VHP raring to burn Kashmir over Amarnath should investigate UP blasts of 2007

By Zafar Choudhary

Jammu: After a humiliating fiasco in the BJP ranks in Jammu, another Sangh Parivar organisation, the Vishva Hindu Parishad, seems to have taken charge of the saffron agenda in the region. The issue in hand is again Amarnath pilgrimage and the man in charge is none other than the firebrand Praveen Bhai Togadia. Offering a perfect reason for the season of protests in Kashmir, Togadia’s plan of action has started taking shape in Jammu.

The Hindu residents of Jammu region have often come across allegations of being communal. Such a sweeping opinion about any community or religion is deeply hurting. There have been some unpleasant incidents in the past but Hindus, being the majority community in Jammu, can be largely credited for general prevalence of communal harmony in the region. Some recent developments have once again affirmed that it is perhaps the Sangh Parivar, particularly the BJP, which stirs communal passions in the region, polarising its Hindu votebank and making Muslims feel insecure. The government and other keen observers of recent developments feared major reaction in Jammu when the Revenue Department rescinded the order on “Dogra certificate” following an amendment in the rules incorporated by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. The manner in which the J&K Revenue Minister had issued orders on Dogra certificate, bracketing all residents of Jammu province as “Dogras”, and the kind of reaction that came from Kashmir’s separatist and mainstream camps had already given a communal colour to the issue.  After Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s blunt statement that the Dogra certificate was an organised attempt to divide Muslims by creating fake identities, there was grave apprehension of protests in Jammu when the order was rescinded. Interestingly, Jammu didn’t react at all when the Government superseded the Dogra certificate order on April 28 with another order which made the concessions in recruitment in Central Paramilitary Forces available to all residents of Jammu & Kashmir. The earlier order, in view of a historical background, extended such concessions to Dogras only. Barring one customary statement by BJP’s spokesman, there was no reaction at all.

With Jammu accepting the government decision on Dogra certificate with calm and humility, it is safe to conclude that minus BJP, Jammu region has no communal agenda. BJP has historically propagated communal and divisive agenda in Jammu & Kashmir. Even as its senior leader and former national president Rajnath Singh recently admitted in Jammu that BJP has no understanding or vision for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, the party is always in the business of selling its self-appointed role of defender of India in Kashmir. With this unwarranted role, the BJP went on to stir communal passions around Amarnath land row in 2008 and then reaped the harvest with eleven seats in the assembly elections later that year. With eleven members in a House of 87 and controlling nearly 30 percent of assembly constituencies in Jammu region, the BJP has been at the height of its communal arrogance since 2008.

Though a slur on democratic principles, it is a blessing in disguise that the BJP stands nearly wiped out from mainland Jammu where it called the shots. With seven of its eleven MLAs clearly exposed for selling their votes to the National Conference-Congress ruling combine in Legislative Council elections on April 13, the saffron party has been reduced to a laughing stock in the region. The seven MLAs, including the veteran Chaman Lal Gupta, were suspended from the party by its president Nitin Gadkari on April 20 on the nearly proven cash-for-vote allegations, the BJP is not left with any moral authority to represent the ‘regional sentiments’ of the people of Jammu as the party would always claim.

However, after BJP’s Waterloo, another Sangh Parivar organisation has arrived in Jammu to occupy the saffron space and keep the fringe elements engaged in its communal project. The issue this time is about the duration of the annual Amarnath pilgrimage, something which appeals to even with most moderate and secular Hindus across the country. Despite the head priest of Amarnath shrine Mahant Dipinder Giri’s clear-cut opinion based on religious scriptures that the pilgrimage should be for 30 days only, the VHP has launched a movement for a 60-day pilgrimage instead. The Amarnath Shrine Board, headed by J&K Governor, has notified a 45-day long pilgrimage but VHP and its supporters have taken umbrage to this. In a clear threat to peace, the VHP leader Praveen Togadia has threatened to start the pilgrimage 15 days ahead of the schedule.

“We will start the two-month long Amarnath yatra from June 15 as per the traditional calendar. We will not abide by the announcement of the state governor to start the yatra from June 29,” International General Secretary Parveen Bhai Togdia said in Jammu on April 29. Togadia is in a confrontational mood and is apparently filling in the vacuum left by the collapse of the BJP.  “Who is the Governor (Chairman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board) to decide the date and the periodicity of the yatra. The date of the yatra should always be left to Hindu priests,” Togadia said. Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) should only take care of the arrangements and other infrastructural needs of the pilgrimage and decision of commencement and periodicity of the yatra should be left to priests and religious leaders of Hinduism, he said.

When asked that if the government does not allow them to go ahead with the yatra on June 15, he said, “We will start the yatra on June 15 at all cost and in all circumstances. We, therefore, warn the Board and government to rectify the yatra curtailment decision immediately. If the government cannot provide the security to the yatra for fifteen days, we will bring one lakh Bajrang Dal activists from outside the state to provide security to the yatra,” he said. “The Governor will be responsible for the consequences if we are not allowed to go ahead with the yatra,” Togadia warned.

The author is the editor of Epilogue magazine, published from Jammu

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2011 on page no. 1

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