Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ode to dying Dal!

The Mughals had made Kashmir their jaunt to escape the scorching heat of the plains. Kashmir Valley for them was a pleasure garden. Love of pleasure has been undoing of Kashmir itself. The last ruler of the sovereign independent state of Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak, too was a lover of pleasure and poetry. It is Kashmir’s misfortune that most of the time people think of pleasure and luxury whenever they talk about it. Very few people talk about Kashmiris and their suffering which is centuries old. During the last 65 years and particularly in last couple of decades the local people have seen the worst of times.
They have been oppressed beyond limits. They have seen bloody massacres, tortures, innocent killings, disappearances, mass rapes, and continued detentions within and outside state. Apart from the massive sufferings of the people, the beautiful land of Kashmir and its environment too have been drastically vandalised. Most of the water bodies are either dying or drying up. The River Jhelum once supposed to be Kashmir’s lifeline has turned into sewer. The pride of Kashmir, the green and tall cedar forests have been mowed down like stalks of wheat leaving only rows upon rows of stumps by the timber smugglers in collusion with security forces.
Kashmir in the present state is not looking for a Shah-i-Jahan to soothe peoples’ suffering through music but needs a Budshah to take hold of the situation to redress their grievances and rebuilt Kashmir emotionally, spiritually and physically, as he had done few centuries back!
The German Ambassador Michael Steiner has put together an event to take Kashmir to the world. He feels that the world needs to give recognition to Kashmir, its culture and history. His focus is supposed to be on the people. In an interview to Greater Kashmir Michael Steiner said that he feels an affinity and emotional bond with Kashmir. He had visited Srinagar seven times in a year to set up the event. He claims that it is not a “Peace Concert”. “This is not a solution to anything. This is a purely cultural event”. The concert is being televised live worldwide. There would be 1500 guests from all over the world. If the concert is expected to give recognition to Kashmir, the recognition has to be full and absolute. Truth cannot be compartmentalised. Feelings have to be conveyed in full and not only superficially. Smiling faces and cheering crowds would not convey the bitterness and pain deep within the soul of Kashmir. Yes, it would give true recognition to Kashmir, its culture and history if it motivates the world to look deeper into the psyche of a suffering Kashmiri. It should convey not only the smiles and cheers but the tears and the groans also.
The event being on the banks of a Lake in throes of death makes it pertinent that people take cognizance of the dying groans of this speechless water body neglected and polluted by its owners and guardians. The growth of obnoxious and poisonous weeds including Azola all over the water body shows the pathetic condition in which the Lake is at present. German Government instead of spending millions on a musical concert could initiate a proposal to start a time bound turnkey project by some global companies having expertise in Lake Restoration and Conservation to breathe fresh life in the dying Dal. Incidentally, some years back the Austrian Government had offered to start such a project but the Indian Government turned it down and instead started a consultancy through Roorkee University which has virtually proved fatal for the Lake. There is still time to retrieve the ebbing life of the Lake and it would be a real tribute of the Maestro if his music can awaken the world to the pathetic condition of the dying Dal Lake.
Here, one is reminded about a passage from Salman Rushdie’s novel. “Shalimar, the Clown”. In the novel a similar celebration is held in the Shalimar Garden. The best part of the celebration is a magical show. “A drum boomed immensely in the night, louder and louder, commanding attention. So potent was the drumming that it froze people in their tracks, it silenced the rumours and got everyone’s attention. The little man, Sarkar the magician, was marching down the central avenue of the garden, hammering away at his mighty dhol. Finally, when all eyes were on him, he raised a megaphone to his lips and bellowed, “….. I came here to do something and I’m going to do it. The genius of my magic will triumph over the ugliness of the times. On the seventh beat of my drum, the Shalimar garden will disappear.” He banged the drum, one, two, three, four, five, six times. On the seventh boom, just as he had foretold, the whole Shalimar Bagh vanished from sight. Pitch blackness descended. People began to scream”.
“For the rest of his life the Seventh Sarkar would curse history for cheating him of the credit for the unprecedented feat of “hiding from view” an entire Mughal garden, but most people in the garden that night thought he’d pulled it off, because on the seventh beat of his drum the power station at Mohra was blown to bits by the Pakistani irregular forces and the whole city and region of Srinagar was plunged into complete darkness. In the night-cloaked Shalimar Bagh the earthly version of the tooba tree of heaven remained secret, unrevealed. Abdullah Noman experienced the bizarre sensation of living through a metaphor made real. The world he knew was disappearing; this blind, inky night was the incontestable sign of the times”.
One sincerely hopes, that the Maestro Zubin Mehta may also be able to perform a similar feat and make all the sufferings of Kashmiris disappear in a jiffy even though temporarily!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The State of Jammu (Tawi)!

One distinctly remembers the story which we learnt in our primary schools about the establishment of Jammu. “Raja Jambolochan nay Sher aur Bakri ko ek hi ghat par pani pitay dekha aur iss say kush hokar yehan par Jammu shehar bassaya!” King Jambolochan saw a lion and a goat drinking water at the same spot and was so impressed that he decided to establish the city of Jammu here. Thus the City of Jammu presently known all over as the City of Temples came into being on the banks of River Tawi. Thus, Jammu was initially a City and not a State. Over the years it turned into what is known as the “Dugger Desh”, the country of the Dogras. However, there were other principalities of Rajputs in different parts. Ultimately, during the Dogra period, the Jammu became the Kingdom of Dogras and it expanded into the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, clobbered together through conquest of Ladakh by General Zorawar Singh and the purchase of entire valley of Kashmir along with its people from the British by virtue of the infamous treaty of Amritsar.
As mentioned by Kalhan in Rajtarangani, two erstwhile principalities in the Chenab Valley, Kashtavata (the erstwhile district Doda) and Parontsa (Poonch and Rajouri) were always aligned to Kashmir valley because of their Kashmiri speaking population. These two areas were populated by Kashmiris who had migrated from the valley from time to time due to various reasons. In fact, the rulers of these areas had many social connections in the valley. There were inter-marriages between the valley rulers and the rulers of these regions. Even at present the majority of the population in the entire Chenab Valley is Kashmiri speaking. They had been clamouring for getting connected to the valley for a long time. It is very recently that the two roads connecting these regions via Synthan Pass and Pir ki Gali have somewhat been connected directly to the valley. These roads are yet to be made fully macadamized and year round as that requires construction of tunnels at Vailoo and under Pir ki Gali. It is alleged that the authorities have been sleeping over these projects deliberately and have put these on a slow track as they would not like these Kashmiri speaking areas to get fully connected to the valley on a year round basis. That would be paving way for establishment of the erstwhile Greater Kashmir as it had existed for centuries.
The demand for a separate state of Jammu is not a new one. It has been there for quite some time but by a section of people only. In fact, right from the time Maharaja Hari Singh lost his throne, the people of Jammu, especially the Dogras started feeling the loss of their hold on the poor wretched suffering Kashmiris whom they were treating as serfs! The first manifestation of this loss was in the form of the Parija Parishad agitation, “Ek Nishan, Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan” aimed at total merger of the state with the Indian Union. This agitation was highlighted by the entire media in India and supported by the rightist parties. Sheikh Abdullah tried to crush the agitation but was severely castigated by the Indian press and many politicians which made him realise his blunder in aligning with India. Since that time a certain section of Jammu people have been blackmailing the valley politicians from time to time by raising these demands going against the aspirations of the Kashmiris.
Before one even thinks about the creation of the new state one has to ascertain whether the majority of the people want it. As already mentioned, the majority of the population in the entire Chenab Valley would prefer to be with Kashmir than with the proposed state of Jammu. The people demanding the creation have also to keep in view the fact that with two and a half districts of Jammu, Kathua, and Udhampur, they would be almost the size of a district of Himachal Pradesh just like Chamba! Moreover, the importance of Jammu is because of it being a take off point for Kashmir and Ladakh. Without these it will lose the economic and other importance. It is true that the state of Jammu & Kashmir is not the creation of a natural voluntary process but it has been clobbered together by the Dogra Maharajas. However, during last 65 years there has been economic, social and cultural integration and the three regions have become dependent on each other. In addition, throughout India and abroad people hardlyknow aboutJammu. They call the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir as Kashmir.
The most alarming thing about the present episode of the separate Jammu State demand has been triggered by the Chief Minister’s suggestive remarks regarding creation of the new state of Telengana. People have been attributing sinister motives to this new episode of the Jammu State agitation. This becomes more sinister by being bracketed with the Union Territory demand of Ladakhis. Some people allege that the whole thing is the creation of certain destructive think tanks who would like to isolate the trouble making Kashmiris to deal with them in a better way as was done in early nineties by Jagmohan. In the end, it may be pointed out that as said by a fellow columnist, the State of Jammu & Kashmir cannot be divided for any purposes without the United Nations coming in. It is still on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council and we have the United Nations Military Observer Group very much present in Srinagar and Islamabad!

Friday, August 2, 2013

“K-resolution”, the new election slogan!

It is now become a routine that just prior to the election time political parties come out with some catchy slogans to get attention of the people. Right from 1947 people have been fooled with newer slogans by various political leaders. The saying that the “Democracy is a balloon filled with hot air. Fools watch it, when it rises and the clever pick their pockets”, appropriately fits Kashmir elections. This game of fooling each other has been now going on for quite some time. Both the leaders and the people know that they are fooling each but they still carry on the drama just for their own vested interests. Everyone knows that the mainstream leaders have neither the intention nor the power to do anything about the basic political problem in Kashmir. These leaders are simply fighting each other to gain the power and the benefits associated with it. They know that ultimately they have to toe the line drawn by their masters in Delhi. It is amusing to hear some leaders say that they will get the basic issue of Kashmir resolved if they come to power. In the same breath they claim that Kashmir cannot go out of India as it is an integral part. How can they reconcile the two contradictory statements? Then what is the resolution that will fulfill the basic aspirations of the Kashmiris without going out of India in view of 65 years bad experience?
Another aspect is the call for boycott given by the parties claiming to be struggling for the basic rights of Kashmiris. This very much suits the ruling parties as in the absence people coming out to vote in large numbers, they can easily rig the elections and get their own people elected. Again there is a catch. When the people genuinely and honestly want to come out and vote to elect their own representatives, the elections are again rigged. This is what happened in 1987. The elected representatives were shown to have lost and were jailed. No body honestly believes in the veracity and impartiality of these elections. This is in reality an exercise to continue the mainstream set up by hook or by crook regardless of peoples’ following.
The most humorous and amusing is the discovery made by the present head of the government regarding the basic aspirations of Kashmiris. He has discovered these truths only towards the end of his tenure. After having toed the Delhi’s line meekly for almost 5 years, he is now challenging it regarding various basic issues. All these years he looked like a joker trying to please everyone. On one hand he appeared a champion of peoples’ basic rights by demanding revocation of the draconian legislation AFSPA while on the other hand he ate a humble pie when Delhi refused to budge. He did not have the courage to revoke his own law, the Disturbed Areas Act which would have let AFSPA die its own death. Of course, he would have lost the chair and the power and goodies associated with it.
Earlier these mainstream leaders were claiming that the state elections are not for the resolution of the basic problem but simply to ensure good governance to take care of day to day affairs of the common people. Now, they have suddenly discovered that these elections can enable them to solve the basic political problem and get the people some relief from the oppressive situation. The changeover is simply because of their total failure to deliver on the governance front. Having miserably failed to provide Bijli, Panni and Saddak, they do not have the courage to face the electorate with the same slogan! People of course know that these leaders have failed to provide them the basic necessities especially the power which has seen the worst situation in last few decades. How can they now solve the basic issue that too with the toeing of the Delhi line of Kashmir being an integral part of India? People may still go and vote and create another fa├žade of a democratic peoples’ government with only the change of faces of the puppets on Delhi’s strings. The theatre of the absurd would continue as per the past practice. There does not seem any immediate escape from this drama and we may be destined to carry it on for some time. One does not see any light at the end of the tunnel due to the continuing mistrust between the two neighbouring countries totally embroiled in their own problems of senseless violence and the worst form of corruption!