Jammu is up in arms against the authorities. This time, it is not against discriminatory policies being pursued by the successive Kashmir-dominated and Valley-centric governments in Jammu & Kashmir since 1947, but against the settlement of Rohingyas from Myanmar in Jammu and Ladakh, both strategically vital for national security.
According to the late Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the number of Rohingya Muslims living in different parts of Jammu city and around it, was 5,107 in 2010 (AINS, 10 October 2015). And, as per Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s June 2016 Assembly statement, there were 13,400 Rohingyas and Bangladeshis living in camps in Jammu. She said, “Bathindi Ka Plot is home to the highest number of Rohingya Muslims” (The Hindustan Times, 5 December 2016).
The break-up of Rohingyas settled in the state is as follows: Jammu – 5,086, Jammu’s Samba district – 634 and Ladakh – 7,664. The total number is 13, 334.
The Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and several civil society groups are urging the authorities to deport forthwith the illegally settled Rohingyas and Bangladeshi from the state, saying they pose a threat to not only the security of Jammu province but also to the nation.
What has added to the anger of JCCI, the VHP and the various civil society groups, and gripped the people of Jammu province with a deep sense of insecurity?
(1) “One of the two foreign militants killed in a shootout in Kashmir last October turned out to be a native of Myanmar” and “a military official called them a ticking time bomb”.
(2) The reports that certain Islamist organisations have been inducing the Rohingya Muslims to settle in Jammu and Ladakh (The Hindustan Times, 5 December 2016).
On 8 December 2016, a delegation of VHP met with the Divisional Commissioner of Jammu, Pawan Kotwal, and urged him to expel all the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis from Jammu. It termed the settlement of these foreigners as a conspiracy against the nation.
VHP veteran Rama Kanat Dubey said: “An atmosphere is being created in Jammu to make the living of the local populace difficult and this is just a part of big conspiracy being hatched to force migration of people (read Hindus) of Jammu from their own land”. He also, inter-alia, said: “Jammu & Kashmir is a sensitive state which is the victim of internal and external militancy. The recent attack on the Army camp at Nagrota, Samba and other places in Jammu could not have been done without the local support and hideouts,” (State Times, 9 December 2016).
The JCCI was more critical than the VHP. Reflecting on the consequences of the settlement of the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in various parts of Jammu province, the JCCI on 14 December 2016 said: “Deliberate and successful attempt has been made by certain ‘unforeseen forces’ for changing the demography of Jammu and its suburbs. These unseen forces (in this case elements in the establishment) had made ‘open mockery’ of Article 370 in Jammu through permanent settlement of thousands of non-state subjects and foreign nationals, who pose a great threat to ‘security and secularism’ of the region. The Jammu and Kashmir government should either implement in toto or abolish Article 370. These settlements are a grave threat to the internal security as these people provide all possible support and shelter to the anti-nationals to carry out not only attacks on security forces, but also are involved in the menace of drugs, thefts and all sorts of crimes without being traced” (The Tribune, 15 December 2016).
Security forces also see the Rohingya population as a “potential threat in the militancy-hit state close to a hostile neighbour” (The Hindustan Times, 6 December 2016).
More significantly, even Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office, Jitendra Singh, a local MP, also urged the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to expel the foreigners inhabiting various parts of Jammu province. Pointing out that only an Indian national could become a State Subject of Jammu and Kashmir, the MoS said that “if one goes by the Maharaja’s State Subject Laws of 1927, then first it would be more appropriate to apply them on Bangladeshis and other foreigners illegally settled here in Jammu in recent years” (Daily Excelsior, 1 January 2017). The MoS made this statement in Jammu while taking on those in Kashmir who were opposing the demand of the refugees from Pakistan seeking citizenship rights in the State since 1947.
The charge of the JCCI and the VHP that the Rohingyas are being settled in Jammu by certain forces for ulterior purposes cannot be dismissed as something silly and preposterous. Their charge is well-founded. Take, for example, Sakhawat Centre and Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu & Kashmir. Both are taking a lead role in re-establishing Rohingyas in Jammu.
The fact that certain Islamist organisations are directly encouraging the settlement of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in Jammu and Ladakh does suggest that an insidious influence is at work to change the demography of the Hindu-majority Jammu and Buddhist-majority Ladakh. The authorities would do well to address the serious concerns of the people of Jammu and Ladakh as well as of the Army and security forces. The best thing to do would be to deport all the foreigners from Jammu and Ladakh.
The BJP government at the centre and the BJP-PDP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir have everything to gain and nothing to lose by adopting a national stand on the illegal settlement of the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in the state which is already gripped by secessionist and communal violence.