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!