We are closely related to the Punjab culturally, ethnically, and linguistically. The noise of Punjabi music reverberates at high volumes here, whether it is in buses, festivals, weddings and the like. The region is predominantly Hindu although there are Muslims, Sikhs and some Christians communities too. The population is considered as being rather conservative. Despite being situated so close to Kashmir the region is culturally very different. The majority seem oblivious to the realities of the Kashmir conflict and are regarded by Kashmiris as being xenophobic. Yes, I am talking about Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, which does not feature Ladakh, its third region in its title.
Jammu is known as the city of temples. In this multi-ethnic region Dogras are the single largest group living with Punjabis, Bakerwals, Paharis, Gujjars, and Kashmiris. The population is proud of its Dogra identity and speak the Dogri language, a dialect of Pahari-Punjabi. Many Kashmiri Hindus, who migrated from Kashmir in 1989, also live in Jammu. The percentage of Kashmiri Muslims in Jammu rises in winters when offices move from Srinagar, along with people, in order to escape from the cold of Kashmir to this warmer place. Many Kashmiris own their own flats in Jammu and some have businesses there too and hire buildings and rooms for the winter; almost every official employee who gets a government apartment there during winters take his family alongside too.
Due to successive unrest and turmoil in mainstream politics in the Valley, Jammu has experienced growth and development. Most of the region of Jammu doesn’t suffer the violence and militarisation that afflicts Kashmir. Mostly the border areas are influenced by cross-border firing. Those who move and live outside Kashmir get an experience of living in a security-free place and get a taste of life bereft of any military control.
The three regions of Kashmir are meant to symbolise the presence of three religions – Kashmir as a place for Muslims, Jammu for Hindus and Ladakh for Buddhists – but when the boundaries of cultures twitch, intermingling different cultures, how are people giving room to political or religious stereotyping? There is a famed narrative associated with the origin of the Jammu.
Raja Jambu Lochan, the founder of the city Jambu-Nagar, which then later changed into Jammu, commanded the building of this city in the 14th century BC when he reached the Tawi River and was amazed to see a goat and a lion drinking water at the same place, noticing that once they fulfilled their thirst, they went their own ways. “This is a place of peace and tranquillity!” The king exclaimed on watching a lion and a goat drank water side by side.
Rather than struggling to dominate a particular ideology, we should live in peace and tranquillity, like that deer and lion, and celebrate the heterogeneity of people living either in Jammu or Ladakh or Kashmir or the people of these regions living side by side. When the State is one, the people should be one and that is the key to our prosperity and development.
Muddasir Ramzan was born in 1990 in Kashmir, India, where he resides. He studied English Literature and is a budding writer. His writings have been published in various national and international journals in India, Pakistan and the UK and he regularly writes blogs for the Muslim Institute. He can be contacted at muddasirramzan[at]gmail[dot]com.