J&K’s Durbar Move
DO AWAY WITH RITUAL?
By Sant Kumar Sharma
(Fellow, Makhanlal Chaturvedi Univ of Journalism & Comm)
New Delhi, May 04 : Come summer and the Jammu & Kashmir State Government gets into a proactive mode. It’s time for the ritual–a change of durbar (administration) in the State. The secretariat in Jammu, the winter capital, was abuzz with activity as employees packed up their belongings for onward journey to the Valley, Srinagar.
Last week saw a good number of people, from near and far in the region, making a beeline for the secretariat so as to meet the officers concerned. All of them had one thing or the other they wanted to get done, or get some order, a copy or an assurance from the right quarters that things were moving.
On April 27, the last day of the pack-up also saw a large number of people feeling let down because they could not meet the elusive secretariat official they had been chasing for some time. Of course, there were some visitors who were happy and relieved as they were able to get the details regarding a query that had been pending for a long, long time.
Six months down the line, the process will be reversed, the offices will shut down in Srinagar and the employees move back to Jammu. This biennial practice appears to be a huge waste—of precious working time, resources and unnecessary expenditure. More so, as it is sinful when you consider the fact that the State government is unable to pay salaries to its employees through its own resources and revenue. It hugely depends on the Central government to fund their salaries, and the State’s development plans.
Incidentally, after a 10-day all expenses paid holiday, the employees of the State government will start working at the civil secretariat when it re-opens at Srinagar. But does it take 10 days for the records to be carried from one place to another and set up shop? There are employees who have already reached Srinagar, the summer capital, as part of advance parties.
The move raises some basic questions. If the government has the will, shouldn’t these employees start working, let us say after a break for a few days? When it is a matter of doing things at a personal level, does any employee take 10 days to travel between the two cities and to start functioning fully? Is the durbar move something that can be discontinued?
Unfortunately, there are no straight forward answers. The reason is because the moment this question is popped, there will be other questions that will follow. The first question that will need to be answered is: Can the durbar be based permanently in Jammu or in Kashmir?
Again, this too will lead to no easy answers. It is likely that those people who are based in Kashmir will start recounting the virtues of the Valley’s salubrious weather. For those who would want to argue for the “Jammu cause’’, there cannot be anything worse than the durbar being permanently based in Kashmir.
One thing can be said without any hesitation and fear of contradiction i.e. there will be an upheaval if it is announced, unilaterally, that the practice of durbar move will henceforth end. Even a rumour fanned seriously about this prospect can have serious consequences for law and order machinery.
We need to ponder and think as to why this should be so? Why should the government fear that discontinuing an old practice lead to unrest? A straightforward answer is that Jammu and Kashmir is a State where a lot of things are seen from the Jammu versus Kashmir perspective. Also, for the third geographical region, Ladakh, it hardly makes a difference whether the durbar is in Jammu or in Srinagar.
Sadly, this Jammu versus Kashmir debate is not getting diluted and is here to stay even if many among us try to convey an impression to the contrary. It is something that has been there, for a very, very long time. Earlier, during the Dogra rule, a large section of the Kashmiri population felt that they were second class citizens. Post-1947, it has been virtually an uninterrupted time of Kashmir hegemony with Jammuites feeling disempowered. Ladakhis for most of the time believe they don’t have any say and are just made to tag along, by both the regions.
Indeed, the sharp differences in the aspirations of the three sets of people, and those inhabiting the sub-regions, are responsible for this state of affairs. Unless and until equitable participation in power structures and sharing takes place, the different regions will continue to pull in different directions.
Perhaps, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah can think, aloud, about the durbar move. Imagine the powerlessness of the CM when he says that he has not come across any alternative to this practice. He knows, and admits as much, that the State is being held together, but only tenuously. It is an admission that the unity is not organic, not based on goodwill of the regions and their people towards one another.
It is a classic case of a very bad marriage (regions being held together as a State) made worse by meddling in-laws (politicians, who else?). If only the partners were left alone, to sort out differences between themselves, amicably, and equitably, may be some settlement (read an alternative to durbar move) can emerge. In the present scenario of one-upmanship, perish the thought!
Omar’s father, Farooq Abdullah, had tried to ban the annual durbar move in 1989. Even at that time, there was a coalition government in the State with National Conference (NC) and the Congress working as allies. Farooq had proposed that the durbar stay, for all time, in Srinagar. There were instantaneous reaction in the Jammu region and it erupted, in protest against the proposal.
Farooq had apparently thought that with the then former Prime Minister Late Rajiv Gandhi by his side, he will be able to implement a decision or plan that was necessarily seen as anti-Jammu. His calculations were perhaps predicated on the premise that the regional Congress leaders were non-entities before the Central leadership.
The eruptions in Jammu buried that “ban durbar move’’ plan for 23 long years. Omar has dared to speak about it but post-2002 the word of the Jammu politician in the administration and in fact politics of the State has increased tremendously. Since the Congress has been getting most of its seats from the Jammu region, right since 1983, there is no way any decision seen as detrimental to Jammu’s interests can be implemented in 2012. Clearly, the Valley can ill-afford any further heart-burning among the people, leaving the question of a move of durbur hanging. However, it may be a good time to give it a serious thought and see whether the exercise can be done away with. Not only will it save time and money, but perhaps may help in bridging the past differences. —-INFA
(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)