Jammu & Kashmir: Darbar Move (shifting capitals)

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Darbar move in Jammu & Kashmir
From India Today

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Contents

Darbar Move is…

…the twice-a-year practice of shifting the capital of Jammu & Kashmir from Jammu to Srinagar in the first week of May and from Srinagar to Jammu in the first week of November.

Darbar means ‘[royal] court.’ The monarchy was abolished in 1948. At some stage in the 1960s, 'Darbar Move' was officially renamed 'Secretariat Move.' However, in everyday conversation the old expression, 'Darbar Move,' lingers on.

Does the entire government shuttle between Jammu and Srinagar?

Yes, the entire government shuttles between Jammu and Srinagar...

...but only around 1 per cent of the state's government servants do.

The expression government means the Governor, ministers, Secretaries to the state government, and their staff. They make policies.

The remaining roughly 99 per cent of the state's government servants work in field offices and implement these policies.

Countries with two or more capitals

At present

In 2017, fourteen countries had two capitals (Benin, Bolivia, Chile, Côte d'Ivoire, Georgia, Honduras, Malaysia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Western Sahara (SADR), Yemen). South Africa had three.

Many countries house their legislature in one capital, and the judiciary and executive in another (Benin, Bolivia, Chile, Georgia, Malaysia). In some countries one is the royal capital and the other the seat of government (Montenegro, the Netherlands). Of South Africa’s three capitals, one each houses the legislature, judiciary and executive. In some countries the second capital in 2017 was only temporary (Western Sahara (SADR); Yemen).

Germany houses the higher judiciary Karlsruhe, the political capital in Berlin and some ministries in Bonn.

Many countries (Georgia, South Africa) have more than one capital in order to give the people of the various regions of the country the feeling that the capital is in their part of the country as well. In other words, to provide a balance of power between the regions. The European Union has three administrative centres for the same reason.

In the past

From 1951–1969, Libya had two capitals (Tripoli and Benghazi), simultaneously. From 2003–2006, Serbia and Montenegro kept the administration and legislature in Belgrade and the judiciary in Podgorica apparently for a similar balance.

Seasonal capitals in other countries, states and J&K

Shangdu (Xanadu) was the "Upper Capital" of China during Kublai Khan's reign (the 1200s).

In Afghanistan, from 1776–1818, Kabul was the summer capital and the warmer Peshawar the winter capital.

The British Government in India followed suit. Its winter capital was in Calcutta (1858–1911) and then Delhi (1911–1947). However, in 1864, Simla was declared the summer capital of British India.

During the colonial era the French government in Vietnam would shift to Dalat, and the Dutch in Indonesia to the cooler Bogor.

In the summer the Saudi royal family still shifts to Taif, a city in the hills, because it is cooler than Riyadh.

San Sebastián, which is cooler than Madrid in summer, has at times been the summer capital of Spain.

From 1901-1976, Baguio was the summer capital of the Philippines.

The Indian practice

J&K: 2nd century A.D.

The practice of shifting capitals according to the season dates back to at least the 2nd century A.D. when King Abhmanyu I ruled over Kashmir and parts of Jammu. His court would shift to Darvabhisara in winter. Present day Rajouri, in Jammu, was part of Darvabhisara. The region is somewhat warmer than Kashmir in winter.

British Raj in undivided India: the 1800s

Darjeeling became the summer capital of the British-run Bengal Presidency in 1864. Calcutta was the winter capital.

Murree was the summer capital of British-run Punjab until 1876, when the summer capital of the Punjab shifted to Simla. Lahore was the winter capital.

By the late 1800s even the princely states of India had adopted the bureaucratic- style of government that had been instituted in ‘British India.’ Many British-ruled as well as princely states started shifting their Secretariats to cooler parts of their states.

Pachmarhi served as the summer capital for the British-ruled Central Provinces (now Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and parts of Maharashtra.) The main, winter capital was at Nagpur.

Nagpur is now the winter capital of Maharashtra to the extent that the winter session of the state legislature and the state legislative council takes place in Nagpur.

Because of its pleasant climate, Ranchi was once the summer capital of the undivided State of Bihar-Jharkhand.

The idea in all these cases was to move to a more pleasant climate.

The Ladakh wazarat (district) of Jammu & Kashmir had three tehsils (sub-districts), named after the cities of their headquarters: Leh, Skardu and Kargil. Since perhaps the mid-1800s the district headquarters would shift between the three locations each year. All three are very cold regions. Therefore, the climate was not the issue. Here the idea was only partly to balance the aspirations of the people of the three very vast and distant regions. More importantly, before the advent of mechanised transport it would take petitioners from one tehsil several days on foot to reach the other tehsil. The road between Leh and Kargil and the Kargil-Skardu road have generally been all-weather roads but it would take several days on foot to travel between these towns. So the government felt that the considerate thing to do was to let the senior officers shift their offices (and residences) between the three tehsils instead. And they, being government servants, did it on ponies, which the government paid for, rather than on foot.

In Jammu and Kashmir

The Valley of Kashmir (as well as Ladakh and Baltistan) became part of the Jammu kingdom in 1846. Therefore, for the first 26 years they were administered from Jammu city, which was the capital of the Jammu kingdom. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir considered this inconvenient to the people of Kashmir province.

Since October 1947, the Valley of Kashmir has been more populous than Jammu province.

However, in 1872 when the Darbar Move first started, Jammu province was bigger than Kashmir province in terms of population as well as area (and remained so till late 1947).

The last census conducted before the partition of India (and the subsequent occupation of parts of the state by Pakistan and China) was in 1941.

Jammu province had a population of 20,01,557 and an area of 32,200 sq.km.

Kashmir province, not including Ladakh, had a population of 17,28,686 and an area of 22,200 sq.km.

Jammu can be quite warm in summer and Kashmir quite cold in winter. British bureaucrats in Bengal, the Punjab, Central Provinces and Delhi had no roots in any Indian city. They probably looked forward to shifting for a few months to the capital with the more pleasant climate.

Not so in Jammu or Kashmir. Jammu bureaucrats found it as irksome—and disruptive of their children’s education—to shift to Srinagar, as Kashmiri bureaucrats found shifting to Jammu. Each was settled comfortably in his own home and used to the two or three months of unpleasant weather. It remains so to this day. the senior most officers, because of better perquisites, do not dread the Move as much as middle- and junior- ranking officers do.

The Move crippled the lives of IAS, IPS and IFS (forest) officers from outside the state the most because they had to pack every doormat, pin and dustbin that they owned and shuttle it between the two capitals. They had to shift even such clothes and heating/ cooling equipment as were not required in the other capital. (Local officers, on the other hand, moved only essential items to the other capital and left the bulk of their worldly belongings at their permanent home in Jammu or Srinagar.)

In 1990 officers who did not have houses in Srinagar were shifted to Srinagar without their families and housed in hotels there, because of the law and order situation. Their families were allowed to stay on in the government houses allotted to them in Jammu.

This practice continues to this day, and officers from outside the state need not throw away old magazines and fancy gift wrapping that they hope to reuse some day. Nor do they have to move their heavy air conditioners to the naturally-cool Srinagar.

However, back in 1872 Maharaja Ranbir Singh felt that in the interest of equity his officers and he should spend exactly six months each in Jammu and Srinagar. The intention was the same as in Ladakh wazarat—equitable attention to the people of the various regions.

(The decision to move the HQs of Baltistan- Ladakh between three towns was taken in the late 1800s. Readers who know the exact year may please send it as a message to the Facebook community, Indpaedia.com. All information used will be gratefully acknowledged in their name. It would be interesting to know which came first, the Darbar Move or the rotation in Baltistan- Ladakh.)


Shifting home between cool Kashmir and relatively warm Jammu is ingrained in the culture of Jammu & Kashmir. For centuries nomadic Gujjar cowherds and Bakerwal shepherds (both are Muslim communities) have been moving their entire flock as well as household between the mountains of Kashmir/ undivided Doda district and the plains of Jammu/ Punjab (Dina Nagar), spending almost exactly equal time in their summer and winter homes. Gaddi (Hindu) shepherds and some Ladakhi (Buddhist) livestock- owners tend to shift less comprehensively to their summer camp in the mountains, but the principle remains the same. The principle is NOT to get away from the heat or cold but to shift to a place that was likely to have grass for their cattle and sheep. Kashmir, the upper reaches of undivided Doda district and the upper reaches of Ladakh get covered with snow in winter, so the flock is moved to places where grass is available.

The Gujjar- Bakerwal practice would certainly have been in the Maharaja’s mind when he invented the Darbar Move for Jammu & Kashmir in 1872.

The mechanics of shifting

On the third, sometimes fourth, Friday of every April, the Jammu and Kashmir government shuts down for five working days (but nine days in all). It reopens in Srinagar on the first Monday of May.

Similarly, on the third or fourth Friday of every October, the state government shuts down for five working days and reopens in Jammu on the first Monday of November. To the extent possible it is ensured that bureaucrats are in Jammu for Diwali.

What is the Darbar Move in J&K all about? | MAY 08, 2017 | The Hindu adds:

Security measures and other arrangements are made to ensure smooth functioning of the offices in Kashmir Valley, which [has sometimes] witnessed militant activities.

Ahead of the Darbar Move, Srinagar usually receives a facelift every year. Roads around and leading to the Civil Secretariat, the seat of the government, are renovated. Besides, the government offices and quarters have been renovated and the streetlights restored, officials said. [Similarly, government houses in Jammu are whitewashed in the weeks before Diwali.]

While most of the Kashmir-based government employees associated with the Civil Secretariat and other departments arrive in the Valley [a day or two after offices close in Jammu], Jammu-based employees arrive in Srinagar [a day or two before offices reopen in Srinagar]. The Jammu and Kashmir High court also moves from Jammu to Srinagar in summers and vice versa in winters.

Hundreds of trucks are usually plied to carry furniture, office files, computers, and other records to the capital.


Prabhash K Dutta| Kashmir's Darbar Move: Can Mehbooba Mufti do away with 145-year-old Rs 100 crore ritual? | May 8, 2017 | India Today adds:


Darbar Move is the relocation of the secretariat in Jammu and Kashmir.

Darbar Move is estimated to cost Rs 100 crore.

Farooq Abdullah attempted to stop Darbar Move.


Srinagar is the summer capital while during the winters Jammu becomes the seat of power of the state government.

WHAT HAPPENS IN DARBAR MOVE?

India Today continues:


Thousands of official documents and equipment are packed in hundreds of bundles, cartons and metallic trunks and loaded into over 200 trucks in Jammu to transport them for over 300 kilometres to Srinagar.

Every year the state secretariat is relocated from Jammu to Srinagar with hundreds of employees [around five thousand, actually] boarding buses to travel to Srinagar. This is done in phases.

The Records' Convoy and employees leave separately and are escorted by police teams. Interestingly, empty trucks, buses and a crane travels with them till Srinagar during every Darbar Move.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court also moves from Jammu to Srinagar in summers and in the opposite direction in the winter.

A TYPICAL DARBAR MOVE

[In 2017] the winter capital of Jammu was closed on April 28. The convoys of employees started leaving Jammu on April 30th. On May 8 the summer capital began to work at 9.30 am. All the secretariat offices were reopened.

All the 89 legislators including the ministers and about 5,000 employees including top bureaucrats were moved from Jammu to Srinagar. Each employee receives a travel allowance of Rs 15,000. Till a couple of years back, this amount was Rs 10,000.

A total of about 100 state government offices were moved. The government manages the immediate accommodation of the employees moving from Jammu to Srinagar. They are lodged in hotels, state government's guest houses, private rooms and other places till a suitable accommodation is finalised for all the employees.

This is also an occasion, when Srinagar usually gets a facelift. The potholes on the roads are filled, zebra crossings are painted afresh, railings are repaired and repainted, and traffic signals are examined and fixed. However, this year the beautification of Srinagar is reported to have taken a hit.

WILL THIS PRACTICE END?

The practice of Darbar Move approximately costs Rs 100 crore twice a year. {Citation needed. Mr Saraf, a former judge, puts it at a third of this figure. The Hindu put the figure at ₹40 crore, presumably for the whole year}. Demands have been raised [mainly by journalists and politicians from outside the state] to put an end to this unnecessary [sic] practice but with no success.

Former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah tried to stop this practice when he issued orders to keep the secretariat in Srinagar throughout the year in 1987. Farooq Abdullah's decision was met with vehement opposition from politicians of Jammu region.

Farooq Abdullah was forced to reverse his decision within a month. His bold attempt to stop the Darbar from moving two times a year failed.

Farooq's son and Omar Abdullah summed up the politics behind the Darbar Move in a tweet when he was the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

Omar Abdullah's tweet read, "Do I think the 'Durbar move' is a waste of money? Yes I do. Is there an alternative? I haven't seen a viable alternative suggested."

1987: Dr. Abdullah's failed attempt to end the practice

Why Darbar Move could not be discontinued

B L Saraf | Darbar move|12/05/2017 Daily Excelsior

Mr. Saraf is a former Principal District & Sessions Judge


Our rulers have a ritualistic denunciation of this practice [which began in 1872]. The political ritual developed in 1987 when Farooq Abdullah, after staging a comeback to the Chief Minister’s chair to head NC -INC coalition Government – pursuant to his accord with the then PM Rajiv Gandhi – made a declaration that he would dispense with the tradition of bi-annual Darbar move Rajiv Gandhi lent him full support Both went on to describe the practice a ” retrograde move ” which caused unjustifiable drain on the state exchequer ‘. Now [in 2017] we have Speaker of the Assembly wanting to abandon the practice, on the similar grounds. BJP has endorsed his statement J&K Panthers Party and Dogra Saddar Sabha, Jammu are vociferously campaigning for scrapping the Darbar shift Before it snowballs into another controversy and issue is made of it, the matter must be put in proper perspective

It needs to be recalled that Farooq Abdullah’s attempt to do away with the bi- annual Darbar move was fought tooth and nail by the people in Jammu region A peaceful agitation, against the declaration, was launched here under the leader ship of Bar Association, Jammu. The month long agitation in the autumn of 1987, finally saw the C M backing out of his announcement. Barring the ritualistic noise, thereafter, it has been a happy life for the annual Darbar move

In 1987, we had an occasion to make a comment on the declaration of Farooq Abdullah It is time to make a recollection of that. No doubt the Darbar shifting exercise involves expenditure. In 1987, it was calculated at Rs 3.5 crore. Today it may be ten times more but the benefits in terms of social cohesion, emotional integration and political unity, the shifting of [civil] secretariat brings in, far outweigh the monetary considerations involved in the process

It is no denying that there is little common between the people living in two provinces of the state-by way of geography, history social fabric and cultural activity. Yet they have been living harmoniously like a one political entity. The practice of bi-annual Darbar move ‘has with great degree of success cemented the diametrically opposed social and cultural relations between the different peoples, living in the Valley and Jammu region. The exercise besides being a movement of the Capital constitutes a measure aimed at the emotional integration of two different ethnic groups. In fact it provides a raison d’être for nomenclature of the State (J&K).

The Darbar move not only brings capital near to the people of each region but also helps them to hear each other’s heart throb. Surely, there can be no better mode of uniting people than the one of bi- annual shifting of the Darbar For the territorial and political integration of Jammu and Kashmir the practice of bi- annual Darbar move has, indeed, proved a boon. We owe it to our far sighted rulers from the Dogra land

Stoppage of Darbar move will put to a halt the process of coming together of people of different regions of the State. Today, when in India need of the hour is to transcend geographical and cultural barriers doing away with the shift process will mean an inculpable loss to the composite character. It will result in compartmentalization that shall be incompatible with the national and emotional integration of the people. For those who want disintegration of J&K, the stoppage of the bi -annual practice would come as God send opportunity. In Kashmir some people are complaining of an imaginary cultural onslaught and, therefore, want minimum interaction with the mainland this comes close on their campaign to erase all signs of composite culture and paint, left over, in a sectarian colour. Scrapping of the Secretariat shift will surely embolden them to proceed vigorously with the unholy design

One gift, among so many, the Dogra Rulers gave to the people of J&K has been the incarnation of bi-annual Darbar move tradition The exercise has, thus far, proved a singular instrument that has imperceptibly and without any clatter cut across the regional and psychological barriers and gave people a sense of oneness It is our duty to uphold the tradition.

For the patriotic people of Jammu it is time to recall autumn 1987 spirit and rekindle the nationalistic fervour Instead of being unwitting facilitators, we must be a bulwark against the fissiparous elements working overtime in State, more particularly in the Valley Party politics can wait.

The agitation of 1987

Excerpt from My FrozenTturbulence in Kashmir by Mr Jagmohan, twice the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir
Excerpt from My FrozenTturbulence in Kashmir by Mr Jagmohan, twice the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir

What happened in October- November 1987?

The following excerpts help recreate the events:


The Hindu recalls: In January 1987, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, stranded in the Kashmir Valley due to heavy snowfall, had asked the government “to review the age-old practice”.

AG Noorani added in Frontline: ‘In October 1987, Jammu erupted in fury when Farooq Abdullah, at Rajiv Gandhi’s behest, ended the Darbar Move by which the government functioned alternately from Srinagar and Jammu every six months. It was not communal but regional self-assertion.’ [Emphasis added]

Though Mr Rajiv Gandhi is generally believed to have initiated the move, once the issue blew up and tensions flared up “Congress (I), [which was Dr Abdullah’s] political partner blamed him for not taking them into confidence even on such crucial issues as his disastrous proposal for a permanent durbar move to Srinagar. This proposal not only alienated the two partners and created tension between the residents of Jammu and the valley but also forced a critical self examination of the Congress (I)'s role within the ruling coalition. On its part, Congress (I) itself was split from within, with Rajesh Pilot supporting Ghulam Rasool Kar and his PCC (I) nominees and Gulam Nabi Azad and K.N. Singh supporting Ansari, Shafi Qureshi and Rafiq Sadiq.” (From a thesis published on Shodhganga)

India Today’s Nov 1987 report

Vipul Mudgal |Jammu explodes in anger over state Cabinet's decision to permanently locate 29 of the 49 government departments at Srinagar | November 30, 1987 | India Today

Police chasing rioters: Public ire
From India Today, November 30, 1987


This winter is proving to be a politically warm one for Jammu. The immediate provocation for escalating violence in the region lay in the state Cabinet's decision to permanently locate 29 of the 49 government departments at Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital, instead of moving them to Jammu in winter. But in another sense, the people were also betraying their anger at what they see as the neglect of their area over the years.

So intense was local resentment that last fortnight saw a series of long-drawn-out bandhs in Jammu and half-a-dozen smaller towns. The indefinite bandh called by the Jammu Bar Association entered the sixth day last week even as the state Government warned its employees against involvement and locked up at least 150 agitators.

The violence was alarming and the large-scale arrests had little effect. Over a dozen shops were looted and scores of government buildings stoned and ransacked. A few cases of arson were also registered. In the border towns of Poonch, Rajouri and Udhampur, police lathi-charged unruly mobs.

Although a party to the agitation, the local unit of the Muslim Action Committee (MAC), has been disturbed by the violence and has now urged the state Government to curb miscreants.

The MAC and the Awami National Conference (ANC) are represented on the agitators' Joint Action Committee which is controlled by the bar association. Other committee constituents include the BJP, Shiv Sena, Janata Party and International Democratic Front, a youth organisation which is influential in some pockets.

The controversy began last April after Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, at an official function in Srinagar, made a fleeting reference to the biannual shifting of the state's capital. He said that the 100-year-old tradition of shifting 'durbar' - government departments and the secretariat - to Jammu in winter needed rationalisation.

Soon after came Farooq's statement hinting that the people of the state would soon have their permanent capital in Srinagar. This triggered off protests in the Assembly and Farooq changed his stand, saying that no such move was afoot.

Six months later, on October 7, the chief minister suddenly declared that 29 departments would no longer be shifted to Jammu every winter. A series of strikes immediately erupted. The lead was taken by the bar association which struck work in courts on October 10. The strike continues. The Muslim-dominated towns of Poonch, Rajouri and Akhnor also responded to the call of the bar association President D.K. Khajuria, and observed a bandh on October 16.

So great was the public pressure that even leaders of the Congress(I) an ally of Farooq's National Conference - including MPs Janakraj Gupta and Girdharilal Dogra joined opposition leaders in condemning the move. Their attitude softened only after Farooq announced that 20 other departments would be permanently located at Jammu.

The agitationists are not impressed. Says Janata Party leader S.S. Lahar: "The Government tried to fool the people of Jammu by giving them totally insignificant departments." While the major departments like that of finance commissioner, industries, cooperatives and forests have been retained at Srinagar, Jammu has been allocated minor offices like those of the joint financial commissioner (agrarian reforms), inspector-general (prisons) and deputy inspector general (railways and crime).

Farooq maintains that the tradition of shifting durbar is obsolete and needs modifications which could result in an annual saving of Rs 6 crore. He vehemently denies the allegation that the step is aimed at appeasing the Muslims of Kashmir valley where the Muslim United Front and the ANC are gaining ground.

He defends the allocation of departments between Srinagar and Jammu saying that this has been done on a "requirement basis". Moreover, he argues, the move will solve the problem of accommodation in both cities.

If the public resentment in Jammu is a pointer, Farooq's arguments seem to have fallen flat. "Going by the requirement principle, the Industries Department should be stationed at Jammu where most of state's private sector units are situated," says Khajuria. Strong economic reasons fuel the people's resistance to change.

Everyone - be it a roadside vendor or a big trader - does several times more business during the six months of durbar than in the rest of the year. Opposition leaders in Jammu are apprehensive that their region will be isolated once the decision is implemented and people fear Kashmiri domination which, they feel, already exists.

The fact that several developmental projects in the past meant for the Jammu region have been abandoned attracts the public's ire, as it is. These include the opening of agricultural and engineering colleges, a HMT watch factory and a unit of the Indian Telephone Industries.

Besides, a gas-turbine power generation project and a Rs 120-crore colour picture tube unit are in jeopardy. The Planning Commission has stalled these projects on technical grounds although the prime minister himself had announced them before the electoral victory of the National Conference-Congress(I) alliance.

In the backdrop of the atmosphere of resentment and mistrust, the agitators have rejected the Government's attempts at reconciliation. Even the last offer of the Cabinet Subcommittee - appointed by Farooq following the protests - to give each city an equal number of departments has not been accepted.

Meanwhile, in Srinagar the local bar association has begun a counter-movement - though a much less vehement one - in support of the government move. The Srinagar movement, which is seen in Jammu as being sponsored by the state Government, poses the threat of turning the struggle into a communal one. In any case, how much this will help Farooq is open to question.

State Congress(I) leaders have appealed to Home Minister Buta Singh to intervene and persuade the chief minister to withdraw the order. But with both the state Government and the agitators sticking to their guns, it is hard to foresee an amicable settlement. [But an amicable settlement was reached by simply withdrawing the order.]

India Today’s Dec 1987 report

Inderjit Badhwar | End of the honeymoon | December 15, 1987 | India Today


The durbar move botches the Congress(I)-NC alliance


The recent state-wide strikes over the durbar move paralysed and polarised the state of Jammu and Kashmir as never before. The question now being asked is what has been the lasting effect of these disturbances on the politics of the state. A report and an analysis by Features Editor Inderjit Badhwar.

Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah's badly bungled - and now aborted - durbar move has once again plunged the politics of the state of Jammu & Kashmir into a chaotic point of no return. It has boomeranged on Farooq, who now faces what could be the most serious challenge to his leadership.

It has also eroded the Congress(I)'s already shaky base in Jammu and weakend whatever remained of the Congress(I) - National Conference (NC) ruling alliance. And most importantly, it has created an atmosphere of severe distrust between the Centre and the NC.

While politicians are pointing fingers at one another and screaming betrayal and duplicity, the people of the state are recovering from the two bandhs - one in Jammu and the other in the valley - that paralysed all activity in the first three weeks of November. So complete and devastating were the bandhs, that banks, transportation and business activities ground to an complete halt.

Said Bashir Ahmad Khan, the state's additional advocate general [and later High Court judge]: "I've never seen such a popular, emotionally-charged and spontaneous upsurge on both sides." Added Altaf Naik, an attorney supporting the bandh in the valley: "This time the politicians are caught in a tight squeeze. The people have simply lost all faith in them."

Though the Jammu and Kashmir bandhs were not quite simultaneous and each division was protesting in its own interests, their targets were the same - Farooq, the ruling alliance Government, and the Centre. But due to its direct intervention to stem the crisis in mid-November, the Centre has temporarily been able to extricate itself from blame for the developments in the state.

The brunt of popular resentment is therefore being borne by Farooq in Kashmir and the Congress(I) in Jammu. The net gainers, so far, are the BJP in Jammu, and the Muslim United Front (MUF) and other opposition forces in the valley. Not surprisingly, a war of recrimination has broken out within the ruling alliance, with each partner blaming the other for the deteriorating situation.


"Congress(I) legislators pressurised the Jammu Bar Association to walk off the negotiating table."

Mohammed Shafi, agriculture minister, NC


Said Agriculture Minister Mohammed Shafi, NC: "The Government was on the verge of coming to an amicable solution of the Jammu bandh in talks with the Jammu Bar Association, but certain Congress(I) legislators pressurised them to walk off the table." Retorted Rangil Singh, Congress(I) MLA from Jammu's R.S. Pura constituency: "They (the NC) have only themselves to blame. But they don't admit that."

This patchwork quilt of menacing political colours appears to have been woven by both design and impulsiveness. The durbar move - a feudal tradition whereby the state capital along with government departments shifts every six months from Srinagar to Jammu and back - has been the subject of heated debate in the state for several years.

As the state Government has expanded enormously into about 37 different departments, some 5,000 employees are involved in the migration at a cost of Rs 4 crore to the exchequer as well as a few thousand wasted manhours.

The idea of rationalising the stationing of departments or a move towards a permanent capital has been discussed in the past, but no government has dared to push it because of the emotional backlash such a step would produce.

The two divisions, Jammu with a population of 29 lakh (17 per cent Muslims) and Kashmir with a population of 32 lakh (90 per cent Muslims), are as different as day from night, culturally and linguistically. And both complain of unequal treatment from the Government, with good reason.

The shifting of the capital, no matter how logistically trying, provides not only some emotional integration between the two people but also jobs, more business, access to patronage and speedier decision-making.

And shifting the capital permanently to Srinagar, Jammu residents feel, would be the first step in achieving Sheikh Abdullah's dream of a "greater Kashmir" - by annexing the Muslim majority areas of Jammu - Doda and Poonch - to the valley, thereby dividing the state along dangerously communal lines.

It is patently obvious that any precipitous move towards shifting the capital permanently to either region, without public acceptance, would be a certain invitation to disaster. On October 7, Farooq's Government suddenly announced that despite the winter shift of the capital to Jammu, some 20 departments would remain at Srinagar.

What enraged the people of Jammu was that the Industries Department, most crucial to Jammu because the region is preeminently industrial, and the Financial Commissionerate which is a court of appeal, were being left behind in Srinagar. This raised the suspicion that it was the first step towards gradually establishing Srinagar as the permanent capital.

"This cabinet decision," says Rangil Singh, "hit us like a bolt from the blue and it was contrary to all the assurances given to us by the Government." The decision, nonetheless, smacked of an element of planning, a political gamble, that the Farooq Government was willing to take, even at the risk of jeopardising the coalition with the Congress(I). The majority of the Congress(I)'s seats are from the Jammu region, whose interests party legislators have sworn to protect.

What had emboldened the NC to take this decision at this juncture, was an off hand statement by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, during his visit to Srinagar in January [1987]. He remarked that it was strange that while the people of the valley were suffering the hardships of winter, the capital was in Jammu. Using Rajiv's statement as his excuse.

Farooq made a statement on television later that month, that his government would take steps to discontinue the durbar move. Following stiff opposition from his Congress(I) allies and the people of Jammu, Farooq denied making that statement. But later, he insisted that the governor's address to the Assembly in March, must contain a paragraph supporting changes in the durbar move.

Again, because of renewed opposition in the Assembly, Farooq issued a categorical assurance that no modification in the durbar move would be undertaken without prior consultation with the legislators of the Jammu region.


"This cabinet decision hit us like a bolt from the blue. It contradicted all the Government's assurances."

Rangil Singh, Congress(I) MLA from Jammu


There is little doubt that the October 7 decision was taken without consultation. Not even a cabinet note was issued on the subject. According to sources within and outside the Government, it was a political ploy by Farooq to regain some of his lost popularity at the expense of his Congress(I) partners.

After the political demise of Maulana Ifteqar Anasari and his Congress(I) voting Shia base, and the downfall of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the stalwart Congress(I) leader - both engineered by Farooq during his accord with Rajiv - the Congress(I) has been virtually wiped out from the valley.

In the durbar move, NC hardliners who have never really accepted the alliance, saw an opportunity to wipe out the Congress(I)'s base in Jammu. This, they thought, would also be a way of refurbishing Farooq's image as a hero in Kashmir and wooing MUF supporters who are against the alliance with the "Dilli Durbar".

That the BJP may gain strength in Jammu as a result of the agitation, has been overlooked by the NC, with good reason. Unlike the Congress(I), the BJP, notwithstanding its communal tinge, has never been a political threat to the NC in the valley. In fact, in 1980 the BJP and NC had allied to form the city council in Jammu at the expense of the Congress(I).

But Farooq's Government probably failed to foresee the strength of the popular reaction in Jammu. For nearly 10 consecutive days, starting November 3, the city and surrounding districts were paralysed. People formed human chains of hunger strikers and hundreds of BJP workers courted arrest.

On October 20 after several Congress(I) MLAs including Singh, Mangat Ram Sharma and Girdhari Lal Dogra, issued mildly worded public statements opposing the truncated move, the state Government formed a cabinet subcommittee to negotiate with the bandh leaders.

But the damage to the Congress(I) had already been done. While lawyers, students, transporters and shopkeepers protested in the streets. Congress(I) legislators, being a part of the Government, were forced to sit back. As a result, they were condemned as gaddars.

In some places, Congress(I) MLAs were stoned and gheraoed in their houses, while others refused to show their faces in public. As BJP leader Chaman Lal Gupta, put it: "The people are convinced that the Congress(I), elected on the promise to serve Jammu's interests, has deserted them." Senior Congress(I) leaders admit that they have suffered a total loss of credibility, that they may never be able to recapture.

On the 10th day of the Jammu bandh. Sharma, the leader of the Congress(I) Legislature Party, flew to Delhi for discussions with the high command during which he pointed out that the party had been damaged badly.

Rajiv Gandhi had also received intelligence reports that NC legislators were spreading the word that the bifurcated durbar move was being carried out at the behest of the prime minister, in an effort to cast him in the role of a villain in Jammu. On November 13, Rajiv despatched Home Minister Buta Singh to Srinagar with a statement, to be signed by Farooq, rescinding the October 7 decision.

Farooq agreed, but his government failed to make the announcement that day. The next day Buta Singh called Farooq from Delhi and told him in no uncertain terms that he should comply. That evening Farooq went on television and announced that the order was rescinded. So ended the Jammu bandh.

NC leaders, among them Revenue Minister P.L. Handoo, are of the opinion that the Congress(I) deliberately betrayed the coalition by asking the Centre to act just when the cabinet subcommittee was about to arrive at a solution through negotiations.

"They did this to appease communal sentiments in Jammu," one NC minister said. But Congress(I) leaders say that the subcommittee continued to delay issuing recommendations in order to let the Congress(I) stew longer in its own juice.

A different game was being played out in the valley. Here, a few days after the Jammu bandh started, prominent lawyers from the bar association began to organise a protest committee in order to call for an agitation.

"We felt that if the Government was in the process of entering an agreement with the Jammu organisations, then surely public opinion here should also be taken into consideration," said bar association President, Mian Abdul Qayoom.

The lawyers' call for a concurrent Jammu agitation was also backed by NC leaders, who believed that a counter-protest movement in the valley would give Farooq a bargaining chip as well as rally renewed Kashmiri support behind him and boost his sagging public image. The Srinagar bar had also passed a resolution that the city should ultimately be made the permanent capital of the state.

Initially, opposition parties in the valley kept away from the bar's and the NC's call for a simultaneous protest movement. As Peoples Conference chief Abdul Ghani Lone put it: "The durbar move was no real issue for us. It was anyway a half-way measure and we did not want to participate in a NC-backed movement to rally Kashmiri Muslims around Farooq and replay him as a hero."

But on November 14, hell broke loose in the valley. Farooq's rescission of the October 7 order was seen as a total surrender to Delhi and to Jammu's interests, without any consultation with the valley. The bar association went on an indefinite strike and the valley was plunged into a complete bandh.

Soon, the opposition parties, including the MUF, seeing the width and depth of public emotion, issued calls for separate bandhs and demanded Farooq's resignation. "Interference by the Centre," said additional advocate general Khan, "certainly galvanised the people into action."

But the protest in Kashmir had taken a new twist. What had started out as a movement to support Farooq, has turned into a virulently anti-Farooq agitation. Just as the chief minister's October 7 order had proved to be a virtual oxygen supply to the BJP in Jammu, his reversal of it was an adrenalin booster for the Opposition in the valley.

Even Maulvi Farooq, leader of the Awami Action Committee, an ally of Farooq, remarked: "The whole thing smacks of total immaturity. Farooq should have resigned rather than accept Central interference in the affairs of the state."

While the Kashmir bandh is now over, there are bitter feelings all over. The state Government has appointed a second negotiating committee to talk to the striking Srinagar lawyers who insist that their agitation will go into a second phase unless the status quo ante (pre November 14) is restored and the Government agrees in principle to make Srinagar the permanent capital. Says Bilal Nazki, bar association vice-president: "They are negotiating with us now. Why not before November 14?"

Last fortnight, the Government departments that had been retained in Srinagar were moving into Jammu in a politically charged atmosphere. And with the tensions between the alliance partners stretching to breaking-point, the Rajiv-Farooq honeymoon came to an abrupt end.

In this political climate there is little chance that the Government will govern efficiently and fulfil the alliance promise of speedy development and fighting communalism.

In order to regain its lost ground in Jammu, the Congress(I) will insist that there be changes in Farooq's Ministry. The Centre will want stronger Congress(I) men to be taken into the Cabinet, to replace those who were railroaded into accepting the October 7 order.

It will also want the anti-coalition NC ministers to be removed. But one of Farooq's closest advisers noted that he "will no longer be pushed to the wall and if the Centre messes with him any further, they may as well write off the state".

But the reality is that if Farooq proves recalcitrant again, the Centre, as it has done before, will probably consider writing off Farooq and looking for an alternative leader. [No such thing happened.]

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