Having opted to the take the dip yet again the PDP-BJP alliance chose to wait for an auspicious day to reaffirm their faith in each other and in doing so give Jammu and Kashmir a new government succeeding the one that fell with Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed's death, some months back.
Hard bargaining–hardly that, it transpires –one was assured,had taken place prior to the two unlikely partners appearing together before the Governor to give him the happy tidings – their decision to cohabit a second time. Never mind the nagging doubts that preceded and followed the move. A minor hiccup, but it was there: the BJP would want the oath-taking only on an auspicious day.
The BJP would naturally choose a day that is of a piece with its orthodox views on such matters, including unavoidably astrological guidance.
The day one had learnt during a short stay in Jammu would be somewhere in the first week of April. In fact a Jammu BJP worthy had argued against an earlier or later date because auspicious days are hard to come by.
So, that much about the happy times ahead of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The estranged partners hoping that the reunion now may be more fruitful, for the parties at least if not the people.
My ten-day stay in Jammu on a holiday with a Kashmiri friend did simultaneously bring me face to face with the harsh reality that the two major regions constituting the State – the Valley and Jammu – have drifted way, way apart from each other. I shall leave Ladakh, territorially a very vast area, out of the present discourse; not that the region is less important than the far more populous Kashmir and Jammu regions.
Indeed I wish to focus more on the manner in which the Valley and Jammu seem to have drifted apart in more recent times. Yes, the symptoms have always been there, needing just a touch of scratching to be seen in all their ugliness.
So much so that a younger colleague from a Jammu paper asked me with straightest of faces why I hated Jammu so much. My protestations to the contrary only added more bite to his zeal. I was perceived as someone inimical to the people and interests of Jammu. As an ageing pen-pusher of a different vintage I should have felt flattered that someone still continues to be bothered about my writing but then there are certain values, closer to your bone, which make you wonder whether the accusation was at all justified. Not by a long shot, if you want to know my "coloured, subjective" view.
Yes, Jammu and Kashmir have been at the receiving end of historic back-lashes. But even that does not permit one to put on ones blinkers and see a one-dimensional view of harsh facts. Why, for instance, should it be a crime to question the suffering of the the Kashmiris? Why must legitimate aspirations be construed to be undesirable acts of rebellion? Was the Kashmiri Pandit exodus of the 90s a historic necessity? Why didn't someone intervene to stop it? Must human suffering be glossed over? No matter whether it is the wailing Kashmiri mother who has lost a son or a Kashmiri Pandit living in virtual self-exile hoping against hope to make it back home some day ?
This is one part of the conundrum. The other one which caused me much concern was the state of drift that's gaining momentum, one that is set to run the State and its people asunder once for all.
Whether it is the over-emphasis which the ruling dispensation in New Delhi places on the separateness of the three distinct regions that constitute that accursed State, or the drawing of lines between "them" and "us" – the nationalists being the ones who are with us and the others who are perhaps self-seekers or are indeed engaged in anti-national activities.
Why would the lady at a public sector bank in Jammu ask me unbecoming questions when I was only trying to help someone in distress. It was the KP colleague of hers who had warned me of her being resentful of KPs and very nosey if she chooses to pick on someone from the other side of the Pir Panjal range.
At a more important level why must the only direct road link connecting Jammu and Srinagar be open to one-way traffic on alternate days: one day the traffic moves towards Srinagar and the next day Srinagar to Jammu. Two friends from Srinagar who drove from there to my Jammu host's house to see me, it took them 18 hours to cover a route which should normally be done in six to eight hours. And this when a four-lane (or is it more?) road links Jammu with Udhampur on the same road that goes to Srinagar.
Reminds me of an old joke which my cigar supplier in Srinagar (whenever I visited the place) would share with me: No cigar, Janab. Ilhaq (accession) suspended. Road closed no supply. That was in the 70s and 80s when I had graduated from cigarettes and pipes to cigars. Given the tensions of today the good man would have been put behind bars for this harmless one.
Yes, there is the other road, the Mughal road, which has been in the works for the last two decades.
More worrisome part of my Jammu stay was the palpable hatred of the valley which finds an echo in places which one would have expected to be free of such malice. I am sure the valley wouldn't be found wanting in reciprocating the sentiment.