Monday, March 24, 2014

Gulkand Wari Manz Balgum!

A Kashmiri proverb which aptly describes Kashmir’s present situation.

Kashmir has been traditionally called the “Resh Weur” or the “Pir Weur” meaning a bowl of saints or spiritual persons. The valley has been abode of mystics for a long time.  In the sphere of very tolerant religious thought and human values it can be compared to a bowl containing the nectar of flowers especially the roses which is called “Gulkand”. A bowl containing the “Gulkand”, the nectar of peace, tolerance, brotherhood and humanity is a pious thing. This is a description of the highest piety for which the valley of Kashmir had been famous throughout the world. Now imagine the fate of the bowl if someone throws phlegm into it instead of the nectar! This is precisely what has happened during last few decades because of the deeds of what are known as the Kashmir’s mainstream leaders.
Corruption both material and moral has become the order of the day. Truth has been completely banished from Kashmir. Discipline and accountability do not exist in the lexicon of the Kashmir’s present rulers. There is no sphere of the society which is not tainted one way or the other. Scandals involving fake drugs, fake degrees, leaked examination papers,  adulterated milk and other food stuffs and even sexual misdemeanour get exposed every second day. How has “Gulkand” turned into phlegm? It has happened because the very foundation of these rulers is based on falsehood. All these leaders right from 1947 have been lying about the true feelings of the common people. With the dawn of freedom in the sub-continent Kashmiris too had seen a ray of hope for their emancipation. They had dreamt that the bowl of nectar which had been snatched from them would be restored. However, instead of the bowl of nectar they were drowned in a bowl full of phlegm! Every bit of nectar was squeezed out of Kashmir and the bowl has been filled with all kinds of muck and rubbish.
The desecration of this pious bowl cannot be blamed only on the outsiders and their henchmen. There is a saying that the people get the rulers they deserve. The fault also lies with the people who inhabit the bowl. They consider themselves to be the followers of the most emancipated faith. However, even though they adhere strictly to the rituals yet they have no faith in its basic spirit and have gone astray. The first thing the faith teaches is to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. Unfortunately, the truth has been the first casualty in Kashmir. Some people say that it is the misfortune of Kashmiris that they face all these miseries. On the contrary, the people appear to be deviated and not unfortunate. Material greed has eaten away all the finer qualities of life. Honesty, sincerity, affection, love, friendship and above all the truth seem to have vanished from this valley of the saints. People have become selfish and callous. Most of the social interactions have vanished. People meet each other only at funerals or marriages. Immorality and waywardness have assumed alarming proportions. The so called mainstream leaders by their own examples have been acting as catalysts to further all these deviant qualities. In a metaphoric sense they are the phlegm which has eaten away the nectar of the roses!
What can one do to cleanse the nectar of the dirty phlegm? Whatever one may do, the phlegm can never be converted into the nectar. It would need throwing out the phlegm and cleaning the bowl before the new nectar grows in it. This has to be done in such a way that the bowl itself does not get damaged. This can only be done when the new generation which is the new nectar for the bowl follows principles and convictions rather than blindly trails the so called leaders. Every member of the new generation should be a leader in himself. He or she should follow the ideology, convictions and stand by the truth regardless of the consequences.  If the personality cult, sycophancy, and nepotism ceases, the phlegm will get thrown out itself. The time for gourd and aubergine (Alle Te Wangan) is long past. There is a strong hope that the new generation by their sacrifices will not only cleanse the bowl of Kashmir of the dirty phlegm but will fill it with new nectar of peace, tolerance, brotherhood and humanity. God Almighty will definitely guide and protect them if they follow the straight path! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Disastrous Management!

Disaster Management does not mean only to give succour after a disaster strikes but it involves preparedness to face any disaster, natural or man-made

There is no defence against natural calamities which usually happen unannounced. One has to be prepared to face these. There are sometimes ways and means which can prevent accidents in times of natural disasters. Such as avalanche prevention on dangerous mountain slopes. Landslides on mountain slopes during rain or even earthquakes and so on. With certain preventive measures, it is possible to avert serious damage. Also one can even avoid panic which accompanies disasters, if one has been prepared mentally and physically to face these natural calamities. It is also possible to lessen the after effects of a disaster through advance preparations and proper management. However, in our case, quite a few disasters are manmade resulting from what one can call, the “Disastrous Management!”
There are three major natural calamities which need disaster management both as a preventive measure before occurrence and rendering succour after the event. The first is the earthquake. Kashmir has faced many severe ones in the past. Being in the most dangerous seismic zone, there are apprehensions that a big one may strike any time in future. Many experts have advised that all building construction in Kashmir should follow strictly measures prescribed for such seismic zones. In fact, an American expert has written a book on this subject stating that the traditional brick and timber structure is most ideal for Kashmir. These structures are more flexible compared to cement concrete and are thus safer in earthquakes. With the onset of modern reinforced cement concrete constructions, hardly anyone is following these norms. The cement concrete structures can be made safe by taking earthquake safety measures. Column-beam structures need expansion joints. Similarly, concrete slabs on brick and timber walls become death traps in an earthquake as happened in 2005 in Muzaffrabad. Government needs to issue mandatory guidelines before a building permission is given for incorporating earthquake safety measures.
Next in the line of natural disasters are the floods. Kashmir is prone to severe floods and there have been many devastating ones in the past. For last decade or so we have not had a major flood. This has made us neglect both the flood prevention measures and the subsequent control/relief measures. The most important prevention measure is the dredging of River Jhelum, the main channel traversing the whole valley. During Maharaja’s time the river used to be regularly dredged right from Khadanyar to Khannabal. However, during the modern progressive development oriented regimes we have seen not only the river bed filled up by sedimentation but even the basins have been encroached and filled up. Wular was a huge basin which could take a lot of water but it has been now reduced to miniscule size by willow plantation and paddy fields all around. To save Srinagar city during floods the river embankment at Kandizaal used to be breached and the water would spread in a large area by- passing the city. All these basins of wetlands and paddy fields have been turned into residential colonies. There are also flood channels to by-pass Srinagar. These too have got filled up or encroached. So we are waiting for a disaster due to our greed, negligence and above all the disastrous management.  
The third calamity is a very heavy snowfall during winter. This calamity has already struck us during the current winter. The only positive side was an early warning given by Mr. Sonam Lotus (becoming a household name these days). However, he too can improve by monitoring the weather continuously and updating it to all concerned. Even though the snow falls we are witnessing now are nothing compared to the ones we had in the earlier times yet these completely disrupt the life throughout the valley. In our childhood one would witness snow up to almost first floor windows but now a days we only get a couple of feet in the city. In the Kashmir of the good old days even though people were mostly confined to their homes, yet they were fully prepared to face the rigours of the winter. From dried vegetables to firewood for bukharis, and the charcoal for kangris used to be stocked in advance by every household. Then came the modern revolution and we were shown the proverbial light, the electric power! Everything changed. We forgot all the old ways of heating, cooking and washing. Hot and cold air-conditioners, microwave ovens, washing machines and what not? Everything running on electric power. Unfortunately, the power started playing hide and seek and we were left in the lurch. We can neither go ahead nor move backwards. Stuck in a time machine with frozen speedo-meter! That is simply known as the “Disastrous Management”! Firstly, the fault lies with the archaic distribution system. Had we a state of the art distribution system with underground cables, the power authorities would not be forced to switch off power with the start of the snowfall or even in a strong wind. Ours must be the most fragile system in the world!  In spite of all these difficulties the ground level workers did an excellent job of restoration in the most trying conditions and deserve appreciation. The major sore point has been water-logging caused by choked drains and failure of dewatering pumps. This did not happen because of the negligence of the staff involved but due to mismanagement of the schemes meant for installing a fool-proof drainage system.
There are two lessons from the recent winter disaster. These calamities do not occur often and come unannounced. However, all departments need to have contingency plans to face these and these have to be refreshed every now and then even though nothing may strike. Secondly, the basic causes of disruption such as archaic power distribution system, defective and lopsided drainage and standby arrangements in case of drainage failure need to be revamped. The disaster management would be much easier if we pay attention to set right our basic disastrous management!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pak-Taliban Confrontation

Recently there was a terrorist attack on the Islamabad courts in which 11 people including the 23 year old young lawyer Fizza who had just returned from U.K. after completing her law degree were killed. 29 others were injured. A splinter group of Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. This group was disowned by the main leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. Earlier the Pakistani Taliban had decapitated 23 Pakistani soldiers whom they had been holding as prisoners. That incident had infuriated the members of the Pakistani security forces so much that they virtually forced their government to start a massive aerial operation to eliminate the militant leaders in Waziristan. Nawaz Sharif’s initiative to start a dialogue had to be suspended mid-stream because of the attitude of the Pakistani Taliban. The targeted massive aerial operation using helicopter gunships and jet fighters resulted in the killing of many militant leaders and forced the Pakistani Taliban to announce a unilateral month long ceasefire. The Islamabad attack took place even after the unilateral declaration of the ceasefire. Talks have supposedly been restarted but no one can say whether these will succeed. There appears to be some dithering whether to go for dialogue or confrontation.
Here, one needs to distinguish between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban. Taliban (meaning students) were the children of the Afghan refugees who had been brought up in Pakistan. After the Russian takeover of Afghanistan millions of refugees landed in Pakistan by crossing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. General Zia-ul-Haq with American patronage got the children of these refugees indoctrinated in various Madrassas and created the fighting force of Taliban. The General also known in the west as “grandfather of global Islamic jihad” was the brain behind the training of about 90,000 Afghans as guerrilla fighters through the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). With the US and Saudi patronage and financial assistance he infiltrated these into Afghanistan to fight the Russians. After the Russian ignominious exit, the Americans in their jubilation totally forgot about Taliban and let the Afghans settle their own scores. There was total civil war and ultimately Afghan Taliban took over the control and formed a Shariah Government. Many western journalists commended the Taliban rule. Osama bin Laden who had initially been picked up and trained by the Americans to fight the Russians turned against them and formed the deadly Al Qaeda. The 9/11 episode shattered the Americans and brought them back into Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden and to eliminate the Al Qaeda. As an irony of fate the Americans who had used the Taliban to throw out Russians now faced their former allies in a destructive war.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan also known as the Pakistani Taliban came into being in December 2007 when Baitullah Mehsud brought together 13 groups of militants. It was led by Maulana Fazlullah. While as the Afghan Taliban strictly oppose targeting the Pakistani State, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan exclusively target the elements of the Pakistani State. Pakistanis trained the Taliban to help them free their country from the invaders but the spill over came back to them. The worst part was the free flow of weapons. These weapons were used by one and all to settle scores among themselves. There was a phenomenal increase in armed sectarian clashes. The most disturbing aspect was the birth of suicide bombers. The free flow of guns has also helped in the drug trade and Pakistan, according to UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has almost 7% of its population as drug addicts. Another impact of these militant groups in the tribal areas has been on the traditional Jirga system where elders would decide all the community matters. Jirga has been subdued by these roaming militant groups. If one minutely dissects the phenomenon of these desperate violent acts one would discern that all this violence has been brought on itself by the highly westernised elite claiming to be the rulers of an Islamic Republic! These people have done exactly the opposite of what Mohammad Ali Jinnah had dreamt and pioneered!
Pakistan has an interesting dichotomy. On one hand it has the rich of the richest as rulers. Most of these rulers are totally westernised. They have properties in western countries and Middle East. Zardari is supposed to be worth over $ 20 billion. He owned a complete Chateau in U.K. Nawaz Sharif is worth over $ 8 billion. The country is ruled by dirty rich feudal elite whose connections go everywhere. In the Army, in the Air Force, in the Navy, in the Civil Service, in the Foreign Service and above all in the Inter-Services Intelligence. They have been living in posh colonies in palatial bungalows. Their life style is totally against the basic tenets of Islamic teachings. One can see this from the various Pakistani TV channels. Pakistan also has now a growing middle class which is trying to strike balance between the strict Shariah laws and western style living. On the other hand, the majority of the people are living in dire poverty. It is these have-nots who have nothing to lose but their chains. The militant organisations are determined to establish a set up based on Shariah. They find sympathy and even recruits from these classes of deprived people. Thus, it is headed for a civil war and the recent military operations are just the beginning. Will the security forces succeed in subduing the Taliban? Difficult to say at this stage. However, the Pakistani Taliban is not the only headache for the government. Violence of all types within as well as outside the country has to end if Pakistan is to survive as a state envisioned by its founder. He had dreamt of Pakistan, the “land of the pure”, as a modern, progressive and a secular country where the Muslims could not only profess their faith freely but march ahead with the fast changing modern civilisation. He could have never imagined that the land of his dreams would turn into the most violent country in the world!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dacoits not thieves!

Persons calling Kashmiris thieves should remember that they themselves may be called dacoits for robbing Kashmir’s economic resources

Name calling does not behove someone claiming to be a leader of the masses.  It was very unfortunate for a Kashmiri himself to call his fellow countrymen not only thieves but the big thieves. A thief is a person who in the stealth of the night very quietly climbs a wall or a pipe and steals without raising any noise or commotion. All the time he is trembling lest he be caught. This demeaning title was prompted by the allegations of power theft at the consumer level by tampering of energy meters. There has been an oft repeated allegation that the revenues earned by the power development department are far less than the power supplied by them to consumers. The main reason given is the massive loss of power in the distribution system attributed to bye-passing of the meters recording the supply of energy to the consumers. Allegedly the service lines are hooked on the main supply lines bye-passing the energy meters during the night. 
It is also alleged that most of the consumers in unmetered areas paying a flat rate have loads much more than declared loads for which they are charged. In both the cases, the theft is not possible without the active connivance of the officials of the power development department. It is alleged that the concerned linemen know of these thefts and receive a monthly payment for keeping their eyes closed. This fact is supposed to be known to the higher ups not only in the power development department but to the members of the the ruling class also. Some power engineers have alleged that they receive continuous telephone calls and summons from some ministers and politicians especially in the down town area to ignore these violations as the people concerned are their vote banks.
Let us accept the fact that there is power theft in Kashmir. Let us concede that in this regard Kashmiris are thieves. How much is the amount of power theft? A couple of hundred crores? However, the so called leaders alleging Kashmiris to be power thieves have themselves not only mortgaged the entire water resources of Kashmir but have virtually sold these against hard cash pay offs going into thousands of crores. Any hydroelectric project conceived and built in recent time has allegations of pay offs to these leaders. In fact, almost all the major projects being run by NHPC have been handed over to them by the same so called popular leaders. The original agreement of 50% free power by NHPC was reduced to 12% only by the same people thereby causing loss of thousands of crores to the state exchequer. The allegations of pay offs run into hundreds of crores. Pointing out these payoffs in Rattle project made a top financial executive lose his job. After having intentionally handed over these projects against pay offs these people have the cheek to demand the return of the same knowing very well that such possibility is remote.
These pay offs and scams have not only been in the power systems but almost everywhere. From Sports to education, land, medical and so on. There is not a single department or a project in which massive scams have not been reported. Some have been unearthed and some remain still hidden. The notorious political scam involving membership of the state legislature and the state cabinet cost a poor fellow his life. In spite of a virtually broad daylight murder the involved person got a clean chit. It would be too lenient to call these people thieves. They should rather be labelled as dacoits. A dacoit unlike a thief robs you in the broad daylight. He kicks open the door of your house and enters with a gun in hand. Demands all your valuables including the cash and goes away firing shots in the air! Such actions are known as day light robberies. If one recounts all these incidents of the looting of Kashmir’s resources and then sharing of the booty, the story may fill a couple of volumes. There have been many interesting sidelights to this loot. It is alleged that one marriage almost broke when the wife instead of putting the pay off money in a joint account put the entire amount in her personal account. The sports scam involving the game of cricket is still under investigation. So Kashmiris are not only “Chors” and “Mahachors” but also “Dakus” which epithet had not been spoken about by the name caller as he had probably reserved the same for his own self?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Besieged Kashmir!

US State Department admits Kashmir to be practically besieged as regards the freedom of expression and other basic human rights

 The authorities are totally curbing the freedom of expression in Kashmir as per the report released by the US State Department on the situation of Human Rights in India. The report was released by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry while celebrating the 65th anniversary of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. The very fact that the US which had virtually forgotten Kashmir due to their economic interests has admitted to these grave violations of human rights by formally releasing the report indicates the gravity of the situation. The report has highlighted all the instances of Human Rights violations in this 68 page report. All the claims of zero tolerance to the violation of human rights by various agencies including the security forces get automatically nullified. One cannot fool all the people all the time. The truth has the habit of coming out into the open in spite of all the covers and facades put up to suppress it!
The authorities in Kashmir have worked out many novel ways of curbing the freedom of expression. On all such occasions when some leaders give a call for a march to protest human rights violations the most visible thing apart from the gun trotting soldiers are the bundles upon bundles of what the local press calls the “Razor Wire”. This is a special kind of barbed wire which has very sharp razor pieces embedded in it. It is called the “Concertina Wire”. The manufacturer of this kind of barbed wire must have made a huge fortune as it is used not by metres but by kilometres in Kashmir. During the night preceding the protest day almost all main crossings, roads, and lanes in down town are barricaded by bundles of the “Razor Wire”. At vulnerable points armoured vehicles are positioned. Srinagar and other major towns give impressions of some sort of a war having been declared against the common people who get imprisoned in their own homes. Most of the leaders continue to be under perennial house arrest.
Recently after quite some time there was a three day long shut down in Kashmir. It was the occasion of the death anniversaries of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat. The authorities being apprehensive of a mass protest had imposed what many newspapers called “Razor Wire Restrictions”. During the agitations of 2008, and 2010 the word “Undeclared Curfew” had assumed a common usage. Every time there was a call for a protest or a march, the authorities would impose undeclared curfew. The curbs imposed on the movement of people were the same as are normally imposed after a magistrate issues an order for imposition of curfew to maintain law and order. However, as no official declaration of curfew was made by the district magistrate, no one could get a curfew pass and there used to be total siege all over the valley. Another pet phrase to give cover to the “Undeclared Curfew” was to say that restrictions under section 144 are being strictly enforced. In fact, imprisoning people in their homes and stopping all movement had become the SOP or the standard operating procedure of Police to curb every type of freedom of expression guaranteed under the constitution. These measures have now been fine-tuned by the authorities and the people too have got used to these. However, to an outsider these give a shock and realisation that Kashmir is under “Siege”!
Apart from these curbs there have been many other gruesome incidents such as rapes, disappearances and killing in fake encounters. Kunan Posh Pora and Pathribal are two stark examples of human rights violations. The perpetrators of the Pathribal incident have been given a clean chit by the army in spite of the fact that the security personnel involved had been indicted by none other than the India’s premier investigating agency, CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation). In the other case, the security forces were declared innocent by a top journalist! The question of hundreds of mass graves still hangs fire as no one is willing to take off the lid from this massacre.
The irony of the situation is that the global watch dog of peace, the UN Security Council has turned totally deaf and blind in case of Kashmir. There is a dispute about Kashmir which is still on its agenda. The biggest mockery is the presence of a large number of foreign military observers as part of the UNMOGIP (United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan) in Kashmir. They were supposed to be monitoring the ceasefire line presently called the Line of Control. This assignment they have given up long back due to the refusal of the Indian side to co-operate with them in this task. Being part of the UN set up they could not be expected to ignore all the daily happenings here. However, it seems that these people have been influenced by the three monkeys extoling the Gandhian philosophy of “See No Evil; Hear No Evil; and Speak No Evil”. Normally they should have been reporting all these human rights violations to their headquarter in New York. On the contrary they are enjoying their stay of a free holiday in Kashmir and allegedly making lot of money by selling some imported goods and indulging in smuggling across the Line of Control!
Admitting indirectly the existence of a serious human rights situation in Kashmir by US though welcome is not enough. Sincerity about genuine concern can be seen only if something is done to ameliorate the situation. There is no one in a better position to do so than the “Global Cop” having the UN Security Council as its handmaiden! However, the million dollar question is will they do it? Nancy Powell’s meeting with Narendra Modi, the RSS candidate as India’s next Prime Minister casts serious doubts about it!