Thursday, December 26, 2013

Notify availability not curtailment!

Power supply is in such a mess that the Department needs to inform public about the availability schedule rather than the curtailment

In recent memory, the current year is witnessing the worst ever power scenario. One is not sure when the supply will come on and how long will it stay. Every day people are on streets in one or the other part of the valley. If anything is going to throw Omar Abdullah out of the political power, it will be the electric power. His government has miserably failed to provide power supply on a regular basis not even to the people who are paying for it in the metered areas. If there are people committing power theft even in these metered areas, it is the failure of his government to check it. No pilferage is possible without the connivance of the local authorities may be even at the level of a lineman. There is loud talk about power theft but apart from the staff, the politicians themselves intervene to save the culprits hauled up by the department. This is especially true in the downtown area where a minister shields power thieves as reported by the concerned engineers. In any case, it has been pointed out by many analysts that the valley people are paying more tariff than the people across Pirpanjal but still the sufferers are the valleyites! They have been left to fend for themselves while the rulers enjoy the luxuries of the “Durbar” in Jammu.
Among the colder countries Kashmir must be the most unfortunate one especially with the massive potential of hydro-electric power. In most of the colder countries especially in Europe winter is the time to put in one’s best efforts for work. The students also toil in winter and study in schools. There are no winter vacations. Everybody takes off in summer to enjoy. This is because they have enough electric power to undertake every activity. Homes are heated. Offices are heated. Schools are heated. Transport is heated. In our case, we are the most unfortunate to have abundant resources but not enough power. Winter is an ordeal here. A real punishment for the poor! Schools are closed. Most of the establishments lack heating facilities. On one hand we invite tourists from all over the world while on the other hand we are not able to provide them a warm place to stay. Sometimes they shiver and runaway.
Enough has been written about the causes of this debacle. We have ourselves been instrumental in allowing others to rob us of our precious resources. When our two neighbours divided our waters among themselves with international arbitration, they did not even bother to think about our future. They were solely concerned with their own future. Nor did the international agency give any thought about the local people living in the land whose waters they were dividing. The territory had been declared by no less an agency than the United Nations to be disputed. They should have kept a provision for the local people especially regarding power generation. Kashmiris have every right to approach the World Bank that brokered the deal to demand compensation for their loss. The treaty violates the fundamental rights of the Kashmiri people. The least one can ask is supplying of the power to the local people at the generation cost by the outside agencies generating it.
The worst ever power scenario is not limited only to lack of enough generation because of the dwindling of water in the rivers due to freezing and the absence of storage schemes. There are grave problems within the transmission and the distribution system. The entire set up needs an overhaul to bring down the transmission and distribution losses. Sometime back privatisation of distribution was mooted but the vote bank politics shelved the proposal. Revamping distribution and privatising it is a tall order in the present set up corrupt to the core! One solution to cut distribution losses and prevent theft could be replacing the archaic overhead system by using underground cabling. It may not be possible in older quarters of the city but all the new colonies and posh localities could go for it. That would prevent hooking! There could be many other solutions but who will bell the cat? The present rulers sold the “Dream” of “Bijli” during the last election but they took people from the light into darkness. What will they sell now? Even as manipulators of the votes they appear to be dumb. Instead of spending thousands of crores on unproductive recreational items like Golf Courses and Cable Cars, they could have easily spent a few hundred crores to buy more power from the northern grid and given people some light during the last winter of their tenure as a parting gift. On the contrary they are taking revenge in advance apprehending their exit!
The darkness of winters seems destined to stay on in Kashmir till the power generation copes up with the demand, which may not happen at least in our lifetime and till the “Durbar” keeps on moving to Jammu for winter comforts. In the meantime, it may be more sensible for the power department, based on their resources to notify people the hours of availability of power so that they plan their activities accordingly. On an average there is 8 to 10 hours curtailment every day in metered as well as unmetered areas. However, the curtailment schedule, to which the department never sticks, annoys people more in view of dozens of unscheduled interruptions disrupting life in every possible way!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Shylocks of Kashmir

Some Kashmiri leaders as well as people act like Shylock in the famous Shakespearean play, the “Merchant of Venice”

Omar Abdullah recently called Syed Ali Geelani a “Dream Merchant” selling utopian dreams to the people of Kashmir. Selling dreams is no crime. People have been doing this for ages. He probably forgot that his predecessors as well as he himself too have been selling dreams but have been behaving like Shylock, the Jew in the play, the “Merchant of Venice”, with the same people. For these unrealisable dreams they have not only been demanding Shylock’s pound of flesh but have been practically taking it generation after generation. Well, Kashmiris had been dreaming of freedom and emancipation for centuries. They had been willing to follow anyone promising them to lead to that cherished goal. People suffering the worst kind of oppression for centuries are bound to catch at any straw which would save them from total annihilation. In spite of having faced repeated betrayals they still cherish a hope that someone may honestly lead them to the final goal. Their misfortune is that they have been getting not only the “Dream Merchants” but the cruel and merciless Shylocks of the “Merchant of Venice”. Sheikh Abdullah sold them the first dream in thirties. A “New Kashmir” where people would live with honour and dignity. Like Bassanio, the young Venetian, Kashmiris wanted to woo “Azadi” who for them was like the Bassanio’s beloved Portia. They had no means to get her and needed assistance and guidance. Like Antonio, the merchant of Venice who was a friend of Bassanio, the Lion of Kashmir offered his help and guidance. He approached Pandit Nehru who was like Shylock, the Jew, who was a Venetian money lender.  Sheikh Abdullah appeared sincere and did struggle hard to lead his people selflessly for some time. In fact, he faced incarceration because of this for a long time. But the Shylock cheated him. After having risen as a morning star on the horizon of Kashmir, he fell like a meteor!
In 1975, the Lion of Kashmir himself turned into a virtual Shylock and demanded his pound of flesh from Kashmiris for having woken them up from centuries of slumber regardless of the fact that he had led them into wilderness instead of their cherished goal of “Azadi”. He did take his pound of flesh and the gullible people gave it to him in spite of his somersaults. They still could not believe that he would ultimately leave them in the lurch. His progeny extracted much more and stuck like the blood sucking leeches. The Lion did have a soft corner for his people and died a very sad man pinning for what he had done to his people. But his progeny have no such qualms. They would not mind sucking every drop of blood from the Kashmiris and would still not be contented. Their greed is insatiable.
The story is no different with other leaders claiming to represent and fight for Kashmiris whether on the so called mainstream side or the opposite stream side! Each one in his own way is trying to extract a pound of flesh from the poor gullible people. Sometimes one wonders whether the people following these Shylocks are really gullible or they too are cleverly trying to extract a pound of flesh for themselves from the so called leaders. Delhi is the cleverest of all. It always takes a pound of flesh from every Kashmiri leader it props up. It has been the practice right from the time of the signing of the instrument of accession when Maharaja was exiled after the deed was done. Among the Kashmiris the first to pay for his deed to Delhi was the Sheikh Abdullah himself dethroned in 1953. The other side too extracts its pound of flesh from the leaders it supports monetarily or otherwise. They support and prop up only those who further their narrative.
How long will the Kashmiris have to endure the “Dream Merchants” and the Shylocks of the “Merchant of Venice”? Incidentally, Kashmir is popularly known as the Venice of the East and as such having Shylocks here is no big surprise! In the Shakespearean play the case about the pound of flesh demanded by Shylock was neutralised by Portia herself appearing in disguise as a lawyer in the court of the Duke of Venice. She asked Shylock to take the pound of flesh without spilling a single drop of blood and by taking exactly a pound no less no more! Shylock had no alternative but to drop his demand for a pound of flesh which he had set in the contract while lending the money. Will some Portia please come forward to rescue Kashmiris and free them from the Shylocks contract of a pound of flesh which in their case is the so called instrument of accession, the authenticity of which is even questioned by some people?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Progress or Sickness?

Material advancement turns into a sickness if there is no accompanying moral and spiritual progress

Indian space vehicle is supposed to have left the Earth’s gravitational field and is advancing towards Mars. A big leap in the technological advancement made possible by the efforts of the Indian scientists. There are no two opinions that India has progressed materially a lot since independence. In terms of modern technology it can compete even with some of the developed countries. The Indian economy has grown substantially since the liberalisation of nineties. The country is no longer the land of monkeys and snake charmers, the typical image the westerners had in their minds about this ancient land till recently. In spite of all the progress, it is yet to become a welfare state as almost 350 million people still live below what is called the “poverty line”! This is mainly due to an uncontrolled population. India adds an Australia to its population every year. However, there is now a flourishing middle class equivalent to the population of USA. Wealth wise, India may be among the wealthiest countries notwithstanding the fact that the entire wealth may be concentrated within the limited upper class. Arundhiti Roy has given it the name of an “upper caste Hindu corporate republic”!
Apart from the huge population and concentration of wealth in the upper class, the worst enemy preventing ushering in of a welfare state have been the scams. These scams entered the country right from its independence in 1947 starting with what is known as the “Jeep Scam”, involving purchase of jeeps for the army. Since that time there has been no end to these scams. According to a survey, out of $1.60 trillion, the total GDP, the scam money amounts to $ 1.1 trillion which is about 60%. These scams involve not only the capitalists and the upper class but the entire spectrum of the society with the political leaders holding the top position. The number of these scams has gone up at very rapid rate after the economic liberalisation of nineties. With the opening of the economy to foreign companies, the scams came as an additional baggage. Corruption seeped into every part of the society. Bribery and corruption have ceased to prick anyone’s conscience. It is taken in routine as part of the system. Not only did this menace seep into the blood stream of the people but infiltrated some of the institutions of which the country was proud.
Material progress given the name of development brought in the material corruption right from the top to the bottom. Money became the new god for everyone. It was immaterial how one acquired it. The worst thing to happen has been the material corruption bringing in the moral corruption. It is not progress but in reality sickness! The moral and spiritual sickness. Ancient India was famed for sages and spiritual beings. The Himalaya was known as the “Abode of Gods”! People may have been poor in modern terms but they were content and peaceful and had strong faith. Not now. The society has become morally sick. Rapes are becoming a daily affair. Not all get reported. Even incest has been reported in many cases. A morally sick man has been fathering children from his own daughter! The spiritual persons like Aasa Ram have turned into sex starved predators. One wonders if it is the same land which gave birth to Buddha and Gurudev, “Where the mind is free and the head is held high….!” These days one has to keep the head bowed with shame.
There is no doubt that the tainted money coming out freely from the so called modern progress is responsible for this sickness especially because of the majority of political leaders who instead of leading people to truth and honesty, thrive on this ill-gotten wealth and get caught in one or the other scam every second day. A columnist friend other day remarked that apart from the ill-gotten wealth, one of the major contributory factors for this moral sickness among the youth in general has been the “Bollywood”. The “Masala” movies are the real culprits. The violence, the explicit dancing, and the hero-villain action get copied by the youth. Sanjay Dutt, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and others have become the idols instead of Gandhi and Tagore. Dirty movies are freely available. There is no bar on the adult content. It is very ironic that one sees lot of pinning about this moral and spiritual sickness but no productive work. Instead of sending space vehicles to Mars, one needs to first cleanse up the society of this fast growing material and moral sickness. The broom waving Aam Admi Party which has swept Delhi shows that the people are fed up with this corruption and moral sickness and want to clean up the whole system. Will there be another Tagore to inspire and another Gandhi to lead such a movement? Will the deeply entrenched vested interests allow such a thing to happen? That is a million dollar question which only time will answer!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kashmir’s Curse, the “Missing Accountability”!

Most of the ills can be traced to lack of accountability in every sphere of activity in the Kashmir society

The “Truth” has already been banished from Kashmir a long time ago. Next to the whirlpool of falsehood caused by the exiled “Truth”, the other worst aspect of society in all spheres of activity is the lack of “Accountability”. No one is accountable to no one! Each for himself. A virtual free for all. Let us begin with the most nagging problem at present, the electric power. Why are we in a total mess? Simply because there has been no accountability of either the rulers who mortgaged our resources nor of the engineers who not only helped them but also share the blame for the present mess. Right from the day India and Pakistan distributed our resources without even caring a hoot for our needs through the Indus Waters Treaty not a single so called ruler of ours challenged them in real terms. Except for some hollow rhetoric no one has taken any practical steps to mitigate Kashmir’s loss. The engineers too have been sailing along with the corrupt rulers. Had we honest and genuine leaders they would have started an agitation demanding both India and Pakistan to compensate us in the field of power.
Let us turn to our day to day living. The worst mess is in the regulation of traffic. Zero accountability not only to the personnel of the traffic police from the constable to the top but a free for all for everyone on the road. The most annoying are the mini-bus drivers who stop anywhere in the road to pick up or drop passengers. They don’t care as they are paying regular hafta to traffic police which goes from the beat constable to the top. Next come the auto drivers running from left to right all over the place. Most of the drivers whether driving the private cars, motor bikes, mini-buses, buses, trucks or any moveable thing on the road have no idea of the traffic rules. Overtaking, use of side indicators, stopping on traffic lights, slow and fast lanes are Greek to most of the drivers. The worst violators of the rules are the drivers carrying so called VIPs and their escorts. They don’t bother at all and often jump the traffic signals. Ironically, an ambulance carrying a patient gets stuck in traffic while a so called VIP gets smooth passage! Now consider the use of foot paths. Most of these are either taken over by the vendors or occupied by shopkeepers displaying their wares outside their shops.
The healthcare is an apology. The most touted about super-speciality institute has turned into a general hospital. The out-patient department of the institute is like a fish market where people jostle each other to get to doctors for treatment. There is only one maternity and one paediatric hospital in the entire valley having a population of over 7 million. The district and sub-district hospitals are shunned by specialists and consultants as these are not teaching hospitals. In the private sector there is a mushroom growth of so called hospitals. None of these can be called a hospital as these are not equipped with full-fledged life-saving and resuscitation facilities. They have often to refer their cases to government hospital or the institute. These so called hospitals have only scanty resident consultant staff and have to depend on part-time consultants from the government hospitals or from outside the state. Kashmir must be the only place in the world where private consultants have a two to three month wait! Here, people have to wait for surgeries for months to get their turn. A person with multiple problems may have to be referred to three different places for treatment!
In education sector, the worst is supposed to be the BOPEE scandal. Who knows, this may be only the tip of the iceberg? There is a mushroom growth of private schools under all sorts of Christian names. It is very ironic to see all these schools with Christian names coming up in a Muslim majority area. May be a sign of “Kashmiriyat”? While we have all these institutions churning out thousands of boys and girls adding to already severe problem of educated unemployed, no concerted effort is being made to impart vocational training on a large scale with placement avenues. The only avenue for an educated Kashmiri youth is government job even at the lowest level regardless of his qualification. He considers it some sort of social security in the prevalent uncertain atmosphere. On the other hand we have almost a million outsiders working on various vocational and manual jobs. Kashmiris have altogether given up manual labour thanks to progress and modernisation.
The story is same in all other sectors, be it the violations of master plan and building bye laws; the disposal of sewerage and drainage by hotels; conversion of agricultural land for construction of shops and buildings and the destruction of environment by polluting water bodies and the merciless cutting of forests by timber smugglers in connivance with authorities supposed to protect these. No accountability. The courts sometimes pull up the executive but the thoroughly corrupt administration presided over by the corrupt rulers find ways to even to evade these legal directions. One sometimes feels that this total lack of accountability is a divine curse on Kashmir. Only a Noah’s flood may cleanse it!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Misplaced priorities!

In the name of progress and modernization, Kashmir is facing grave threats to age old traditions destroying the faith of the people

In recent times, the cable car has become a prestigious project for every spot in Kashmir regardless of its actual requirement at a particular place. Basically, ropeways especially cable cars are a means of aerial transportation meant for places normally not accessible by any other means. In the tourism sector these have been very much utilised in winter resorts for reaching higher slopes to enable the slopes being utilised for skiing. In many countries, such as in Canada aerial transportation is used in forests to fetch timber from inaccessible places. The main use in mountain areas is mostly related to tourism. In some cases, ropeways are set up in urban areas to take people to higher spots for panoramic views of the places around. In Kashmir, the most successful ropeway has been the Gulmarg Gondola taking skiers in winter to Afarwat and tourists in summer for panoramic views. In fact, the Gondola has earned more revenue from tourists in summer than from the skiers in winter. One may think of putting up such facilities in other potential tourist areas like Pahalgam and Sonamarg where skiing and sightseeing can be combined. However, there is no point in putting up cable cars in every nook and corner such as Verinag.
One must also understand the impact of these transportation systems on the environment. In mountain areas having forest cover a lot of trees have to be cut for erecting towers and then more trees have to be felled for a ski slope internationally supposed to be 40 metres wide. Moreover, the stations on top and the trails become garbage dumps unless continuous cleaning is undertaken. In urban areas, the cable cars do not gel with the environment at all. People had been talking of putting up cable cars for going to religious shrines. This robs the faith of all its sanctity. Traditionally in the Himalaya and many other places, the holy men have been going up to higher altitudes to meditate and commune with the creator. Most of the shrines of Muslim saints and religious preachers in Kashmir are located on hill tops or on higher mountain sides. People built shrines at these places where the revered persons passed away. As a matter of faith and tradition people have been going to these spots to pay homage and pray. Most of these spots are approached by foot trails or even over stone steps. One of the most popular shrines where people have been traditionally going is the Makhdoom Sahab. The number of steps for climbing up to the shrine is traditionally known to all the people who have been climbing these over the years. One remembers from childhood people climbing these steps with pitchers of water and emptying these in the pond on top in times of a drought. Makhdoom Sahab has now been connected with a cable car thereby robing the people of the tradition of climbing the historical steps. No wonder the initiators of the cable car may soon think of installing a water pump to fill up the tank on top! An improvement in faith!
The same story has been repeated in setting up of Tourism Development Authorities and Golf Courses all over the state. We have, not only destroyed the existing resorts by haphazard and unplanned development but have initiated measures for destroying the environment, which in the first place is the main attraction for people to visit Kashmir. Hundreds of crores have been spent on setting up of Golf Courses without any survey about the possible markets for these. These are mainly used by the elite businessmen and bureaucrats who have taken a fancy to Golf especially after retirement. Government must undertake a survey about the number of Golfers both domestic and international who have been utilising these courses on which huge amounts of money have been spent. About two dozen Tourism Development Authorities have been set up in what could have been lay back areas for tourism development after peace; the very basic requirement for up market tourism prevails in the state. The Authorities mostly headed by engineers or administrators instead of tourism specialists or experts have become channels to siphon off funds in collusion with the local legislators by constructing tourist centres and other infrastructure which in reality is the domain of the private players. Recently the government has been contemplating the regularisation of temporary employees of these authorities thereby created more liabilities for the already overburdened state exchequer.
If one thinks of the real top most priority for the present day Kashmir, it is the electric power of which we have a virtual famine. It should have been the foremost task of all the rulers to ensure availability of this basic facility. Instead of wasting the scarce precious resources on unproductive and luxury items, the maximum funds should have been diverted to the development of this sector.  Not only was money needed for power generation but for modernisation of its transmission and distribution. Instead of doing this, we have mortgaged our precious resources to outsiders from whom we have to buy back power generated from our resources at exorbitant commercial tariff.
The misplaced priorities are not accidental but deliberate. During recent times our rulers have found newer ways of making money by hook or by crook. Be it the education sector like the recent expose of BOPEE or any other field, the only consideration is how to pocket the maximum funds by any means without any qualms of virtually non-existent conscience! One really feels disgusted and suffocated. It is too sickening. Sometimes one feels that the people who have a chance of living abroad for some time in an honest and free environment are the lucky ones! Will we be ever able to set right all these misplaced priorities? Yes, provided we get just and strong rulers for whom honesty and truth are above all else! To get honest, just and strong rulers we have to be first honest and truthful to our own selves and then to others. A utopia, some may call it!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nothing but the whole “Truth”!

               The very first casualty in the present day Kashmir is the “Truth”!

When a person in a court room stands in a witness box, he swears by keeping his hand on the holy book of the religion which he professes and declares that he will tell the whole “Truth”, and nothing but the whole “Truth”! The Webster dictionary defines “Truth” as “the real facts about something: the things that are true”. It further elaborates, that the “Truth” is “the body of real things, events, and facts”. The Cambridge dictionary definition is, “the real facts about a situation, event, or a person”. Unfortunately, in the present day Kashmir, none of these definitions holds good! The “Truth” here is something that suits a situation, event, or a person. In fact, it is very difficult for a person to discern what the real “Truth” is because of the totally murky situation. However, going by the dictionary definition, there are definitely real facts about “the situation, the events, or the persons”, notwithstanding the fact that the most people hesitate deliberately or unintentionally to speak these out. Lying is taken to be normal behaviour. Nobody expects the real “Truth” to be spoken out. This holds good in every sphere of activity including politics. 
This virtual apathy to the “Truth” and “normal” behaviour of lying has been commented upon by various foreigners who have visited Kashmir from time to time. Sir Walter Lawrence in “The Valley of Kashmir” has described in detail the character and disposition of Kashmiris. “The Kashmiri bears an evil reputation in the Punjab, and indeed throughout Asia. Proverbs liken him to a snake in his morals, and to a fowl in his manners, and men are warned against admitting a Kashmiri to their friendship”. Moorcroft, Hugel, Drew, and Barnes describe them as “Selfish, superstitious, ignorant, supple, intriguing, dishonest, false-tongued, ready with a lie, and given to various forms of deceit”. Moorcroft, however, admits that the vices of Kashmiris are not innate, but are due to the government under which they lived. “These vices are the effects of his political condition rather than his nature.” Walter Lawrence concedes that in a country where there was practically no justice, the only weapon in the hands of the weak was lying or subterfuge. He states that two national features of their character are–lying and envy or malice. “A Kashmiri cannot see any one getting on in life.” However, detailing the good qualities, Walter Lawrence writes, “Kashmiris possess an individuality, and a national character which will cling to them wherever they go. Kashmiris are fond of their own country, its food, its water, and its dress….. Finally, though the character of a Kashmiri leaves much to be desired, I think that it is to their credit that it is not worse, considering the few chances they have had for becoming truthful, manly, and self-respecting….A man who can be beaten and robbed by anyone with a vestige of authority soon ceases to respect himself and his fellow-men, and it is useless to look for the virtues of a free people among the Kashmiris, and unfair to twit them with absence of such virtues. The Kashmiri is what his rulers have made him, but I believe and hope that two generations of a just and strong rule will transform him into a useful, intelligent, and fairly honest man”.
Well, a Kashmiri is yet to have those two generations of a just and a strong rule. One may concede that the lying nature of a Kashmiri especially to his rulers is due to untold miseries and suffering he has gone through in earlier times and continues to go through even now. But one cannot explain the similar behaviour among Kashmiris themselves when they are under no outside compulsion. Lying has become the second nature of an average Kashmiri. He does not feel any remorse or compunction while speaking a blatant lie. Incidentally, among themselves Kashmiris have the three stages of “Truth”. When a Kashmiri swears by Almighty God he says “Wallah” and claims his speech to be true. One should take it to be 100% lie. Once he swears by his parents, it must be a half-truth! However, when he swears by his children, the statement can be taken to be somewhat near the “Truth”. The main reason for such behaviour appears to be the material greed which has overtaken everything after 1947 or rather after 1953 when the streams of money started flowing into the valley to buy Kashmiri loyalty. The generations of rulers that came after 1953 instead of giving a strong and a just rule imagined by Sir Walter Lawrence necessary for changing the character of a Kashmiri, unleashed the most corrupt practices to assassinate the Kashmiri character. Since then there has been no end and with each passing day new methods both covert and overt are being used to drown Kashmiris in a whirlpool of falsehood, insincerity and material as well as moral corruption.
George Orwell has said, “In a time of universal deceit-telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. Thus every revolution begins with speaking out the “Truth” and standing by it regardless of the consequences. Lord Buddha says, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the Sun, the Moon, and the truth. There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting”. So if a true revolution has to begin in Kashmir, people have to start telling the truth and go all the way!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kashmiris’ nightmare

Power has been illusive especially during winters for a long time now. However, the way it is playing hide and seek well before the start of the winter does not forbade well. The forthcoming winter may be the worst ever seen in terms of the electric power. According to power development authorities the demand in Kashmir alone is in the range of 1,100 mw or so while as the generation gets reduced to few hundred odd mw due to freezing resulting in lesser discharge in the rivers. Added to this are the transmission and distribution losses estimated to be the highest in the country. The only option is to import electricity at commercial rates from the northern grid. Unfortunately, it is the electricity generated from our own rivers which we have to buy back, thanks to our rulers, past as well as present. They have mortgaged our precious resources for their own vested interests.
 The most unfortunate part of the tragedy is that the common people were made to believe that the so called development of the state is going to bring them on par with the most modern facilities. It would have been better if one had stuck to traditional ways of facing the severe winters. The winters now are not so severe nor do we have the amount of snowfall which we used to see in our childhood. Srinagar used to get over three to four feet of snow at a time in winters. There used to be long icicles dangling from the roofs which mostly used to be shingle or so. Dal Lake would quite often freeze and it is said that sometime in the past even river Jhelum used to freeze! The snowfall would be so blinding sometimes that the migratory birds would fall in peoples’ lawns! In spite of such severe winters, people were mentally and physically prepared to face these.
 In old times, for cooking, the firewood burnt in earthen hearths was the common standard. Every home had a hearth which would burn firewood for cooking and at the back there was a copper vessel for heating water. For lighting, people used lanterns, oil lamps and in villages next to the forests pine wood sticks with resin called “lashi” in Kashmiri. For heating, charcoal especially one prepared by burning dry chinar leaves, was used in kangri under the traditional robe, Pheran. Kangri has been part of our culture from the earliest times. For winters people used to sun dry all sorts of vegetables as there would be no fresh vegetables available. Now with the so called modernisation and progress things have changed. People have become used to running everything on electrical power. Cooking, heating, cleaning and so on. No doubt it is progress in keeping with the modern world but the basis of all this progress is electrical power. We were fortunate enough to have a tremendous source of cleanest energy. Hydro-electric power. Abundant and massive potential. Environmentally clean. Unfortunately, all mortgaged by our own people leaving us in the lurch.
 It may not be practically possible to go back to the traditional ways now at this advanced stage of “progress”. We are now totally dependent on outside help right from our food to even manual labour. Perfect “Lotus Eaters” of the Ulysses! The worst part of the modernisation process has been the deliberate development of a subsidy culture right from the early fifties. Everything from rice to power has been subsidised. We have been made totally dependent on dole! Bribed in every possible way to toe a particular narrative. Having ingested all the bribes but still refusing to toe the narrative naturally infuriates the bribe giver. The best revenge for the dole giver would be like taking a thirsty horse to the river to drink and then muddying the water to make it die of thirst! 
Kashmir touted world over as the “Paradise on Earth” turns into a virtual hell during winter, at least for the local population. The visitors may be getting some special treatment but sometimes even they run away due to severe conditions accentuated by unstable and erratic power. Yes, we could be literally living in “Paradise” if only we had the electric power. God Almighty did bestow us with a “Paradise” like home with all the abundant resources but we ourselves turned it into a hell. You name any activity, it is in a mess. The worst of all is the power mess! We may have to live with it for a long time. The current winter may give us a taste of what we should be expecting during future winters, the worst nightmare!
 Is there proverbial “light” at the end of the tunnel? Yes, every grim situation has a solution. As the border roads sign goes, “Difficult can be done now, impossible may take some time”! The whole power scenario needs a complete revamp right from the generation to the distribution to the consumers. The revamp may be difficult but not impossible. That revamp will be effective only if everyone is honest about it. Beginning with the consumers, the engineers, and above all the rulers have to be honest. It is said that honesty like water flows from top downwards. So the first task is to get honest rulers. That in the present context may be a really impossible task!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Seal the SDA Office first!

Enforcement of the law must begin at home. The biggest violators of Master Plan have been the State Government Departments like the SDA and the Police.

 In pursuance to the directions of the Honourable High Court, the concerned authorities have sealed a number of structures in different areas of the city for violation of the Srinagar Master Plan. It is very welcome that the Judiciary has become active again in preservation of the character of our capital city by taking serious note of the free for all violations of the Master Plan, building bye laws and other regulations concerning the environment. Earlier they had taken a similar stand in case of the dying Dal Lake. The Honourable High Court has also directed to file statements about the assets of the ward officers. No doubt the main cause for violations of the master plan has been corruption yet one cannot overlook the violations committed by the Government itself. There is hardly any department of the government that has not violated not only the land use policy, but the building bye laws and above all the master plan itself. Let us begin with the Srinagar Development Authority itself. A bye pass road was constructed to relieve traffic congestion through the main city roads. Normally, this road should have been fenced on two sides with iron grill like the one usually seen on motorways so that nothing could come up on two sides. Instead of being a bye pass, the road now virtually passes through the middle of the city. The agriculture land has been converted into housing colonies, shopping complexes, workshops and so on. SDA itself has constructed a massive office on the bye pass. They did not allow an international group of Kashmiri non-resident doctors to construct super-speciality hospital in the same area quite a distance away from the bye pass on the plea of wrong land use! Now, to relieve congestion created by the deliberate actions of SDA, we may have to construct another city bye pass as the present one passes through the middle of the populated areas.
One fails to understand why the Government departments like SDA or the organisations like the Municipal Corporation should be constructing shopping complexes, shopping arcades and so on. The former is supposed to regulate all building permissions and implement master plan while as the latter is supposed to keep the city clean. In earlier times, some of these organisations acted like watch dogs to ensure order and cleanliness in the city. Now, these have themselves become the violators. A couple of decades back people were really scared of violating land use and building norms. Now there is a free for all. The violations have not only been committed by the people in general with the connivance of the authorities but the state organisations and institutions themselves have violated the master plan which they were supposed to enforce. Agricultural lands have been converted for construction purposes with impunity. New Housing Colonies approved by the authorities have no proper drainage and sewerage nor have these proper roads. The height of commercial buildings in the midst of residential colonies makes these look like sky scrapers. Most conspicuous is the Police Headquarter standing like the Pharaoh’s pyramid in the Egyptian desert! It is reported that the State Police has been constructing buildings all over the state without any permission and clearance from the concerned authorities. Probably they consider themselves to be a law unto themselves. Apart from constructing a huge the headquarter building, they built a Public School on the bye pass where no buildings should have come up. They probably followed the SDA example?
The number of hotels in residential areas, on the ecologically sensitive banks of the Dal Lake is in dozens. These have been constructed without giving any thought to the disposal of sewage and provision of parking. If one starts compiling the violations of various building laws and bye laws, it would go into a complete book. But the moot point is who allowed this to happen? Not only the concerned officials but the politicians patronising them. In the past, all these deliberate violations of the law have turned into a source of funds especially at the election times. The mere sealing of the properties now may also turn into a lucrative source of election funds so desperately needed by all the political parties. The real lesson for preventing such violations in future would be demolitions and that should begin with the government buildings constructed in violation of the master plan and all building norms and bye laws. If the state cannot take to task its own members violating the laws, what right it has to punish its citizens? Enforcement of the law must begin at home. Let us hope that the Honourable High Court which as the most welcome step, has taken a very serious view of these violations goes all the way to ensure some order in our living.

Friday, November 1, 2013



The colour of the water in the spring of the famous shrine of Kheer Bhawani in Tulla Mulla near Ganderbal is reported to be back to normal greenish tinge. More than a month back the colour of the water had turned red sending alarming signals among many people including Kashmiri Pandits. There is a belief that the colour of the water is an indication about the coming events. In normal times the spring water remains bluish white. As per the statement of the local Pujari (the Hindu priest) who has been a care taker of the shrine for almost 50 years or so, the colour sometimes changes to black foretelling the approach of bad times in Kashmir. According to him, the water had turned black after the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi in 1984. It had again turned completely dark black in 1990 before the Pandit mass migration.
Last month during the controversial Shalimar concert of Zubin Mehta, the water had turned red. There were many theories about this phenomenon. Even the Pujari was surprised as he had not seen the red colour during his entire stay in the shrine. Some scientists and experts had theorised that the water colour may have changed due to sulphur content or due to red algae bloom. Mr. G M Hajam, the Tourist Officer of Tulla Mulla/Manasbal area who had been following this strange happening has informed that the restoration of the water to original colour was a result of the dewatering done by the Shrine Trust. They had used a dewatering motor to pump out the water and after few days the water assumed the normal colour. Mr. Hajam was informed by Ghulam Mohammad Dar, a local employee of the shrine working with the Pujari that the colour had changed due to adulterated milk poured into the spring. According to him the devotees visiting the shrine would buy local natural milk and pour it into the spring as a mark of devotion to the Goddess. However, some devotees had brought with them the pasteurised milk in plastic pouches and poured it into the spring. After that the water had turned red and smelly. He attributes this phenomenon to adulterated/chemically treated milk. Now, the devotees are again buying the local milk and the colour remains normal. After all, the Goddess refuses to accept the adulterated offerings but the poor common Kashmiris have become immune to adulterated milk and all other food stuff! In any case, the assumption of normal colour by the holy spring must have sent a wave of relief among the devotees all over the world who had been alarmed by the red colour of the spring.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Internationalising Kashmir

There is always a continuous refrain from the Government as well as other political luminaries in India that the problem of Kashmir is a bi-lateral problem between India and Pakistan. This is slightly better than the other streams which claim Kashmir to be an inseparable and integral part of India? Any attempt by the other party or even by some leaders in Kashmir to persuade International players including some watch dog agencies to intervene is always termed as “Internationalising” Kashmir! Everybody seems to forget that Kashmir became an International problem in 1947 itself. It was born along with the birth of the two separate countries in the sub-continent. It is India itself which internationalised the problem by taking it to the Global Police Station of the UN, the Security Council. They filed a complaint which amounts to lodging an FIR (First Information Report) about an offence having been committed by Pakistan by sending tribesmen to Kashmir and thereby endangering the World Peace. Once an FIR about a cognisable offence is lodged with a law enforcing agency, it automatically becomes a case of the state versus the alleged offender. The person or the agency lodging the complaint cannot withdraw it. The law enforcing agency of the state, in this case, the Security Council has to investigate the complaint and take appropriate action under the law. The Security Council did the same and asked both the parties to ascertain the wishes of the people for deciding their future dispensation. However, till date the neither side has done it and the Security Council has not taken any action to enforce its decision as it is given out that the case was not disposed under the relevant chapter giving the Security Council mandatory powers to enforce its decision.
Whether Kashmir is an international dispute or not can be judged from the UN website giving a fact sheet about the UNMOGIP (UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan) which forms part of its worldwide peace keeping operations. This Military Observer Group was set up in January, 1949 to oversee the ceasefire between India and Pakistan. This group is headquartered in Srinagar and Islamabad for summer and winter respectively. It has strength of 113. There are 42 Military Personnel who act as Military Observers. There are 71 civilians including 25 foreigners. There are 46 locals working with the mission. There have been 11 fatalities among its personnel. The budget for the year 2012-13 has been pegged at more than $ 21 million. Even though the Indian Government does not allow access to the Observers, they continue to report the violations to UN Headquarter in New York. In fact, the UNMOGIP Headquarter both in Srinagar and Islamabad has been a popular spot for protestors to convey memoranda to UN Secretary General. Incidentally, some years back during a conducted tour of the UN Headquarter in New York, the UN tour guide while going through the chamber of the Security Council mentioned that one of the oldest disputes on the agenda of the Council is Kashmir dispute. On being told that one was from Kashmir she gave a smile!
Srinagar is supposed to have an International Airport but there are no International flights as most of airlines refuse to fly here because of the area being a disputed territory. Chinese have been issuing stapled visas to Kashmiris because of being residents of a disputed place. In fact, a number of International treaties including the famous Indus Water Treaty stipulate that the treaty does not alter the basic rights/claims of the various parties regarding the territory. The maps of Kashmir issued by many countries and international organisations show Kashmir as a disputed territory. Some people attach the label of “Pak Administered” or “Indian Administered” Kashmir to the two parts of the state.
Even if one would close eyes to all these facts and claim Kashmir to be bi-lateral dispute, the problem will not end there. It is not in reality the dispute over the ownership of a piece of land. It involves the fate of the millions of people inhabiting that piece of land. This makes it a tri-lateral problem. The principal party are the Kashmiri people. In the present context, internationalizing the dispute is of no consequence. The Global Peace Keeper, Security Council has miserably failed to enforce its decisions in regard to Kashmir. The UN is held hostage by USA and its allies. This was very starkly demonstrated by the Saudi refusal to take up the rotational membership of the Council. There is no need for the Indian Government and others to get worked up if Pakistan and others within and outside Kashmir try to internationalise it. Indians have tried their utmost to domesticize it but have miserably failed. They have to maintain a colossal security set up to keep the peace. The Line of Control is again getting heated up. Ultimately, the Security Council may have to step in again if the heat goes beyond control.
International, bi-lateral or domestic, Kashmir is a problem which cannot be wished away. The only solution is to accept the existence of the problem and to address it for an early solution. It has been observed by some that there are other covert stake holders like the security apparatuses including the armies on two sides of the divide. A viable solution can be found only if all the stake holders are on board. Otherwise, we will continue to have many Kargils, Kerans, and continuously heated up Line of Control. How will all the stake holders come together to address the issue? That is the million dollar question!

Friday, October 25, 2013


The noted constitutional expert A G Noorani in a recent article commented that the main problem in Kashmir was the disunity of its leadership of all shades. He called it “Kashmir’s Tragic Divide”. In the mainstream as well as in the separatist camps. According to him the “Unionist” leadership is preparing to fight elections while as the “Separatist” leadership is not even on talking terms with each other! But, the moot point is whether there is any genuine, honest, sincere, and steadfast leadership in Kashmir at all? In fact, Kashmir’s main tragedy has been the absence of a sincere, honest and upright leadership right from 1947. Their tallest charismatic leader instead of setting an example of honesty and uprightness for the future generations ditched them in a whirlpool of corruption and dishonesty out of which they are unable to come out. They had dreamt of someone like the “Lion of the desert”, Omar Mukhtar but they very unfortunately got a “Lion without a tail”!
 The recent disclosures about pay offs to various people including Cabinet Ministers by the Army right from 1947 shows how the political leadership has been manipulated to wean people away from their cherished discourse of freedom which they had been yearning for centuries. The other side instead of supporting the popular narrative engineered it to suit their own goal again primarily with the supply of unlimited and unaccounted funds. Everything seems to have been commercialised in Kashmir. The materialism rules the roost! Kashmir’s two neighbours ensured the growth of only that kind of leadership which would further their own vested interests designated by them as strategic or national interests. Kashmiris figure nowhere except as pawns in the games played by these two perennial antagonists. This atmosphere of commercialisation built upon deceit, dishonesty and greed of materialistic goals has turned the whole situation murky.
 A leader is a person of convictions who has a definite goal, a future vision and a definite road map to reach that goal. He shows the way and tries to honestly and sincerely lead his people to that goal which sometimes he may not reach in his own lifetime. Have we so far had such a leader? Firstly, none of the leaders have a definite and clear cut goal. Some want Kashmir to become part of Pakistan. Some want Kashmir to be totally merged with the Indian Union. Others want Kashmir to be totally independent. The people wanting independence also fail to clearly designate which part of Kashmir should be independent? The valley only? The part of the state with India? The entire undivided erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, of course, with a number of unwilling parts? Some want status quo as it suits them. The first thing for a genuine leader would be to define in real practical terms what would be beneficial to Kashmiris in the long run. Ultimately, they want to live with honour and dignity in a peaceful environment. The leader has also to be sure that the people he is trying to lead accept the goal and are willing to follow him to reach it.
 Next to defining of a clear and practical goal and the path to reach it, the leader himself has to be steadfast and not waver on the way. Unfortunately, most of the Kashmiri leaders have been wavering both in defining the goal and leading the people on the path to reach it. The so called mainstream leaders have always been wavering from Bijli, Panni, Saddak to Autonomy, Self-rule and so on. Had they been honest, sincere, and true Indians by conviction, they might have at least given good governance and made the living conditions of the common people better. Incidentally, even Delhi did not allow such a genuine mainstream leadership to grow. As a result, these leaders have neither given good governance to the people to improve their daily lives nor have they been able to contribute anything to the solution of the basic political problem. Their one point programme has been to somehow usurp power and gather as much money and material things as they could till their “Sun” shines! In the other camp, there have been sincere, steadfast, and honest leaders of conviction but most of these have been liquidated by one or the other side to safeguard their own discourses. A columnist recently mentioned that the leaders won’t fall from the sky but they have to grow here from the ground. Of course, the leaders grow among the people. However, when there are two antagonists with diametrically opposite ideologies trying to promote their own discourses it is very hard for the genuine and honest leadership to grow unless there is some Divine intervention! The Israelites during their bondage in Egypt had been pinning for a “Deliverer” and finally God sent the “Deliver”, Moses, who grew up in the lap of the Pharaoh. Moses brought the Israelites out of the Egyptian bondage to Mount Sinai. While he was on top getting the Ten Commandments, these people sinned in the sight of the Lord because of which they were made to wander in the desert for 40 years till the sinning generation was removed. In the case of Kashmiris, the “Moses” himself committed the sin which may make them wander in the desert for 400 years!
 This vagueness in the goals and the wavering of the leadership has totally confused the people. They do not know whom to follow to get relief in their daily lives and to reach the ultimate goal of total emancipation. They are churning in the whirlpool of corruption. There is free for all in every sphere of the society. The “Truth” has been banished from Kashmir! Some of the leaders whom they trust are not going beyond shut down calls and pointless marches. The only hope is the new generation which does not carry the baggage of the earlier leadership. There are innumerable attempts targeted even at this new generation to push them into the same mud and filth which has destroyed the earlier leadership. The confused and paralysed people have genuine hopes for the “Deliverer” rising out of the new generation and the Almighty God won’t disappoint them provided they change their basic character by speaking the “Truth” and standing by it regardless of the consequences.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kargil to Keran!

“Keran Ops: ‘An Operation that never was’ goes the headline of a news. The quote was attributed to General H.S.Panag, the former Northern Army Commander. The way the so called operation was started and concluded and a host of contradictory media statements issued during its running definitely created a doubt in its veracity! The operation coincided with the Samba attack which happened three days after the Keran operation. Both the events took place at the crucial time of the planned Indo-Pak Premiers’ meeting. Even the Union Home Minister has demanded explanation of the circumstances surrounding both the incidents. This is not the first time such an incident has taken place. It has been quite often observed that whenever there is a possibility of Indo-Pak détente taking place, some untoward incident takes place either on this side or the other side and as a result the whole process of patching up the differences gets derailed. The recent disclosures by the former Army Chief General V K Singh have shown how the top brass in the Army can operate independently to achieve its own motives regardless of the overall consequences to the political and democratic set up. This behind the scenes role of the Army and other security agencies has been growing slowly and is now assuming alarming proportions. The political set up appears totally unable to either really probe it or in fact to stem it. In Kashmir, the Army has put all the mainstream politicians in the dock and has totally negated all claims of fair and democratic elections held since 1947.
On the other side, the Army has always been having a decisive say in all matters. They have practically taken over the reins whenever they felt like doing so ostensibly in the so called “National Interest” or what they always claim “for the safety and protection of their country”. Kargil was a stark example of the Army taking unilateral steps for the derailing of the peace process of Indo-Pak détente. It had probably a twin purpose. The first was negating the loss of the Hathi Matha feature above Kargil town in 1971 war. That strategic location above the Kargil town was always a nightmare for the Indian Army. All the convoys going to Ladakh were in the direct line of fire from the Pakistanis. In fact, the Kargil town itself used to get a bombardment of shells quite often. The taking over of heights in Drass was another bid to cut off Indian link to Ladakh by keeping the route in the line of fire from the Tiger Hill and other high-altitude features. It was a meticulously planned operation by the SSG (Special Services Group) of the Pakistan Army once headed by General Musharraf. Normally, one would not expect the sharp Commando General to be so dull as not to consider the possibility that the occupation of these posts can’t be permanent and the operation would result in a bigger conflagration.  However, the other purpose which seemed more convincing and the real aim of the operation was to derail the Vajpayee’s bus ride to Lahore. While Nawaz Sharief was hugging Vajpayee, Musharraf was infiltrating his group across to take over the posts usually abandoned in winter by the Indian Army. The resultant conflict could only be sorted out by the American and Chinese joint intervention as these powers were wary of things going out of control and leading to a full-fledged war. The net result for the sub-continent was the end of the efforts for a rapprochement!
Thus, the real stumbling blocks for peace in the sub-continent are the two Armies. On this side they operate covertly while on the other side they are totally overt. Everything needs a nod from the Army whether overt or covert! The worst thing is that both the Armies have got communalised over the years with the Hindutva infiltration on this side and the Jihadi suicidal influx on the other side. The outsiders who are the real authors of the sub-continental divide engineered by them to keep their fingers in the pie, instead of bringing the two sides together try their utmost to keep the pot boiling. They are the real beneficiaries of the conflict. Their armament industries survive on the sub-continental and other conflicts in different parts of the world. USA is the largest manufacturer of arms and India is the largest importer from USA and other countries.
In these circumstances, peace has a very little chance if left to the intervention of outsiders. The only practical and real chance of peace in the sub-continent depends upon the leadership both political and military in the two countries. It would be worthwhile if the Army Chiefs of the countries start a dialogue whether overt or covert through back channels for coming to a gentleman’s agreement. If the military commands on two sides decide to call it a day in the larger interests of their countries and for the well-being of future generations, the political leadership will embrace each other! In the alternative, we will continue to see many more Kargils and Kerans.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tearing the “Secular” mask!

Attack on Babri Masjid
Narendra Modi Crowned!
Operation demolition
The most touted slogan of the Indian National Congress has been the “Secularism” of the Indian Union. Right from 1947 they have been taking the Muslim population of India along on their bandwagon of secularism. Had the top most leadership during the freedom struggle been truly secular, they would have never agreed for the partition of the country on the basis of religion. In fact, Joseph Stalin in one of his articles about the Indian Independence wrote that the Indian freedom movement leaders were not honest and sincere. According to him if they had been true nationalists, they would have never agreed for the partition of the country leaving the Western Imperialists an open window to come back in one or the other form.
The very idea of a state claiming to be “Secular” after accepting the division of the country on the basis of religion is totally hypocritical. Even the constitution given by these people to govern the country reflects Hindu bias. The article 25 (2-B) empowers the state to throw open religious institutions of a Hindu character. How was the state so sure that it would always be of Hindu character that it armed itself with the powers to throw open only Hindu institutions? In fact, when one talks of two nation theory it strikes one that on both sides except religion nothing is common among the people inhabiting these countries. Both do not qualify as nations in terms of the definition of a nation given in the books on political science. A nation is a group of people living in a specific geographical area having common language, history and culture. On this basis Pakistan comprises of almost half a dozen nations and India, more than a dozen! However, if the religion of the majority is the basis, then these are two nations. A Hindu nation and a Muslim nation. But it is debatable whether religion can be the basis of a nation as it is understood in terms of the definitions given by the political scientists.
Across the border, Pakistan, the land of the pure is no longer so. The violence has overtaken everything. Some people allege that Pakistan was created by the Muslim feudal landlords to safe guard their vested interests as they were apprehensive about their fate in a united India. However, Pakistan was dominated from the very beginning and even now continues to be so, by the Punjabis. In fact, the people who migrated from India still call themselves refugees or Mohajir! In contrast, the migrants from Pakistan not only dominated Indian political and economic scene but totally amalgamated with the local people. There is no doubt that on both sides it is the rich who rule the roost. While as the Brahmins hold the upper hand here which has prompted Arundhiti Roy to call India an “Upper caste Hindu Corporate Republic?”; the other side is neither a Republic nor truly Islamic but again a feudocracy of the landlords with the most fashionable women!
Farmer kissing Landlord’s feet
Tehmina, a fashionable woman!
Pakistani Taliban ready for action
In 1947, the Kashmiri leadership was confused and the people were uncertain and unsure of the future of two newly created countries. Moreover, they had their own long history of suffering and oppression at the hands of the outsiders. Majority of Kashmiri Muslims felt some sort of emotional attachment with the newly created Pakistan. However, some of the leaders including the charismatic Lion of Kashmir were sceptical and had a prejudice because of the degrading treatment meted out by the Muslim Punjabis to Kashmiris going for work outside Kashmir especially during winters. They were taken in by the “Secular” and “Progressive” façade of the newly created Union of India. They were not moved even by the massacres of Muslims in Jammu and India’s unilateral action in annexing Hyderabad and Junagarh. They realised their mistake only when it was too late.
During all these years, Kashmiris have suffered because of the ideological conflict between these two newly created states. They have been used by both the sides as guinea pigs. None of them were sincere about the wellbeing of Kashmiris but always spoke about Kashmir. If Pakistanis considered Kashmir as their “Jugular vein”, the Indians projected it as the Crown of their so called “Secular” country. However, the last two decades have torn down both these facades and masks. Pakistanis have forgotten about their “Jugular vein” and continue to live even though in the worst kind of a mess. Kashmiris have to a great extent lost that emotional and sentimental attachment to Pakistan even though they still have a soft corner for them because of their extensive support in the past. Some people still feel that in the absence of Pakistan, the Indians may have completely overwhelmed and wiped out Kashmiris.
RSS Shahkha in action
Face of Hindutva
Bajrang Dal private army
On the other hand, the Indians have been coming out in the open as a country of Hindus, the Hindu Rashtra, and the Bharat Varsh! The process has now been perfected without any qualms by Narendra Modi, the future Prime Ministerial candidate of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). Now there can be no doubt that India is a country of Hindus who will always have an upper hand. The Muslims have already been shown by the Justice Sachar in his report to be worse than the Dalits, the lowest caste among the Hindus. So far they were living as second class citizens without being projected as such but in the new dispensation, if it comes in, they will have to live as third class citizens and would not be expected to complain.
It is time that the Kashmiris should not now let themselves be deceived by the so called “Secular” mask of the pretenders. The mainstream leaders would also lose their steam of being nationalist and progressive, pretending to be part of a “Secular” and a progressive state. It would be in a way confirmation of the two nation theory. At the same time it affords Kashmiris an opportunity to call off the bluff of both the neighbouring countries and tell them to get lost and leave them alone to their fate! Historically speaking, Kashmiris have nothing in common with the Jihadi Pakistan or the Hindutva India! Thus, the Moditva wave which has already shown itself to be bloody and destructive as is evident from U.P riots may be in a way beneficial to Kashmiris by enabling them to see the reality clearly and prepare themselves mentally and physically for living in an ostensibly Hindu India of the future!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

“Nuclear Flashpoint”, myth or reality?

There is hardly any occasion in international gatherings where the problem of Kashmir comes up for discussion, when one or other representatives especially from the western countries do not fail to mention that Kashmir is a “Nuclear Flashpoint”! Over the years hype has been built up around this dispute to create very severe and grave apprehensions about its being a threat to world peace and a possible trigger for a nuclear exchange between these two Asian neighbours. One would have thought that this grave threat perception would help in its quick resolution but on the contrary this idea of a possible mad nuclear exchange reinforced by western powers in reality acts as a delaying tactic in its final settlement. This idea actually crept in the discourse from the time the two countries exploded half a dozen nuclear devices some years back. Till that time they had already fought three conventional wars.
There are many theories about the background to this now very well known label of Kashmir, the “Asia’s Nuclear Flashpoint”. In fact, in February, 2000 Dr. Subash Kapila wrote an article about this contention being a myth floated by USA and Pakistan since early eighties for their vested interests. According to Dr.Kapila, the USA fully knows that no one except them have used nuclear weapons physically or as a blackmail (Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Cuba). They also know that they can hold back Pakistan if necessary by pre-empting their strike capability. India has already declared no first strike. Dr. Kapila concludes that the myth is only to contain Indian influence in South Asia and prevent any attempt at a limited Indian conventional strike in Pakistan Administered Kashmir. Dr.Kapila says that the Pakistan’s bogey about the nuclear flashpoint is to pressurise international community to intervene in settling Kashmir dispute.
As per Dr.Kapila the myth can turn into reality only if an irrational fundamentalist dictator decides to use the nuclear weapon to force India to give up Kashmir. However, in this scenario also China may not allow this or the Pakistanis themselves would have to take into account the Indian retaliation of second strike which would completely wipe out Pakistan. On all counts, the possibility of a nuclear conflagration over Kashmir seems very rare as was evident from the Kargil war where Bill Clinton intervened after consulting his Chinese counterpart to call a halt to the hostilities. The recent development in Pakistan where violence has assumed alarming proportions especially the unstoppable suicide attacks does create a disturbing scenario. A suicide bomber running away with a nuke to teach India a lesson can trigger an Armageddon! Apart from that rare suicidal eventuality, a full-fledged nuclear war breaking out in the sub-continent is not a possibility in the present international scenario. USA and other western powers will not allow that to happen.
Thus one could say that the hype about Kashmir being a nuclear flashpoint or an Asian hot-spot is a myth which is in fact being used by one and all to forestall any progress towards its resolution. Even very recently, the Pakistani Prime Minister has called Kashmir a nuclear flashpoint. Apart from these international players even the local leaders in Kashmir have also been very conveniently repeating these lines of his master’s voice! One would have expected the local leaders not to get swayed by this mythical hype that Kashmir is a nuclear or non-nuclear Asian or global flashpoint. They should have at least been able to guess that the worn out slogan is just to keep Kashmiris hanging till eternity. Normally if it was such a dangerous flashpoint then everyone should have been rushing to get it settled at the earliest in the interests of the world peace! On the contrary the western powers especially the global policeman (USA) which normally intervenes everywhere on the tiniest grounds keeps on telling India and Pakistan to sort out the problem bi-laterally. Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and now Syria need American intervention but not Kashmir which has been hanging fire for more than half a century. It is the common Kashmiris who are in the line of fire and have been facing the consequences of a proxy war between the two irreconcilable neighbours of the sub-continent.
The recent startling disclosures by the former Army Chief General V K Singh are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg and show to what length these people are ready to go to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir. The other side is doing the same thing to get relief from the uncontrollable local militants bent upon destroying their feudal set up. This uncertain situation fuelled and maintained by both the sides is slowly creating a dangerous situation for the local people who may get completely annihilated in this mindless terror war if it continues unabated without anyone willing to stop it on the mythical excuse of it being a “Nuclear” Flashpoint”!

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Missing High-End Tourism!

In spite of the tall claims regarding tourist figures, the real high end tourism from domestic markets as well as abroad still shies away from Kashmir

For last couple of years we have been repeatedly bombarded with tourist figures exceeding a million or even a million and a half. In fact, projections for the next year are aimed at over 2 million tourists. However, no one has been talking about the real status of the people visiting the valley! Mere figures do not convey the real story. Tourist arrivals which incidentally may include people working here do not make the difference. In reality, the class of tourists and the number of nights they stay in hotels and other accommodation tell the true story. There are many other myths about tourism touted by the very strong lobby it represents as well as by almost all the politicians from all the sides using it as the barometer of political normalcy. In real economic terms it is not at all the backbone of Kashmir’s economy but represents less than 10% of the GDP. The three most important sectors of Kashmir’s economy are agriculture, horticulture, and handicrafts exported all over the world. Tourism is an additional resource, basically an employment generator. Because of being a service oriented industry it generates thousands of seasonal jobs. The basic requirement for the development of tourism anywhere in the world is the “Peace”. Unfortunately, our part of the world has been in continuous turmoil and one never knows when the fuse will blow out? In spite of million or so tourists visiting Kashmir, the unsafe image of the destination refuses to go away especially because of the biased travel advisories of some western countries.
Even if we concede that due to somewhat settled conditions of last couple of years the tourism industry is booming, there is one important catch. The really paying high end tourism is still shying away from Kashmir. By high end tourism one does not mean the top class very rich tourists. It would mean the upper middle class. The really high end tourism of Monaco type will never come to Kashmir. Apart from the political situation, there are many other handicaps. For the domestic high end market it is the lack of high class infrastructure and the present day ease to travel abroad to better managed peaceful destinations. In fact right now more Indians travel abroad for holiday than the foreign visitors coming here! In the case of foreign high end tourism, the main handicap apart from the image of an unsafe destination is the lack of direct connectivity to international air routes. To visit Kashmir foreigners from all over the world have to pay an add-on fare from Delhi to Srinagar and back. The so called International airport at Srinagar is a practical joke played on Kashmiris by Sonia Gandhi and her government. If Srinagar had a real international air connection, the western travel advisories would be off in a matter of days as the people from all over could come and go easily and see for themselves the present safe travel situation. One of the most frequently asked questions in the foreign travel marts is about the accommodations where one can stay, the availability of luxury transport, and recreation and entertainment facilities apart from the natural beauty. At present we hardly have a couple of places which may somewhat compare with the high class staying facilities available in some of the top global tourism destinations. Regarding recreation and entertainment we are confused. People do not look for the things they get in Las Vegas or Bangkok in Kashmir. However, they need recreational facilities like clubs, golf courses, bowling alleys, restaurants, and so on. Even if we have some of these, but unfortunately the management and maintenance of these is very poor. The only saleable entertainment in Gulmarg we have is a gondola ride to the top of the mountain. Rest of the time, the poor tourists are held to ransom by the ponywallas and others! In addition, we have somehow become totally unconcerned about our own living environment. Srinagar is probably one of the dirtiest cities in the sub-continent. The same is the condition of our water bodies and the historical lifeline, the River Jhelum. No one wants to visit a filthy tourism destination!
If we sincerely and honestly want to promote high end tourism which will have an impact on the economy, we have to follow a three pronged strategy. Firstly we have to clean up our own act both physically and literally. We cannot invite tourists to filthy cities, over-crowded concrete jungle resorts teeming with all sorts of people tearing the visitor’s apparels! Kashmir is touted as “Paradise on Earth”. We have to at least make it look like a clean Paradise if nothing more! We need to clean up our environment not only for tourists but our own selves. Then we have to change the attitude of people coming in contact with the tourists. No doubt there are black sheep in almost all tourist destinations who spoil the reputation of the entire population but in our case the number is becoming uncontrollable in spite of the best legislation for the protection of the interests of the tourists. Both the government and the private players in the industry have to strictly adhere to basic ethics in dealing with the tourists. The violators need to be dealt with severely by both the sides.
Next comes the infrastructure. This would involve not only the super structure in the form of accommodation, eating places, recreational avenues but also the basic infrastructure of roads, electricity, communications and so on. As already stated in the beginning, we should not expect high end or the up market foreign traffic without an international air connection. We should also not expect high end tourists to visit a destination beset with erratic power supply, strewn with dumps of garbage, pot-holed access roads to the resorts, and above everything else menaced by packs of ferocious stray dogs! The least one could do is to offer clean and hygienic places for stay and eating equal to similar places in different popular tourist destinations around the world. They could stay in comfort and enjoy the beauty of nature. The high end tourist will pay for these services but these should be worth paying for! People are now used to international chains of hotels for accommodation. They know the facilities and standards available in these. Unfortunately, we do not have in Kashmir any properties owned by various popular international hospitality chains. Some attempts were made in the past to improve the infrastructure for accommodation but the approach was flawed. The land is a sensitive issue in Kashmir. Instead of making local land available on lease to outsiders, it would be better to encourage collaborations between locals and the international chains. The joint venture, in which the land is owned by Kashmiri partners, is the best option. In fact, one can also stipulate about employees that 70% would be local and 30% outside experts in various fields. The same can hold good for restaurants and food outlets. Similarly, we need to have management contracts for our prestigious high end projects like the Golf Circuits, Cable Cars and so on. Quite a few of these after being set up with massive investments are in shambles because of mismanagent.There are many other options available to bring the infrastructure to the acceptable global level provided we have the political will to do so!
The third most important prong of the strategy is intensive marketing in the source markets both at the official level and at the industry level itself. Marketing does not mean only printing brochures, posters and calendars. It involves mounting print and electronic media campaigns not only for acquainting potential tourists in source markets about the destinations, and the facilities available there but also motivating them to travel to these destinations. Media campaigns are expensive and tourism marketing needs sizeable budgets. It is a pity that the Kashmir Tourism has the lowest budget earmarked for marketing. Chhattisgarh not a very well-known destination spends over 7 crores on advertising and marketing. They even got an award for that. The Kerala Tourism budget is 105 crores. They have earmarked 1 crore just for participation in travel marts! The J & K budget has been almost static for last few years at 5 crores or so. In mid-nineties when we restarted tourism campaigns we spent more than two crores on just Ladakh and Jammu campaigns called, “Ladakh, the land of endless discovery” and “Jammu, you won’t believe your eyes”. Recently the media had adversely reacted to the visit of a delegation of tourism officials led by the Minister to Europe and America. It seems they were not able to project and explain the purpose of their visit. In fact, they should be making a dozen such visits to foreign source markets not by themselves alone but should sponsor travel industry delegations to these areas if they are really interested in removing the adverse image of Kashmir. In reverse there should be dozens of visits by the foreign travel agents and travel media to correct the image which has been badly damaged due to turmoil of the nineties. The department should invariably participate in all the travel marts and conventions held from time to time within the country and abroad. Mere presence of a strong travel delegation from Kashmir reinforces the belief that it is safe to travel to Kashmir which is the first question asked everywhere. Instead of spending crores of rupees on a couple of dozen Tourism Development Authorities in every nook and corner of the state and creating environment destroying infrastructure, the money should be utilized in improving the basic infrastructure in existing resorts and on aggressive marketing. No doubt there is need to open new tourist areas to lessen pressure on the existing ones but these have to be taken up in a phased manner depending upon the basic criteria of tourism development, “potential, accessibility (political as well as physical), and infrastructure”. The worst handicap for high end foreign tourism has been the adverse travel advisories. Some of these may be genuine but some are also based on bias and prejudice. However, the removal of these needs intensive follow up at the consular level in Delhi and even with foreign offices of the countries issuing these in the first instance. Some years back 65 Britons were massacred in the Luxor area of Egypt. The British Foreign Office issued a very strong adverse travel advisory to its nationals regarding travel to Egypt. However, the Egyptian Foreign and Tourism Ministers camped in London for a week to assure the British Government about the safety of its nationals. The advisory was lifted only after 10 days or so. In order to avoid adverse reactions during some incidents, the Tourism Authorities have to be very active in damage control by feeding the correct information to the media. They should be having regular interaction with the media.
Thus, we should not be asking why we are missing the high end foreign and domestic traffic to Kashmir but rather whether we are doing enough to make these people feel it worth coming and be comfortable and at home in the so called “Paradise on Earth”!   
The author is former Director General Tourism, J & K.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Covert Operations!

The revelations about a covert operation to overthrow Omar Abdullah Government in 2010 seem to have come out straight from Kautilya’s Arthashastra.


 These days the whole media is abuzz with the revelations in a national newspaper about a plot having been hatched by the former Army Chief to overthrow the State Government in 2010 by bribing a cabinet minister. Allegations and counter allegations are galore in this controversy. However, covert operations in Kashmir are not a big surprise or a new discovery. For the last 65 years or so, Kashmir has been turned into a hotbed of conspiracies and covert operations. In fact, the very first covert operation has been the conversion of Muslim Conference into National Conference in 1938 and the subsequent motivating of the Lion of Kashmir to follow the Indian line of action by supporting the signing of the instrument of accession by the erstwhile Maharaja Hari Singh. Many books have been written on the subject and some even deny the very existence of the said document!
The next most important covert operation has been the dethroning of the Lion and his long incarceration. B.N. Mullick, the then Director of the Intelligence Bureau says in his book that it took him two years to convince Pandit Nehru that it was essential to remove Sheikh Abdullah from the scene to allow complete integration of the State of Jammu & Kashmir in the Indian Union! The starting of the Parija Parishad agitation in Jammu called, “Ek Nishan, Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan”, for total integration of the state which turned Sheikh Abdullah against India giving the Indian Government an opportunity to detain him, was part of the same covert operation. Then happened what can be called the mystery of the century which no one has been able to unearth so far. That was the removal of the holy relic from the Hazratbal mosque in December, 1963. This operation not only removed Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad and his entire dynasty who had completely overshadowed everything in Kashmir for almost 11 years, from the scene but also revived Kashmir’s movement for the right of self-determination. Kashmir suddenly popped up on the international radar once again. How and by whom the holy relic was removed and how it came back is the greatest puzzle of our times. Will this mystery be ever solved? That is a million dollar question! The other side too had started their covert operations right from 1947 with the first one being the tribal raid to thwart the Indian annexation of Kashmir. In fifties after the dethroning of the Lion of Kashmir, their covert operations were mostly confined to sending sacks full of currency notes to the leaders of the Kashmir’s popular movement and their families. One Jehangir used to be their king pin for these operations.
After the turmoil of nineties, such operations became a routine. In fact, everything turned murky and one could not distinguish between the real freedom fighters and the imposters roaming all over the valley. The security forces floated their own clandestine outfits and there were so many violent incidents and no one has been so far able to pin point the real perpetrators of these. The skeletons have now started tumbling from the Army cupboard and there must be dozens of such cupboards! One of the most talked about and notorious operation has been the “Al Farhan” story described in detail in the book “Meadows”! Tom Clancy has even written a novel about these covert operations in Kashmir. It is called the “Line of Control”! In this very interesting and exciting novel, an Indian agent of the paramilitary forces exposes the conspiracy to start an Indo-Pak war by attacking the Amarnath Pilgrims near the Tourist Centre in Srinagar! The possible Armageddon is averted by American intervention.
One is reminded about some interesting quotes of Kautilya in his treatise the Arthashastra. “A king shall have his agents in the courts of the enemy, the ally, the Middle and the Neutral kings to spy on the kings as well as their eighteen types of high officials”. “Miraculous results can be achieved by practising the methods of subversion”. “A single assassin can achieve, with weapons, fire or poison, more than a fully mobilised army”. In fact, it is said that Pandit Nehru used to keep a copy of this famous treatise, which is an equivalent of the Machiavelli’s Prince, by his bedside! His Kashmir strategy appears definitely to have been influenced by his minute study of the Arthashastra!
The Arthashastra is used as a text book in the Indian Military Academy from which General V.K.Singh has graduated. Thus, the covert operation conducted by the Technical Services Division of the Military Intelligence in 2010 is only the tip of the iceberg in regard to dozens of such clandestine activities being conducted in Kashmir by various agencies and outfits including the Armies from both the countries. In fact, the timing of the exposure of this operation itself may be another sophisticated operation to benefit certain quarters in view of the forthcoming elections?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Zubin turns Kheer Bhawani RED?

The spring of Kheerbhawani located in present day Tulmul about 25 kilometers from Srinagar is quite large and is supposed to be very sacred to Maharajni, a form of Durga and has always been held in veneration by the Brahmans of Kashmir. The spring is said to exhibit from time to time miraculous changes in the colour of its water, which are ascribed to different manifestations of the goddess. Turning of the colour into shades of black is supposed to signal approaching bad times. In 1886, Walter Lawrence, the-then British settlement commissioner for land, during his visit to the spring, reported the water of the spring to have a violet tinge. Kashmiris claim to have observed a darkish or murky tinge to the water just before the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the 1989 insurgency in the valley. Some people say that before the exodus of the Pandits from Kashmir the colour had turned completely black in 1990!
The legend has it that there were 360 springs surrounding the main spring but all of these seem to have disappeared as the land has become marshy all around. In the last half century the pilgrimage had become the most important for Kashmiri Brahmans who used to come here from all over the State and even from outside. Kheerbhawani is considered to be the Presiding Deity of most of the Kashmiri Brahmans. The Kashmiri devotees often say this mantra in their morning prayer, "I owe my full gratitude to the great goddess Sharada who lives in Kashmir I request you to fill in my mind with utmost power of concentration and studies" The annual festival held here on Zetha Ashtami (usually in May) has been declared a public holiday for the Kashmir province by the State Government. In recent times the pilgrimage has once again assumed great importance and a large number of migrant Kashmiri Pandits come here from all over the world.
It has been reported that the water in the spring has turned RED. The recent concert given by the Bavarian Orchestra and conducted by the world famous maestro Zubin Mehta in the romantic Mughal garden of Shalimar during the course of which blood of some innocent locals freely flowed does not seem to be a good omen for Kashmir. The maestro had come with a message of PEACE but unfortunately he went back by not only causing a disturbance to the temporal PEACE but most probably even to the SPIRITUAL PEACE in the valley. This change of colour in the water to RED has taken place in last few days and has happened after a very long time. There are no two opinions that the concert in the Shalimar Garden not only became a raging controversy but gave a fillip to the dormant popular political movement which had been simmering under a deceptively calm surface.
Vice-Chairman of the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority says that the change in colour of water especially in marshy lands is due to growth of some algae and has happened in the Dal Lake area a number of times. The phenomenon known as Red Algae Bloom can be easily taken care of. It could also be due to increase in sulphur content in the water. He is investigating the phenomenon in the Kheer Bhawani spring. However, the traditional Kashmiri belief especially of the Kashmiri Pandits about the colour of water in this holy spring seems to be stronger than the scientific explanation. Even the 52 year old Pujari says that it is for the first time he has seen RED colour of water. According to him, the water did sometimes go murky or dark but never so far RED! He says the colour became RED on the next day of Janam Ashtami. According to him the water had been tested and it was revealed that no outside stuff had been put in but the water had naturally turned RED. Kashmir known as the bowl of saints and Sufis has a strong spiritual basis. The news about the change in the colour of Kheer Bhawani spring water may cause apprehensions all over especially among the Kashmiri Pandits. They may have to undertake some yagna and engage in prayers to forestall any bad happening in Kashmir. We may also have to keep our fingers crossed and pray for the wellbeing of all. In the meantime, it may be advisable to restrain likes of Zubin Mehta from disturbing the temporal as well as spiritual peace in the valley in future!