Vikramaditya Singh, PDP MLA, resigned from the party saying it was no longer possible for him to be part of a party that continues to disregard aspirations of the Jammu region
Sant Kumar Sharma from Jammu
In a development that surprised many, Vikramaditya Singh, grandson of Jammu & Kashmir's former Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh and son of Dr Karan Singh, resigned from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mehbooba Mufti, on October 21. He also made history as he resigned from the Legislative Council (LC) of Jammu & Kashmir to become first legislator to resign in this manner in recent times. Resigning as a lawmaker associated with ruling party of the state and sitting pretty with most things is apparently going well for him.
On October 21 evening, he sent invitations to media regarding an impending press conference scheduled for October 22 where he announced his decision. On top of the reasons for his resignation which he listed in the terse letter was the “illegal settlement of Rohingyas’’ in Jammu, and the government doing nothing to address the issue.
This settlement of Rohingyas has been allowed by the State Government despite the fact that the Central Government is taking a stance in the Supreme Court that these Rohingyas needed to be deported as they had entered the territory of India in an illegal manner. He said he had taken up this vital issue in the party but his plea was totally ignored by the PDP leadership. So much so that the party was adopting a very ambivalent position on the issue and this was not acceptable to him.
Making mention of the Rohingyas in his resignation letter specifically, he wrote, “In the last few months, the views that I have publicly expressed about my concerns for our state in general, and Jammu region in particular, have not been in harmony with the party line. These issues include, among others, the question of illegal settlement of Rohingyas in the State.”
Incidentally, the illegal settlement of the Rohingya Muslims in the Jammu city, and some other cities of the Jammu region, is snowballing into a political controversy. Across the political spectrum, resentment is brewing up against the help that had been rendered to them by various government agencies. Ironically, the Rohingyas are settled illegally in the Jammu region while support for them is being rendered from Kashmiri organisations.
The question now being asked in Jammu is that if indeed the Kashmiris have so much sympathy for the Rohingyas, why are the Rohingyas not being settled in Kashmir? Why in Jammu? Obviously, this also has the potential of taking seriously communal overtones in the coming days. Some months ago, hoardings had been put up in Jammu city demanding expulsion of Rohingyas from the State. Some socio-political organisations had
organised some functions, including protest marches against the Rohingyas.
It bears mention here that the state of Jammu & Kashmir, as we know it today, was founded by forefathers of Mr Singh. It was in March 1846 that Maharaja Gulab Singh had started consolidating small feudal units into a large kingdom. Gilgit-Baltistan, Muzaffarbad, Mirpur and several other areas were part of what was known as Dogra kingdom. Presently, all these areas are under the illegal occupation of Pakistan.
Referring to the contributions made by Maharaja Gulab Singh, and his successors, Vikramaditya said that the PDP has done nothing to honour these contributions. He had written to two successive Education Ministers of the State, Naeem Akhtar and Altaf Bukhari to highlight the the golden era of Dogra rulers in textbooks but drawn a blank on the issue. Mentioning the reasons for his resignation, he said, “The PDP has rejected these issues that strongly reflect the sentiments of the people of the Jammu region’. Issues like ‘the inclusion of the period pertaining to Dogra rule and contributions made by the rulers in school text books, and the demand for a public holiday on the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh (September 23)’ were all Jammu- specific issues. They did not find favour with the Kashmir-centric PDP and became a reason of my disillusionment with the party.”
He pointed out that the divide between the regions of Kashmir Valley and Jammu, and Ladakh was increasing due to a host of factors. “PDP patron and late Chief Minister Mufti Syed’s vision of bridging the growing divide between the three regions of the State also remains unfulfilled,’’ he pointed out. He said that something is needed to be done urgently to meet the aspirations of people of Jammu and Ladakh.
The three regions of the J&K state, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh were pulling in different directions, and the aspirations of Jammu and Ladakh were being trampled, he said. This could not be allowed to continue, and the protests of Dogras to get their rightful share in all spheres of life must gain strength, he said.
Vikramaditya Singh pointed out that after joining the PDP, he had travelled extensively in the Jammu region,
meeting party workers, public and also accompanied Mufti Saheb and Mehbooba Mufti herself on so many occasions. This brought him closer to the people and he found that the issues raised by them needed to be addressed.He spoke at length about the issue of “Dogra Certificate’’ which the previous National Conference-Congress coalition government had discontinued issuing. This certificate entitled people from the hills of the Jammu region some relaxation in recruitment norms from joining Army and paramilitary forces, as also the police.
Besides, problems being faced by the people living on borders, the grants needed for construction of bunkers, plots of 5-marlas in the hinterland for border dwellers were also issues he had raised with PDP leadership. Cultural invasion of the Jammu region by appointing Kashmiri lecturers in colleges of Jammu region was another reason Vikramaditya cited for parting company with the PDP.
He referred derisively to what is being called as “special status’’ of J&K in India. He said what good was there in it that there were two flags in the State? Even if there are four flags, they will hardly be of any use. He said a very vital aspect of the integrity of the state was suffering as the aspirations of the regions were different.
In Jammu region, people aspired for fuller integration into India and in Ladakh, the aspirations of the common people were to see the area as a Union Territory (UT), he said. These aspirations were altogether being ignored and trampled upon leading to anger among masses. Of course, the aspirations of different sections of Kashmiris were different from these and a way out is needed to be found to address these issues.
He did not say whether he was joining any other party for continuing his protests, and reaching out to people. Travelling extensively throughout the Jammu region, and the other two regions of Kashmir and Ladakh was his immediate plan, he said.
Incidentally, it needs to be pointed out that it was Vikramaditya’s grandfather, Maharaja Hari Singh, who had signed the Instrument of Accession (October 26, 1947). Alluding to that historical decision, he said this was due to this great decision that we are all Indians. However, there is no mention of the Dogra rulers anywhere in the education set-up in the State of J&K.
A deliberate and systematic attempt is being made to undermine the contributions of the Dogra rulers and the Dogras. All-out attempts are being made to wipe out and remove from history books any reference to 100 years of glorious rule of the Dogra kings of J&K, he asserted. n