Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fatigue or prudence!

For the last couple of years, Kashmir has witnessed more or less a peaceful situation. Even though there have been off and on sporadic incidents, yet the general atmosphere has been quiet and calm. There has been unprecedented rush of tourists. Notwithstanding the fact that these tourists are not the high end ones contributing to local economy, Kashmir has been swamped with visitors from all over the country and even abroad. At one point, people were virtually sleeping on roads as there were no hotel rooms available. Apart from normal pleasure loving tourists, there have been more than half a million pilgrims visiting the Amarnath cave. In fact, many people have expressed concern about the adverse impact of such a large influx of tourists and pilgrims on the fragile environment. One of the main misleading indicators of normalcy has been the number of tourists visiting Kashmir. Tourism has been wrongly taken to be a barometer of political normalcy. A certain quiet with the life carrying on normally does not mean that the common Kashmiris have reconciled to their political status quo. Temporarily resigning to their fate quite often misleads the outsiders about the real ground situation in Kashmir. It is very difficult for foreigners to know what is really in the heart of a Kashmiri. He rarely opens up his true heart to an outsider! In this regard, he has mastered the art of deception and pretention to completely confuse many outside analysts. Centuries of oppression by various outside forces have taught him the art of survival. He knows when to remain quiet and when to burst out in full fury regardless of consequences. No doubt he is emotional and sentimental, yet at the same time he is prudent. Interestingly, the same misconception about the real nature of a Kashmiri seems to have deceived the propagators of the “Heart is My Weapon” doctrine. The very use of the word weapon makes it look like some sort of a war through other means. Winning hearts does not need a weapon but the means to use the humanitarian way to soothe and redress the grievances. They have considered 2011 as a turning point in terms of winning the peace. No doubt, there has been peace in 2011 as well as during the current year but it does not reveal the true ground situation or the real inner feelings of a Kashmiri. The people claiming to have applied the doctrine in Kashmir have assumed that Kashmiris are tired and fatigued. This is their first wrong assumption. Kashmiri may appear sometimes tired and fatigued and may even seem reconciled but in reality, it is a transient phase and his temporary reconciliation is out of prudence rather than fatigue. The “Heart is My Weapon” doctrine is not a new discovery. In almost all local conflict areas where the populations have risen in revolt against the colonising powers, this doctrine has been applied to buy temporary peace. It has not solved the underlying political problems but given only some reprieve and ultimately, the colonisers have had to vacate the colonised territories. In case, they do not want to act as colonisers but honestly mean to appear as true friends of the people, the doctrine has to be applied only by effecting drastic changes on the ground. In the present context, at the moment it is applied exclusively to wean away people from supporting the armed insurgents. It is true a Guerrilla fighter has been compared to a fish moving in water. If it is deprived of this water, it will die! To buy temporary peace Sadbhavana and other measures including cricket matches, bus tours or providing various facilities may be good steps but these cannot remove the deep rooted alienation. To really win the hearts one has to be honest and sincere and has also to appear to be acting like that. At present the exercise seems like taming of a wild bear for performing in a circus! It is the use of stick and carrot which is never a long term solution. One appears to be saying, “I am strong and you cannot defeat me. So it is better for you to reconcile and maintain peace”! Sincere effort at winning the hearts would require in the first instance both the physical scaling down of the military apparatus in the civilian areas and the curtailing of the unbridled powers without accountability of the security forces. The other requirement would be allowing freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution regardless of what the people want to say. It is only once people are allowed freely to express their views that one can think of a dialogue. It is true that violence is not going to get us a solution. Peace is the only way forward. But it has to be peace with honour and dignity. Not an imposed peace which ultimately results in the peace of a graveyard. The least basic requirement is to allow Kashmiris to enjoy unhindered the same basic human rights as are enjoyed by the other citizens of India. It would also necessitate administering justice in all pending cases of the violation of human rights. There is a popular saying that justice must not only be done but must appear to have been done! Unless this is the underlying spirit, all doctrines for the winning of hearts become meaningless. The propagators of these would appear to be suffering from illusions by mistaking Kashmiri’s prudence for fatigue resulting in an unpredictable and unexpected shock sometime in the future! (Comments at

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Kashmir’s freak weather

The heat and humidity during the month of Ramadan is putting Kashmiris through a real test of patience. The weather this year is behaving quite unexpectedly. Kashmir during May and June was a tourist’s delight. After having got practically roasted in the scorching heat of the plains, the cool of the valley was more than welcome! We witnessed an unprecedented rush of tourists. Record numbers have already come here and for the first time even the months of July and August which used to be known as the lean season, are showing full bookings! In fact, this mad rush towards Kashmir has caused worries to the Himachal’s tourism players as they were reaping the benefits of Kashmir’s closure due to turmoil. Himachal is once again becoming a second choice to the tourists. It is probably after a long time that one experienced night temperatures in the range of 10 to 12 degrees centigrade during the middle of June? It must have been this type of weather which made a Mughal King claim that if a roasted chicken is brought into the valley of Kashmir, it will grow feathers! Now, in July it is heated up and we have already touched thirty four degrees Celsius! Kashmir has been slowly getting hotter during summer only for the last three decades or so. In our childhood days, we did not see any fans not to talk of air conditioners. The summer temperature at the peak would rarely cross 30 degrees or so. In fact, whenever the temperature would touch 30 degrees, it would rain in the evening. Similarly, the winters used to be very severe. I remember spending part of my holidays in the maternal home in Safakadal where the snow would accumulate up to the first floor windows and we would go out of the window on to the road. There used to be huge icicles hanging from the roofs which those days were mostly wooden with either shingle or in some cases withthe topping of the earth with all kinds of flowers growing over it. I remember sometimes the snow would be so heavy and fast that total darkness would descend even during the middle of the day. One could see nothing except falling snowflakes. Those days quite often the migratory birds such as flying geese would fall in our lawns as these would be blinded by the heavy snowfall. There were also many incidents of wild animals descending into some localities of the city especially in those areas which were on the periphery next to the forests. Now there are no forests in the vicinity of the city! Last winter too has been quite severe in the valley with even the day temperatures remaining below zero for a number of days. These days the hottest topic of discussion everywhere is the “Climate Change”. It dominates media, intellectual debates, and even high political discourses. The problem can be summed up in the quote from IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), “The world is facing a global extinction crisis which threatens not only the natural environment but mankind itself. All life on earth depends upon species, ecosystems, and natural resources. This must be safeguarded before it’s too late, as we are destroying the very natural infrastructure that supports us, at an ever increasing rate.” The change in our part has been coming very gradually and we have also got used to the change. It is only when something unusual happens that we take notice of the change. The River Jhelum used to remain full even in winter. Now, it appears in winter like a small stream and fills up only with a heavy rain in the catchment area. Sometimes the river bed used to go dry and the children played cricket on it. The main sources of perennial rivers are the mountain glaciers. The condition of some of our mountain glaciers like the one below Mount Kolahoi is pathetic. It has receded more than a kilometre in last 20 years. Thajwas glaciers in Sonamarg have virtually disappeared. In Jammu, the roaring Tawi these days looks like a drain strewn with garbage. Even the flow in mighty Chenab has noticeably reduced. This year’s change especially the prolonging of the winter has made everyone take notice. People were wearing light woollens even in June. Some even restarted using heaters and electric blankets. In fact, the load for the power department had shown sudden upswing and they were resorting to unscheduled cuts! The moot point is whether we are part of the global climate change or the conditions are local, created by our own actions? Only expert scientists can give their opinion after studying the changes in detail. On the face of it, there seems to be a strong local element in the change. The satellite photographs do not show any western disturbances which are the main source of rain in our area. Rather, the forecasts of many global agencies like Accuweather, Weather Online, Weather Underground, CNN, and others are proving wrong almost every day. In fact, our own Met Office has stopped giving out extended forecasts. Two reasons are cited for this strange weather. One is the heavy snowfall on the mountains surrounding the valley during last winter. The high temperatures in the afternoon give rise to local evaporation and formation of clouds which is a usual phenomenon in the mountains. These invariably bring thunder showers in the evening or during night which keeps temperatures down. The other reason is tremendous growth of foliage in the valley. Even though it is a well-known fact that our forests next to populated areas have suffered tremendous damage due to merciless felling of young trees by timber smugglers, yet there has been extensive cultivation of willows and poplars even though again for commercial reasons. Additionally, people have grown conscious of gardening and almost all new constructions of residential areas have small gardens. This increased greenery also contributes to local cloud formation. Well, it is up to our scientists and weather experts to give the final verdict about the causes of the Kashmir’s freak weather. In the meantime, let the tourists enjoy Kashmir’s salubrious climate and we too willcontinue to relish the nostalgia of the good old days andthe possible return of the same!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ganz Nass

There is a locality in Srinagar called “Ganz Khud”. Here, the tanners, the people dealing in curing of leather live and work. They cure hides of animals to convert these into leather. The process involves boiling these hides in huge copper cauldrons. This gives out a pungent nauseating stench. The whole locality is full of this strong foul smell. However, the local residents do not feel this stench as their smelling buds get desensitised after sometime. Any outsider notices the foul smell immediately and may even faint. There is an interesting story about a lady from outside their locality being brought there in marriage. She could not stand the unbearable stench and fainted. She could neither eat nor drink and was in great misery. Her in-laws told her to close the nostrils one by one and breathe slowly. After sometime she got used to the stench and developed what is popularly called the “Ganz Nass”! This simile is now also used commonly to describe various aberrations especially the total disregard and insensitivity to various issues or problems. The person with a “Ganz Nass” does not notice or smell anything as he or she becomes totally insensitive! The present set of our rulers especially the ones who have been saddled on our shoulders for last half a century seem to be in this state of insensitivity! They have developed in real terms a “Ganz Nass”! Because of their attitude, the people in general too seem to have developed a “Ganz Nass” in regard to our leaders as well as the issues facing us. The insensitivity is of two types. One is the political “Ganz Nass” regarding Kashmir’s future including the most beaten expression of the autonomy. The other is the total apathy of both the government functionaries and the people themselves towards the day to day problems faced by all. Let us first take the physical “Ganz Nass”. The first thing that comes to mind is the abnormal power position. So much has been written, spoken and discussed about it that everybody including the government seems to have become insensitive. Nothing seems to move and there is no immediate solution. The declaration that the people should pay the market price or face load shedding reminded one about the fate of the daughter-in-law in Ganz Khud who was asked to breathe through one nostril to avoid the stench! Next comes the menace of the stray dogs. The authorities have developed a perfect “Ganz Nass” about this virtual pestilence plaguing whole Kashmir. As part of the 1000 crore sterilisation project so far 400 dogs have been sterilised. At this speed the project could take at least 50 years as per the government figures regarding the population of stray dogs in the city of Srinagar! People especially our young ones continue to face the assault of these ferocious canines! The smell of garbage and stinking drains is now a part of the so called heritage city of Srinagar. One fails to understand how people can stand the stench round their most modern posh houses in uptown? Of course, the dwellers of the old city ironically called the “Sher-i-Khas” have developed insensitivity to their surrounding environment long time back! The roads are in pathetic condition with massive pot holes or rather huge ditches at many places. An interesting speciality of our main civic roads is the man holes which are invariably six inches to a foot above the road surface. No one seems to be bothered about that. The environmental degradation involving destruction of forests, polluting of water bodies, and conversion of green paddy fields for constructing various structures has ceased to bother anyone. If one starts describing all the infirmities, it would take a complete book! Nothing seems to be straight here like the limbs of a camel whose each body part is deformed one way or the other. The worst insensitivity or “Ganz Nass” which every one of us has developed is regarding the all-pervading corruption. It has seeped into our blood and is taken to be a part of normal day to day living. Not only have the authorities become immune to this menace eating away at the vitals of the society but the common people now take it for granted and do not seem to be bothered at all. The plea that they are helpless does not seem to gel. In reality no one has the time and patience to suffer the consequences of standing for honesty or giving a fight to the corrupt. Honesty like water flows from the top downwards. If the top boss is honest in real terms regardless of the consequences, then the system will get cleansed! The political “Ganz Nass” among our leaders has been there for a long time. They started with the popular slogan of giving us a place of honour and dignity. The magic word to represent that place of honour and dignity according to them was the “Autonomy”. The means to ensure it constitutionally was the article 370. However, the guarantee was used in the reverse and the article 370 became the channel to erode the so called autonomy bit by bit. In the initial stages some of our leaders resisted and suffered the consequences but soon they developed the “Ganz Nass” and we were left with nothing but the guarantee in name only. Kashmir’s so called autonomy has been stripped to the skin but these leaders continue breathing with both nostrils closed. A remarkable feat of which even the dwellers of Ganz Khud would be envious! As regards the other bunch of leaders now promising to take us to an unknown and undefined place of honour and dignity which they call “Azadi”, they have been breathing the stench of slavery for too long to discern the true goal and the road map to reach it. In fact, they seem to be breathing through their mouths with both their nostrils having been closed by the authorities! It appears that they too are very slowly but gradually developing a “Ganz Nass”. After all one cannot escape the consequences of living in a foul smelling society for long. It is human nature to get used to the circumstances and get along in life. One has to be really unreasonable to change the world! Reasonable people never make a change! To have the urge for a change one has to first breathe some fresh and clean air. As things stand, no one is going to allow us to take a few breaths of fresh air lest we realise that we have developed a perennial “Ganz Nass” to our wretched condition!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The nettle story!

The Kashmiri proverb about the sowing of the nettle ironically applies to Kashmiris themselves for the self-inflicted slavery of the last four centur Sometime back Omar Abdullah had declared that the Kashmir issue remains still unresolved. In early fifties similar statement by his grandfather resulted in his dismissal and arrest. During the upheaval of 1953 when the Lion of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was deposed and arrested, over a thousand people were killed in firing by the police. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad suppressed the uprising by the use of stick and carrot. The word subsidy was introduced which we are not able to get rid of even after half a century of so the called “self-rule”. During the agitation of 1953, one often heard people quoting a Kashmiri proverb, “Anim soai, wuvem soi, lajim soi pansi”! (I brought the nettle, sowed the nettle, and got bitten by it myself). This quote was to emphasise the fact that the Kashmir’s charismatic leader had himself brought Indians to Kashmir and they had bitten him after he had supported their entry here. Quite often one speaks about the four centuries long oppression suffered by Kashmiris at the hands of the Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras. However, when one analyses the historical happenings of the onset of foreign rule in Kashmir, one thing which stands out most is the role played by some of our own fellow countrymen in inviting and facilitating the foreign rulers. Dr. Abdul Ahad in his book, “Kashmir Rediscovered” has given details of the happenings of those days and the people who went from Kashmir to various foreign rulers to seek their intervention. Most of the time the interventions were sought because of the violent internecine tussle within Kashmir. Prior to Mughal intervention, Kashmir was experiencing the worst kind of sectarian violence between Sayyids or Mawalis and the locals. Sayyids or Mawalis had been expelled twice. They were first expelled by Budshah and subsequently by Hassan Shah. They were considered foreigners and allegedly had been held responsible for all the mayhem in Kashmir. There was also lot of violence between Sunnis and Shias even before the Chak rule. This conflict was fomented by the mutual bickering of Magreys representing the Sunnis and the Chaks representing the Shias. The Magreys approached Mughals and implored them to intervene while as Chaks approached Sher Shah Suri for aid. During the rule of Mirza Haider Dughlat which had been facilitated by Sunnis, there was worst persecution of Shias. He wanted to exterminate them. Subsequently when the Chaks came to power, they started massive persecution of Sunnis. All this time Akbar, the Mughal king had been keenly watching the developments in Kashmir. He was waiting to strike when the iron was hot. The opportunity came when he was entreated for intervention by Sheikh Yaqub Sarfi and Baba Daud Khaki to save Kashmir menaced by sectarian crises. Ultimately Mughals captured Kashmir by diplomatic treachery by trapping and arresting Yousuf Shah Chak, the last ruler of the independent Kashmir. The Mughals drained out every bit of chivalry from the blood of Kashmiris and turned them into demeaning serfs. Kashmir became their pleasure garden, a “Paradise on Earth” for them only! Similarly, the Afghans too had local invitation and facilitation in making Kashmir a part of their kingdom. Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali fragmented the Mughal Empire and it remained confined to Delhi and some adjacent territories. At that time Kashmir was in shambles. The severe famine of 1745-46 had wrought havoc. Dead bodies were lying all round being eaten by vultures. The Mughal Subehdars had been exhausted by rendering assistance in removing dead bodies strewn on the streets. Kashmiri nobles perceived that the Afghan rule would be a deliverance from further suffering. Secret negotiations were opened with him and Mir Muqim Kanth and Khawaja Didamare promised all assistance against the Mughals. Abadali accepted the invitation and the Afghan contingent entered Srinagar in triumph in 1753 and Kashmir became an Afghan Subha! The Afghan rule in Kashmir was a nightmarish experience. Kashmiris had hoped that the Afghans would bring order and treat them generously. However, they got what Dr. Ahad calls a “Culture Shock”! The Afghan experience has been summed up in a Persian couplet. “When the poet asked the gardener, who laid waste this garden? With a deep sigh he replied, ‘it was the Afghan’!” The worst part of the Afghan rule was the imposition of variety of taxes. They squeezed every penny out of the already impoverished Kashmiri. There were taxes on everything. The protection tax, the land tax, the tax on shawls and they even imposed a smoke tax. The early marriage custom in villages which persisted for a long time was to protect the girls as an Afghan would not touch a married woman! The end of Afghan rule came by the Kashmiris yet again soliciting an external saviour. There occurred yet another terrible famine in 1814. There was a shortfall in the tax collection and the Afghan Governor Azim Khan held Birbal Dhar, his tax collector responsible. Fearing retribution, he fled from the valley and landed in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh whom he persuaded to invade the valley. Maharaja dispatched an army of 30,000 soldiers who after two battles routed the Afghans and brought Kashmir under the Sikh rule in 1819. Even though the rule lasted for only 27 years, yet it is supposed to have been the worst of all. This period is generally known as the “Bebuj Raj” in Kashmiri, a term coined by Hameedullah in his Bebujnama, an eyewitness account of the happenings during this period. The value of a Kashmiri during this period of utter lawlessness was put at rupees twenty. This was the fine imposed on a Sikh for killing a Kashmiri. If a Kashmiri killed a Sikh, he would be straightaway hanged! This brazen savagery is also known as the Sikhashahi, a word even now used to describe any lawless behaviour! The condition of Kashmiris during the Sikh rule is described by Jacquemont, “A few thousand stupid brutal Sikhs with swords at their sides or pistols in their belts drive this ingenious and numerous, but timid people like a flock of sheep”. Cow slaughter was made an offence punishable by death. Butchers were hanged in public. Neo Muslims were forced to reconvert to Hinduism. There were forced conversions to Sikhism. Muslim zamindars jagirs were confiscated. In reality, whatever civility or strength was left in a Kashmiri, it was squeezed out of him during the Sikh rule. Dogras bought Kashmir from the British along with the Kashmiris lock, stock, and barrel under the most infamous Treaty of Amritsar. At that time Kashmiris had been reduced to virtual wretches. However, at long last there was awaking and the Kashmiris rose en masse to overthrow the yolk of slavery in 1931. The movement was inspired by similar movements against colonialism and imperialism all over the world. Unfortunately, when the goal was almost near, the fate locked them in the most intractable tangle. Again, our own people played the role of nettle sowers. The story is too well known to be recapitulated. We are still suffering the consequences of the last nettle crop. Nettle rash is quite painful. An old local remedy is to cover the rash with mud and then wash it when it dries up! One wishes there was a similar remedy to remove the political nettle rash! We seem to be destined to suffer as long as our own people go on bringing the nettle and sowing it here. It is time to introspect in the light of the tragic episodes of our history. Will our leaders do it? That is the million dollar question! (Comments at

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dogs and the Truffles!

(The champion of the animal lovers in an article emphasised the potential of truffle cultivation in Kashmir. She forgot to mention that the Dogs plaguing the population are the ideal sneakers of the Truffles in the wild!) Maneka Gandhi, the proclaimed champion of the animal welfare, especially, the Dogs of all kinds and types, recently visited the Kashmir Valley. She had come to see personally the implementation of the Dog sterilisation project. Even though she declared that she had not come for Dog welfare but for humans, yet she spent appreciable time visiting the Dog pounds set up by the Srinagar Municipality and discussed the project in detail with the local officials. In an exclusive article to a local English daily, she blasted the state bureaucrats looking after tourism development. According to her, the Tourism Department had wasted crores of rupees given by the Central Government by constructing some stone houses in the villages. She observed that the tourism policies followed were all wrong and no high end tourists were visiting the valley. Well, she may be right to some extent as the Tourism Department is yet to frame a policy and a vision document. Most of the development is taking place on ad hoc basis on the demands of politicians regardless of the fact whether the areas being developed or proposed to be developed fulfil the basic criteria for such a development. Politics plays a larger role in taking up these areas for development forgetting the existing resorts which are now turning into some sort of urban population centres instead of the tourist resorts! She is also right in regard to the quality of tourism being developed which has been publicly admitted by the former Director Tourism. The high end tourism is yet to take off in Kashmir notwithstanding the fact that we claim millions visiting the valley! Most of the tourists are from the middle class enjoying the extended LTC (leave travel concession). The major portion of the article was devoted to truffles and the possibility of growing these in Kashmir on a commercial scale. According to Wikipedia, “Truffles are the fungus growing at the base of some trees in the forests. It is supposed to be a culinary delicacy. A truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean mushroom. The spores of truffles are usually dispersed through animals that eat fungi. Almost all truffles are mostly found in close association with trees. There are hundreds of species of truffles, but the fruiting body of some (mostly in the genus Tuber) is highly prized as a food: Brillat-Savarin called them "the diamond of the kitchen". Edible truffles are held in high esteem in French, Spanish, northern Italian and Greek cooking, as well as in international haute cuisine. In the last 30 years, new attempts for mass production of truffles have been started. Eighty percent of the truffles now produced in France come from specially planted truffle groves. Nonetheless, production has yet to recover its 1900s peaks. Local farmers are opposed to a return of mass production, which would decrease the price of truffles. There are now truffle-growing areas in the United Kingdom, United States, Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia and Chile.” Maneka after describing in detail the commercial value of these edible fungi has outlined the extensive possibility of cultivating these on commercial scale in Kashmir. She feels that truffle growing may be more lucrative than the budgeted tourism Kashmiris have been so much obsessed with in recent times. Incidentally, she had omitted any reference to truffle smelling dogs even though she is supposed to be champion of their welfare! Dogs are supposed to be very sensitive in smelling truffles growing underground. In some countries there are many schools training dogs for truffle smelling. Most of the truffle seekers use specially trained truffle dogs. Kashmir has a large population of stray dogs which has become a menace. Maneka, instead of promoting setting up of dog pounds for their sterilization, could suggest setting up of dog training schools for truffle seeking. One could invite some dog trainers from abroad. These trained dogs could be exported to truffle growing European countries and would fetch a good price. A friend recently emailed me from US a suggestion regarding Dogs. He had been posted at Leh some years back. According to him, when the Naga Regiment was posted there, most of the Dogs disappeared mysteriously! He proposes hiring of some IL-76 aircraft from IAF by the state government to send Dogs to Nagaland. According to him it would fetch large revenue to the state government. However, I would not go by this cruel and sarcastic suggestion but would prefer that Maneka goes for truffle seeking training of Kashmiri Dogs for their export to some foreign countries! Comments at:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kashmir “Problem”, an Anglo-American conspiracy!

The recent statement of the American President that the Kashmir problem cannot be solved from the outside, represents the tip of an iceberg of a conspiracy entered into by the British with the Americans more than 60 years back. The basic controversy has been the initial accession of the state to the Indian Union. A number of articles have been written on the instrument of accession, the document which is claimed to be the basis of the accession of the state of Jammu & Kashmir to the Union of India following the partition of the sub-continent. Some have disputed the very existence of the document while some others question the genuineness of the Maharaja’s signatures and the date of its signing. The events of 1947 relating to the creation of the most intractable Kashmir “Problem” have always been shrouded in mystery. However, the declassification of certain secret documents in the west and the revelations made by some important personalities in their books go beyond the apparent causes of those unfortunate events which have not only plagued the sub-continent but the entire South Asia for last 65 years. The British not only authored the partition of the sub-continent but also created the Kashmir “Problem”because of their obsession to block the Russian and the Chinese access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean! It has often been said that the British partitioned the sub-continent to keep their hold on the area to further their aims of economic colonialism after losing the physical hold on the colonised people. The new revelations belie that theory. On the contrary, it is the long term strategic considerations which now appear to be the real basis for the events of 1947. The same considerations are in fact at the present moment ensuring the continuance of the “Problem”! Rakesh Ankit wrote a detailed research paper on the subject, “The Cold War and its Impact on the Evolution of the Kashmir Crisis, 1947-48” which appeared in the Journal of the Oxford University History Society in 2009.According to him, “‘Power Politics’ made a large contribution to the evolution of the Kashmir crisis. While the dispute emerged for local, regional and religious reasons its evolution and eventual ‘internationalization’ bears the stamp of concerns which had nothing to do with the individuality of the crisis and the merits of the cases of the two protagonists. In other words, while the events in and around the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir from August 1947 to January 1949, a period which saw an entire range of conflict, from local skirmishes to full-fledged invasion to pitched defensive warfare, were manufactured by a set of circumstances, personalities and concerns, which were all essentially local or regional and sub-continental or religious in nature, once the crisis erupted it was manipulated by the British-led Western Block, as far as possible, in the pursuit of its own vital interests stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia to the Far East. These vital interests can be broadly categorised as defensive, strategic and geo-political (aimed at the former Communist USSR) and ideological or religious (aimed at the Islamic Middle East).” In fact, Rakesh has quoted extract from Bevin’s letter to Marshall which states, “Kashmir was on the Soviet frontier. Russia might well intervene as she had in Greece and China, playing on the tribes and on communal feeling. Whoever controlled the valley of Kashmir controlled the strategic and commercial communications between India, Pakistan and Central Asia.” The main western interest was the access to Central Asia and containment of the Communist Russia. A number of American and British strategists opined that Pakistan would be more useful to them than India as they could manipulate its rulers easily. In fact, it was decided in a meeting in Paris between Bevin and Marshall that the Anglo-American interests would be best served by keeping the Kashmir corridor passing through Gilgit with Pakistan as India could create problems. The ceasefire and the extent of areas under each country too were decided by the western powers as both the armies at that time were controlled by the British Officers. As per the research paper and according to some documents de-classified sometime back, the American and British strategists were advising their respective Governments that Pakistan would be a better choice for them to back. They were also apprehensive that India could wipe out Pakistan unless the West came to its assistance in a big way. All the subsequent military alliances like SEATO and CENTO were a result of this advice. Pakistan was fully supported as their interest demanded such an action. They were scared that in case they failed to help Pakistan, it may fall in the Russian or the Chinese hands. Unfortunately for them, the same is happening now. India was already doubted by them to be leaning towards the Russians. The most ideal way to keep the Gilgit corridor was to let this area remain under the control of a dispensation not only friendly to them but rather totally dependent on them. For this it was essential to divide the sub-continent and this necessitated the introduction of the idea of partition. They introduced the idea through Mohammad Ali Jinnah whom they fully patronised and supported. It is they who very subtly motivated him for claiming a separate country for Muslims. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru fell for the game as he loathed the idea of making Mohammad Ali Jinnah the Prime Minister of the undivided India. Even though Mahatma Gandhi was against the partition, he too was persuaded by certain elements to fall in line. The most intriguing part is the short duration in which the country was to be partitioned. Just two and a half months. If the process had been delayed by few more months, there might have been a possibility of reconciliation between Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Undivided India had the possibility of becoming a major super power and an economic giant. In fact, it could have been as colossal as China because at the time of the independence of India, China’s Mao Tse Tung was just finding his feet. However, there was the possibility of the undivided India becoming friendly both to the erstwhile Soviet Union and China as it had the possibility of leading the entire South Asia. \ After having succeeded in partitioning the country, their next move was to create a dispute in Kashmir which would ensure that the Gilgit corridor remains with Pakistan. If they had gone by the general principles followed in the partition plan, then Kashmir would have automatically become part of Pakistan because of its being a Muslim majority area contagious to the newly created religion based country. The Maharaja was finding it difficult to go against the wishes of the majority of his subjects. However, then there would be no dispute! The first step was the creation of a corridor in Punjab to give access to India to the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The Muslim majority Gurdaspur district was awarded by Radcliff to India. This manipulation was done by him on the persuasion of Edwina Mountbatten who was quite friendly to Pandit Nehru. The Maharaja was in two minds and would have opted for a sovereign independent state of Jammu & Kashmir. To click the deal of his opting for India, tribal raid was engineered. Interestingly, the army chiefs of both the countries were the British officers. There seems to have been some understanding between the two chiefs? As mentioned by David Devadas in his book, “Kashmir, in search of future”, the Indian army chief knew three days in advance about the tribal raid. He did not inform even his Prime Minister! Probably, even Lord Mountbatten too was kept in the dark? Once the two newly created countries went to war, the real manipulations started. The Indian army could have taken entire state including the erstwhile northern areas but were deliberately halted at the present Line of Control through a ceasefire brokered through the UN Security Council. Had India gone all the way, the Gilgit corridor would have been under their control but Bevin and Marshall had already decided otherwise in their meeting held in Paris. Kashmir had to be divided and the Gilgit corridor had to be kept with Pakistan! The attitude of the creators of the Kashmir problem has been continuously changing with the passage of time depending upon their own strategic requirements. In the initial stages, they had given unconditional support to Kashmiris and were pleading for the grant of right of self-determination to Kashmiris. Then they started becoming neutral and indifferent. Now they are opposing it and advocating a bi-lateral dialogue to sort out the problem. In reality, they are trying to put the problem in deep freeze because larger issues related to the sub-continent and South Asia has become their priority. The most worrisome aspect is what after 2014 when the Americans leave Afghanistan? What would be the role of Taliban? Already China and Russia are interested in coming closer to the emerging set up in Afghanistan. Chinese have already forged a very strong relationship with Pakistanis. They are planning a railway line from Sinkiang to Gawadar. The Karakoram Highway is being widened and improved. Most interesting has been the Chinese move to get observer status in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). While as the western powers are getting more and more alienated from the Muslim block, the Chinese and the Russians are coming closer to them. The western powers seem to be now banking on Hindu India to be the bulwark against the fast growing and expanding China. Obama’s missive is a step in that direction. Well, someone needs to tell him that instead of giving advice to us he should introspect and apologise for the unilateral actions of the American global super cop which have brought destruction and misery everywhere! On our part, our leaders too must stop looking at west especially, the Anglo-Americans to solve our problems. We need to demolish the sub-continents Berlin walls of mistrust and suspicion which have in fact been erected by our so called western mentors who are interested in continuing the status quo rather than sort out these problems. We must remember that these people created the problems, became the investigators for these and are now passing judgements on the same! There can be nothing more hypocritical than this!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kashmir on its own-Power!

Power has been the most talked about subject in Kashmir in recent times. It is for the first time that we are facing curtailment even in summer and that too with additional unscheduled cuts! The joke of the day is the power department asking the households fitted with energy meters to voluntarily declare their load. Do they doubt their own digital energy meters? How does it matter if people pay honestly without indulging in any underhand means with the connivance of the local lineman, for the energy they use? It is more an exercise to count electric gadgets than to survey the load. A façade to cover their own failings! The worst tragedy is that one of the most potential hydro-electric power generation areas is suffering from a perennial power famine! This is a misfortune which has been thrust upon Kashmir by its neighbours with the connivance of its installed rulers. Had Kashmir been on its own, it would have been an equal partner in the Indus Water Treaty which has deprived Kashmiris from the use of their own resources. Firstly, the treaty depriving Kashmiris of the use of the waters flowing through their land is not only totally unjust but even illegal as regards the rights of the local population. How could two countries enter into a treaty about the resources of a territory globally accepted to be disputed without making any provision for the local population or keeping a clause about the ultimate fate of the territory? Similarly, how could an international organisation like the World Bank broker such unjust and illegal treaty in regard to a disputed territory without keeping any provision for safeguarding the interests of the people inhabiting it?Tom Paine in “Rights of Man” says that there never was, there never can, and there never will exist a generation of men which can bind posterity till the end of time. Each generation is free to decide how it lives and follow what it thinks to be the best course for itself! Had Kashmir not been unjustly burdened by IWT, we could be one of the top power producers in this part of the world. Experts have estimated the hydro-electric power generation potential of Kashmir at 20,000 megawatts. Both India and Pakistan have taken a virtual pound of flesh from Kashmiris by setting up power projects which give just a pittance to them compared to the huge profits the operators themselves have made. On this side we have something like the infamous East India Company called NHPC. This company starting with a capital of 200 crores is now worth over couple of hundred thousand crores and the major portion of the profit has come from its Kashmir projects! Kashmir on its own could have set up cascade projects like the famous California valley. Had we not been prevented from managing our water resources, we could have even set up run of the river schemes with sufficient storage to take care of lean winter. We could have also set up huge storage projects with outside investments. These would not only pay for themselves but would give us sizeable revenues. If we had the choice of generating this massive potential on our own, we could be earning revenue of more than a hundred thousand crore rupees annually. Above all else, Kashmir would not have been facing a perennial power famine! Apart from inability to generate power for our own use, we are burdened by an archaic system of distribution. The connections from an electric pole to various domestic consumers in down town area are mind boggling. Only a lineman of the department knows whose connection is where? It was this mind boggling jumble which had forced a communist engineer from the erstwhile Soviet Block to remark that he had started believing in God! He could not believe that with such jumbled up and naked connections no one gets electrocuted! The entire archaic system of distribution is maintained by thousands of daily wagers. Once they go on strike demanding their regularisation, the system starts crumbling. One can imagine the fragility of the system by the fact that Kashmir must be the only place in the world where power is switched off by the authorities as soon as there is high wind or a thunder storm! Had Kashmir been on its own, it could have had the state of the art distribution system with underground cabling. There were many Arab Sheikhdoms like Dubai which sometime back had almost stone age set ups. However, with their petro dollars they bought the best of the best available in the world because they were on their own! All these places present a display of dazzling lights during night. Sometimes places are so well lit that one cannot differentiate between night and day! Why can’t we too have similar set ups? Instead of putting patches on the archaic distribution system, one could modernise it sector by sector. For a resourceful global company undertaking such tasks abroad, it should not be difficult to totally revolutionise the distribution system provided they are given a turnkey job without any political interference. One dreams about spick and span state of the art power generation projects, transmission lines, grid stations, distribution system including receiving stations, feeders, transformers, underground cables, street lights and so on. Can such a system ever exist in Kashmir? Yes, of course when Kashmir is on its own and the people too have changed their attitude of owning these assets rather than considering these to be expendable government property! Before desiring anything beautiful and special, one has to deserve it too! Let us hope when Kashmir is someday on its own and we have honest and dedicated people, the power system will be a state of the art fail proof enterprise. A truly dream wish, which is not difficult to achieve, given the political will! Comments at:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Desiring but not deserving!

Everyone desires many things in life. Apart from the fact that merely desiring a thing does not materialise it and one has to work to achieve it, there is also another rider of first deserving a thing. There is a saying, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride them”! Kashmiris have been aspiring to be emancipated for a long time. Merely to aspire is not enough. No doubt there has been a long drawn out struggle to achieve total emancipation and many generations have passed away without reaching the goal, yet we seem to be still far away from it. When one ponders over the attitude of the people in general, a question arises whether we really deserve the ultimate emancipation? Most of us seem to have resigned to our fate. Even if we feel that the ultimate emancipation is a distant dream, we could at least cleanse our present way of living till we reach the final goal. At present we are not only suffering physical pollution but even spiritual pollution! This has to be cleansed if one wants to aspire for higher values and goals. What has been the attitude of the people right from the start of the movement for emancipation which started in early thirties? People rose en masse to overthrow the shackles of centuries old slavery. There was hope in the air that we will be free after almost four centuries of external rule. We threw up a colossal leader who promised to lead us to our cherished goal. It was like the coming of Moses as the deliverer. However, he proved to be a shallow patriot and led us from pillar to the post. Yet, in spite of dozens of somersaults we followed him into virtual oblivion. We worshipped him even after he led us into the worst tangle. One would have thought that in spite of all the external pulls and pushes, he would stay his ground for peoples’ emancipation. But the worldly attractions and the blind support we gave him, made him take us deeper and deeper into a morass out of which we are unable to come out. The story of our movement is a long narrative of betrayals for material greed by our leaders and our following these in spite of these betrayals. We have continued to follow our leaders blindly without questioning what their goals were in reality and methodology they were prescribing to reach those goals. We raised them to the level of demi-gods and then they left us in the lurch! The main culprit in putting Kashmiris in the present mess has been the personality cult. Having been ruled by kings and queens for thousands of years, we cannot get out of the monarchical fold. We need a king or a queen to lead us and then ruthlessly rule us. A fellow columnist sometime back opined that one should not indulge in self-flogging as it is depressing. Yes, it is true we have not to be pessimists and find fault with our own selves only. There are many factors responsible for our present mess. However, introspection is the only way to pin point one’s mistakes. Once found, these are to be corrected to enable further progress towards the goal. Those who do not learn from the history are condemned to repeat it! One has to admit that we have serious flaws in our basic character. It may not be that all the people are bad. However, there is always scum in the society which dirties everything. No doubt outsiders have tried to exploit these to their advantage but this has been possible only because we have allowed ourselves to be exploited! We have turned into proverbial lotus eaters and have become extremely callous. We are talking of getting “Azadi” but we already exercise the Azadi to grab land anywhere. We have Azadi to occupy all foot-paths. We do not feel any remorse in violating all land use and building laws. We go berserk in totally debasing our traditional feast of wazawan during marriages because we have so much ill-gotten wealth to display. Outside Kashmir we work like donkeys but here we become lethargic and zombie like. We have handed over all our chores to Biharis and Bengalis. At present we have few hundred thousand dogs making our life miserable and no one has any practical and a workable idea for getting rid of the menace. We are looking forward to the visit of the “Canine Queen” and may even accord her a tumultuous welcome! The government is working on a sterilization programme which may take half a century! Reportedly the official remedy to the dog menace has a massive money base too. There are reportedly over quarter million drug addicts in the valley. There is rampant prostitution. Some years back very high ups were involved in a sex scandal. Accountability for everything is non-existent both from the government side as well as from the civil society. Before desiring the ultimate emancipation we call “Azadi”, we have to deserve it and to do that, the first thing for us is to remove the weaknesses of our character. To begin one has to be honest and speak the truth and have the courage to stand by it regardless of the consequences. However, unfortunately, these are rare commodities in Kashmir these days. We compromise for material interests at every step and are ready to commercialise everything including mosques and graveyards! This must be the only place in the Muslim world where mosques have shops! We have turned everything into a business enterprise. One has to give up the material greed which has seeped into our bloodstream along with its by-product of corruption. We have not only been plagued by material and moral corruption but by the worst form of intellectual corruption. Above all else, we have to give up the personality cult. This is possible only when we base our faith on irrefutable convictions and not follow the “Kings” and “Queens” whom we are still unable to shun in spite of the mess they have put us in! One has to take a stand at some point in one’s life. If we are able to overcome these gross abnormalities in our character, and regain our self-respect and dignity, the “Azadi” will itself come to us! (Comments at

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Giving peace a chance!

The sudden loss of the most venerated shrine of Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani, popularly known in Kashmir as the Dastageer Sahab, did not result in a massive upheaval as was apprehended by the authorities. They clamped down the strictest undeclared curfew over the capital city and other places in the valley fearing a backlash. The people on their own observed a shutdown for five days notwithstanding the fact that almost all organisations had given a call a call for one or two days. The shock suffered by the people manifested itself in a complete paralysis of the normal life. In fact, after the shutdown, the economically aligned groups like the chamber of commerce, asked people to open all businesses and they did it! Now, the each side must be taking credit for first having the entire people confined to their homes to prevent disturbances and then the other having asked them to open up which directive they followed. However, the behaviour of the people is not what appears apparently or what various sides claim to be! It seems that over the years and because of the many upheavals people have become more mature and understand all the gimmickry and can see through various machinations. Kashmiris are an intelligent race. This has been acclaimed by many outsiders right from the earliest Greek historians. The time has also taught them to be great survivors. Otherwise no nation would have survived the centuries of worst oppression seen anywhere in the world! They know when to keep quiet and when to rise up with all their might. Having risen if they feel that it is difficult to carry on right to the end because the price one has to pay is too heavy, they just stop surprising everyone around them. However, this sudden quietness should not be taken to mean that they have given up. It is part of a strategy which involves a long drawn out struggle for final emancipation. Kashmiris never give up! History is a witness to this. In the present scenario, the people have intelligently made out that repeated attempts are being made by vested interests to create dissension on one or the other pretext. It is also understood by the people that a continuous covert attempt is being made to weaken the economic base of the valley. If the valley sinks economically, the losers are the people. If the various factions and parties fight among themselves, the losers again are the people. So they know how to act in different situations which totally baffle the observers within Kashmir as well as outside. The funniest part is some leaders first apologising to the people for causing them inconvenience by the imposition of restrictions worse than curfew without declaring it and then thanking the leaders of the popular movement for having co-operated with the authorities in maintaining peace! One cannot be more hypocritical or naïve than this. They should also apologise to the people for having failed in revoking the draconian legislations giving unbridled power to the security forces for violating human rights with impunity. This being so in spite of umpteen promises made through public statements and declarations. They should also be apologising to the people for having failed in getting back power projects from the so called East India Company known to us as NHPC in spite of their declared resolve to do so! After going through some of the worst situations during last couple of decades, the people are giving peace a chance. The authorities at Delhi and in Srinagar should grab the opportunity to really give a break to the people instead of mistakenly feeling jubilant that they have been able to cow them down. The first thing is to remove the security foot-prints in practical terms rather than in a symbolic way only. Revoke the AFSPA, the Public Safety Act and the Disturbed Areas Act. Remove security bunkers and pickets from all civilian areas. Implement honestly and sincerely the entire cross LOC confidence building measures regarding free travel and trade. Authorities must have understood by now that the economy overrides the sentiments if it is genuinely cared for. Even the people on the other side of the divide are reported to be clamouring for “Azadi”! The motivating factor there too has been the undue and unnecessary curbs from Islamabad. Thus, the ideal situation is to allow the people from both the sides to meet and exchange ideas freely. The solution to the supposedly most intractable problem will evolve automatically. The process can begin only if the two antagonistic neighbours too decide to give peace a chance. They have been going up and down the ladders of peace. The greatest roadblock is the deep mistrust. Again the mistrust cannot go away through the meeting of the elites on two sides. There too they have to give a chance to the grass roots people to meet each other and trade without any hindrance. The fate of not only Kashmiris but more than two billion people of the sub-continent depends on this. Will the peace really get a chance, only time will decide! (Comments at

Friday, June 29, 2012

Strangulating Kashmiris!

Kashmir must be the only place in the world where the administration has coined the word, the “undeclared curfew”! It is a strange measure used to confine people indoors just because there is apprehension of breach of peace. No doubt every government whether democratic or otherwise has the first duty to protect its people and their property. However, there are certain norms or laws to be followed. The constitution guarantees every citizen the basic freedom of expression. It may be expression of joy or sorrow. If the government feels that such an expression publicly will create a problem of law and order, it has every right to take preventive measures. There is no parallel for such a dispensation (undeclared curfew) in the statute book or any legal framework. It allows authorities to curtail all basic human rights without any legal accountability. This strategy appears to have come out from the lessons given to the King in one of the chapters of Kautaliya’s Arthshashtra, an equivalent of Machiavelli’s Prince! However, resorting to such unconstitutional and illegal means to suppress a peoples’ expression of sorrow shows only desperation of the authorities. The constitution of India under article 19 guarantees certain fundamental freedoms to every citizen. The right to freedom enshrined under this article stipulates that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression; to assemble peaceably and without arms; to form associations and unions; to move freely throughout the territory of India, and so on. It is specifically provided that all citizens have the right to free speech and expression and can move freely throughout India. Imposition of restrictions on free speech and expression are not tenable under any law whatsoever. These can only be restricted under certain extreme conditions especially if such expression causes ill will between communities or any utterances are prejudicial or biased which may cause enmity between people and so on. Even for placing such restrictions there are laws, rules, and specified authorities which are empowered under specified circumstances to place these restrictions by notifications and declarations in writing. Again such restrictions are for a specific period of time. Similarly, movement of people can only be restricted if the authorities are satisfied that such movement can be harmful for the citizens at large. Again such movements have to be restricted only after issuing requisite orders or notifications under relevant laws and rules in writing. Curfew is the last resort of the authorities responsible for the maintenance of law and order in a state. It is resorted to only when the situation is extremely grave and it is not possible to maintain peace without restricting citizens to their homes. The authority, normally the district magistrate has to be satisfied that such a grave situation has arisen that the maintenance of peace in an area requires total confinement of the citizens to their homes on the pain of even death in some cases of communal riots etc. Even under such strict restrictions on the movement of people the members of essential services such as doctors, employees of power and water supply department, journalists, and others are allowed to move with curfew passes issued by the concerned district magistrate. On the contrary in the case of an “Undeclared Curfew” there is no such provision. In such a state, the role of legal administrators such as the district magistrate is totally eliminated. Here everything is legal in national interest. The security forces with the draconian powers conferred on them by the AFSPA become a law unto themselves. There is no accountability at all. They have completely eliminated the legal requirement of a magistrate to take stock of the prevalent situation and order appropriate action under law for ensuring peace. Such circumstances can exist only in an enemy territory during war. In no other part of the country can such a state of affairs prevail. Any violation of the fundamental rights in any part of India will give rise to a media uproar but not in case of Kashmir. The media has even boycotted due coverage of the tragedy. Imposition of curfew in a legal way automatically sends a signal worldwide that the situation in Kashmir is grave. However, the authorities probably think that creating a curfew like situation without the legal requirement of declaring does not send a similar message across through the international media channels. It is like giving a beating to a nasty child within the confines of a house after shutting out all the windows and doors. No one is supposed to know about the real ground situation. But in the present world with information highways such a measure is nothing but self-delusion. In view of this, the most appropriate measure especially in case of apprehension of violence would have been to impose curfew. Once the curfew is formally imposed by the district magistrate, the citizens still have some rights. For instance people connected with healthcare and essential services can be issued curfew passes to enable them to fulfil their obligations. But once restrictions of curfew are imposed without formally declaring a curfew, people connected with various services or even facing some serious health problems cannot be issued any curfew passes for movement. In fact, one could give curfew relaxation in a staggered manner to various localities by turn to enable purchase of provisions, medicine etc. Such cruel measures are not imposed even by the totalitarian regimes. It is not for the first time that resort to such undemocratic measures has been taken in Kashmir. Earlier during turmoil of 2010 and 2008, similar actions were taken. It appears that the government considers strangulating people the best alternative to prevent any expression of mourning or anger. However, such drastic measures may give temporary relief but in the long run these alienate people not only from the local government but from their patrons sitting in Delhi. It seems the people in earlier times were more far sighted and intelligent than the present lot. In early sixties on a similar occasion when the holy relic was removed from Hazratbal, there was wide spread mourning throughout the valley. At that time the then Prime Minister ordered that no restriction should be imposed on expression of grief by the people. In fact, a senior minister was deputed to console people and supervise recovery of the relic. But the current dispensation seems to believe in only one weapon, the weapon of suppression of all feelings, emotions and sentiments. Unfortunately, they do not understand that suppressing genuine expression of one’s feelings drives these down and converts these into seething anger. The most humiliating and unethical has been allowing certain important persons to visit the site of the tragedy and then giving it wide publicity while as the real mourners who have suffered the loss are confined to their homes! In spite of these cruelties Kashmiris have shown patience. Someone has rightly said, “Beware of the fury of a patient man!” When it breaks, it wipes out everything in its path! Comments at:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kashmir’s Vanishing Heritage

The unfortunate destruction of the shrine of Dastgeer sahib in a devastating fire has once again starkly pointed out our callousness in preserving our past especially the invaluable heritage of centuries. In recent times, the word “Heritage” has been extensively used especially in promoting new avenues of tourism. In fact, the word “Heritage Tourism” is becoming a new buzz word for the tourism players. Unfortunately, the uncalled for “Tourism Mania” has blinded us to other aspects of our past history as well as present living conditions and we have been forced to judge everything throw the narrow and undependable prism of tourism. A nation’s heritage has many facets. It consists of its language and its literature, its culture, its dresses and festivals, historical buildings and monuments and so on. Heritage is carried on and preserved from generation to generation. For the living nations, the heritage is the very life and to the dead nations it makes no difference! The first thing we have completely neglected is our language. We cannot blame the rulers only for this neglect. We have ourselves in our homes stopped talking to our young kids in their mother tongue. Somehow we feel proud in talking among ourselves in Urdu or English! One never sees the French, the Italians, the Greeks or the Russians talking among themselves in their homes in a foreign language. Secondly, we have forgotten our thousands of years old history. Any nation which gives up its mother tongue and forgets its history soon gets amalgamated and ceases to be a nation. For some unknown reasons copying the west or even our neighbouring areas makes us feel superior. Unless we take pride in our own language and remember our history, we are bound to perish as a nation. An important component of our heritage are the shrines and mosques, some of which are centuries old. Islam was introduced in the Valley of Kashmir not by conquest but by gradual conversion effected by Muslim Missionaries. Islam is essentially a missionary religion and the Muslim Missionary, be he a Pir (a spiritual guide) or a preacher, carries with him the Message of Islam to the people of the Land he enters. A Missionary has the spirit of truth in his heart which cannot rest till it manifests itself in thought, word, and deed. The first missionary to visit Kashmir in the time of Raja Suhadeva was Bilal Shah or Bulbul Shah; a well-travelled Musavi Sayyid from Turkistan. However, the greatest missionary whose personality wielded the most extraordinary influence in the spread of Islam in Kashmir was Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani also known as Amir-I-Kabir or Ali-I-Sani and popularly called Shah-i-Hamadan. He came to Kashmir with 700 sayyids in the reign of Sultan Shihab-ud-Din 774 A.H. (1374 A.D.). The presence of Shah-i-Hamadan was a major factor in the spread of Islam in the valley of Kashmir. His co-workers included Mir Sayyid Haidar, Sayyid Jamal-ud-Din, Sayyid Kamal-i-Sani, Sayyid Jamal-ud-Din Alai, Sayyid Rukn-ud-Din, Sayyid Muhammad and Sayyid Azizullah. These Sayyids established Shrines with lodging and langar at many places in the valley which served as centres for propagation of Islam. He also introduced the different handicrafts besides teaching Islam. As a result the handicraft industry received a fillip in Kashmir. He laid greater emphasis on earning legal livelihood and so rejected all the means available for the support of the Sufis. He earned his livelihood by cap making. This impact of Shah-i-Hamadan continues to be felt after six hundred years of his death. In fact, the modern Kashmir has the spiritual inputs of Shah-i-Hamadan but unfortunately we have drifted away from the spirit of truth in thought, word, and deed, which was his basic philosophy. The shrines of Kashmir are typical examples of pagoda style architecture showing Chinese influence. We have lost a few due to fires in the recent past. Almost all these shrines and our historical mosques built during the Muslim period are made of wood. This is in contrast to the monuments of ancient Hindu period of Kashmir which are mostly of solidstone blocks like the famous Martand sun temple. No doubt there were wooden buildings in ancient Kashmir as Rajtarangni mentions lofty wooden houses as one of the five things for which Kashmir was famous in those times. Kashmir’s Grand Mosque, the Jama Masjid is also a wooden structure. This mosque too had been destroyed in fire in earlier times and was re-built. One cannot blame the people of those times when they did not have proper means of either preventing a fire or even fighting a fire. However, in the most advanced technological twenty first century of chips, sensors, and most modern means of fire prevention and fire fighting, it is shear criminal negligence if one of our heritage shrines is consumed by alleged accidental fire! The first thing the members of the board looking after these shrines should have been doing is to take fool proof measures for prevention as well as fighting any accidental fires. They are now waking up to this stark reality which may someday consume all our heritage of these historical shrines! Cable cars and other commercial ventures which we are introducing into every aspect of life can wait but the measures to protect and preserve our heritage cannot wait. Kashmir is supposed to be an integral part of the secular Indian state, then why is the government controlling the religious affairs? In no other part of the country are the religious institutions headed by respective Chief Ministers or Governors. Why is it so in Kashmir? Unless, because of Kashmir being a Muslim majority state, the government wants to control the majority through its religious institutions. Similar is the case with Hindu institutions which are to be headed by Hindu Governors. The fault also lies with the civil society which not only expects the government in which it claims to have no trust, to take care of everything but wakes up temporarily once something drastic happens! Once the tragedy is forgotten, the civil society goes back to sleep. It is time for the people to wake up and take measures on voluntary basis to preserve these precious objects of our centuries old heritage. We should not leave everything to what a friend calls the “Dead wood” bound to itself catch fire one day, sooner than later!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Browbeating to cover helplessness?

As given in Wikipedia, the following poem is found in the school book "Maxwell's Elementary Grammar", copyright 1904. "Oho!' said the pot to the kettle; "You are dirty and ugly and black! Sure no one would think you were metal, Except when you're given a crack." "Not so! not so! kettle said to the pot; "'Tis your own dirty image you see; For I am so clean -without blemish or blot- That your blackness is mirrored in me" The Chief Minister’s missive to the people to pay the market price for the electric power supplied by his government or face load shedding reflects helplessness in tackling the transmission losses of almost 70% as claimed by him. If the major portion of power loss is caused by pilferage, it compounds the problem as no pilferage is possible without active connivance of the departmental officials at various levels. One cannot put the onus of the failure of authorities in tackling power theft on all the people. The gravity of the transmission losses by poor conduction or theft as claimed by the Chief Minister has supposedly reached such proportions that the revenue earned is not even one fourth of the expenditure on importing the same from the northern grid. It is just one aspect of the mother of all corrupt and incompetent governments seen by Kashmiris in last 65 years! Before browbeating the people, one has to introspect why we are in a power mess? Who has sold all the power resources of Kashmir lock, stock, and barrel to NHPC for pea nuts? The predecessors of the present rulers. If we go by expert findings, NHPC has built itself as a flourishing company on the revenue generated from its power projects in Kashmir. No doubt the present rulers have inherited this legacy of perennial power shortage but it does not behove them to put all the blame on the people. Kashmir’s income from power generation could be over a hundred thousand crores per year had we not mortgaged our resources first under the Indus Water Treaty and subsequently to NHPC. We could be the most flourishing state even after supplying absolutely free power to our own people. No one else but an important minister in the present government claims NHPC to be liars! They are said to have virtually looted the state of its rightful revenue. If so, then what right have the rulers to accuse the people of power theft? Had the state been receiving power from the northern grid at the generation cost, we could almost supply free power to our people. Now, coming to transmission and distribution losses, all are not due to power theft. We have the most archaic and fragile power distribution system. It is the only place in the world where power is shut down during high winds or a thunder storm, rain or even a light snowfall! The conductors used are of low quality, the poles carrying these apart from being fragile, are very shabbily embedded. Normally these should be in concrete blocks about few feet below the surface. In reality, these are just a foot below and often get uprooted. Worn out transformers, dangerously dangling service lines and a host of other parts involved in carrying and distribution of power is a typically pathetic scene of our distribution system. The entire system is maintained by over 10,000 daily wagers interestingly called the “PDL” (permanent daily wage labour!). Some of these have been there for over 18 years! Whenever these people go on a strike to plead for permanent absorption, the system virtually collapses. Thus, more than generation and gridding, the department has to pay attention to the distribution system. The most unfortunate part is the tendency of the government to do everything on its own. Be it the setting up and operation of Golf Courses, Cable Cars, Huts and so on in Tourism sector or generation, transmission, and distribution of power. Most of these things could be out sourced to private players with strict regulation and monitoring. If the production and transmission are looked after by the government because of the high cost involved in these and the reluctance of the private players to come in because of the present scenario of uncertainty, at least the distribution system could be privatized. However, to do that first the system itself has to be modernized and cleansed through some reputed agencies on a turnkey basis within a specified period of time. This may be essential before any private players are willing to take it over. This should not be a difficult proposition if the rulers have the political will and are honest in their endeavour to help the people rather than browbeat them. Omar Abdullah may be a well-meaning person fired to achieve something positive for his people but unfortunately he is pulled down by a thoroughly corrupt system and incompetent advisors. The worst thing is the coalition of the most corrupt which he is supposed to be heading! It is time he took some drastic but positive decisions of his own which he has the absolute power to do under the constitution as the entire residuary powers vest in him alone. If he considers himself to be the popularly elected Chief Minister, then he should be dictating to Delhi and not taking their diktats be it AFSPA revocation or dealings with NHPC or so. One is reminded here of GM Sadiq whose legislators rushed to Delhi to complain to Indira Gandhi about his tough decisions. He phoned her and told her to find a new Chief Minister if she went by the false complaints of the legislators. She had no alternative but to bundle them back after thoroughly abusing them! One wishes Omar takes similar courageous steps! Then he won’t have to browbeat the people by calling the kettle black! (Comments at

Elite Conferences giving elite Solutions

During last few years there have been a host of conferences and interactions within Kashmir and outside to find a solution to the problem pestering not only the sub-continent but entire South Asia. Most of the time the conference venues have been high end places in metros and sometimes in world capitals. The amount of money spent on these events must be sizeable. However, in spite of these efforts and initiatives taken in good faith we do not seem to be anywhere near the final solution. At the most the people have been able to outline the broad parameters of approaches to the ultimate solution. Even these road maps, approaches, back-channels have been going round and round in circles for quite some time. There is not a single day when one does not come across some conference or interaction, seminar being held to resolve Kashmir in one or the other part of the world. The process has now been going on for 65 years! Two generations of Kashmiris have passed away without evening getting a glimpse of the ultimate solution. Yes, all of those people had been yearning for the ultimate emancipation called “Azadi”. Even some of our elders have willed it that the people should come to their graves and announce the good news about Kashmir being finally, “Free”, whenever that happens! In the recent years, some of the approaches suggested had raised many hopes. One of these is the Musharraf’s four point formula. In fact, it was not a solution but a way forward to let a solution evolve by easing of curbs and allowing the meeting of people on the two sides of the divide. Identifying the areas of trouble on two sides; demilitarising these; allowing these areas self-governance, and a mechanism for joint control including the representatives of the people of these areas. This set up could go on for ten years and after that it could be reviewed. It was expected that the solution would automatically evolve. One of the important components of the process was making the Line of Control irrelevant. This would mean totally free movement of the people as well as the goods. The road map as such seems quite practicable and in line with the present status of the area. However, the basic requirement is the honesty of purpose and absolute mutual trust. The two most important ingredients which have so far remained totally elusive in this part of the world. There have been many other models for resolution of the dispute proposed from time to time by different personalities, agencies and organisations. Among the recent ones was the Irish model. The Trieste model was also suggested by some. Then there has been the famous Dixon Plan proposed by Sir Owen Dixon in 1950. There is a long list of proposals which has accumulated since 1947 when the dispute first initiated. There have been proposals for UN mediation. European Union was also asked to mediate. There have been proposals for division along the line of control. The list goes on and on. However, most of these attempts have failed because of intransigence of one or the other stakeholder in the dispute. The greatest tragedy is that the main stakeholders, the people of Kashmir who are directly in the line of fire have remained uncared for and have never been formally consulted by any international agency. Nor have they ever had a say in the bilateral dialogues between the two warring neighbours. This fanatic intransigence of the governments on two sides is because of the feeling of deep mistrust which gives rise to extreme animosity. The Hindutva brigade on the Indian side and the religious extremism on the Pakistani side supported by its army do not allow any bilateral initiative to succeed. In spite of increasing trade, symbolic movement across the line of control, the mistrust refuses to go away. In fact, every confidence building measure gets derailed due to “Security” considerations from both the sides which override everything else. Most of these “Security” considerations have communal undertones. Just recently, three meets failed to reach any consensus. The dispute over the most tortuous cold battle-field of Siachen remained unresolved. There was no agreement on Sir Creek either. Even the already agreed to liberalised visa regime remained unsigned. A friend believes that the problems of the sub-continent can be resolved only between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Pakistan army. If these two come to an understanding, there will be total peace in the sub-continent! A beginning in this regard was seen during Vajpayee-Musharraf exchange. Things may have worked out well but unfortunately, both the rulers disappeared from the scene. The problem with “Elite Conferences giving elite Solutions” is that the grass roots people suffering because of the conflict are nowhere in the picture. No solution would be practical unless the people are on board. There cannot even be any progress unless the common people on both the sides engage with each other freely and evolve a solution by consensus. To achieve that one has to go beyond the cosy environs. Firstly, there has to be political will on both the sides. Without strong and decisive leaders in both the countries at the helm, no progress is possible. Their initiatives would have to include the reigning in of their respective “Security” grids. This can happen only if these leaders have popular backing for their initiatives. Popular support can come up only after the common people on two sides freely meet each other and create a powerful constituency for reconciliation and peace. To do that one has to go beyond symbolic confidence measures. The massive partition walls being continuously strengthened with latest technology and gadgets have to be demolished. Until that happens, we will continue to hold endlessly “Elite conferences giving elite solutions” and the final goal will remain as elusive as ever!

Stray Dogs superior to Wild Life!

Apart from the natural beauty of our environment, the most precious asset we have is the rare wild life. This includes the snow leopard, hangul, markhor, musk dear, brown bear, and among the birds the rare black-necked crane and the Bar Headed geese. Some of these species are threatened and global efforts are on to save these. Many people including Bedi Brothers have done some good work on the rare Snow Leopard in Ladakh. Black-necked crane and the Bar Headed Geese are being monitored through satellites. Kashmir’s most prestigious project was the “Save Hangul” campaign. In fact, in mid-eighties the Hangul population had crossed 800. However, the turmoil of nineties when there was a total free for all reduced the population to only 150 or so! At the present moment the number is estimated to be 250. One would have thought that the government would be very keen to protect and preserve this precious wild life. On the contrary they seem to be extra keen to save the rapidly growing stray dog population. There is talk of spending rupees one thousand crores on the well-being of these dogs posing a severe threat to the local population. Pounds in beautiful surroundings have been constructed for these animals posing a threat to human life and dog caretakers are being employed from among the unemployed youth. Compared to this the total budget of the Wild Life Department is rupees three and a half crores and it has been static for last few years. The most important asset of the wildlife department has been the wetlands. Some of these have already disappeared and others are facing extinction. These have been encroached, filled up and developed as land for building houses, shops, and other structures with impunity. The department is facing insurmountable hurdles in trying to save the rare species inhabiting our forests and higher mountain regions. They have a very meagre amount from the Central Government from the species recovery programme. In fact, the amount for entire India is rather too small. It is reported to be around seventy odd crores and the species to be saved are many. Similarly, the department is supposed to look after the man-animal conflict. Not only have they to control the wild animals attacking civilian populations near the forests but they have to pay compensation to people hurt or killed in animal attacks. Subduing a wild animal mauling civilian population is not an easy and a cheap task. Each tranquiliser shot costs eight to ten thousand rupees. After subduing, the animal has to be transported and lodged in some enclosure. There have been plans to construct proper zoos at Ramnagar in Jammu and Dachigam in Srinagar but the shortage of funds has adversely affected the completion of these. These could have been ideal public places to show case the wildlife of Kashmir and could be a good tourist attraction. In fact, the department of tourism spending hundreds of crores on Golf courses and Gondola lifts could also chip in. A zoo showcasing the wild life and birds of J & K could be a great attraction both in Jammu and Srinagar. Kashmir’s tragedy is that the high ups both in Delhi and Srinagar are enamoured of stray dogs than the precious human life or even the rare wild life. Menaka Gandhi, the greatest ever animal lover is so concerned about the well-being of the stray dogs in Kashmir that she phones the concerned officials repeatedly whether these are properly fed and looked after during sterilization. The places where the dogs are being sterilised are thousand times more hygienic and well equipped in all respects than the infamous G B Pant Hospital which has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent Kashmiri infants. Even the General heading the Animal Welfare Board is more concerned about the dog welfare than the Union or the State Health Ministries are about the children’s’ welfare! There cannot be a worse example of misplaced priorities or lopsided planning than these episodes involving the innocent human lives and rare wild animals on one hand and the stray dogs on the other. One is not so sure about the importance being given to the value of human life in Kashmir these days especially after the insistence of certain quarters to retain legislative powers giving them the authority to kill human beings with impunity. However, one could plead the case for a better deal to the rare wild life. Just imagine if only 20% of the funds proposed to be spent on the sterilisation of stray dogs could be diverted to GB Pant hospital or other similar healthcare facilities what a difference it would make? Just 1% of these “Dog Welfare Funds” could give a very welcome boost to the preservation and protection of the other animal life! Surely, the dog lovers in Delhi and Srinagar would not object to this minor diversion! Food for thought for the authorities in Delhi and Srinagar.

Kashmir on its own-Environment!

Kashmir is at present beset with all sorts of problems. Nothing seems to work. Nothing is as it should have been ideally given our resources and the environment. How would Kashmir have progressed had it been on its own with absolute freedom of action? The question posed may seem hypothetical or even utopian but one can always imagine what the so called “Paradise on Earth” would have been, had there been genuine developmental activity through honest people. Each sector could have vied with the similar ones abroad especially with same type of climate and environment. Let us begin with environment. There are no two opinions that the biggest culprits in destroying it are we ourselves. The material greed has made us blind to our immediate concerns as well as to posterity. Wanton destruction of our lush green forests;pollution of water bodies and the valley’s lifeline, the River Jhelum; conversion of green paddy land into housing colonies and so on has been done by us on our own or in connivance with outsiders. Added to this greed has been the opportunistic leadership with one point programme of power and material gain. It is rightly said that the people get the rulers they deserve! The best catalyst for the growth of both, the corrupt and the dishonest leadership and a similar lot of people under them, has been the situation of uncertainty. People have followed in letter and spirit the saying “make hay while the “Son” shines”. For decades one has been pinning for the dying Dal Lake. Wullar has suffered the worst fate as it is not directly in the path of the “tourists” for whom everything in Kashmir gets a priority. For some unknown reasons every bit of environment is judged as a tourist attraction. No one comes forward to say that tourists or no tourists, we have to safeguard the environment for our own living. The fate of our lush green forests is pathetic. Young trees have been mowed down like corn or wheat by timber smugglers in connivance with officials, local people and the security forces. Dal has to be saved but at the same time we have to cater to “tourists” by keeping houseboats on it as well as polluting hotels around it. It is reported that under law all construction around the lake has been stopped but one can see in broad daylight dozens of hotels being constructed within less than a kilometre from the lake periphery. Laws are observed more in breach in our part of the world! Dal Lake cannot be saved by bits and pieces. It has to be a time bound all inclusive turnkey project. The Uri Power project, probably the best in the state at the moment, was built by SKANSKA, a Swedish consortium of international agencies. It was completed in time in spite of total turmoil in the valley and withstood 7.5 Richter scale earthquake. Kashmir, if on its own, could also engage a consortium of resourceful top of the line international agencies dealing in various aspects of lake restoration and conservation. They could have been given a turnkey job without any political interference to be completed in a specific time frame. Dal has been dirtied more by politics than by pollutants. It needs a national initiative to engage agencies with plenty of resources if the job is to be completed in a given time frame. A few harvesters or a couple of excavators cannot redeem the highly polluted and encroached Lake. If one proceeds honestly, the population residingaround the Lake and even in it has to be provided means to get rid of their polluting waste products in a fool proof manner. The sewage treatment plants set up need to be of international standards and have to be monitored continuously. The hotels around Dal have either to be closed or provided with individual treatment plants to ensure no pollutants flow into the Lake. Similarly, the house boats have to be provided flexible connections to dispose of their waste water and refuse on the land as is done in some European countries having similar house boats on lakes and rivers. Same is the case with our forests. If one could obtain the services of some Canadian forestry experts both for conservation of our forests and for retrieving fallen wood in deep valleys, there would be no need for forest smugglers to cut the forests next to the population centres. We have enough timber and firewood available in deep valleys which rot in the absence of any dependable modern system of retrieval. The only things we have been able to contribute to our lovely mountains are garbage trails, like the one on the route to the Amarnath cave! One sometimes dreams about the pure lush green forests and lovely mountains. About the clean and serene lakes and rivers that were part of ancient Kashmir. Will we ever see these again? The drastic change in the climate involving erratic snowfall, rains, and sudden wind storms indicates the damage our environment has gone through due to greed, corruption and dirty politics. There is no way of checking it unless Kashmir is on its own and there is honest, sincere, and committed leadership to take bold steps to preserve it. Delhi and Islamabad are least concerned about the fate of Kashmiris. They want to keep the piece of land called Kashmir purely for strategic reasons with or without Kashmiris. Can we redeem our environment? Will this ever happen? It now entirely depends upon the new generation of Kashmiris as the older generations have failed to deliver both for themselves and the posterity!

Bread, not nukes!

Pakistan is reported to be stockpiling nuclear war heads and by now they may have over a hundred. Similarly, India too is following suit and additionally testing ICBMs capable of the delivery of these nuclear weapons. Apart from this, both the countries are madly looking for conventional weapons at a huge cost. According to a survey conducted recently, India is the largest importer of conventional weapons in the world. These imports are worth billions of dollars. A deal has been under process for about $ 10 billion to purchase 126 latest fighter aircraft. At the present moment India’s defence budget is $ 41 billion. During next 5 years India is going to import weapons worth $ 50 billion. From Russia they plan to buy over 200 Sukhoi fighters worth $ 10 billion. Pakistanis are spending almost half of their budget on defence related purchases. In addition they have received liberal arms aid from USA. Even though the defence budget is only $ 5.75 billion yet compared to social services it is colossal. On an average during last 10 years or so they have been spending 10 to 23 % of their budget on defence. Compared to this the expenditure on health has been 0.61 to 0.88 % and on education 0.94 to 1.88 %. There is a crazy competition between these two neighbouring countries to acquire lethal weapons from all over the world. Now, India has to contend with China also. This has increased the arms spending still further. Pakistanis are totally broke. They have literally more weapons than breads for the hungry people. It is a pity that on one hand we are talking of a peaceful and economically developing South Asia while on the other hand most of our precious resources are channelled into arms purchases. It is claimed that India is shinning and is on way to becoming a super power and an economic giant. Yes, it was true but not now. The growth rate is down from 8% to 5%. Inflation has exceeded 10%. Rupee is tumbling. At present 56 to a US dollar! At the same time it has teeming millions living below the poverty line. Almost half the population mostly in rural areas does not have access to cured drinking water. More than 60% have no toilet facilities and go out in the nature. Basic healthcare is not available to the majority of the population. Infant mortality is very high. Most of all the bulk of the population does not have enough bread to eat. Yes, there is a large middle class and an extremely rich corporate sector but it is nowhere near being a welfare state for its citizens in spite of 65 years of independence. Well, we can say Pakistan is worse off. They too are not a welfare state. They have a rich feudal aristocracy and plenty of warlords. No power. No gas. No bread. Yes, the only thing they have in plenty is small arms and wide spread violence! The moot point is why have these two South Asian countries which were earlier a single unit become such adversaries? Why are they spending a major chunk of their precious resources on arming themselves for a senseless confrontation? One needs to go beyond the sub-continent to understand that mystery. The white man had colonized the entire world. With the mass awakening in these colonies, they had to slowly vacate all these held territories whose resources they had mercilessly robed. However, after losing the physical control, they invented a new type of colonialism. The economic colonialism. They ensured that these free countries did not follow the line of a welfare state like their own countries and enslaved them through various crafty measures. The best and the least expensive thing was to create situations of conflict amongst these. In fact, the division of the sub-continent and creation of an unsolvable dispute of Kashmir has been their very clever machination. This has been confirmed by the declassification of secret documents recording minutes of meetings held between George Marshal and Bevin in early forties. Not only did they create the virtually unending conflict and mistrust but ensured its continuation by various overt and covert means. From one extreme position of supporting Pakistan out rightly against India through the defence pacts of SEATO and CENTO, they have now given total support to India ostensibly for economic reasons but in reality to also ensure the tangle remains unsettled and they reap the benefits from both the sides. The most tragic part is that some of our leaders in both the countries not only endorse the policy of these western colonisers but actually collaborate with them. One would have thought these leaders to be in the forefront for developing their countries as welfare states so as to give good life to the teeming millions but they are raising pitch for more and more conflicts to waste the precious resources on lethal weapons. Both India and Pakistan need bread for their people rather than stock piles of nukes. It is probably difficult for the partition generations to reconcile to each other. The mistrust created in 1947 refuses to go away. It seems the only hope is the new generation. Unfortunately, the religious extremists in both countries are trying their best to poison the minds of the youth. The intelligence and security agencies in both the countries seem to have a commitment to prevent removal of mistrust between the two governments. The story is different when people from two sides meet each other. The high level elite interactions in five star hotels are mostly confined to the partition generation who try to drown their prejudices in cocktail parties. However, the true bonhomie and togetherness can come only through the “Junoon” generation which is devoid of any prejudices and biases of the partition days. The first thing which needs to be done to really remove the mistrust is to end the ridiculous spectacle at Atari-Wagah border. The flag raising and lowering ceremonies are a manifestation of enmity and aggressiveness. This must be the only place in the world where such a spectacle is held and advertised for the people to see it! Unless the common people on two sides meet each other freely and travel to each others’ places without any let or hindrance, the mutual trust cannot be built. It is a pity that in spite of umpteen meetings the two sides have not been able to relax the visa restrictions. The walls being built between the people of the two countries are more formidable than even the Berlin Wall. It seems the two governments are held hostage to the biases, prejudices, and the mistrust. Ultimately, the people themselves on two sides may have to rise to demolish the sub-continent’s Berlin Wall. Unless that is done, we will continue to make nukes instead of the scarce bread!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The only hope

For past sometime there has been lot of bickering, accusations, counter-accusations going on among the leaders supposed to be leading the Kashmir’s movement for total emancipation. The people have remained by and large unconcerned about these developments. In fact, some of the leaders seem to have lost their relevance in the fast changing circumstances in the sub-continent as well as in Kashmir itself. Is there any hope for the people? Can our main problem be ever sorted out? And who will do it? These are some of the questions to which every Kashmiri is looking for an answer! The last two decades have seen the birth and growth of a new generation of Kashmiris which has come up in the worst circumstances ever witnessed during last 60 years or so. They have seen enough of bloodshed and violence. This generation fully understands that there is something basically wrong in Kashmir. They are also determined to change the situation for the better. They showed their determination and commitment in 2008 and 2010 when the traditional leaders were following them instead of leading them! A number of surveys have been conducted to gauge the mind-set and thinking of this new generation. Many initiatives have been taken to mould the thinking and outlook of this generation towards a particular school of thought. A number of youth leaders from within the state and outside have tried to address these youth with the aim of leading them towards some specific goals. It has been observed by some of the surveyors that the youth are restive for economic reasons. There are over half a million educated unemployed. If they are provided jobs and led towards developmental initiatives, the youth will stop becoming restive and their alienation will end. There are hundreds of ngo’s funded from different sources working to mould and guide these youth towards what are termed as the constructive initiatives. However, the majority of youth who took part in the upheavals of 2008 and 2010 were not there for economic reasons. In fact, quite a large number of youth who were arrested were employed and economically well off. They were not out on the streets for economic or developmental reasons. They were protesting the highhandedness of the governments at Delhi and Srinagar. In fact, during the visit of Dr. Manmohan Singh to Kashmir even Omar Abdullah in his address mentioned that the youth of Kashmir had not taken up arms in 1990 for economic reasons! The youth of early nineties were fired with the desire to realise the long pending aspirations of Kashmiris. The slogan of Azadi was everywhere. There were almost million strong marches in which people from all sections of the society participated. Unfortunately, the violence apart from taking lives of thousands of young men brutalised and criminalised the whole movement due to influx of agent provocateur from all sides. Virtually the movement was hijacked and the basic objective was lost. In comparison, the present day youth are more alert and educated. They are well aware about the role of agent provocateur. In fact, they even challenged the so called leaders if they appeared wavering or gave wrong lead. This has been possible because the new generation is not blindly following the personality cult which has been mainly responsible for the undoing of all movements in Kashmir. One of the main handicaps for the government for completely suppressing the movements in 2008 and 2010 has been the absence of any so called charismatic and tall leaders. Everybody was a leader! In spite of massive arrests, there was no let-up in the protests. In fact, the movement was not violent at all. The youth wanted to convey their feelings peacefully through protest marches. They did not initiate violence. On the contrary, they were violently and ruthlessly suppressed and prevented from marching peacefully. Government lost its nerve and indulged in totally undemocratic behaviour of suppressing the basic freedom of expression. It would have been a positive development if they had realised the paradigm shift in the behaviour of the youth of early nineties and the new generation. Peaceful expression would have automatically led to a dialogue process. At the present time the new generation is educating itself about the different aspects of the problems that plague Kashmir. They are very pro-active in various seminars and conferences held in and outside Kashmir on the subject. In order to acquaint them with the background of the problems it is imperative on the older generation to provide them unbiased and unprejudiced account of all the past happenings. There are two important requirements for reinforcing one’s convictions. Authentic and unbiased history and direct contact with the masses to know about the present ground situation. One has also to realise that the force of an argument based on truth and honesty is stronger than any lethal weapon. As the famous Kashmiri historian Kalhana has said, “The country of Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers!” If the new generation bases its moves on the true and honest convictions and the force of spiritual merit and rejects the personality cult, they will definitely lead Kashmir to its ultimate salvation. In the long run they may be the only hope for Kashmir! (Comments at