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