Wednesday, October 28, 2015

J & K Symbiosis!

Jammu and Kashmir has a symbiotic relationship dictated by very long association notwithstanding the fact that the same has been a forced one!

Webster dictionary defines symbiosis as, “a relationship between two people or groups that work with and depend on each other”. Biologically it means, “The relationship between two different kinds of living things that live together and depend on each other”.
“The bird lives in symbiosis with the hippopotamus”. “The bacteria exist in a symbiosis with the plant's roots”. The people of Jammu and Kashmir had a forced marriage through the Treaty of Amritsar. Kashmir along with its inhabitants was sold by the British for rupees seventy five lakhs, in English which may be called a tuppence, to the Dogra Maharaja of Jammu. They had to endure this relationship for exactly a 100 years.
In 1947, with the partition of the sub-continent they had a glimmer of hope for getting emancipated from centuries of bondage but unfortunately the ideological tug between the two newly created countries locked them in a virtual Gordian knot. Thus Jammu and Kashmir have again been forced to live together for last 68 years!
Initial years were full of turmoil as Jammu people wanted total merger of the state in the Indian Union while as Kashmiris did not want to be part of India.
Even those who favoured India in contrast to Pakistan wanted to have an autonomous status. Outside elements instigated Jammu people for starting an agitation for total merger of the state. Sheikh Abdullah put down the agitation with a strong hand and as a result lost his chair and was incarcerated for more than a decade!
The establishment of a state government headed by a Kashmiri gave a psychological jolt to Jammu people. They had been ruling Kashmiris for a century and now the seat of government had shifted to Kashmir. No doubt the new dispensation had fair representation from Jammu, yet the psychological apprehensions remained. These fears were fuelled from time to time by outside state elements by using local collaborators. 
India and Pakistan fought a number of wars but these failed to break the state or decide its ultimate future. Jammu and Kashmir continue to be in a forced union. In spite of the end of monarchy, the new government continued with the practice of Durbar Move, the six monthly shifting of the government from one capital to the other. The move had been started by the erstwhile Maharajas for their convenience and comfort.
They would enjoy the summer in the cool of Kashmir and spend the harsh winters in the warmth of Jammu. The state has two capitals and the shifting of the government not only costs huge amounts of money but renders people in each region helpless in harsh winters and severely hot summers when they need the government most. Attempts at ending the practice of Durbar Move have so far failed. 
Apart from this shifting of government bringing the people of the two regions closer to each other, the other factor has been the only access of Kashmir to outside world through Jammu during last 70 years or so.
Traditionally, Kashmir’s trade used to be always through the Jhelum Valley road. Even after opening up of Bannihal Cart Road which used to be closed during winter, people travelled even to Jammu through Jhelum Valley Road and Sialkot.
The conflict of 1947 resulted in a ceasefire line now called the Line of Actual Control or LOC which closed the historical access of Kashmir through the Jhelum Valley Road. This closure of the historical access brought the business communities of Jammu and Kashmir together. They became dependent on each other for trade and commerce. This relationship has continued in spite of many communal and regional upheavals. All these upheavals have mostly been instigated by the outside elements.
Latest one was about the eating of beef. The new dispensation at the Centre is taking India into a retrograde mode. In spite of “Make in India” slogan of business and economic development, the BJP has not been able to rein in the Hindutva extremist elements.
In fact, the government is working as a vehicle to further the RSS agenda of making India a Hindu Rashtra, country of Hindus only. As usual Kashmir has been found to be an ideal laboratory to further this agenda. However, they failed in fifties and are bound to fail even now in spite of the vast resources at their disposal.
The failure would be because of the symbiotic economic relationship which Jammu and Kashmir have worked out over the years. The indication of this came recently when the Jammu Chamber of Commerce declared that there would be no economic boycott of the valley. They even went so far as to offer a joint front with Kashmir to get back the power projects from NHPC! In present times, it has been proved that the economic relationships are more enduring than the political ones. The ideal example is the European Union. In fact, the ultimate solution to the problems of South Asia may be an economic union like the European one. However, the catch is whether the Western Powers will allow it to happen! That is a million dollar question!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Animal Rights versus the Human Rights!

(India appears to be the world’s unique democracy where the animals have more rights and better protection than the humans!)

The very first duty of a democratic republic is to guarantee the right to life of every citizen. Article 21 of the constitution guarantees the life and liberty of a person.
“Protection of Life And Personal Liberty. No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure adopted by law.”
If an act of a private individual amounts to encroachment upon the personal liberty or deprivation of life of other person and if that act of a private individual is supported by the state, the act will certainly come under the ambit of article 21. Article 21 of the Constitution deals with prevention of encroachment upon personal liberty or deprivation of life of a person.
The only question is how the state support is given? Whether it is open or tacit! In some of the recent cases it has been both tacit and open especially from important functionaries of the state. The Right to life means the right to lead complete, meaningful and dignified life. It is something more than surviving and animal existence.
The fundamental right under Article 21 is one of the most important rights provided under the constitution which has been described as heart of fundamental rights by the Apex Court.
Recently, there have been a number of incidents involving deprivation of the life of some citizens in the most horrific way of lynching and burning by mobs on the pretext of these people having killed an animal or eaten the flesh of that animal. In view of the fact that the individuals and the mobs which indulged in these acts had the covert and overt support of the State, all these acts come under the Article 21 thereby confirming the failure of the State to protect the life and liberty of its citizens.
It automatically becomes a violation of the international law as India is a signatory to the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted resolution 217 A (III) and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The former Attorney General of India, Soli Sorabjee called the Declaration a “Modern Magna Carta of Mankind”.
According to him, “Human dignity is at the centre of international human rights instruments. Right to life, mentioned in Article 3 of the Declaration, is a basic human right and finds a place in every international human rights instrument and national constitution.” He goes on to define the meaning of life and relevance of all other rights in regard to this basic right as interpreted by various courts and legal luminaries and concludes, “They reveal a single thread and add up to a single right: the right to survive without which the possession of other human rights such as freedom of speech or franchise becomes a cruel joke.”
Thus these gory incidents being orchestrated with virtual silence by the government need to be taken cognizance by International Human Rights protectors such as the United Nations Security Council.
The last article (30) in the Declaration of Human Rights states, “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein”. The Indian State itself appears to be engaged in fomenting these gory incidents by pro Hindutva extremists to create situations where the basic rights of the minorities especially Muslims are threatened. 
Ironically, there is more concern for the rights of animals like dogs and cows rather than the human beings. Menaka Gandhi had an obsession with dogs. She headed the dog lovers associations and it was again Kashmir which suffered due to dog menace.
Hundreds were bitten by these stray dogs. Even young children were not spared. Sometime back there was such scare of stray dogs that no one dared come out of the house during night. However, government did not dare touch these and the culling which had been traditionally going for ages was discontinued.
Next animal on which the present controversy is raging is the cow. Of course all people respect the reverence given in Hindu religion to cow. In fact, the area where the cow is adored in North India is also known as the cow-belt.
However, in South India where there is a large population of Christians there has never been any controversy about the cow. People in those areas freely eat beef. India has been the biggest exporter of beef. It is also exporting shoes made from leather all over the world. No one has questioned these commercial activities so far!
It has now been established that the allegation of cow slaughter on the basis of which these gory happenings took place were all made up. Allegedly, there is a pattern behind these happenings and these have full patronage of some of the state actors.
Unfortunately, these people do not understand that in trying to make India a Hindu country they may initiate its disintegration! The sustained campaign against minorities in the name of religion is bound to attract not only international attention but possible intervention also. It is the right time for that to happen. Here, the International Community needs to take into consideration these acts before deciding about the permanent membership of the Security Council.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The “Beef” War!

The easiest way to divert peoples’ attention from the basic problems is to start some emotional controversy. Eating or not eating, the “beef”, is a case in point

The likes and dislikes of the various items of food eaten by people in different parts of the world are varied and sometimes contradictory. Everyone has his own preference and like or dislike of different edible items. Apart from normal things like chickens, mutton, pork, and beef people also eat snakes, snails, turtles, and even dogs! Assamese are supposed to be fond of dog meat! Muslims and Jews abhor pork. They don’t even take the name of the animal! Cow is holy to Hindus and they call it the “Mother Cow” or “Gau Mata”! However, there has never been any religious association with the eating habits of various people. People have been eating both beef and pork in different parts of the sub-continent without any body interfering in their eating styles. Cow Slaughter had been banned in Kashmir by a law enacted in the nineteenth century during the rule of Dogra Maharajas. Even after partition with the establishment of a local government no one made any effort to get the law repealed. However, there never was a problem here as generally Kashmiris are not fond of beef. They prefer mutton.
The recent controversy about the beef ban connected with cow slaughter is alleged to have been started by certain elements with ulterior motives. It is said to have a well-defined pattern as the controversy with some gory incidents including the one at Dadri appear to be part of a long term strategy of turning India into Hindutva State. It is the beginning of the end to the so called “Secular” character of India. A columnist friend calls it the “Unmaking of India”. A number of prominent persons have returned the state awards protesting against some of these incidents connected with communalisation of India starkly manifested by the beef controversy.  
As usual, Kashmir became the epicentre of the controversy. The instigators fully know about the emotionally charged atmosphere in the state especially the extreme alienation. Kashmir has been considered a powder keg in the recent times and any mischievous person can light a match to blow up the whole thing up. The Hindutva promoters from outside the state used their Jammu plants to light the fuse. The first red rag was the filing of a Public Interest Litigation in the State High Court regarding implementation of the Cow slaughter ban by a Government Advocate. The Court’s direction to the State Police Chief resulted in a counter action of cow slaughter in public by the emotionally charged youth. Then there was a chain reaction and the last act in the series was the attack on Kashmir bound truckers in Udhampur. The Jammu instigators threatened to enforce an economic boycott of the valley. The public display of eating beef allegedly indulged in by someone claiming to be a peoples’ representative was not in good taste. People on the social network Facebook alleged it to be gimmickry amounting to demagoguery! A protest shut down in Kashmir spiralled the situation on the pattern of 2008 Amarnath land controversy which had finally resulted in the collapse of the government and imposition of Governor’s rule. It is said history repeats itself and in Kashmir it repeats itself endlessly! Fortunately, the initiative from Chamber of Commerce, Jammu may defuse the situation and expose the mischievous elements. Also from the Kashmir side, the leader of the popular movement advised people to follow the teachings of Holy Quran to respect others’ religion and desist from public display of their own belief. 
However, the unfortunate part of the whole spiralling controversy is the shelving of the most urgent tasks. The first has been the rehabilitation of the flood affected people and restoration of the damaged infrastructure. The exponentially increasing number of unemployed educated youth. Total anarchy and lack of accountability both in the administration and in the society in general. The fast deteriorating natural environment. Above everything else the perennial political uncertainty. It had been observed by many political analysts that a strong central government especially of BJP will be able to take revolutionary decisions in solving the long pending Kashmir problem. However, the reverse is happening. By their Hindutva tirades and anti-Muslim campaigns, they are surely heading for the “Unmaking of India”!
Narendra Modi through his utterances and very subtle actions has shown that he is giving a practical shape to the RSS agenda of a Hindu Rashtra. He may be dreaming to become a Chandragupta Mauraya in whose time India existed as a very large Hindu Empire. However, he needs to study the history in its entirety. Chandragupta Mauraya towards his end adopted Jainism and starved himself to death. His grandson Ashoka had the largest ever empire but after the battle of Kalinga, the mayhem resulting in death and destruction made him turn towards Buddhism. He gave up his throne and became a Buddhist monk! Let us hope that the “Beef War” started in Modi’s time does not end in a similar fate for him!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Srinagar “International” Airport!

Thrust on getting high-end foreign tourism to Kashmir without international air connectivity is a hypocritical exercise!

Srinagar “International” Airport!

Recently the State Tourism Department while celebrating the World Tourism Day arranged a panel discussion on the World Tourism Organisation’s theme for the current year, “A Billion Tourists, Billion Opportunities”! A number of travel industry representatives participated in the discussions on the topic. Most of the speakers were of the view that Kashmir is an ideal destination for the global high-end tourism. It was felt that for maximum economic benefits it is better to attract up market international and domestic high-end tourism than to go for mass budget tourism. To protect the ecology and environment which in the first instance are the main attraction in case of Kashmir, one has to plan for “Sustainable Tourism”!
There are two main requirements for attracting high-end tourism apart from the basic necessity of peace. The first is the accessibility and second is the suitable infrastructure. Given that the ultimate peace in Kashmir may be a long distance away, we can still attract tourists provided we have the requisite facilities. The present global situation rarely affords total peace in any part of the world. In the given circumstances, the one kind of tourism which has extensive possibility in Kashmir is the adventure tourism. The adventure tourist is already prepared to face the nature’s hazards. Some man made hazards do not discourage him much! In the peak of militancy, Kashmir continued to host very high-end adventure tourists from Europe and America for heli-skiing. 
Then we need suitable infrastructure for high-end tourists. They need high class accommodation and transport. In regard to accommodation, some beginning has already been made by inviting some globally known hotel chains to set up properties to accommodate up market tourists. The most ideal thing is local collaboration in setting up these properties. It is also be to be ensured that local youth are trained and employed in these ventures. One could condition these properties by stipulating that these would employ at least 80% locals in different fields including overall management after training them. In the field of transport, already some good vehicles are operating. The local transporters could be motivated and assisted in going in for still better cars and luxury buses.
Now, we come to the real issue of accessibility. Sometime back Srinagar Airport was upgraded and declared to be an “International” Airport. In fact, a Dubai-Srinagar flight was also started. However, the whole exercise turned out to be something in the name only and not with honest and sincere intentions. Firstly, the Airline, Air India Express which operated the flight was an Air India subsidiary meant for the labour class in the Gulf Region. It had all economy configurations with no in-flight facilities. One of the European groups which flew to Srinagar from Dubai in this flight swore never again to fly Air India! Secondly, Pakistan did not allow overflying to aircraft flying in or out of Srinagar which increased the flying time from 3 to 5 hours and made the flight uneconomical.  Allegedly, even this namesake international flight was discontinued on the intervention of security agencies. Unfortunately, the “Democratic” India is suffering from a security phobia and every positive thing gets shelved for security reasons. They have the last word!
There is a way out to both maintain the name “International” and allow direct access to high-end global tourists both leisure and adventure without any security apprehensions. Let International Charters from various foreign tourism markets be allowed to fly in direct to Srinagar. Pakistanis too will have to co-operate in allowing overflying to these International Charters coming from the west if they have any consideration for the well-being of Kashmiri people. The Charters from the South East Asia can come direct without any hindrance. Also Charters from Central Asia can come directly to Srinagar. Goa has a short season of about five months from November to March. It gets more than a 1000 charters from Russia, Central Asia, Europe and now even from Middle East. It is because of these Charters that the Tourism has received a tremendous boost. Why can’t we have a similar thing in Kashmir? 
If the rulers proclaiming day in and day out Tourism to be the backbone of Kashmir’s economy sincerely want to contribute something real and practical through tourism, they should work on starting Charters to Kashmir from different Tourism Markets. This will not only give a meaningful thrust to the economy but will protect Kashmir’s fragile and sensitive ecology and environment. This will also make the Srinagar Airport somewhat “International”!