Demographic Invasion of Jammu
Jammu, the ISI Target
The year 1995. Things in Jammu were deteriorating and fast appeared to be going the Kashmir way. The fundamental factor: Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) saboteurs, after wrecking the administration in the Kashmir Valley and disrupting its political and economic institutions, had turned its attention to what is also known as the city of temples. A UNI report of January 31, 1995, quoting defence sources, said that the “ISI” had declared “1995 to be the year of the Jammu region” and that it had “with the help of the drug mafia in Pakistan, earmarked Rs 50 crore for creating disturbances and acts of sabotage in the Jammu region”. It also said that “a message intercepted from the ISI to the Hizbul Mujahideen stated that Rs 5 crore has been placed at the service the suicide squads to eliminate the Director General of Police, Mr M. N. Sabharwal, and Advisor to the Governor (Home), Lt General M. A. Zaki” and others.
Indeed, the situation had worsened to the extent that the terrorists were roaming freely in and around Jammu without bothering to conceal their identity. So much so, they were openly organising meetings in certain religious places situated right in the heart of Jammu city, indulging in dangerous and insidious propaganda there and appealing to and exciting individual hopes. They were doing so with a view to soliciting the people’s support in favour of what they called “the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination”.
It is pertinent to mention here that terrorists and their Pakistani sponsors had put Jammu on the top of their agenda since March 1994, when two highly significant developments took place at the Geneva UN Human Rights Commission conference. One was the withdrawal by Islamabad of the resolution on the alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) owing to the effective diplomacy of the Indian Foreign Office and other Indian leaders. The other was the role of the representatives of the European Union and certain non-government organisations like the Panun Kashmir and the Friends of Kashmir. They debunked the Pakistani no-holds-barred propaganda blitz that the entire population of the state wanted to break its connection with the “aggressor India” and proved with statistics that the secessionist violence in the state was confined to four towns in Doda district of Jammu region, and that all the troubles in Kashmir were the handiwork of a few Kashmiris.
Ever since the Geneva debacle, the ISI and the Kashmiri militants had been seeking to establish their foothold in the vicinity of Jammu city and strengthen the network in the city itself set up earlier and provoke a communal clash through terrorism which could lead to a possible divide between the people of the two communities. The ongoing demographic invasion assumed alarming proportion after October 9, 1996, when Farooq Abdullah took over as J&K Chief Minister for the third time.
New Delhi’s Indifference
On March 29, 1999, top J&K BJP leaders, including the Party president Daya Kishan Kotwal, Chaman Lal Gupta (MP), Bhagwat Saroop (General secretary, organisation) and Ashok Khajuria, Bali Bhagat, PremLal, Piara Singh, Hans Raj Dogra (all MLAs), met Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee and Home Minister L. K. Advani in New Delhi and discussed with them the prevailing situation in the state in general and Jammu province in particular. They warned that “Jammu could go the Kashmir way if immediate steps were not taken to restructure the state’s political system in such a way that empowers the people of Jammu to decide their own aspirations”.
As a matter of fact, the state BJP leadership submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister which, inter-alia, said: “Concerted efforts are being made by the NC Government to change the demography of Jammu as thousands of Kashmiri Muslims from the Valley have constructed their houses in and around Jammu City. This construction is going on non-stop with the active connivance of State Government. Almost all the NC ministers have raised their bungalows. Even the Chief Minister (Farooq Abdullah) has constructed a massive bungalow after encroaching 19 kanals forest land…”
The memorandum further read: “Jammu has always worked as our battle-front against onslaught of anti-India forces active in the Valley or across the border. More than 50 years have elapsed since the beginning of this struggle. Our two generations have sacrificed their legitimate interests to keep the Indian Flag hoisting in whole of Jammu and Kashmir. Now, Jammu is being sand-witched between Pak-abetted militancy and worst type of exploitation by the NC leadership”.
“Saying enough is enough”, the memorandum said, and added that “the people of Jammu are slowly loosing vigour to fight against anti-national forces”. “Now is the time to hold them. And, only BJP has the understanding, will and the required power to do so,” it also said (Daily Excelsior, Jammu, Mar 31, 1999).
The BJP memorandum evoked very sharp reaction from the NC Government. Farooq Abdullah fielded all the eight Jammu-based NC ministers, including Bodh Raj Bali, (Karan Singh’s son) Ajat Shatru Singh, M. S. Tariq, Nissar Ahmad Khan, Bashir Ahmad Kitchloo, Ajay Sadhota and Govind Ram, and the Jammu-based office-bearers of the NC, including Harbans Singh, Rattan Lal Gupta, Sheikh Bashir Ahmad, Jugal Mahajan, Brij Mohan Sharma and Darshan Lal, against the BJP. They termed the BJP’s memorandum as a document of “communalism”. Condemning in downright language the BJP and its memorandum, these NC ministers and party office-bearers accused the BJP of “engineering dissensions on communal lines in Jammu and warned that their (BJP’s) campaign on communal lines would only strengthen the hands of anti-national and communal force in the state”.
Referring to the BJP’s statement on the change in the demographic character of Jammu, the NC ministers and other party leaders from Jammu said: “The people of Jammu had exhibited remarkable political maturity, amity and tolerance and gave shelter to thousands of victims of Pakistan-abetted militancy (terrorism) in all these years. While giving shelter to migrants, nobody raised even an eye-brow about the religious faith or the caste of the migrants. But the BJP is questioning the right of the state subjects to buy property anywhere in the state (overlooking the fact) that there is no legal or constitutional bar on this right” (Kashmir Times, Jammu, Mar 31, 1999; Daily Excelsior, Mar 31, 1999).
Exactly a month later (April 29), the then J&K Director General of Police (DGP), Gurbachan Jagat, publicly said that the ISI was changing the demographic character of Jammu. Speaking at a function organised by the J&K Institute of Public Opinion on “The State of Militancy and the Role of J&K Police in Tackling it”, the DGP, among other things, said: “Militants executed heinous massacres of Hindus in (Jammu’s) Poonch, Rajouri, Budhal, Mahore, Prankot and other higher reaches just to force migration of the Hindus from these areas…As the enemy failed to execute migration of Hindus despite repeated massacres, the ISI with the help of its agents has started purchasing land from Hindus of these areas to change demographic character of the entire Pir Panjal (mountain) range…To accomplish its new game plan ISI has pumped lot of money through fake and genuine currency and asked its agents to purchase land from minority (Hindu) community at any cost. The entire PirPanjal range of Sunderbani, Nowshera, Poonch, Rajouri, Budhal and Mahore (in Jammu province) is strategically important as it connect with Anantnag district of Kashmir and secondly, due to its geographical condition, it is easy point of infiltration…Police have detected such game plan at Nowshera sector where an ISI agent on the direction of its mentor from across the border has purchased land from Hindus at very high prices…The police with the help of locals of the region was making every possible effort to frustrate new game plan of the ISI” (Daily Excelsior, Apr 30, 1999)
Three days later (April 1), a report from New Delhi said: “Hundreds of foreign nationals are reported to have manipulated to acquire citizenship rights in Jammu and Kashmir between 1990 and 1998. ‘Impossible has been converted into possible, with the grant of State Subject Certificates to them as lakhs and lakhs of rupees changed hands’…Most interesting aspect of the research work is that as many as nine police and revenue officials in one district in Jammu and Kashmir, who had, according to one report, received huge sums of money from financially rich non-Indians in the course of preparing the ground for their classification as bona fide residents of Jammu and Kashmir, were offered encouraging amounts of money for doling out information to intelligence sleuths on how and when the illegal act was commissioned, namely, grant of State Subject Certificates to outsiders…The team of intelligence sleuths also consisted of two Kashmiri Muslim functionaries of the Jammu and Kashmir administration. And their identity would not be disclosed for obvious reasons. The team’s survey, conducted in the Kashmir Valley and in the three districts – Doda, Poonch and Rajouri – in Jammu region, has hinted at the involvement of dozens of local government officials, particularly from the police and revenue departments, in addition to scores of prominent ‘political activists and legislators’, in the ‘clandestine, lucrative trade’ of arranging State Subject Certificates for ‘an estimated number of 15,000 people from across the border between 1990 and 1998’…‘Huge sums of money from across the border’, the document says, ‘changed hands while making possible the impossible’. At least 20 functionaries of the Jammu and Kashmir administration from four sensitive districts – Baramulla and Kupwara in Kashmir and Poonch and Rajouri districts in Jammu region – have become fabulously rich by being the quiet recipients of equally quiet flow of money into their hands’ in the course of arranging State Subject Certificates for foreign nationals…” (Ibid., Apr 2, 1999).
Earlier on September 7, 1997, Farooq Abdullah snubbed prominent citizens of Jammu when they raised the issue of demographic changes. A report in this regard read: “Addressing a meeting of prominent citizens here (Jammu) today, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah ‘categorically’ denied that there was any attempt to change demographic character of Jammu City. Reacting on the issue, he said that the state government will not spare anyone trying to change the demographic position. This is a propaganda (unleashed) to create wedge between people on communal lines” (State Times, Jammu, Sep 8, 1999; Daily Excelsior, Sep 8, 1999; Greater Kashmir, Srinagar, Sep 8, 1999
Ironically, the BJP’s memorandum to PM Vajpayee, J&K DGP’s revelations and April 2, 1999 report didn’t move the Union Government. As a result, the enemies within and outside changed the face of strategic Jammu city beyond recognition.
Changing Demography Through Legislature Route
The indifferent attitude of the Union Government to the then ongoing demographic changes in Jammu province simply emboldened Farooq Abdullah Government to give legal sanctity to illegal acts through legislation. He enacted J&K State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act (Act No. XII of 2001) in November 2001. Also called the Roshni (Power) Act, it was enforced on March 1, 2002. The Act was amended by his successors Mufti MohdSayeed and GhulamNabi Azad to embolden certain sections to occupy state and Kahcharai (grazing) land to the extent possible, mostly in Jammu, and help them set up colonies meant exclusively for their co-religionists. These colonies were set up at strategic locations in and around Jammu city, along the national highway, on high hills and near vital army installations at Sunjuwan and Nagrota and Jammu airport.
In March 2006, the government estimated the total land at 1,25,03,973 kanals, of which 20,64,672 kanals, valued at Rs 25,448 crore, was under encroachment. On March 8, 2014, Principal Accountant General (Audit) termed the Roshni Act as the “biggest-ever land scam” and said that “Rs 225 crore loss is just a tip of an iceberg”. “Every possible attempt was made to cover up the biggest ever land scam by denying vital information for the audit and Rs 225 crore loss to the exchequer, which has come to the fore in the test checked cases, was just the tip of an iceberg,” he, inter-alia, said (The Tribune, Mar 9, 2914; Daily Excelsior, Mar 9, 2014; Rising Kashmir, Srinagar, Mar 9, 2014).
Act of Loot and Scoot
On March 6, 2020, J&K Law Commission (JKLC) chairman, Justice (retd) MK Hanjura, submitted 53-page report on the Roshni Act to the government. The report, among other things, said: “The policy of loot and scoot was adopted by the state throwing all the norms and the laws to the winds. All this appears to have been done under a well-knit plan to benefit the bigwigs and in the process the makers of the law also seem to have made their loaf of bread in securing their interest by including the political parties within the list of beneficiaries to whom the state land could be donned. Palatial buildings have been raised on such lands, including the other state and forest lands, that didn’t fall within the definition and scope. The rich expanded their estates. They became richer and the poor having been kicked to the walls became poorer. It is only the wealthy, the mighty and those wielding political clout got benefited by the legislation…” (JKLC Report, Mar 6, 2020; Daily Excelsior, Mar 7, 2020).
Act declared Unconstitutional
And, on October 9, 2020, J&K High Court bench consisting of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal declared the Roshni Act illegal and unconstitutional. The judgment, inter-alia, said: “It is trite that rules cannot be beyond statutory provisions. The J&K State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Rules, 2007, are clearly ultra vires the parent Act…”
As for the constitutional validity of the Act itself, the bench held that the “respondents through the Act encouraged encroachment of state and forest lands and that the object of the enactment was completely illegal and unacceptable”. “The enactment has been worked to facilitate illegal vesting of state lands in the hands of powerful despite the mandate of the land…Government officials had the gumption and absolute arrogance to publish rules which did not have the clearance of the legislature speaks volumes about the influence of the beneficiaries…The Roshni Act is unconstitutional for violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution…The large tracts of state lands illegally vested with encroachers under the Roshni Act, 2001 must be retrieved in accordance with law,” the judgment also read.
The judgment further said: “The 2007 Rules were published without the approval of the legislature and were not in consonance with the Roshni Act. Hence, they are illegal and void ab-initio. The acts and omissions of officials and the encroachers/occupants amounted to serious criminal offences, necessitating inquiry, investigation and criminal prosecutions. The official machinery had actively connived with encroachers of state lands for obvious reasons and considerations. Persons in position, power and those with financial resources, including bureaucrats, government officials, ministers, legislators, police personnel, business persons etc., have influenced the completely illegal vesting of state lands. Not only have encroachments been permitted but the encroachers have been given sanction of building plans and permissions for commercial use thereof. This ipso facto establishes the complicity of the Municipal Corporations and licencing authorities with the encroachers. The erstwhile Vigilance Organization has merely undertaken a cosmetic exercise which too points towards shielding persons in authority as well as those responsible for the illegalities. Neither the Anti-Corruption Bureau nor the official respondents have the capacity, ability or the will to take appropriate legal action for securing the interests of the state or taking effective actions against those who have usurped the public land with impunity. By illegal working of the government functionaries, out of the actual transfer of around 3,48,200 kanals of land under the Roshni Act, the major portion of over 3,40,100 kanals has been transferred free of cost as agricultural land. The present case, therefore, is a fit case for enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is required to go into all aspects of the matter” (Kashmir Times, Oct 10, 2020; Daily Excelsior, Oct 10, 2020; Greater Kashmir, Oct 10, 2020).
Using Executive Route to Change Demography
If the governments of Farooq Abdullah, Mufti Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad used legislative route to change demography, the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government took recourse to executive route to further alter the Jammu’s demographic landscape. Take, for example, the Government Order No. 55-R&R of 2016, dated October 5, 2016. The order was calculated to encouraging and inducing Kashmiri Muslims to come to Jammu and avail themselves of “facilities” the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus had been availing since their forced migration to Jammu in January 1990.
The order created an alarm in Jammu as all further registrations for migrants banned since 2008 to curb the unhealthy practice were sought to be reopened despite the tall claim of the government that the situation had considerably improved. The people of Jammu took this order to mean yet another attempt on the part of the government to “change the demographic profile of Dogra land and create a regional rupture” (State Times, Feb 23, 2017).
Not only the people of Jammu, but even the internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus tore into the Mehbooba Mufti-led government and opposed fresh registration of “migrants” from Kashmir. “The fresh registration of Muslims, who have migrated from Kashmir due to the 2016 Kashmir unrest has sent wrong signals among Kashmiri Hindus,” said the All-Party Migrant Coordination Committee. “On the one hand, the Legislative Assembly and Council have passed unanimous resolutions to take back displaced Kashmiri Hindus and rehabilitate them with honour and dignity and, on the other, now they say fresh migration of Muslims have taken place from Kashmir in the wake of the 2016 Kashmir unrest,” it further said (The Tribune, Feb 28, 2017).
The fresh registration of the so-called Muslim migrants from Kashmir raised another question. Hitherto, Kashmiri Muslim leaders used to say that it was Governor Jagmohan who made Hindus to quit Kashmir as he wanted to “carry out genocide of Kashmiri Muslims”. Indeed, the move to cause migration of Muslims from Kashmir to Jammu exposed their hypocrisy and gave everyone in Jammu to understand that the causes behind the move were deeper.
There were two reports regarding the Muslim migration. The PTI (Feb 28, 2017) report said that “110 persons from Muslim community have been declared migrants after proper screening”. Another report said that “2,252 Muslim families have migrated to Jammu and enrolled themselves as migrants” (State Times, Mar 1, 2017).
That the process of migration of Kashmiri Muslims to Jammu had started could also be seen from the statement of none other than YP Suman, Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioners, J&K Government. On February 28, 2017, he, among other things, said: “The fresh registration is being done for the people (read Muslims from Kashmir) who have migrated to Jammu due to threat in Kashmir following the 2016 Kashmir unrest” (The Tribune, Mar 1, 2017)
Not content with Order No. 55-R&R of 2016, dated October 5, 2016, the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government, on February 14, 2018, directed the Police and Forest Departments to not evict Gujjars and Bakerwals (all Muslims) from the illegally occupied forest land in Jammu. In fact, that day, Mehbooba Mufti called a meeting to discuss the whole issue of illegal settlement. After the meeting, the government issued the following directions:-
- “Hon’ble Chief Minister directed the officers that till a formal tribal policy is formulated and issued, tribal population shall not be disturb/dislocated. In case it becomes absolutely necessary to dislocate any member or family of tribal population, the same should be done in prior consultation with Tribal Affairs Department”;
- “Hon’ble Chief Minister directed the IGP Jammu, police authorities and all the Deputy Commissioners not to provide any police protection for eviction of tribals without the approval obtained from Tribal Affairs Department”; and
- “Hon’ble Minister for Tribal Affairs Department (Choudhary Zulfikar Ali (himself a Gujjar Muslim) submitted that the department is receiving complaints regarding misuse of Section 188 RPC and Animal Cruelty Act against tribal population as animal rearing is their profession and they are required to transport their animals from one place to another during seasonal migration. The Hon’ble CM directed that due care be taken while dealing with such cases”.
All this was startling and highly disturbing: Startling because the people came to know about what transpired in the meeting only three weeks later (Mar 8) and that, too, through Ikkjutt Jammu Party’s press conference. That day, the Ikkjutt Jammu accused the Mehbooba Mufti Government of facilitating “jihadi agenda” and “changing demography of Jammu province, especially of its four strategically vital districts of Kathua, Samba, Jammu and Udhampur”. And it was disturbing because the Mufti Government directly sided with grabbers of state and forest land in Jammu. How else shall one interpret her clear direction to the IGP Jammu; police; Deputy Commissioners of Jammu, Kathua, Samba and Udhampur (all Hindu majority); and other concerned officials to not disturb or dislocate the land grabbers? Her direction that police will not assist the concerned authorities in the Revenue and Forest Departments and Jammu Development Authority could be legitimately construed as the subversion of Cr PC and RPC and a concerted move of her government to scuttle the ongoing cases in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court against the land grabbers.
The revelations put the PDP’s coalition partner, the BJP, on the mat. Convinced that these revelations could surely hurt it in Jammu, and even across the nation, the BJP reacted very sharply. The J&K BJP general secretary (organisation), Ashok Koul, termed the minutes of the meeting a “fraud” committed by the PDP.
Terming the record note of the Tribal Affairs Ministry as “fraud and fabricated”, Ashok Koul said: “No such decision was taken in that meeting. It (the record note) is all fraud and fabricated”. However, Choudhary Zulfikar Ali rebutted Ashok Koul and said: “Yes, these directions were passed by the Chief Minister during the meeting” (The Tribune, Mar 8, 2018; Daily Excelsior, Mar 8, 2018; Rising Kashmir, Mar 8, 2018; State Times, Mar 8, 2018; Greater Kashmir, Mar 8, 2018).
The successive governments in J&K not only encouraged migration of Muslims from Kashmir and helped others to occupy the state and forest land in the Jammu’s Hindu-majority districts, but also settled thousands of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in and around Jammu city and in the Jammu province’s border district of Samba. All this simply serve to demonstrate that elements in and outside the establishment in J&K left no stone unturned to create a Kashmir-like situation in Jammu by changing its Hindu-majority character. These internecine plots and political machinations that was inflicted to and in Jammu province after 1995 need to be rectified and take steps to restore the pre-1995-position.