Silence on the sufferings of a fellow citizen has power to poison a society, to quote Shelly as a 'dream has power to poison sleep.'
Muslims of Jammu province after 1947, have suffered a political alienation is a bitter truth. And after decades of obliviousness, the political alienation and economic disempowerment of the Muslims of Jammu has of late started forcefully re-entering the larger political narrative of Jammu and Kashmir.
Thanks to hideous moves initiated by the coalition governments – one after another. Some intended at changing demography and some at disempowering a particular section of society. Such as, the 'issuance of Dogra certificate'.
'According citizenship rights to non-state subjects like West Pakistan Refugees (WPR). Providing. Issuing State Certificate in school in violation of laid out procedures. 'Coercive dispossessing the Muslims of their property from outskirts of Jammu city under alibi of clearing forestland. And stark realties' about discrimination against the Chenab Valley and the Pir Panjal areas in growth and development. Even the official reports testify it, with regard to development showing Poonch at 22nd position as against Jammu district at number one.
How and why, the Muslims of Jammu suffered alienation? Why despite sufferings immensely they became just a "passing reference" in the state's political discourse? Why in the post 1990 scenario, as compared to fifties, sixties and seventies the Jammu Muslims were relegated to the backyard of the major political narrative?
For quite some time, these question have been subjects of debate with authors, writers, journalists, columnists and scholars. Moreover, there has been renewed interest amongst scholars and writes about to know the whole story 1947 massacre of Muslims in Jammu.
Why even after 30 October 1947, when Muslim leadership of Kashmir was installed as new class of rulers no 'efforts' were made to stop the mayhem and flight of Muslims to Pakistan was not prevented. Besides, why even after the birth of the Ceasefire line the Muslims of the province continued to suffer political alienation and disempowerment. In 2010, Penguin published 'Across the LoC- Inside Pakistan Administered Kashmir' by Luv Puri, a Jammu born scholar.
Puri writes, "By September end, Muslims were rounded up in the villages and Jammu city and were told by civilian and military officials to depart to Pakistan. This was seen as an attempt to convert the Muslim province into a non-Muslim majority area." (P25).
Giving details about arrival of non-Muslims refugees in Jammu city from Muslim majority areas of the province and quoting from various sources, he writes that about one lakh Muslims from Jammu had arrived in Sialkot before 22 October when Pashtuns had attacked Maharajas troops in Muzaffarabad and in Jammu District only the population of Muslims had come down from 37 percent to 10 percent. (P31). A "1948 publication writes that 80,000 people had been massacred before 22 October 1948." Snedden (p88)
'Kashmir -The Unwritten History' by Christopher Snedden published by Harper Collins Publishers India in 2013 is another important study on Jammu Muslims. Snedden's work is iconoclastic in as much as narrative about attributing Maharaja Hari Singh's accession to arrival of armed tribal in Srinagar is concerned. He attributes it to the armed revolt by more than fifty thousand ex-servicemen of Poonch and Mirpur against the Maharaja.
'Muslim men in Poonch and Mirpur with military experience and training outnumbered the Maharaja's armed forces.'
Besides, the immediate cause of brutal taxes and bigoted policy disarming Muslims and arming Hindus, he sees genesis of the rebellion in the 'barbarity of Maharaja's soldiers' between 1830's- 40's which Poonchis had not 'forgotten'.
'The Muslim ruler, his son and nephew had been killed and their bodies had been displayed in a cage. Some rebel leaders had been flayed alive. Perhaps 5000 members of Sudhan tribe had been slaughtered who had their kith and kin in Pashtuns and other tribes.
It cannot be denied there has been a debate over the figures of the Muslims killed in Jammu in 1947 and 1948, the figures vary from 2.67 lakhs to .5 lakhs- a revised figure put up by Ian Stephens, then editor of the Statesman- who was also known for his proximity to Lord Mountbatten.
Kashmir writers and newspapers have also developed renewed interest in the subject. Khalid Bashir Ahmed, author of 'Jhelum the River through My Backyard' recently published exhaustive articles on killings in Jammu in 1947 based on eye witness accounts of some who have survived the carnage.
One of the important questions that continues to run through 1947 Jammu discourse has been why the National Conference leadership after taking over reins of administration on October 30, 1947, did not stop massacre of the Muslims or provide them security and prevent them from migrating to Pakistan. Important contemporary leader from Jammu like Krishen Dev Sethi and Balraj Puri have gone on record to say that Chief Administrator nursed a grouse against Muslims of Jammu that they never recognized him as 'their leader'.
Sethi in his memoirs records that he was pained, that when he and Moti Ram Begdaha for preserving secular fabric of Jammu approached with request to prevent leftover suffering Muslims from Jammu from migrating to Pakistan. And his caustic reply that why should I bother about them, they never owned me as their leader.' Yad-Rifta (p-36)
Three days back on releasing of a book 'Kashmir Conflict and Muslims of Jammu' authored by a Jammu-based journalist and social activists Zafar Choudhary these discourses once again resonated in a select gathering of intelligentsia.
For apathy of the then "leadership" and general Muslims of Kashmir towards their brethren in Jammu province the chief guest at the function tendered an apology to Jammu brethren on his and on behalf of intelligentsia and civil society in the hall.
True, it was one disempowered brother apologizing another disempowered brother. Nevertheless, in the emerging scenario in Jammu, which many political commentators and observers see as replication of the 1947 situation, in the 'apology' there was a subtle message for the powers that be– let them too not pass into history as complicit like their predecessors in office in enactment of another ethnic cleansing. In the 'apology' there was equally message for the leadership, for academia, poets and journalists and intelligentsia that they too cannot afford to be fence sitters at yet another critical juncture of our history.