Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dredge the Jhelum, please!

More than 14 months have passed since the worst flood in the history of Kashmir virtually destroyed Srinagar. The sleepy Government needs to wake up to prevent the repetition of the tragedy

The last year Kashmir witnessed the worst flood of the century. The flood had occurred due to a number of factors apart from the general belief that it was a “Divine Retribution” for our sins! It was a unique combination of the monsoons and a very strong western disturbance which poured tons of water on our mountains and the plains. There was also a quick melt of the glaciers. The amount of water running down our mountains was beyond the capacity of the river and it came down virtually as a sheet of water. However, one other important factor for spilling over the embankments and for dozens of breaches was the silting of the river bed and its spill over channel. These had not been dredged for decades. In addition no efforts had been made to strengthen the embankments along the route of the river through the city. In fact, the negligence on this part resulting in the disaster amounts to criminal negligence.  It will, however, at the moment serve no purpose in dissecting the past mistakes. There is most urgent need for future action to prevent the repetition of the disaster.
One had expected that the first important task of the new government would be to take up measures for flood prevention after ensuring the rehabilitation of the flood affected. The rehabilitation process got stalled as the State Government did not get the funds it had projected to the Central Government on this account. There were many promises and false starts about an announcement being made in this regard by the Prime Minister but nothing materialised. Whatever rehabilitation happened, it was by individual efforts and through insurance companies.
However, the most important aspect of taking measures for prevention of similar occurrences in future remains in limbo. No one seems to be bothered. Dredging of the Jhelum and the spill over channel is the first step which must be taken up immediately. The present season with the lowest water level is the most suitable and appropriate time to undertake the job. However, one needs someone like Hakim Suya about whom we used to read in our school books. Alas, we do not have someone like Avantivarman whose minister Hakim Suya was. In those days also Kashmiris were troubled by the floods and the whole valley was ravaged repeatedly. Hakim Suya under took massive steps for dredging of Jhelum and took other measures to relieve people of this menace of floods. It is said (proverbially, perhaps) that he took sacksful of gold coins and threw it into Jhelum and people jumped in to retrieve the coins thereby taking out all the mud and silt which had accumulated there. 
The present government has to engage a resourceful national agency like the Hindustan Construction Corporation or ONGC on a turnkey basis to desilt the river and the channels on a war footing on a turnkey basis within a fixed time frame. They could even explore getting some multinational companies having some expertise in the job. A resourceful company could put a couple of hundred excavators and a similar number of trucks on the job round the clock. The effort could be funded even by the Asian Development Bank. The time limit for dredging is till spring when the first rains come in and the glaciers start melting. Usually destructive floods hit Kashmir always towards the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. The main reason for this is the fact that during early spring and summer the water has many channels to go around. People need water for their rice fields. However, at the end of the summer and early autumn all channels are closed as the rice crop ripens. The water has only one channel to move and that is the river. If it falls in excess, it always spills over its banks. The other urgent requirement is to strengthen the river’s embankments especially along the capital city. These embankments have been grossly vandalised by encroachments which need to be removed. Even the Honourable High Court has castigated the Government in this regard. The weak points where breaches had occurred need to be strengthened with reinforced cement concrete walls. All along the river the embankments should be strengthened with piling. The flood spill over channel needs to be given the same treatment, dredging and strengthening of the embankments. One more thing which needs attention is the dewatering stations. The pumps of most of these stations are below embankment level and these were submerged during the flood. These should be placed on the embankment level or even slightly above it. 
After having lived through a traumatic experience and come back to one’s home after a year and a half, one still gets nightmares! There is no guarantee that the tragedy may not recur! One can only implore the concerned to take immediate steps to initiate and complete the flood prevention measures on an accelerated pace. The Chief Minister has shown that he can exercise his prerogative if he wants to. This is the most important sector in which exercise of such a prerogative is needed. Let us hope he does it?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kashmir, the “bleeding” Heart of Asia!

Kashmir is truly the heart of Asia which has been “bleeding” for long. Unfortunately, the new process started in Turkey some years back completely ignores the historical fact!

The 5th Heart of Asia - Istanbul Ministerial Process Conference was held for two days in Islamabad, Pakistan from December 9, 2015.
The conference was inaugurated jointly by the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. It was co-chaired jointly by Mr. Salah Uddin Rabbani, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs.
The event was attended by high-ranking delegations from 14 participating states, 17 supporting countries, and 12 international and regional organizations. The foreign minister Sushma Swaraj led the Indian delegation. She said that she had come with a message to move forward. The focus of the conference was on Counter Terrorism, Counter Narcotics, Disaster Management, Education, Trade and Investment and Regional Infrastructure. As usual, Kashmir, the real Heart of Asia, considered by one and all as the Nuclear Flashpoint of Asia was nowhere in the picture! The maximum one could hear is that India and Pakistan have decided to resume their bi-lateral dialogue. However, there is no mention of Kashmir in the deliberations! 
The regional initiative supported by certain western powers including USA owes its origin to Turkey. It was in November, 2011 in Istanbul that the initiative under the title of Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was started to provide a platform to the countries in the Asian region to discuss regional issues relating to security, political, and economic issues so as to bring co-operation between Afghanistan and its neighbours. It was intended to be an initiative for regional co-operation among the Asian countries. Afghanistan has been a battle ground for proxy wars between the two leading super powers of the world. First the Russians came in and the Americans ensured their ignominious retreat from there which ultimately resulted in the break-up of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Americans had trained and armed the guerrillas which defeated the Russian forces. Later on these American trained warriors including the famous Osama bin Laden turned against the Americans. Americans came in with the multinational forces. However, they failed to totally subdue the Afghanis and had to leave. Their exit is still going on. The tussle about the area is because of its strategic location. It is a neighbour to the Central Asian Countries and Iran. The fires lit by Americans spread into the Middle East which is now in total turmoil. The Indian sub-continent seems to have lost the interest of Americans and they are trying to use it as a lever to control Afghanistan.
Kashmir had a similar situation in forties. Here again the two super powers indulged in proxy wars using India and Pakistan as their pawns. Those days there was direct confrontation between these super powers. The Anglo-Saxons had identified Kashmir as the most important strategic corridor to check the advance of the Russian Empire. It was because of this they had separated Gilgit and converted it into Gilgit Agency. Before partition an important meeting was held in Paris between George Marshal and Ernest Bevin in which the importance of keeping the Gilgit corridor under their control was discussed. They had felt that it would be better to keep Gilgit in Pakistani controlled area. After the breakup of Soviet Union they lost interest. However, now a new factor has come in. China is building a corridor to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean! US interest now is to contain China. Pakistan they are trying to use as a buffer for Afghanistan. India has now only economic value for them. A huge market for American products, both lethal and non-lethal. 
Kashmir has been a real heart-ache for entire South Asia for last 68 years while as Afghanistan came into limelight as a trouble spot only in seventies. The real trouble started there after the Soviet intervention of 1979. The whole area was destroyed. There were indiscriminate killings. Millions of refugees came into Pakistan. Along with the refugees came violence and the young Taliban trained in Pakistan and infiltrated into Afghanistan to drive out Russians created people like Osama bin Laden who had volunteered for Jihad from Saudi Arabia and was trained by Americans. Ultimately, he paid them back in kind!
In contrast, Kashmiris as a nation have been suffering for the last more than four centuries under external oppression. The last 25 years have been the worst. Almost a hundred thousand Kashmiris have been killed. There are over forty thousand widows, a hundred thousand orphans. Thousands of women have been raped and molested. Thousands of houses and other structures have been destroyed. Over 8,000 persons have disappeared without a trace. There cannot be a worst tragedy than this. Still the guardians of human rights led by the western powers do not consider Kashmir to be the real “bleeding” Heart of Asia! It seems the west is now totally sold to material considerations and has forgotten the finer qualities of life of which they were proud at one time. They need to understand that Kashmir is the real powder keg which can someday blow away entire Asia including the so called Heart of Asia, Afghanistan!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Make Jammu Permanent Capital

To sort out the problems being faced by the common people, it may be better to declare Jammu as the permanent capital of J & K State thereby ending the necessity of the “Durbar Move”!


As usual the “New Maharajas” have moved to Jammu along with their “Durbar”! The practice initiated by the Dogra Maharajas more than a century and a half back is still carried on by the present so called democratic rulers. Kashmir must be the only place in the world where a state capital is moved from one city to another for the convenience of the rulers. Once the “Durbar” moves to Jammu, the people in the valley are left to fend for themselves. One could not challenge the erstwhile Maharajas as it was their sweet will which mattered and not the welfare of the masses even though that aspect was looked after much better in a monarchical set up. They wanted to enjoy the best of the seasons and therefore, spent the winter in the warmth of Jammu and enjoyed nature’s beauty in Kashmir’s summer. This trend was in fact started by Mughals who used to spend summer in Kashmir. However, they did not make Srinagar their capital.
The end of Dogra regime in 1947 created a piquant situation. The Dogra Maharaja had lost his control over the state which became a point of contention between the two newly created dominions. However, the larger part of the state including the Kashmir valley remained with India. To ensure their hold on the Indian part of the state, the Indian leaders placated the tallest Kashmiri leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and made him the head of the administration. At this point, the Jammu people felt the real loss of sovereignty which they enjoyed over Kashmiris because of their Maharaja. In order to overcome that loss they started a movement for the total merger of the state into the Indian Union. That process is still continuing.
On their part, the Indian leaders motivated the Kashmiri leader to continue with the Durbar Move so that the Jammu people do not feel complete loss of sovereignty. Thus the State was burdened with two capitals with everything duplicated which involves huge sums of money apart from the large amount spent on the transfer of the government from one capital to the other. There were some attempts at ending this superfluous and wasteful practice of the erstwhile royalties but due to strong opposition from Jammu no one could stop it. In the meantime, there developed a strong business partnership between the Jammu and Kashmir traders. In fact, recently the trading community from Jammu assured Kashmiris that there would be no economic blockade of Kashmir, call for which was given by the extremist Hindutva elements in Jammu. They on the other hand offered to have a joint front with Kashmiris for retrieving power projects from the NHPC. 
After the turmoil of nineties, apart from the bi-annual Durbar Move, there has been a significant and sizeable movement of people to Jammu in various spheres. Most of the Central Government agencies and departments have located their regional offices in Jammu. Same is the case with many multi-national companies. Due to rail connectivity, Jammu has become very close to different commercial centres of India. A large number of Kashmiris have built their houses in different parts of Jammu city. Most of the mainstream leaders and other party workers spend considerable part of their time in Jammu. While as generally Kashmir is considered to be unstable and uncertain with totally unpredictable ground situation, Jammu is considered more safe and stable. While as the industrial estates in Kashmir have been struggling to survive, the Jammu Industries are flourishing. Many investors are willing to take up projects in Jammu while as they all hesitate in setting up units in Kashmir. 
Jammu has enough space fully air-conditioned to house the entire government. Setting up the entire government permanently in Jammu will not necessitate movement of a large number of people to Jammu. The valley will benefit in many ways. The security set up would be reduced to a considerable extent. All the traffic hassles would be gone. All the problems in different spheres would be attended to regularly on a year round basis without any “Durbar” break. Kashmir could be given a full-fledged completely autonomous provincial set up like the Development Councils in Leh and Kargil. As regards the mainstream rulers, politicians and their followers, they would not be missed in the valley and in fact, sitting in Jammu they would be closer to Delhi! Finally, the Jammu people would be more than happy and there would be an end to their perennial grievances of discrimination. The idea needs to be given a serious thought!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Kalhana’s Kashmir!

What would Kashmir be like if Kalhana’s “Country of Spiritual Merit” had continued its march unmolested by foreign oppressors?

Kalhana’s Kashmir!

In the most depressing dense fog reeling under the unscheduled power cuts, turning breathless due to the stinking Dal Lake in its last throes, wading through water logged streets due to choked drains, and turning crazy due to dilapidated roads, and worst traffic jams, one imagines even though hypothetically, what would Kashmir be like if it had remained a sovereign country as it was in the time of Kalhana? May be a utopian dream but worth dreaming in the present dreary days!
Pandit Kalhana who was an illustrious son of Canpaka, a minister of the Kashmiri King Harsha compiled from 1148 AD to 1158 AD the written record of the reign of Kings of Kashmir from the earliest times till his own time. This is the earliest book of written history in the entire sub-continent. He called this book Rajtarangini or the River of Kings! According to him ancient Kashmir was famous for five things: learning, lofty houses, saffron, honey and grapes! The most famous seat of learning, Sarda University was in Kashmir. This university had a library which contained books which one could not get anywhere in India. Kashmir used to have 14 storey high wooden palaces! 
If Kashmir had continued its march unmolested, the first thing we would have had would be abundant electric power. Not only would everything be running on power but we would be exporting it to our neighbours and earning colossal revenues. There would be electric trains and trams. There would be power based central heating of houses. As Arabs had oil which pushed them up technologically for all their needs, we had the cleanest source of energy, the water! Unfortunately, it has been stolen from us. 
In regard to agriculture and horticulture, we would have achieved self-sufficiency. We would not be importing edibles from outside state which we have to do at present due to neglect in regard to tremendous possibilities in these fields. Moreover, we would not have had a huge parasite population slowly eating away our vitals! We would be exporting Apple juice concentrate, Saffron, Walnut-kernel, Almonds all over the world. Kashmir label would have been a special patent. Lavender grows in the wild. There would be many perfumeries here. We would not be boasting of the Asia’s largest Tulip Garden, but exporting cut flowers all over the world. Commercial floriculture would be one of the most viable and lucrative professions. Frozen Trout from Kashmir would be in great demand. In fact, there is no end to the possibilities in Agriculture related fields. 
On the Tourism front, it would truly be the Eden of the East. It would have been a year round destination. There would be almost a dozen ski resorts in Pir Panjal Mountains giving the best experience of winter sports in the world. Of course we would have had at least two International Airports with round the clock landing and take-off facilities equipped with the best instrument landing systems and radar. There could not have been any other destination in the world in relation to Adventure Sports. Mountaineering, rock-climbing, trekking, skiing, white water rafting and kayaking, para-gliding, caving, mountain biking and so on. In fact, Kashmir would be the ultimate destination for adventure tourism!
In regard to learning, we would have had not only one Sarda University but half dozen institutions of the highest class in different fields of education and learning. Kashmir would be the best place for boarding schools tucked in mountains. Sufism and Philosophy would have been ideal subjects for research of the highest order. There would be no question of schools in shanties and pupils freezing in cold unheated schools. In fact, there would be no winter vacations as happens in Europe and America because of fully heated schools. Winter is the best time to study! Kids would be enjoying their summer holidays like those in Europe and America!
In the sphere of health care, not only would Kashmir be having top class primary and tertiary healthcare, but would be an ideal destination for Health Tourism. People would be coming from all over not only for recuperating in the most salubrious climate but there would also be facilities for specialised treatment on global standards. Children would not be dying for want of proper treatment! 
Above everything else, Kashmir would have been able to maintain its pristine environment by limiting influx of hordes of tourists and pilgrims. In ancient times, Kashmiris would allow only a select few to enter the Kingdom. Most important of all, there would have been accountability at all levels. There would be no free for all! It would have been a Paradise in the real sense of the word. 
One wonders what happened to this beautiful land. As some Kashmiris say it suffered because of the evil eye cast on it by outsiders! Instead of becoming a “Country of Spiritual Merit”, it became a living hell! Will it ever return to that glory again? It may seem difficult or rather impossible! However, one can draw consolation from the road sign on one of our mountain roads which says, “Difficult can be done now, impossible may take some time!”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Action, not Advice!

Expert advice welcome, but we lack right action on the ground!

Action, not Advice!

The Jammu and Kashmir Government recently set up a Tourism Advisory Board. Any initiative to develop and promote Tourism on modern scientific lines is welcome. The Board has a membership of Tourism professionals, travel trade representatives, experts and bureaucrats from within the state and outside. They will meet, discuss various aspects and give some sound expert advice. However, there is already plenty of advice in the form of various surveys, expert opinions, master plans and so on available with the government. In fact, the state government had commissioned Tata Consultancy to prepare a vision document and a 20 year perspective plan, which hopefully has been received by the government? 
Over the years there have been many Advisory Committees, Development Authorities and an umpteen number of survey reports for giving advice on Tourism Development. The Committees meet once in a year, deliberate and make recommendations which are never implemented! In seventies, the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation had commissioned a team of European Consultants to give a report for development of foreign tourism in Kashmir. After a detailed study and ground survey within the State and abroad, they submitted 20 copies of their detailed report with specific recommendations. Nothing came out and one does not know what happened to the report?  
In recent times, the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India paid rupees eighteen lakhs to a Delhi based consultancy to prepare a report for Kashmir Tourism. That report too did not make any difference. Committees, Boards, and Authorities are easiest ways for procrastination. When one wants to delay action, committees are constituted. It has been said that a committee is a group of people who are incapable of taking any decision independently and do not want to take any decision collectively! 
What Kashmir needs in every sphere of activity is an action oriented Task Force to take action on ground and monitor the same on a regular basis. Dr. Farooq Abdullah towards the end of his last tenure as the Chief Minister had initiated the creation of a Tourism Task Force headed by the State Chief Secretary. All the concerned Secretaries to Government were its members with the Secretary Tourism as the Member Secretary and the Director General Tourism as its Convener. The Task Force was expected to oversee all Tourism projects and ensure timely implementation. However, before the orders constituting the Task Force could be issued, elections were announced. The next government instead of issuing orders changed the entire thing and instead created more than 20 Tourism Development Authorities based more or less in relation to assembly constituencies. Instead of following the global criteria for Tourism Development, infrastructure was created in many places which remained unutilised. In fact, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in its report observed that the expenditure of rupees five hundred crores on these authorities was infructuous as the infrastructure created had remained mostly unutilised. 
It has been reported that the J & K Government wants to create a Singapore model.The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore. It champions the development of Singapore's tourism sector, one of the country's key service sectors and economic pillars, and undertakes the marketing and promotion of Singapore as a tourism destination. 
There is also talk of creating the UK model. It is the British Tourist Authority. British Tourist Authority (BTA) is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB), funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The functions, duties and powers of BTA are set out in the Development of Tourism Act 1969 (the Act). The Act defines BTA’s functions as:
􀂃 Encouraging overseas visitors to come to Great Britain
􀂃 Encouraging people who live in Great Britain to take their holidays in Great Britain
􀂃 Promoting the provision and improvement of tourist amenities and facilities in Great Britain.
BTA also has a duty to:
􀂃Advise ministers and public bodies on tourism matters in Great Britain.
Whatever model the Government may adopt, it has to be borne in mind that these countries have totally free market economy. We are virtually state controlled in every respect. All these proposals are long term measures to develop Tourism on global standards. However, in the immediate future we need action on existing deficiencies in infrastructure, accessibility, regulation of trade, and the most important of all in the attitude of people involved in the trade. To undertake this Government needs to set up a high powered multi-departmental Task Force at the highest administrative level which would streamline all these activities. Will they do it?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dynastic Succession

Dynastic succession and nepotism seem to be in the DNA of Kashmiris!

Dynastic Succession

There had been a strong rumour that Mehbooba Mufti may take over as the State Chief Minister soon. Now, Mufti Sahab himself has confirmed that she may take over as the State Chief Minister. He declared that she is not only capable but deserves to be the Chief Minister because of the tremendous work done by her on the ground. One would not question her capability or tremendous ground work even during peak of militancy but the moot point is why there has to be only dynastic succession? If Mufti Sahab wants to step down, why can’t Muzaffar Baig or Haseeb Drabu from the same party be elected as the new Chief Minister? Both are quite capable! Earlier one used to accuse Abdullah family of dynastic succession but now Mufti family seems to be on the same path. It seems dynastic succession in all fields of society is in the blood of Kashmiris! 
One would not blame Kashmiris too much about the personality cult and dynastic succession. It is in the psyche of a Kashmiri. For almost 5000 years Kashmiris have been ruled by kings and queens. So in 1947 it was but natural that Kashmiris were looking for a king to rule over them. Unfortunately, the king betrayed the very people who had anointed him as a virtual emperor! There is a strange dichotomy in this whole affair. Kashmir is a Muslim majority area. Islam is totally opposed to personality cult and the dynastic succession. Some say that Kashmiris did not convert to Islam but adapted Islam to their traditional way of life which they always refuse to give up! Unfortunately, this personality cult and dynastic succession has seeped into all the institutions including the religious ones. Many civil institutions have also developed same personality cult involving lobbying and political manoeuvring.
In most of the South Asian countries there is a virtual disease of worshipping personalities and promoting dynastic succession in all spheres of life including the ruling set ups. Be it Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan or India, the story is same. Political leaders are anointed virtually as kings and queens and allowed to rule in a dynastic succession. In many of these countries claiming to be democracies, the reality is quite the opposite. These countries virtually function as erstwhile Kingdoms with the worst kind of nepotism. Quite often stalwart leaders rise from the masses and lead people to emancipation but subsequently they indulge in nepotism by perpetuating their dynasties as the future rulers. Some have even been treated as lifelong rulers throwing all principles of democracy to the winds! Invariably, most of these nepotistic rulers have had violent or disgraceful ends!
Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos; Dr. Sukarno and Megawati Sukarnoputri; Solomon Bandaranayke and Sirimavo Bandaranayake; Mujiburahman and Sheikh Hasina; Zulfiqar Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto and then the whole Nehru family from Jawahar Lal to Rahul Gandhi. A continuous chain of nepotistic and dynastic rulers! The worst has been the India’s Nehru family. For almost half a century they have ruled the country making it a dynastic succession similar to the old times of kings and queens. Indira Gandhi was even presented to the simple village folk as a Goddess! The Nehru family has finally met its nemesis during the last election. Similar is the Abdullah dynasty of Kashmir. It is an unfortunate and tragic tale of nepotism and dynastic rule. This dynasty too has met its nemesis. Had Sheikh Abdullah not been raised to a virtual colossus and worshipped by Kashmiris, the story of Kashmir may have been different. The most ironic facet of this tragic story is the highly guarded tomb of this colossus! He is probably the only dead not being worshipped by the allegedly dead worshipping Kashmiris!
The tradition of royalty and dynastic succession has been introduced by the West in the Islamic countries particularly in the Middle East for their own personal interests especially those related to energy sources. They started with the Saudis who have a fully entrenched and well-guarded royalty surviving because of the American support. There are supposed to be 5000 Saudi Princes. Many other Muslim countries have suffered or at present suffering from this dynastic succession. It is in total contrast to the days of the Prophet (PBUH).
Kashmir has had a revolutionary change in the recent times. The new generation does not seem to be fond of personalities. They are more inclined towards ideology and convictions. This is the first step towards total emancipation. We have to be emancipated from these personalities and dynasties to allow us to move forward. It needs a change in the mind-set. People must say good-bye to “Brinjal and Gourd” slogans. There should be no more “Alle Kare Wangan Kare, Bab Kare!” The youth have to first study the history of the nation, understand the present situation and the path to the ultimate emancipation. They must then take practical steps to realise the goal of their convictions through capable, honest and sincere leaders. If a leader commits a deliberate mistake or misleads, he is to be discarded and a new capable leader chosen. The days of the blind following are over. The new age is of inquisitiveness, enlightenment, self-respect and the dignity of the individual as well as the nation. If the new generation follows this principle meticulously, we are sure to reach the goal of total emancipation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Log and the Peg!

The tragedy of Kashmir is aptly depicted by the popular proverb
For almost four and a half centuries now Kashmiris have been under external bondage. After loss of sovereignty to Mughals in 1586, the Kashmiris have not been able to regain it so far. However, in all the external bondages, it is the local collaborators who put the entire nation in bondage. Historically, Kashmir as a Kingdom was not only known all over the world but some of the Kings conquered many surrounding areas and annexed these to the Kingdom of Kashmir. In fact, one of the Kings Laltaditya Muktapid who could be called the Alexandre of Kashmir went as far as Tibet and his entire army perished in the blizzards during this campaign. 
There are two Kashmiri proverbs which vividly describe this character of ours. One is about the sowing of nettle and the other is about the splitting of a log. The nettle proverb is, “Anim soai, wuvem soi, lajim soi pansi”! (I brought the nettle, sowed the nettle, and got bitten by it myself). This is typical story in all these external interventions in Kashmir.  Most of the time the interventions were sought by Kashmiris themselves because of the violent internecine tussle within Kashmir. Prior to Mughal intervention, Kashmir was experiencing the worst kind of sectarian violence. Yaqub Sarfi and Baba Daud Khaki requested Akbar to save Kashmir menaced by sectarian crises. Mughals captured Kashmir through treachery by trapping and arresting Yousuf Shah Chak, the last ruler of the independent Kashmir. The Mughals drained out every bit of chivalry from the blood of Kashmiris and turned them into demeaning serfs. Kashmir became their pleasure garden, a “Paradise on Earth” for them only!
Similarly, the Afghans too had local invitation and facilitation in making Kashmir a part of their kingdom.The Afghan rule in Kashmir was a nightmarish experience. Kashmiris had hoped that the Afghans would bring order and treat them generously. However, they got what Dr. Ahad calls a “Culture Shock”! The Afghan experience has been summed up in a Persian couplet. “When the poet asked the gardener, who laid waste this garden? With a deep sigh he replied, ‘it was the Afghan’!” 
The end of Afghan rule came by the Kashmiris yet again soliciting an external saviour. There occurred yet another terrible famine in 1814. There was a shortfall in the tax collection and the Afghan Governor Azim Khan held Birbal Dhar, his tax collector responsible. Fearing retribution, he fled from the valley and landed in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh whom he persuaded to invade the valley. Maharaja dispatched an army of 30,000 soldiers who after two battles routed the Afghans and brought Kashmir under the Sikh rule in 1819. Even though the rule lasted for only 27 years, yet it is supposed to have been the worst of all. This period is generally known as the “Bebuj Raj” in Kashmiri, a term coined by Hameedullah in his Bebujnama, an eyewitness account of the happenings during this period.
Finally, Kashmiris were sold lock, stock and barrel by the British to Dogra Maharaja Gulab Singh for rupees seventy five lakhs. Dogras ruled Kashmir for 100 years. The end of the British rule over the Indian sub-continent instead of freeing Kashmiris landed them in the worst logjam in their entire history. Before the partition, the Kashmiris had woken up from their slumber and were very near the goal of freedom but then the second weakness in our character came into play. This is the scourge of collaborators depicted by the proverb, the log and the peg. The proverb goes as, “Darrow kamew phatvuk, punn ni peun!” O, log of wood who split you in pieces? A peg made from my own wood! This is exactly what has been happening to Kashmiris for last more than 60 years. The collaborators from among their own kith and kin have been splitting them and keeping them in bondage. All the Chief Ministers have been used as the pegs by Delhi to split the solid log of Kashmiris into pieces. They have been very successful in this endeavor so far. 
Kashmiris are traditionally and historically reputed to be very tolerant and non-communal people. However, recently there have been concerted attempts to introduce a communal element in the Kashmiri discourse facilitated by a local “peg”! These fascist elements could have never imagined an entry into the valley had not a Kashmiri facilitated it. The burning of a truck driver on the excuse of eating beef which resulted in massive protests was a stark example of this communal frenzy being slowly fuelled by external elements with local collaboration. These elements are playing with fire which may engulf not only the state but the whole sub-continent. Bihar elections and the celebrations on Modi’s defeat in Kashmir and across the border should make these “pegs” think about their future! For a change, the log which has been hardened over the years, instead of getting split, may blunt the “peg” itself and render it useless. It is time for these local “pegs” to ponder about their ultimate fate!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Whose India? Tagore’s or Golwalkar’s

(One sees two faces of India. Which one will endure? That is the big question that haunts all of us right now!)



The word India usually evokes many images. Sometime back India was associated with Mahatma Gandhi, the colossal leader who is considered to be the father of the Indian Nation. India is also the land of Buddha, the apostle of non-violence. It is also the land of Tagore, the humanist poet. It is also land of Dr. Iqbal, the poet of the East. However, it is also the land of Golwalkar, the founder of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the extremist Hindu Organisation. Since its independence from the British, the Indian State claims to be a secular democratic republic. The situation on the ground has repeatedly belied these claims.
Rabindranath Tagore, popularly called “Gurudev”, the first non-European to win the Noble Prize in Literature in 1913 was a great humanist who reshaped the Bengali literature and music. The author of Gitanjali, with the most profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse elevates the human spirit to great heights:
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action ---
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”.
Dr. Iqbal had dreamt of India as the best garden in the world and its people were the nightingales! Unfortunately, his dream turned sour due to the communal elements and he had to opt for a separate homeland for Muslims notwithstanding the fact that they are no better off there except no one prosecutes or victimizes them for being Muslims! On the other hand they are killing each other regardless of the fact that they all follow the same religion.
The one person who made all these dream visions fail is Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, also known as Shri Guruji. Golwalkar was the supreme leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, He wrote, “Bunch of thoughts” and “We, or Our Nationhood Defined”. Narendra Modi has written a biographical profile of Golwalkar in his book, “Jyotipunj”. He considers Golwalkar to be one of his inspirations.  RSS kept itself aloof from the anti-British Indian Independence Movement. Golwalkar writes in his book, “Anti-Britishism was equated with patriotism and nationalism. This reactionary view has had disastrous effects upon the entire course of the freedom struggle, its leaders and the common people”. According to Rajeshwar Dayal, the Chief Secretary of the United Provinces in 1947-48, Golwalkar had planned to carry out a Pogrom of Muslims. Golwalkar in his book writes about non-Hindus : “The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture ... In a word they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizens' rights.” RSS is now giving practical shape to these ideas of Golwalkar through their nominee, Narendra Modi. Instead of realizing the dream of a progressive, secular and democratic country, they are taking India to Vedic times in a totally retrograde mode. India of Tagore’s dreams and vision seems to be disappearing fast and it is being replaced systematically by Gowalkar’s Pogrom of a fascist and regressive India of the savage times. A historian friend calls it the beginning of the end of India while a columnist friend calls it the “Unmaking of India”!
There has been resentment and resistance at the intellectual level. A number of intellectuals, artists, and other prominent citizens have shown their displeasure by returning state awards and honours. In fact, there has also been global displeasure about certain violent incidents. However, only intellectual resistance is not enough. The fascist onslaught has to be resisted by all the people at every level. While imagining the realization of the dream of Tagore elevates one’s soul to supreme heights, the mere thought of Golwalkar’s Pogrom sends shivers down one’s spine! Which India will endure Tagore’s or Golwalkar’s? That is the big question right now!