The northernmost state of India, Jammu, and Kashmir has two capitals, Srinagar in summers and Jammu in winters. But why?
In Jammu and Kashmir every year, there is a shift of the secretariat and all other government offices from Srinagar to Jammu and vice versa. This bi-annual shift is known as the Darbar move. From May to October, all the government offices are housed in Srinagar which is the summer capital of the state and from November to April, the offices are housed in Jammu which is the winter capital of the state. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court also move from Srinagar to Jammu in winters and from Jammu to Srinagar in summers.
For the history of the Darbar Move we need to go back to the 19th century when Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Ranbir Singh made Srinagar the 2nd capital of Jammu and Kashmir after Jammu. Apparently, there were different reasons behind this.
First, after the Treaty of Amritsar (1846), the regions of Jammu, as well as Kashmir, came under the Dogra Kingdom. Now, to keep the people of Kashmir happy, Srinagar was made the capital for 6 months and Jammu for the other 6 months. Second, it is said that Srinagar was a bliss in the summers. So, that region becomes a summer holiday destination for the kings where they can run their office in a cooler climate. So, it was a strategic as well as a climatic decision.
But why is this practice still being followed in the 21st century?
There have been different opinions on this issue for many years. Those who want Srinagar to be the sole capital, say that Srinagar is located in the heart of Jammu and Kashmir. It has Kashmir to its north and Jammu to its south. Hence, it is located politically and geographically correct. But many people are also against this. During winters the temperature in Srinagar falls below the freezing point and that is why the people working in offices want to shift to Jammu as it is not that cold in Jammu during winters. Also, shopkeepers and other traders working in Jammu do not want to make Srinagar the permanent capital as they get to earn more when offices are housed in Jammu.
In 1987, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, who was the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir at that time, issued an order to make Srinagar the only capital but he had to reverse his order as shopkeepers and politicians in Jammu were not happy with that decision.
But why is there any need to have only one capital? Can’t there be two capitals?
The primary reason that most of the people give in support of the Darbar move is that in winters, it is very difficult to work in Srinagar. But is Srinagar the only capital in this world where the temperature goes below freezing point?
Consider Moscow, the world’s third coldest capital city. In winters, the average temperature in Moscow is −10 °C whereas the average temperature in Srinagar, in winters, is around 3 °C. If Russia can have a single capital, then why can’t J&K?
Apart from the climatic conditions, every year, crores of rupees are spent on moving the official documents in hundreds of trucks. The government also arranges accommodation for the officials moving from Jammu to Srinagar or the other way around.
What I think is that instead of spending this much money of the taxpayers on the Darbar move, the government should install temperature control units in Srinagar so that working there in winters is not difficult. But as said, people in Jammu would resist this move. To counter this, the government can provide alternative employment opportunities to the people of Jammu. Srinagar’s location makes it a good administrative capital and if people in Jammu have something for them, they won’t probably resist.
But who knows, there will definitely be some people who would protest if the Srinagar is made the sole capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Till then, people should wait and hope for the best.