‘Review Darbar Move Order’: Jammu Traders Petition Raj Bhavan

Sunil Dimple during a peaceful protest in Jammu.

Almost a fortnight after the ‘Darbar Move’ employees were asked to vacate their official quarters, traders and transporters from Jammu are rallying for the age-old practice, calling it a “symbol of unity”, while appealing Lieutenant Governor to scrap the order.

FROM last few days, a number of political and social activists under the leadership of Sunil Dimple, president “Mission Statehood”—a movement for the restoration of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir—held peaceful protest appealing government to reconsider the decision of stopping Darbar Move practice and end the “uncertainty, unrest” among the traders and transporters of Jammu.

“I want to remind the government that Darbar Move was once stopped by earlier governments but traders and transporters from Jammu united and the mass agitation took place and the government had to withdraw the order,” Dimple told Kashmir Observer.

“This is the 150-year-old bond of love between the two regions. We appeal Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to kindly review the order.”

Thousands of employees working in civil secretariats, with headquarters in Jammu and Srinagar, would move along with their families twice every year. While Srinagar served as the summer capital, Jammu was the winter capital.

Over the years, the practice boosted Jammu, economically. A number of Kashmiris would travel to the winter capital along with their families to escape the harsh winters — thus furthering the business of Jammu traders.

But last month, LG Sinha drew curtains over the age-old practice of shifting capitals between Srinagar and Jammu. Following Raj Bhavan’s directive, the Jammu and Kashmir administration cancelled residential accommodations of Darbar Move employees in Jammu and Srinagar on June 30, 2021.

“Employees shall vacate their government residential accommodation under occupation within 21 days from the date of issuance of this order,” reads the order of the J&K Estates Department.

Although the prominent traders from Jammu—including those affiliated with the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI)—have largely maintained a silence on the move, the common businessmen are foreseeing a big loss.

Come winter, said Vimal Gupta, President Raj Tilak Road Traders Association, and Jammu will face the “huge loss” when Kashmir-based employees wouldn’t move to Jammu with their families.

“Government claimed that around Rs 200 crore will be saved by this move but they didn’t bother about our business of thousands of crores,” Gupta said. “We give government more than Rs 200 crore through taxes generated with the Darbar Move business. We fail to understand how the centuries-old tradition was ended so suddenly, without even consulting the concerned parties.”

Not only traders, Gupta said, but hotels, restaurants, transporters and other stakeholders will be equally and badly affected by this move.

“We do very less business in summers and await winters, so that Kashmiris would come in droves and do some shopping, take rooms on rents, etc but the latest move has come as the rudest shock,” he said. “We don’t have any leader who will talk on our behalf. The BJP leaders think that even if they don’t work for people’s welfare, Prime Minister Modi will still ensure their win in elections.”

Shifting trunkload of files between two capitals.

Apart from economy, the new move will hit the centuries-old “unique relationship” between the people of two capitals, believes Baldev Khullar, another Jammu-based trader leader.

“It’ll widen the gap between two capitals,” Khullar, the six-time president of Raghunath Bazar Traders Association, said. “Who’ll come to Jammu, if this Darbar Move will be stopped in this sudden manner? Even tourists prefer to visit the valley rather than Jammu — be it in summers or winters. The current regime even failed to mobilise the pilgrims for Mata Vaishno Devi here.”

Most of the traders in Jammu aren’t able to speak openly due to pressure, he said. “But they’ll know the price of silence during winters when there’ll be no Kashmiri shoppers around.”

However, Arun Gupta, President, JCCI, told Kashmir Observer that the said order hasn’t come from the government. “We believe that the age-old bond between the two capitals should not be broken,” he said, “but there’s no such official order yet.”

Meanwhile, Dimple and Co. are relentlessly appealing Raj Bhavan to review the order.

“The government was earning GST profit in crores due to this practice,” he said. “Stopping it is a heavy loss to the state exchequer. It was a well-thought practice maintained by our princely-state Maharajas with the approval of the elders of all the communities. It’s the symbol of unity, communal harmony and brotherhood between the two regions. It shouldn’t end this way.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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