With National Conference justifying Congress’s decision of bestowing Jammu province with ‘Dogra Certificates’, the issue is gradually snowballing into a crisis in Kashmir. A Kashmir Life analysis.
Winning the second consecutive term for the state legislature played a major role in evolution of Congressman Raman Bhalla as J&K’s Revenue Minister.
In March 2010, Bhalla allegedly “directed”, an otherwise toothless tiger, State Vigilance Organization (SVO) to close down investigations into a land scam involving an IAS officer, even when the state High Court had upheld the case, creating ripples. A day later, it faded from public memory. The officer against whom the SVO claims to have a “water tight case” (FIR 8/2009), was given a rewarding position while the government sleeps over the SVOs request for prosecuting him!
When the assembly was in session Bhalla chose to visit to Chamb area, on March 27 to interact with Displaced Persons (resident of PaK who crossed over to this side in 1965 and 1971) and to announce the emergence of “Dogra Certificate”. The certificate to be issued by all Tehsildars (territorial) across Jammu region, can be availed by anyone eligible for a Permanent Resident Certificate.
Revenue Minister, Bhalla said he issued the orders (Rev (LB) 69 of 2011) on March 25 with directions that these certificates be issued “to the eligible desirous persons irrespective of his or her ethnicity, religion, cultural background and mother tongue.” All applicants can avail the facility provided they/their forefathers were residents of Jammu Division prior to 1944 CE. For DPs, Bhalla clarified, the cut-off date of 1944 shall not apply.
Those seeking a “Dogra certificate” need to file an application along with a copy of PRC or Misal Haqiyat or Jamabandi prior to 1944 CE or electoral rolls of 1951 besides an affidavit and two photographs. Tehsildar’s are supposed to issue the certificate within a week after authenticating the claim through two local witnesses. Bhalla termed the “Dogra certificate” as a “major step” of his ministry’s “several revolutionary initiatives”.
We are told, a senior NC leader told Kashmir Life from Jammu that this certificate is in high demand. “This gives the applicants some concessions in height (in recruitment in the army),” the leader said, adding, “At one point of time this certificate was being issued but it later stopped.” He believes there are 200 thousand Dogra soldiers in the army.
But if the certificate gives Dogras certain concessions in height, why should this facility be availed by Poonchis in the border belt who are comparatively taller and have been in the army since World War-I? They are not Dogras. Many separatists including Syed Ali Geelani see the move as “Dogarization of Jammu”.
The ruling parties or the main Opposition did not raise the issue in the assembly. It is surprising, Handwara MLA engineer Rashid said in a statement, that NC and PDP have expressed concern about the Dogra certificate after the assembly session was over. “I was left alone in the house when I raised the issue in time and protested,” he said.
Former deputy chief minister, Muzaffar Hussain Beig, termed the order illegal and unconstitutional.
Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani called it a “deep rooted conspiracy to divide the state on ethnic lines” and called for its immediate revocation. New Delhi, he said, wants to change the population ratio of the state besides strengthening “particular section” over the majority. The certificate, he said, is aimed at “settling the Dogri speaking non-state residents in J&K to convert J&K into Dogra Desh.” He even called for a strike.
After the move reached public domain, politicians, cutting across party lines, started to react. Separatist leaders Mohammed Yasin Malik, Mirwaiz Umar and Nayeem Khan said they will “fight the conspiracy” tooth and nail. Malik also said they may even take it to court. Khan took the Geelani line accusing Delhi of demographic engineering while establishing Dogra dominance.
However, in the din some questions remain unanswered. At a place which sees its protection in the “neutralized” state subject law, can a minister bypass the Cabinet while taking such a decision? If the certificate can help more than forty percent of state’s population, why the government cannot pass a bill giving legal sanctity to the certificate?
Panthers Party leader Harsh Dev Singh was quoted saying that the certificate is a long pending demand. “In 2008 we were assured that the certificates will be given to Dogras. Again in 2009 and 2010 we were assured but nothing happened on the ground and nor did they answer our queries as to why these certificates are not given,” Singh said asserting that this was only to help the youth avail concessions in height in joining armed forces.
Sources tell Kashmir Life that the file for the certificate was processed twice in last eight years. Once it was rejected at chief minister’s level and later it was returned with strong negative observations from the law ministry. This time, the revenue ministry did it at its own level.
While claiming that the order was not unconstitutional, Bhalla said that the initiative was aimed at helping locals get jobs in the armed forces. Ali Mohammed Sagar of NC upheld the theory. Now Bhalla says the government will never withdraw the order. Instead, it will give everybody a certificate – to Kashmiris, to Rajputs and Ladakhis. But why? In a press conference aimed at “clarifying” the initiative in Srinagar that Taj Mohidin addressed in presence of Raman Bhalla and Nasir Aslam Wani, the government confounded the confusion. Taj who did not permit Bhalla to speak, said it was a mistake and it will be discussed in cabinet. But the order stays.
Taj said for different regiments, there are concessions – for Dogra’s in Dogra regiment, for Kashmirs in JAKLI and for Ladakhis in Ladakh Scouts. If this is a case where everyone is getting some concession, where arises the need for a soecial certificate, he was asked but he did not answer.
But the bubble burst when daily newspaper Greater Kashmir talked to the armed forces only to find that there were no concessions in recruitments on basis on language or ethnicity. Dogra Regiment in the Indian Army caters to the Dogri speaking belt. Apart from J&K’s Dogra ‘hotland’ comprising Jammu, Udhmapur, Kathua and Samba, Dogri is spoken in various parts of Punjab and Himachal Pardesh. “Army does the recruitment, in a particular regiment, on the basis of catchment area,” the newspaper quoted Lt Col J S Brar as saying. “The catchment area for Dogra Regiment is south of Pir Panchal range, Himachal Pradesh and two belts of Punjab – Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur.” In the press conference, interestingly, the government said it is not army but the paramilitary forces which offer the concessions in height.
As questions remained unanswered, the apprehensions are being voiced. Is the initiative aimed at offering some claim to populations not endemic to the state in the name of language? In such a case they can stake claims to PRCs later. Many people within and outside politics believe that the certificate seems to be aimed at creating a ‘green card’ in short term and in the long run neutralizing the significance of PRC. But the government says the apprehensions are far-fetched. Taj said they are exploring other options. Till then the order stands.