Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ganz Nass

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The nettle story!

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dogs and the Truffles!

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kashmir “Problem”, an Anglo-American conspiracy!

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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kashmir on its own-Power!

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Desiring but not deserving!

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

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Giving peace a chance!

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