Erstwhile Doda (Chenab Valley)

A new word has entered the lexicon, or nomenclature, recently, whenever a reference is to be made to what comprised Doda (district) earlier. Incidentally, three new districts were created out of much larger Doda when Ghulam Nabi Azad was the Chief Minister (November 2002 to July 2008). These new districts are Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban.

This comparatively new word is Chenab Valley. It is gaining currency among the people living in Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban. And by repeated usage among others, the security forces, the government of Jammu and Kashmir. All over.

The three districts are linked by the river Chenab which passes through all of them, entering Jammu and Kashmir in Kishtwar. The word Chenab Valley is perhaps less than a decade old, or may be aged a little more. Give or take a couple of years. Either way.

The simple and straight question that can be asked is: Is there a valley that exists along the two banks, or either bank of river Chenab in any of these three districts?

No. No valley exists in either of three districts in fact because the areas through which Chenab flows in these districts is steeply mountainous. The gradient is very sharp and at most areas through these districts the width of river is not much. It is the fast flow, and depth which characterize the river in its journey through these districts.

The question that needs to be asked is why an issue should be made out of naming of some place? The answer is because the name is wrong. The name, any name, should be correct to the extent possible, and the name Chenab Valley is totally wrong.

What is a valley? Geographically? Kashmir is a Valley on either side of river Jhelum where the land is flat. It has a particular width and a particular length. At Uri, where the river Jhelum exits India, is that area a valley? Where the river flows fast and furious, at a sharp gradient? No, it is not a valley here. It is a gorge.

According to Wikipedia, the Kashmir Valley is around 135 km long, and 32 km wide. As you cross Jawahar Tunnel, from Jammu, while going towards Srinagar, you start descending down the hill, and reach a place popularly known as Titanic Point. Jutting westwards, as you stand there, it offers a view, the first view actually, of the Kashmir valley.

What are the dimensions of the so-called Chenab Valley? The geographical dimensions of this valley? Where does this valley start and where does it end?

The word Chenab Valley perhaps gained currency, and is becoming more acceptable now, because the J&K government named a joint venture company called Chenab Valley Power Projects (P) Limited on 13/06/2011. It was on this date that the entity was incorporated in the shape of a joint venture between NHPC Limited, JKSPDC and PTC (India) Limited.

The company was constituted to execute three Hydroelectric Power Projects (HEPs). These projects are Pakkal Dul, Kiru and Kwar. These HEPs are to be set up on Chenab river and its tributaries, and none of them is located in a valley. All these three HEPs are located in high mountains.

The word Chenab Valley, a misnomer in every way, is acquiring dangerous communal overtones of late. At one level, it is an attempt to create discontent in areas south of Pir Panjals, which are geographically located in the Jammu region. These areas have remained much under-developed as compared to some other areas in the state. The vast difficult terrain has been a huge challenge.

They have a Muslim majority and most of the Legislative Assembly seats, four out of a total of six located in three districts, have been bagged by Hindus. Incidentally, all these Hindus are affiliated to the BJP. The areas being represented by these Hindu MLAs are Doda and Bhaderwah assembly constituencies in Doda district. Ramban assembly constituency in Ramban district and Kishtwar assembly constituency in Kishtwar district. The assembly segments of Inderwal in Kishtwar district and Banihal in Ramban district are represented by Muslim MLAs.

The wrong nomenclature, Chenab Valley, is a precursor to an attempt to execute the Sir Owen Dixon plan. In short, this plan called Dixon Plan, conceived over six decades ago, envisages merging or making Muslim-majority areas, actually all the three districts of Kishtwar, Doda and Ramban into Kashmir. Or separate them from the administrative control of the Jammu division somehow. As a first step.

This division is totally communal but it is being projected by those supporting it as a development issue. Lack of development of these areas is being cited as a reason for (feeble) demands for separation of these areas from Jammu. The argument being advanced is that once these areas get merged in Kashmir, development will be hastened here.

Generally, a trend has been witnessed in the Kashmir valley to rename places in a manner that the new names are Islamic inn origin. And a negation of the earlier Hindu identity of the places. For example, calling Anantnag as Islamabad.

This communal division in the minds of a part of the ethnic Kashmiri intelligentsia and some from Jammu region too, envisages breaking Jammu division into Chenab Valley, Pir Panjals and a rump constituting the rest of Jammu division areas.