The Bold Voice of J&K

Nowshera on the boil

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PROF HARI OM
JAMMU: Nowshera is a strategic Tehsil of Jammu province. It is also a historic town having a fort built by Mughals. One of the town’s roads is also called Mughal Road. The oldest Army Cantonment is also at Nowshera. Mughal rulers used to go to Kashmir through this road. It’s located very near the Line of Control. Nowshera is, in fact, lifeline of India. Pakistan has been trying to weaken this lifeline since 1965 to play its nefarious games in this strategically vital area, but with no result. The reason: Nowshera is almost 100 per cent Hindu-Sikh-dominated. In other words, Pakistan and its agents in Kashmir, who wanted to breach this lifeline to play havoc with the Indian defence, have till date failed to get any local support. Similar is the situation in Sunderbani, which witnessed the killing of four fidayeens from Pakistan on March 28.
Nowshera is in news these days. The people there, including Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, have been demanding district status for their tehsil for more than 44 days now. All shops and business establishments are closed since then. Nowshera town has, in addition, witnessed closure of all offices, schools and banks, for 37 days. It was unprecedented. Such was the nature of the movement in the town that the district administration backed to the hilt by the PDP-BJP Government couldn’t do anything to get the offices reopened. Offices were reopened after 37 days because the local people themselves allowed them to get reopened.
Nowshera town is witnessing a remarkable unity. The reign of senseless brutalities unleashed by the state government has failed to deter them and weaken their resolve. In fact, they have termed the “oppression as a blessing in disguise” and they are taking forward their movement with a renewed zeal. This, notwithstanding the fact that the police used excessive force a number of times against the peaceful unarmed agitating people of Nowshera leading to injuries to almost 50 persons, including men, women and children. One young Sikh boy Jaswinder Singh even lost his one eye. He, like many others, including Bindu Chaudhar, are still under is under treatment.
The nature of oppression could be gauged from the fact that police even entered Thakar Dwara on March 24 and used “expired teargas shells” against them injuring at least a dozen women, who had gathered there to offer prayers and celebrate Navratras. It could also me measured from the fact that police entered local hospitals and targeted innocent civilians, Hindus and Sikhs included. The fact of the matter is that the administration has been doing all that it could since weeks to kill the movement, but with no success as the people of Nowshera are committed to achieving their goal at whatever cost.
Is the demand of the people of Nowshera genuine? Yes, if one goes by the facts. Nowshera was given the status of Niabat as early as in 1938 and was declared a notified area committee in 1942. Maharaja Hari Singh conferred the status of a full-fledged tehsil on Nowshera in 1947. Sunderbani and Kalakot tehsils were once part of Nowshera tehsil. After 1947, Nowshera became part of Poonch district. It was this which led to the demand seeking district status for Nowshera. The Government of GM Sadiq even agreed to give district status to it and an announcement to this effect was made through radio in 1967.
However, some elements in Rajouri — also part of Poonch district — played a negative role and succeeded in scuttling the movement of the people of Nowshera. In 1968, Rajouri district was created out of Poonch district and Nowshera tehsil was made part of Rajouri district. The merger of Nowshera with Rajouri district led to strong protests in the town. To mollify them, the state government created a post of Assistant Commissioner for the town and Amin Shah was the first Assistant Commissioner. IN fact, he turned out to be the first and last Assistant Commissioner of Nowshera, as his office was also shifted to Rajouri under a “dubious plan”.
In 2004, Nowshera got the status of Sub-District and first Sub-Divisional Magistrate was posted, along with Additional Superintendent Police. The jurisdiction of the then Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nowshera extended to the Sunderbani and Kalakot tehsils. The total area was 1,352 sq km, which was 50 per cent of the total area of Rajouri district.
In 2014, the government of Omar Abdullah created new administrative units, as also new subdivisions of Sunderbani and Kalakot out of Nowshera sub-division. However, Nowshera continued to enjoy maximum jurisdiction. Its jurisdiction extended to tehsils Nowshera, Qila Darhal and Beripatan and to rural development blocks, including Nowshera, Seri, Qila Darhal and Lamberi.
It needs to be underlined that Ghulam Nabi Azad Government created new 8 districts in 2007 subverting the Wazir Commission Report that had recommended three new districts of Samba, Ramban and Reasi in Jammu province and Bandipora in Kashmir province to hit the people of Jammu and pander to Kashmir. He ignored Nowshera, despite the fact sub-division Samba and sub-division Nowshera were created by the same government order in 2004.
All these facts clinch the whole issue and establish that people of Nowshera deserve district status. The proposed district of Nowshera will consist of Nowshera, Kalakot and Sunderbani sub-divisions, seven tehsils, four police stations, four police posts and nine rural development blocks.
The demand of the people of Nowshera is as genuine as it is rational and justifiable. If Shopian tehsil in Kashmir with one just Shopian tehsil having a land area of just 312 sq km could be declared a district, why can’t Nowshera with three sub-divisions and seven tehsils with a land area of 1352 sq km be declared a district? The people of Nowshera appear right when they complain that the authorities’ approach is “communal” and that “they are not granting district status to Nowshera just because it is overwhelmingly Hindu-Sikh”. The government would do well to grant Nowshera district status so that peace was restored in the sensitive border belt.

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