian knot. Thus Jammu and Kashmir have again been forced to live together for last 68 years!
Initial years were full of turmoil as Jammu people wanted total merger of the state in the Indian Union while as Kashmiris did not want to be part of India. Even those who favoured India in contrast to Pakistan wanted to have an autonomous status. Outside elements instigated Jammu people for starting an agitation for total merger of the state. Sheikh Abdullah put down the agitation with a strong hand and as a result lost his chair and was incarcerated for more than a decade! The establishment of a state government headed by a Kashmiri gave a psychological jolt to Jammu people. They had been ruling Kashmiris for a century and now the seat of government had shifted to Kashmir. No doubt the new dispensation had fair representation from Jammu, yet the psychological apprehensions remained. These fears were fueled from time to time by outside state elements by using local collaborators.
India and Pakistan fought a number of wars but these failed to break the state or decide its ultimate future. Jammu and Kashmir continue to be in a forced union. In spite of the end of monarchy, the new government continued with the practice of Durbar Move, the six monthly shifting of the government from one capital to the other. The move had been started by the erstwhile Maharajas for their convenience and comfort. They would enjoy the summer in the cool of Kashmir and spend the harsh winters in the warmth of Jammu. The state has two capitals and the shifting of the government not only costs huge amounts of money but renders people in each region helpless in harsh winters and severely hot summers when they need the government most. Attempts at ending the practice of Durbar Move have so far failed.
Apart from this shifting of government bringing the people of the two regions closer to each other, the other factor has been the only access of Kashmir to outside world through Jammu during last 70 years or so. Traditionally, Kashmir’s trade used to be always through the Jhelum Valley road. Even after opening up of Banihal Cart Road which used to be closed during winter, people travelled even to Jammu through Jhelum Valley Road and Sialkot. The conflict of 1947 resulted in a ceasefire line now called the Line of Actual Control or LOC which closed the historical access of Kashmir through the Jhelum Valley Road. This closure of the historical access brought the business communities of Jammu and Kashmir together. They became dependent on each other for trade and commerce. This relationship has continued in spite of many communal and regional upheavals. All these upheavals have mostly been instigated by the outside elements.
Latest one was about the eating of beef. The new dispensation at the Centre is taking India into a retrograde mode. In spite of “Make in India” slogan of business and economic development, the BJP has not been able to rein in the Hindutva extremist elements. In fact, the government is working as a vehicle to further the RSS agenda of making India a Hindu Rashtra, country of Hindus only. As usual Kashmir has been found to be an ideal laboratory to further this agenda. However, they failed in the 1950s and are bound to fail even now in spite of the vast resources at their disposal.
The failure would be because of the symbiotic economic relationship which Jammu and Kashmir have worked out over the years. The indication of this came recently when the Jammu Chamber of Commerce declared that there would be no economic boycott of the Valley. They even went so far as to offer a joint front with Kashmir to get back the power projects from NHPC! In present times, it has been proved that the economic relationships are more enduring than the political ones. The ideal example is the European Union. In fact, the ultimate solution to the problems of South Asia may be an economic union like the European one. However, the catch is whether the Western Powers will allow it to happen! That is a million dollar question!