Monday, May 28, 2012
For more than half a century, the Kashmir problem has defied a solution. Right from its creation in 1947, dozens of attempts have been made internationally as well as within the sub-continent to find a way out of this tangle which has taken a huge toll of human lives. Apart from forcing the two neighbouring countries to divert their precious resources in fighting each other, the conflict on this issue has made the life of Kashmiris miserable. They have been always overtly or covertly directly in the line of fire of the two warring nations. Guinea pigs subjected to umpteen trials and tribulations to test the conflicting ideologies of secularism and two nation theories. None of the two countries ever had any inclination of emancipating Kasahmiris from centuries of suffering. Because of this basic attitude, most of the attempts have been for managing the conflict rather than resolving it. The continuation of the problem has suited both the countries as well as their masters across the seas. On their part, Kashmiris due to the insincerity, dishonesty, ineptitude, and material greed of their leaders have been circling in an endless desert without any possibility of reaching their coveted goal. During all these years the most restless place has been the Kashmir valley and its Kashmiri speaking periphery which area is sometimes given the name of the Greater Kashmir. The Buddhist Ladakh has been clamouring for Union Territory status within India while as the Hindu majority area of Jammu has been pursuing the goal of total integration right from 1947. On the other side, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly called the Northern Areas) had themselves opted for Pakistan even though they are regretting it now! Pakistan has virtually separated and completely absorbed Gilgit-Baltistan into their mainland as the area is of utmost strategic importance to them as well as the Chinese. The people living in Pak Administered Kashmir also known as the so called Azad Kashmir though not happy with their lot, have not rebelled or tried to secede from Pakistan. It is also definite that no government in Pakistan can think of parting away with the area of Kashmir under their administrative control. Delhi appears to be getting reconciled to the status of these areas under Pakistan’s administrative control. This leaves Kashmir as the only troublesome area. In spite of their best efforts and pumping of huge amounts of money, New Delhi has failed to win over Kashmiris. During the 2008 agitation, a number of Indian intellectuals had boldly declared that Kashmiris should be allowed to go if they were not happy with India. In fact, some intellectuals had mentioned that the valley of Kashmir was like a millstone in the neck of India. It would be cheaper to disinvest Kashmir to allow rest of the country to achieve economic progress and development. The agitation of 2010 reinforced the belief among think tanks that the Kashmiris can never be won over. Their alienation has reached an extreme level. Taking a cue from this it appears that the MHA think tanks instead of getting rid of the troublesome Kashmiris have decided to isolate them. There could have been no better way to do that than through the medium of the so called interlocutors. Many of their recommendations are vague or academic in nature. In fact, one journalist has termed the report as a “pack of lies and lopsided analysis”. One famous columnist says, “It is completely laughable and makes mockery of the aspirations of Kashmiris”. The interlocutors now claim that they “Have left K-Resolution Subject Untouched”. Incidentally, this was the main brief given to them! However, the most controversial but substantive suggestion given by them is about creating three regional councils with equal constitutional, financial, and legislative powers. This had nothing to do with their original brief of identifying the cause of the unrest in Kashmir during 2010. Their suggestion of creating regional councils appears to be aimed at taking care of Ladakh and Jammu and isolating the restless Kashmiris. Probably their (read MHA) assessment is that the off and on trouble which usually emanates from the valley can easily be contained within its confines. The other two areas will not only remain undisturbed but get more easily integrated into the Indian mainland. Incidentally, the suggestion regarding isolating the valley is not a new one. The interlocutors may have unintentionally highlighted a similar suggestion made in the early period of the dispute. It had been there for a long time but in a totally different context. To this day, the people of Kashmir recall the “Dixon Plan". It was proposed by Sir Owen Dixon, a Judge of the Australian High Court who came to the subcontinent as the United Nations' Representative for India and Pakistan pursuant to the Security Council's Resolution of March 14, 1950. It assigned Ladakh to India, the Northern Areas and Pakistan Administered Kashmir to Pakistan, split Jammu between the two, and envisaged a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley. Pakistan had been somewhat hesitant but may have ultimately agreed but Pandit Nehru rejected it because of the fear of losing a plebiscite held under impartial conditions. He had a very strong emotional attachment to the valley! Unfortunately, Nehru’s intense love for Kashmir has been the undoing of the poor Kashmiris! The interlocutor’s suggestions made inadvertently may be the beginning for the revival of the old Dixon Plan? Sometimes circumstances force events to take completely different turn than those intended by the originators of these! Instead of compacting Kashmiris to the valley in order to deal with them independently, they may be ultimately involuntarily paving way for its permanent exit from the Indian Union! (Comments at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sunday, May 27, 2012
There is a debate going on whether there should be a flyover from Jehangir Chowk to Rambagh or there should be a parallel surface road through the adjacent area. The debate is still going on in spite of the fact that the work on the project has already commenced. The project is being funded by the Asian Development Bank. There is no doubt that the construction of a flyover in certain locations is advantageous and does help in quick transportation. There are many cities in the world where the flyovers are constructed in the form of a clover leaf for ease of traffic. Usually such flyovers are constructed in spots where there are no congested built up areas or these are planned in such a way that the least disturbance is caused to the population of the area. The aim is to help the population and make their life easier rather than cause them immense dislocation. There are many issues involved. The environment, the heritage characters of a town or city and above everything else the speed of construction. In case an alternative is available, one would definitely like to consider it before going for an overhead road. Normally, one would give maximum consideration to the ease and convenience of the local inhabitants. However, in our case everything is judged through the easiest escape route as well as by the amount of money one can make through these massive projects! Additionally, things are planned more for the convenience of “tourists” and VIPs than for the local inhabitants. In the instant case, it is to have a fast track to the airport. No doubt, the airport is used by all but there could be many alternatives to have a through way to the facility. One would not mind all the temporary dislocations if the end result was ensuring good traffic circulation in the shortest possible time. This is dependent on the thorough study of the volume of traffic and its circulation keeping in view the principles of traffic engineering as also the speed and quality of construction. In a number of places in the Middle East especially in the Gulf countries the construction of roads and multi-storey buildings is undertaken by resourceful and reputed international companies. The projects are completed well in time and are of the highest quality. In a number of places, one has seen the temporary diversions made for allowing construction of flyovers to be of a better standard than our national highways! The best example of the fastest and the best quality work in the Middle East is the expansion of Makkah and Madina complexes. Should we have similar global construction agencies undertaking the work on high speed with their ample resources and expertise, one would not mind a dozen flyovers in Srinagar. However, the past experience of a flyover on the bye-pass road has shown that we may be in for dislocation for at least 20 years or so! One wishes that the ADB instead of providing funds would straightaway allot the work to a reputed global construction company with a heavy penalty clause for delay and lack of quality! Similar is the situation with traffic lights. These were earlier installed on a number of crossings but soon became defunct and remained as decoration pieces. One hopes that the new initiative is more effective? All the new initiatives and innovations are welcome. These things are meant to ease the situation of traffic in the city of Srinagar. Apart from the city of Srinagar, there are many other bottle necks for smooth flow of traffic on the national highway and other places in the valley. Before one goes for flyovers and traffic lights, it is essential to examine the other basic causes for the mess we are presently in. It is reported that in 1947 there were less than a 100 vehicles in the entire valley. Now, the number is almost a million. The city of Srinagar alone has almost a quarter million! The first question is whether all these vehicles are being driven by trained drivers fully conscious of the basic rules of traffic? Not at all. The easiest thing in Srinagar is a driving licence. It can even be delivered to you at your home for a price regardless of the fact whether you have ever driven a vehicle or not. It does not matter whether you are a major or a minor. It does not matter whether you are colour blind or not. There are additionally a host of fake licences circulating everywhere. Apart from this no one ever bothers to know whether your vehicle is fit to be driven. Some of the heavy vehicles belch diesel fumes in plenty everywhere and no one seems to bother. Thus the first requirement of improving traffic circulation is changing the attitude of the people.At the moment there is free for all. A number of friends and relatives living abroad prefer to travel in a chauffeur driven car than drive their own cars in the crazy traffic of Kashmir. Majority of the people here are absolutely unawareof the road discipline and rules. Main road, side road, fast lane, slow lane, right of way, zebra crossing, road dividers and so on are Greek to most of the drivers here. People are used to make a turnaround in the middle of a highway or a busy road regardless of what happens to other drivers. The road dividers have so many cuts that a driver has a choice of turning round at any place he desires to do so. On one hand is the total disregard by the people of these most important basic norms of driving while as on the other hand there is virtually no enforcement of the same. The only enforcement visible these days is lifting away of the vehicles parked in wrong places. The worst violators of all the norms are the bus drivers, both the minibuses and the bigger buses. They stop anywhere. In the middle of the road, on a curve, uphill or downhill to drop and pick up passengers. They hardly stop at the designated bus stops. Moreover, they race each other to pick up passengers. They are not only hazardous but the real originators of the worst traffic jams. One hardly sees a policeman challenging them in violating these road rules. Somehow, they seem to be confident that no one is going to challenge them. Everyone knows the reasons for that! They seem to have “bought” their “special” rights on the road! Next are the VIPs with their red lights, sirens and escorts. They too do not honour the rules. Their armed escorts find a way for them to overtake everyone. For VVIPS, the road is kept clear well before their arrival. One can see all the traffic policemen with hand held wireless sets monitoring their movement. That seems their most important job. However, they seem to be helpless when the soldiers block the road for the movement of their convoys. One has seen many a ministers in flag cars turn back from an army road block! Sometimes it is really pathetic when one sees VIPs violating all traffic norms and rushing ahead while ambulances are stuck in the middle of a traffic jam! It might be a good idea to handover the traffic management to the army or paramilitary as these days with the decline in militancy related incidents they have plenty of time at their disposal. Moreover, with AFSPA remaining in place they are more powerful than the local policemen! In any case, before we go full speed with our new initiatives and innovations, we need to do something about the attitude of the people. Firstly, they have to be made fully aware of these basic rules and then there has to be strict enforcement of the same on the ground. For awareness one can use the electronic media. Awareness could also be made through various educational institutions. One can even appeal for disseminating the same in the religious gatherings. Will someone please take the initiative in that regard? That will definitely improve the situation than umpteen numbers of flyovers and traffic lights! Feedback at email@example.com
Thursday, May 24, 2012
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 ofa 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 historyand 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!
Friday, May 18, 2012
In any pediatric hospital anywhere in the world single death of an infant sends alarm bells and an automatic enquiry starts to pin point the causes to enable remedial measures. Imagine 359 infants dying in a matter of just four months! It is not only gross criminal negligence but rather mass murder. Some people have termed it genocide. Well, even if we call it genocide, it has not been perpetrated by a foreign power but by our own people! The height of callousness is the administrator saying nothing is wrong in the hospital and everything is working well. How can one administer a facility staying sometimes hundreds of kilometres away from it? Well, the responsibility does not end at the level of the administrator. It goes all the way up. The least that should have happened on moral grounds was for the health minister to submit his resignation. Not to speak of the western countries, if such an incident had taken place in any other state or even in any other developing country, the entire government itself would have been toppled. It is a pity that a single dog’s death in Kashmir starts alarm bells ringing from Srinagar to Delhi but the death of over 300 Kashmiri children due to criminal negligence has not even sent a ripple. If no one else, at least the Union Health Minister should have been himself at the hospital to look into this tragedy beyond belief. Have Kashmir’s new generations become so cheap and expendable? People deserve an answer and that too fast! As usual the government has ordered an enquiry. However, the enquiry has not to remain confined to the hospital infrastructure but has to go beyond. The moot point is why should so many infants die? It has been alleged that the hospital is short of equipment and staff. They have only 4 ventilators and need 34. But the question is why so many infants need ventilators? Are these all pre-maturely born infants? Why have so many infants developed breathing problems? Is their delivery in order? There is a possibility of some epidemic within the hospital premises. Some years back one of the hospitals had an epidemic of tetanus. Normally, in such an eventuality, the hospital needs to be totally burnt down but this thing does not happen in our part of the world. In any such eventuality, the enquiry needs to be conducted by a team of experts in the field including people responsible for infection control. Here it needs to be emphasized that the Indian government had been aiming to get the neo-natal mortality rate down from 60 per 1000 births to 30 per 1000 by the year 2000 itself. The rate has already been reduced 30 per 1000 births in many southern states. In the present case in Kashmir, the average works out to almost 3 deaths per day! It is not known as to what is the proportion in relation to births and total admissions in the hospital. This needs to be ascertained by a medical audit. It is reported that apart from lack of equipment and mismanagement the hospital does not have a blood bank most essential for such a tertiary facility. Another important aspect of the mismanagement of the hospital administration is that the entire burden of managing the services without any supervision is on the shoulders of junior interns while the senior consultants are busy with their private practice. There has been lot of dithering going on regarding banning of private practice by doctors working in government hospitals. This has happened in spite of court directions in the matter. The tragedy is as usual being taken hold by politicians of various hues and shades to grind their own axe. Kashmiris should be in mourning and should not get swayed by vested interests. It is a tragedy of immense proportions and needs unity from all sides to ensure tangible steps are taken by the government visibly to save our future generations. (Comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Many foreign authors who have had the chance of staying in Kashmir and working here for substantial period of time have written about the character of Kashmiris. Quite a few have commented upon the weaknesses of our character. Kashmiris have been called timid, cowards, cheats, liars and greedy. Sir Walter Lawrence in the “Valley of Kashmir”, though mentioning the bad traits of Kashmiris states that these weaknesses are not by nature but due to an extremely long period of external suppression. According to him Kashmiris are good at heart and it is the survival instinct which has made them timid and cowardly. According to him after a couple of generations live in an era of freedom, the real characteristics of honesty and bravery of the people will get restored. However, Kashmiris have yet to get that era of freedom where the future generations could grow unmolested and bring out the best of their character. Similarly, Canon Tyndale Biscoe in his book “Kashmir in sunlight and shade” has also remarked about the resilience of the Kashmiris in the face of the adverse conditions. According to him if the British had faced what Kashmiris have gone through, they would have lost their manhood! In spite of all the bad things said by some of these foreign authors about the character of Kashmiris, almost all have highlighted his compassion. Kashmiri is supposed to be very emotional and sentimental. According to one British author, a Kashmiri is always suspicious of outsiders and never reveals his true heart to any foreigner. He further says that a kind word and a joke can get the best out of a Kashmiri. The valley is called in Kashmiri the bowl of saints. One of the reasons for compassion has been the teaching of these mystics and saints. They not only preached compassion and humanity but themselves led a life of simplicity. However, the last two decades have completely changed the scene. The violence all round has made a Kashmiri totally callous. He seems to have apparently lost that feeling of compassion. Killings do not move him. Too much bloodshed everywhere has dehumanised and brutalised him. Material greed has grown so much that all other finer values have taken a back seat. In earlier times, a single killing would shut down the whole city and people would be in mourning all over the place. Not now! People are lying dead or injured in one street and the life is completely normal on the neighbouring one! Corruption has seeped into our blood and it is not frowned upon at all but taken as a normal way of life. Not only material but even moral corruption is at its height. The worst part is the proliferation of ill gotten wealth which has given rise to a class of nouveau riches! These people go to any lengths to display their dubious wealth which has shattered the values of the society and the have-nots feel dejected and helpless. Modernisation and globalisation have shattered the traditional way of life. Joint family system which was a strong pillar of the society is breaking up fast. In the upper middle class it is virtually gone due to nuclear families created by jobs all over the world. One finds children going to every place on this globe for better prospects with parents left behind alone in huge houses spending their last days in virtual solitary confinement. In the west it has been a way of life for quite sometime. Additionally, they have old age homes and citizens’ groups to look after the needs of the old. After some bitter experiences even they in the west are now trying to return to joint family system, while we are breaking it up! Unfortunately, we always pick up the flashy and jazzy things from the west and leave their stronger values. Honesty, truth, respect for normal laws, and the care of the aged taken as routine in the west are missing in our part of the world. For us the material greed is more than the human love and affection. Apart from the break up of joint family, even the normal social interactions have been severely affected. People very rarely visit relations and friends and have become some sort of islands in themselves. Everybody claims to be busy in various chores. However, the reality is that the people have become callous. There are only two occasions these days when people especially friends and relatives meet each other. Marriages or funerals! On many such occasions one gets a shock on seeing a friend after a long gap of time. People change! All are aged, some have grown beards, some have become thinner and some more bulky! Another important trait which has come up starkly among most of us is impatience. We all seem to be in a hurry. Whether on the roads, in a store, or in any other public facility we seem to be in a mad rush. We have no patience to wait for our turn! The worst part is that apart from being impatient, we are arrogant. We never admit our mistakes but try to brow beat others. Unfortunately, the situation of uncertainty has been managed deliberately in such a way so as to bring out the worst in our character. There is encouragement from all sides for bringing out the worst part and the best part of the character is choked by all means. There is no escape by putting blame on others for our own weaknesses. One has to boldly face the reality and take corrective steps lest we perish altogether as a civilised people. Someone has to begin the process. We need leaders who set examples to follow and not deliver sermons which they themselves do not adhere to! Will someone please take the initiative to bring back compassion and civility in our society? (Comments at: email@example.com)
Thursday, May 10, 2012
The decades old uncertainty about Kashmir’s future has made almost every Kashmiri a psychic! Invariably, whenever one visits some friend or relative, the most pertinent question asked is “Kasheeri kya banni!” (What will happen to Kashmir?) Will something happen? This curiosity about Kashmir’s future shows the extreme anxiety and stress which an average Kashmiri faces these days in the valley. Probably, the main reason for this anxiety and the curiosity about the ultimate fate of Kashmir has been prompted by the repeated failures which the people have faced from the start of the movement for total emancipation since 1931. The beginning of this people’s movement had kindled hope among Kashmiris after centuries that they may be free and emancipated soon. However, the events of 1947 especially the partition of the sub-continent and the involvement of Kashmir in the conflict between the two newly created dominions gave a setback to this cherished dream. In fact, initially the proposed departure of the British and independence to India had boosted Kashmir’s movement. People had expected that once India was free, they too will get freedom from the feudal monarchy and would regain their independence which they had lost four centuries back. Alas, instead of coming nearer to their goal, they were thrown into a messy tangle. Least did they expect that they were being pushed into a bottomless pit from where there was no escape. Never had they imagined that they would become pawns in a politico-diplomatic game not only of the two newly created countries but a host of international players far beyond their borders! Since that initial moment when the Kashmiris were euphoric thinking that they had ultimately come very near to their goal, they have faced many ups and downs. In 1947 when they felt the goal to be very close, they put all their trust in one charismatic leader whom they called the lion of Kashmir. However, the lion faltered! Even though the majority of the people were not happy in their hearts about his decision to side with the Indians in the conflict between the two neighbouring countries, yet they followed him blindly. As soon as the leader realised that he had been taken for a ride and turned against India, almost 1000 people sacrificed their lives to uphold his stand of getting Kashmiris the basic right of self-determination! However, the uprising was suppressed with a heavy hand and a carrot dangled through the lion’s close lieutenant Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad. He was able to keep people down under through his hired goons and lots of money for almost 11 years. Then came the holy relic upheaval which was massive and could not be suppressed by force. Pandit Nehru buckled and released his friend the lion of Kashmir. Again the people got a euphoric feeling that the goal was near! However, the Indo-Pak war of 1965 dashed the hopes yet again! From 1965 till 1971 people were quiet but still harboured the hope that something will happen to emancipate them. They had always considered Pakistan a champion of their cause. Moreover, almost the entire western block was their supporter. It was only the communist block led by Russia which was close to India that opposed their movement at all levels. The 1971 Indo-Pak war resulting in the dismemberment of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh totally depressed and dismayed them. They could no longer look towards Pakistan as their saviour. It was too weak to liberate Kashmir. Moreover, 1965 and 1971 wars had amply demonstrated to Kashmiris that Pakistan was not in a position to stake everything for Kashmiris. They had to survive as a country against all odds. In fact, there was a general feeling that Pakistan should survive as a strong country as it was some sort of a buffer against India. In its absence, India would completely gobble up Kashmiris and they would be totally decimated. The aftermath of 1971 war had also given the feeling to the people that they had to fight their own battle to get emancipated. Then came 1990 when the youth realised that they had to be on their own. They rose to proclaim freedom through an armed struggle. Unfortunately, Pakistan which had been championing the cause of Kashmiris and had ostensibly fought two wars to liberate them, instead of supporting the armed struggle, hijacked it for their own purpose. Early nineties saw building of such euphoria that the people even changed the time in their watches! There was tremendous excitement that the Azadi was round the corner. Again that did not happen. The violent struggle cost Kashmiris dearly! Thousands were killed, thousands were injured and maimed, and dozens of women were raped. There are thousands of widows and orphans. Thousands are still without any trace. Kashmiris were deeply hurt. In fact, they have been brutalised. Still there was no Azadi. However, there was a change. People felt that India was too big an elephant to be tackled with weapons. Their violent pin-pricks would not make any difference. They waited for an opportunity for a peaceful mass uprising. The opportunity came in 2008. The youth rose en masse and faced bullets with stones. A Kashmiri Intifada! It was repeated in 2009 and 2010. Then came the lull of 2011. The same unpredictable Kashmiri character which all foreigners have failed to understand. There is an uneasy calm. There is that usual periodic unpredictable lull to which one has got used over the decades of upheaval and turmoil. Kashmiris are again brooding over their ultimate fate. However, there is a big difference even in the overtly prevailing situation. The Kashmir of the present day is drastically different from the Kashmir of mid-seventies when everybody thought that the problem is over. There was peace everywhere. There were thousands of foreign tourists roaming and trekking all over the valley. Ladakh was thrown open to foreigners for the first time. Development projects were going at a fast pace. Everyone thought that the Kashmiris had reconciled to their fate. But now there is once again that perennial uncertainty. City of the Sun is in shambles. Dogs are “hunting” people and may soon go inside homes! Power is in a mess. Never before one used to see such curtailment in summer. Roads are pot-holed everywhere. Traffic is in a jam! Instead of thousands of foreign tourists, one sees uniformed personnel in abundance everywhere starting from the so called “International” airport. No one is sure what will happen? The governments both in Delhi and Srinagar are keeping the fingers crossed. Even the foreign governments are unsure of the future situation in Kashmir! In Kashmir itself, all the political players from all sides are uncertain about the future. Again the Kashmiri is asking the same question, “What will happen to Kashmir?” Will anyone please give him an answer! Meanwhile, he has not given up and is brooding how to get emancipated from this intractable tangle and for a change, in a peaceful way as he has seen enough of violence and bloodshed? (Comments at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
AFSPA, PSA, DAA, the draconian legislations, bunkers, check points, demilitarisation, and many other similar expressions are not the basic reality but only the symptoms of a disease which is much deeper. The ground reality of Kashmir was described by the European Union delegation some years back. They called it a “Beautiful Prison”! Kashmir has been given many other names and attributes in the recent times. A nuclear flashpoint. Most dangerous place on earth. A troubled paradise. South Asia’s hot spot. The most militarised place on earth. In fact, most of the western countries advise their nationals to avoid travel to Kashmir. They all believe that the ground situation in Kashmir is highly combustible notwithstanding the government claims of a tourism boom ushering in normalcy. Even the propagators of tourism normalcy refer to the volatility of the situation. One may not claim it to be a powder keg which would blow up by the lighting of a single match yet no one can dispute the discontent and alienation simmering under the calm surface. There is a sense of general unease in the air itself. This is due to a situation of perennial uncertainty. This uncertainty has given rise to the absence of accountability in every sphere. There is a virtual free for all! Corruption at all levels rules the roost. It is alleged that Kashmir is virtually an Indian colony. However, on the ground it does not strictly fit the definition of a colony. There is no permanent settlement of Indians from other parts in Kashmir. The only permanent settlement is the army in cantonments and camps. The other population which is more or less floating consists of workers and beggars. Most of these people exit during the severe winter. On the contrary it may be more realistic to claim Kashmir to be an area under military occupation against the wishes of the majority of the local inhabitants. During the last elections, Chris Morris, the BBC correspondent had reported from Srinagar that he had never seen so many soldiers in civilian areas in any part of the world. The number of soldiers deployed in Kashmir was more than those deployed for elections in the entire length and breadth of Bangladesh at the same time! No one can dispute the fact that Kashmir is the highest militarised area in the world when one compares the number of uniformed people to the local population. There is army, paramilitary troops, and the local police. Even the number of local policemen exceeds a hundred thousand. Apart from massive cantonments housing headquarters of various corps and divisions, the entire area is dotted with army and security camps. Even deep inside civilian areas one finds security camps, bunkers, and check posts. Over past few years, the uniformed people have taken on themselves a number of purely civilian chores which is not the case normally in any other part of the country. There these people come in only in case of natural disasters and that too when the civilian authorities ask for their aid. In Kashmir they are building shrines, mosques, schools and are actively participating in a host of other activities under the banner of Sadbhavna! Probably they want to bridge the gulf which was created during the violent conflict of nineties. They may be able to heal the wounds but the deep hurt in the psyche will not go especially when even now after claiming return of total normalcy, the forces refuse to go back to barracks and relinquish their draconian powers. The ground reality is that the entire effort in Kashmir is on managing a conflict on the basic issue rather than resolving it to the satisfaction of the people. The aim is to somehow buy time. Prime Minister’s Group, Parliamentary Delegation, Interlocutors and so on are all meant to manage and somehow buy time. Over the years, a colossal administrative set up has been created for this management which is disproportionate to the population of the area. There has been a tendency to somehow provide government jobs almost to everyone even though sometimes on casual or stipendiary basis. The set up comprising almost half a million employees of all hues and shades has become thoroughly corrupt and totally unaccountable. In fact, major chunk of state’s funds goes into the salaries of these employees leaving very little for development. As part of this management there is an extensive and exhaustive attempt through various organisations and agencies to corrupt the Kashmiri youth, physically, morally, and intellectually! This administrative giant created for the management of the basic conflict has a vested interest like the mainstream politicians to maintain the status quo at all costs. It is the stark truth that everything in Kashmir has to have a clearance from the Union Ministries of Defence and Home Affairs! Without their specific overt or covert clearance nothing can happen in Kashmir in any sphere of activity. However, it would never be possible to manage the conflict by engaging an entire generation in government jobs or some other non-governmental activities. According to available figures, the number of educated unemployed has already crossed half a million. The correct attitude for all the sides is to face the ground reality and not escape from it. Kashmir has a problem. A deep rooted problem which is political in nature and has been further compounded by all the wrong initiatives and measures taken to douse the flames rather than remove the cause of the fire! Unless one directly addresses the problem, the things are not going to improve. Unfortunately, the only people directly in the line of fire getting singed every minute are the poor Kashmiris. The two neighbours are only getting indirectly affected. It is a pity that they do not understand that the fire burning deep inside is ultimately going to engulf them also. Their mutual mistrust is worse than the directly burning fire. It is consuming them from within! However, there is always an approach or process for the final settlement of any problem whatsoever. The least the two neighbours can do is to honestly and sincerely trust Kashmiris and allow them the freedom to breathe freely. They have initiated the so called confidence building measures but these are only symbolic and not really substantive. Keeping security forces everywhere breathing over the necks of Kashmiris with zero accountability through the internationally acclaimed draconian legislations. Allowing absolutely no freedom of expression even through peaceful protests. Removing 42 odd bunkers out of 406. Allowing couple of thousand people to travel across LOC in 10 years or so. Having stone-age barter trade in 21st century without any communications and banking. These are not confidence building measures. Rather these are steps to increase alienation and reinforce the mistrust. The least the rulers on two sides could do is to allow people on both sides to at least enjoy the same basic rights as their own people enjoy. These measures if taken in earnest could be a good beginning to start the process for the ultimate resolution of the problem taking away slowly the entire sub-continent from an avoidable catastrophe! (Comments at: email@example.com)
Saturday, May 5, 2012
“Azadi” means freedom. What does freedom in real life mean to a common Kashmiri? No one has so far tried to give realistic and practical meaning to this most commonly used word. Freedom from what, freedom to do what and freedom to where? There is a general feeling that political freedom would be the ultimate emancipation for a Kashmiri from all the ills and troubles faced by him. Every human being desires to live a peaceful life with honour and dignity. The first requisite of freedom is the right to life. Under every constitution a citizen is guaranteed right to life. This fact has been very strongly emphasized by the UN special rapporteur who visited Kashmir recently. According to him AFSPA, PSA, and Disturbed Areas Act are against the international law and cannot be part of any democratic polity. However, in Kashmir the right to life has been taken away by these draconian legislations giving unbridled powers to the security forces. They can kill a Kashmiri without being held accountable. In fact, a dog’s life is more precious than a human being in Kashmir right now! Thus the first Azadi would be the restoration of the right to life. A Kashmiri should be able to live without any fear from any quarter. Next comes the economic Azadi. The freedom to pursue any vocation a person likes or is capable of pursuing. Economic Azadi will not only apply to individuals but to the people as a whole allowing Kashmir to pursue a course for total self sufficiency in different fields. This would entail opening of all travel routes as also freedom to travel to every individual. At the moment Kashmir has only one exit/entry route and over 60,000 persons have been indexed by the security agencies for denying them facilities of free travel abroad. Kashmir needs Azadi to open up its borders to Central Asia and beyond as used to be the case till half a century back. The economic Azadi would also entail exploitation of all available resources in different fields with the best available expertise and with financial assistance from all available sources within or outside Kashmir. At the moment we can neither fully exploit on our own the abundant resources in different fields like power, agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, and tourism, nor get foreign direct investment to do so! The Azadi to live and pursue one’s choicest vocation cannot be sustained without the Azadi of the freedom of expression. Among all Azadis, the freedom of expression is the essence of democracy. At the present moment, this right too is in virtual suspension in Kashmir. One cannot express oneself freely on any political discourse. No peaceful demonstrations are allowed. Even people cannot protest about lack of civic facilities. Every peaceful demonstration is violently broken up by the use of undue force. Authorities have an inherent fear that any protest will turn into a march for ultimate “Azadi”! Unless freedom of expression is fully restored, people will not be able to choose their rulers without fear or favour. One can achieve all “Azadis” only when he is free to choose honest and able people to govern him. This is impossible at the moment. Not only because the system of choosing is not honest but also because honest and genuine people do not like to participate in the process. The main attributes of a nation are its language, its culture, and its history. Without a mother tongue a nation has no identity. At the moment our new generation is being deliberately deprived of all the three attributes and we are helping this depravation. We need Azadi to let our language flourish. Our culture to grow in the traditional style which is centuries old and we want our new generation to be fully acquainted with our more than 5,000 year old history. Azadi would mean that we are proud of our language. We are proud of our culture and it is not corrupted or diluted. We would also be proud of our history which would be taught freely to every Kashmiri child. After explaining to the people the meaning of Azadi, one has to tell them how to achieve it? The present leadership claiming to lead people to ultimate Azadi is neither clear about its meaning nor has it a clear cut road map to reach the goal. They are firstly divided into conglomerates and factions. If the goal is same then why so many parties with totally different agendas? There does not seem to be any difference in the approach between the parties proposing status quo on one side and the total change on the other. The so called mainstream parties have at least a clear goal which is to maintain somehow the status quo for their own vested interests. On the other hand the parties proclaiming to achieve Azadi have only an abstract goal. Before they can motivate people to follow them they need to define in clear terms the goal and what would Kashmiris achieve once they get Azadi and what form will that Azadi have? Moreover, they have to give a clear road map right up to the goal and then stick to it themselves. For last 80 years Kashmiris have been taken round and round in an endless desert like the Israelites were taken by Moses because they had sinned in the sight of God! At least in the end after moving 40 years in the wilderness they reached the Promised Land but one is not so sure whether Kashmiris will ever reach that goal in the prevailing mess? Comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is not for the first time that the ultimate justice has eluded Kashmiris. It has happened many times before and will continue to happen in future also. All were looking forward to the verdict of the Supreme Court in regard to the ultimate prosecution of the established murderers of innocent Kashmiris. Going purely by the rule of law, the judgement is definitely in order. However, keeping in view the entire history of the case and the strong pleas advanced by the country’s most prestigious investigating agency, it was expected that the justice will not only be done but will clearly appear to have been done. One would not like to debate the point of law. The honourable judges are best suited to deliver their opinion which may strictly be in keeping with the laws. Sometime back the plea of the “collective conscience of the society” was taken in confirming death sentence of an alleged terrorist even though he had challenged the veracity of the trial. If that judgement had to be in keeping with the “collective conscience” of the society, then this one too had to appear to satisfy the same “collective conscience”! Justice cannot be divided. Not only in Kashmir but in many other places including the concerned global rights fora, the judgement has been received with dismay. The only silver lining has been the time limit given to the defence authorities to ensure prosecution of the alleged killers under Court Martial or a Criminal Court. One hopes that this time restriction will be adhered to and taken into account subsequently. It is said that Justice delayed is justice denied! Unfortunately, Kashmiris have had a bitter experience with various institutions held to be of repute in the country. They lost faith in the election commission because of 1987 rigging which is taken to be the real trigger of militancy in Kashmir. No doubt the unrest was exploited by our neighbours but initially the cause came from this side. They lost faith in security forces due to their role not only in humiliating civilians but using excessive force against them during the militancy. And to top it off, the security forces have refused to thin out and even to relinquish their draconian powers. They lost faith in the premier investigating agency due to the alleged cover up of the rape and murder of two women in Shopian. This faith had got somehow restored by the role of the agency in unearthing and taking for prosecution the alleged killers of Pathribal. Now all hopes were on the supreme judicial body. In spite of all misgivings and because of the very strong pleas made by the premier investigating agency, the people expected something substantial. However, the judgement though strictly in keeping with the provisions of the law has somehow disappointed the people. It is but natural for a people feeling let down from all sides to still harbour hope that they will finally be vindicated and it is doubly tragic and depressive if this fails to happen. The people turn fatalistic and leave the ultimate judgement to destiny. Kashmiris have been waiting for this judgement for centuries and in reality never get depressed and disappointed because there is a general feeling that their cause is just and fair and they will definitely receive the final judgement from the Highest Celestial Court above all the terrestrial judicial bodies! This hope sustains them and gives them the strength to go on!
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Kashmiri identity right now has been reduced to a laminated identity card. At the present moment an ID card is the most precious possession of a Kashmiri within or outside Kashmir. However, the real identity of a Kashmiri has been given many names including the worn out cliché of Kashmiriyat which actually is a colonial concept, has been moulded and evolved over few thousand years. If we go by historical discoveries, the first Kashmiris started living in Kashmir right from the new stone age (Neolithic period of human evolution). The only definite and irrefutable scientific evidence about the beginning of human civilisation in Kashmir is the Neolithic (New Stone Age) dwelling sites in many parts of the valley out of which Burzahom site is the most studied and well known in the scientific community. But the significance of the site is not so much known among the people at large. Burzahom Neolithic Site is on a Karewa in the neighbourhood of Shalimar-Telbal road. It has a beautiful location. On one side in the distance is the Dal Lake while in the backdrop is Mahadev peak. The site is famous because it was the first such site discovered in Kashmir. It has dwelling pits, burial pits and some megaliths. The Neolithic (or the New Stone Age) Period of this site dates back to around 3,000 BC. In a way the place represents the site as well as the period where from the first inhabitants of our beautiful valley came. They could be termed the original Kashmiris who started inhabiting this valley like their counter parts in many other areas of the world.The other places where these sites were discovered are Begagund, Gofkral, Hariparigom, Olchibag, Pampur, Panzgom, Sombur, Waztal and Brah. In the dwelling pits human skeletons, fireplaces, and many implements were discovered. However, as has often happened, all these discoveries were stolen from us and taken to Delhi and as usual we were left with empty pits full of rain water! So much for our basic identity! Subsequently many incursions of tribal people took place and Kashmir evolved into a tribal society. The earliest recorded book of history in the sub-continent, Kalhana’s Rajatrarangni describes in detail the tribes who inhabited Kashmir in ancient times. Most of the incursions came from the west and there was very little interaction with the east. Kashmir is mentioned in Greek, Chinese and Arabic literature from the earliest times. Greek chronicles especially Ptolemy’s geography mention Kashmir as Kaspeira. The place of famous foot-walkers! Compared to all these references, there is a lamentable lack of exact geographical mention of Kashmir in general Sanskrit literature.The most specific piece of information regarding Kashmir that Sanskrit literature outside the Valley furnishes is in the term Kasmira or Kasmiraja that designates Saffron and Kustha for which it was famous since ancient times. Historically, Kashmir has passed through various epochs of Hinduism, Buddhism, again Hinduism and then finally Islam. All these faiths have had a peaceful and voluntary transition. In fact, Kashmiris have accepted all these changes without giving up some of their historical traditions of the ancient times. Kashmiri Hinduism based on Saivite trika philosophy is different from the Vedanta Hinduism of the north India. Buddhism itself was completely reformed and changed from the strict Hinayana School to moderate Mahayana School in the fourth Buddhist Council held in Kashmir. Finally, Hazrat Bulbul Shah and Mir Sayed Ali Hamadani brought Islam to Kashmir as the most humanitarian and positive religion. There is no doubt that they introduced many other things apart from the religion and gave a completely new way of life to the Kashmiris. However, Kashmiris are great assimilators. We do not convert but adopt everything to our traditional way of life! For last four centuries we have lived under Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, and Dogras. But, there is no distinct trace of these races anywhere in Kashmir as we assimilated all in our own society and evolved a composite identity of a Kashmiri! Unfortunately, this identity has been attempted to be eroded since 1947 when we got entangled in a messy conflict between two neighbouring countries. Each one is trying to pick up only that part which suits it. None is prepared to accept the total composite identity of a Kashmiri, moulded by a rich Hindu and Buddhist past, and the most tolerant Muslim present. Kashmiris take equal pride in both Laltaditya and Budshah. There is only one way to way to preserve our true identity. We must preserve and propagate our language and study our long and rich history. Kashmir has been a seat of learning from the ancient times. Unfortunately, during last few decades we have lost the distinction between learning and literacy. We have thousands of literate young people but very few really learned ones! They are the least educated about our past especially about the identity. If we are honestly concerned about our identity, we must, as the saying goes, begin the charity in our homes. We should make it a point to talk to our public school going kids in Kashmiri. We should also not shy away from addressing gatherings where the majority is of local people, in Kashmiri language. We should rather be proud to speak in Kashmiri whenever and wherever possible. In case we fail to begin at home, we may be unfortunately left with the identity of a laminated identity card only!