Monday, February 29, 2016

The “New” wave of militancy!

The new generation of militants is more committed and determined, independent of the external motivation or support.
Recently Indian Army Commander in a press statement declared that the infiltration across LOC has reached almost to zero level. But it is a half statement only. He did not mention that in spite of zero infiltration the militancy is on the rise and there have been a number of serious encounters. He did not say a number of police personnel including a head constable and a number of constables have run away with their weapons and joined the militant ranks. Most of the “New” militants are highly motivated and educated persons. Secondly, apart from huge crowds attending the funerals of militants, youth have been coming out at the encounter sites to create disturbances allowing militants to escape. This is a big change which is not being admitted by the concerned people. They have only warned people to stay away from the encounter sites for their own safety. Probably, they do not want this trend to become a part of the new wave of militancy. However, no one can arrest the trend because it is a natural reaction to continuous oppression which has reached a crescendo in the recent times.
In early nineties when the Kashmiri youth started an armed resistance movement, the motive was more sentimental and emotional. Moreover, the sentiment had been hijacked and exploited by external supporters. The youth, even though physically strong and sentimental, were not mentally prepared and motivated for a long militant struggle. In fact, the sentiment was exploited by the external agencies to introduce their own thought stream. Guns were put in the hands of the young men who had not yet reached the motivation level of armed resistance in their minds. It was because of this that a number of youth had been turned around and many had surrendered. Some of the militants had even become blackmailers. The turmoil of nineties which resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, started building upthe motivation. A new generation of Kashmiri youth came of age during that period of conflict and in the following years. These people had seen nothing but the high-handedness of the security personnel. They were witnesses to the massacres, fires, and rapes. A desire for revenge slowly started building in their psyche. There rose a very strong wave of alienation which is on the increase. The level of alienation can be judged from the fact that during the recent encounter in Pampore, women were singing lullaby songs for the militants fighting the forces!
Incidentally, as an interim new development, there was a calming down of the situation in the start of the present century and the militancy appeared to be declining. However, with the continued wave of suppression and the events of 2008 and 2010 when the young boys fought the bullets of the security forces with stones, the alienation again started rising. The main cause of this renewed upheaval was the total suppression of the freedom of expression. There were many other factors including the frustration of highly educated youth. The unemployment rose to all time high of almost a million educated youth. Kashmiri students studying or working in different parts of India were always on their toes because of local threats of the Hindutva brigade as well as extreme harassment of the security agencies. After every untoward incident, the first suspects are the Kashmiris. The recent upheaval in JNU has again made the Kashmiri students the first target of the security agencies and many students are returning to Kashmir. The so called mainstream politicians even though giving lip service to the sufferings of the people have totally failed to get any tangible relaxation in the grip of the security forces. Their failure to even soften or repeal the AFSPA (The Armed Forces Special Powers Act) which gives total impunity to soldiers to kill anyone or destroy any property has worsened the situation further. It is a well-known fact that Guerrilla War is the weapon of the weak against the strong. Universally, it has not been possible even for super powers to win such a war. Be it the French in Algeria, the Italians in Libya, the Americans in Vietnam or in the recent times both the Russians and the Americans in Afghanistan. In the long run, they had to bow before the will of the people.
It is time for the Indian Government to realise the truth that it is impossible in the long run to suppress the feelings and aspirations of the people. It must also be mentioned that keeping an entire population against their will is a costly affair. The security itself costs billions of rupees. For a developing country like India it is a big drain.The money being spent on the security grid could very well be utilised for the well being of the millions living under the poverty line. The recent upheaval in JNU related to Kashmir situation indicates that the new generation of Indians does not accept the oppression of people simply for their views. It is a bold first step for engaging the people in a dialogue rather than suppressing them by showering bullets. The youth of Kashmir too have welcomed the move and extended support to the JNU initiative. It has been easy for the Indian government to unleash off and on violence on Kashmiris for their total suppression but they will not be able to do the same on the students of JNU and some other institutions where the youth are realising the truth of the Kashmir Story. It could be the nemesis for the pseudo nationalists pulling India to disintegration and could open up the way to fulfil the long pending aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Time only will show. Incidentally, the first wave of militancy had come after the hanging of Maqbool Butt and this wave has come after the hanging of Afzal Guru!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The high-altitude madness!

That is what Siachen, the highest battleground which came into being because of some overzealous mountaineers, has turned into

The high-altitude madness!
Recently ten Indian soldiers died due to an avalanche on the Siachen Glacier. Some years back more than 150 Pakistani soldiers had been killed by a similar avalanche in the area. Siachen in Balti language means land of abundant roses. However, the glacier itself is nothing like the land of roses. Rather it has proved to be a real bed of thorns for all the soldiers posted there. The dispute has an interesting history. Wikipedia describes Siachen Glacier dispute as,“The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya Mountains at about 35.421226°N 77.109540°E, just northeast of the point NJ9842 where the Line of Control between India and Pakistan ends. At 76 km (47 mi) long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas. It falls from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its head at Indira Col on the East Turkestan border down to 3,620 m (11,875 ft) at its terminus. The entire Siachen Glacier, with all major passes, is currently under the administration of India since 1984, while Pakistan controls the region west of Saltoro Ridge. After the ceasefire of Indo-Pak Conflict a Ceasefire Line was established by the UN. The line followed various features held by the two warring sides. The 1949 Karachi agreement only carefully delineated the line of separation to point NJ9842, after which, the agreement states that the line of separation would continue “thence north to the glaciers”. According to the Indian stance, the line of separation should continue roughly northwards along the Saltoro Range, to the west of the Siachen glacier beyond NJ9842, as the international boundary lines that follow mountain ranges often do so by following the watershed drainage divide such as that of the Saltoro Range. The 1972 Simla Agreement made no change to the 1949 Line of Control in this northernmost sector”.
However, the line was never formally demarcated on the ground beyond point NJ9842 but shown on US and Pakistani maps straight to Karakoram pass that left the Glacier on the Pakistani side. India believed it to be a cartographic error. The entire area being the most inhospitable frozen wasteland nobody bothered about it for quite some time. In late seventies and early eighties, the famous mountaineer Colonel Narinder (Bull) Kumar led some mountaineering expeditions to various peaks in the area. He in fact went to Indira Col and even brought some equipment left by foreign climbing expeditions which had gone to the area from the Pakistani side. He convinced General Prem Hoon, the Corps Commander to send patrols into the area and establish posts along the Saltoro Range to claim Indian sovereignty on the area.
“In 1984, India launched Operation Meghdoot, a military operation that gave India control over all of the Siachen Glacier, including its tributaries. Between 1984 and 1999, frequent skirmishes took place between India and Pakistan. Indian troops under Operation Meghdoot pre-empted Pakistan's Operation Ababeel by just one day to occupy most of the dominating heights on Saltoro Ridge to west of Siachen Glacier”. For either country it is impossible to launch any large scale operation.
The life on the glacier especially on the higher posts is like living in a cold hell. Minus 60 degrees Celsius temperature, snowstorms for weeks on end depositing sometimes more than 30 feet of snow, frost-bite and metal bite and above everything else the lack of oxygen causes cerebral and pulmonary oedema. Mountaineers climb to these heights after acclimatization and in good weather and do not stay more than a week or so. Here, the soldiers continue to stay for months on end with rotation to higher posts every twenty days or so. The guns need to be fired every few hours to prevent the firing mechanism from freezing. There have hardly been any casualties in armed conflict. Most of casualties have been due to the severe climatic conditions. Hundreds of soldiers on both sides have been disabled to extreme living conditions.
Apart from being a cold hell, the area is quite costly to maintain. The high-altitude equipment, dry rations, kerosene for heating apart from the consumption of ammunition to maintain guns in working condition are quite costly. It is said that it costs rupees five hundred to fly a litre of kerosene by helicopters to the area. Specialized mountain equipment has to be imported at exuberant prices. Incidentally, the same West European high-altitude equipment manufacturing firms are supplying equipment to both the warring sides! 
Finally, the worst fallout is the extreme pollution of the environment. Almost one metric ton of waste is dumped into the crevasses of the glacier by the soldiers every day. Apart from normal garbage, empty ammunition shells, parachutes and so on are dumped. The snows have blackened in many places. Major portion of the waste is plastics, metals, chemicals which affect the water going into the Shyok River. In fact, Siachen is the source of water going through Indus. All these pollutants have effect on the water. It is becoming the highest junk yard after Everest base camp. Huge military presence has adversely affected the flora and fauna in the area.
There have been many attempts to sort out the dispute but so far these have failed. Manmohan Singh was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Siachen. He suggested peaceful resolution of the dispute. In fact, environmentalists have suggested that Siachen should be declared a Peace Park. The resolution of the dispute is stuck up. The Indian side wants Pakistanis to authenticate on a map the positions held by them at present. It may be worthwhile to ask the top Political and Army brass to hold the talks on the glacier itself so that they realize the actual ground conditions. Both sides may then agree to leave the area alone and bring an end to this high-altitude madness! The sooner it happens, the better for both the suffering soldiers and the fragile environment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Resurgence of Tagore’s India!

The spark in JNU is the beginning of the end for the Golwalkar’s India!

Image result for tagore
A columnist friend recently opined that a spark was born in JNU and the spark was from the raging fire in Kashmir. It is true; the sparks from the burning Kashmir are going all over and setting fire to the bastions of the neo-imperialists and the neo-colonialists. India has two images. One is of a progressive, secular and modern country based on the sublime thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore. The other is of a retrograde Hindu Brahmin India of the Chandragupta Maurya's time conceived and promoted by Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar. Arundhati Roy calls this India which is being thrust by the Hindutva Brigade as an Upper Caste Hindu Corporate Republic. It is the Brahmin class which constitutes about 5% of the total population that is in reality, the ruling class. Notwithstanding the fact that 65 percent Brahmin households in India, with about 40 million people, live on less than $100 a month, according to a 2007 Wall Street Journal report. 
After the departure of the British, the elite of this class took over the governance of the country and continued the system which had been established by the British Imperialists. The entire system of administration, law and order and so on was the system set up by the British as colonialists to keep under their control the colony of India. All the laws, the retributive justice systems and other state apparatuses which were needed by the foreign rulers to keep the people under their oppressive control were not only continued but made more stringent. Newer laws were enacted to keep the people down. 
After the independence of the country, Congress which too had Brahmins as its members outwardly pursued a progressive and secular policy but in essence, they too allowed slow resurgence of the Hindutva policy. Again it was the Brahmins which occupied the important positions. Dalits and other lower castes were in a minuscule minority in the decision-making process. The control of all important institutions and the state organisations was with Brahmins. Lower castes were like sprinkling here and there. This covert discrimination came into open once the power was virtually usurped by the followers of Golwalkar through a Hindutva wave. Not only are they targeting the minorities especially Muslims but members of all the lower castes in their own religion. 
Over a period of time, the lower castes had started asserting themselves. However, the Upper Caste again manipulated the lower castes and did not allow a full resurgence. The weapon used was the highlighting of the Hindu religion as the basis of being true Indian. The deprived illiterate masses were given, in the words of Marx, the opium of the poor, the religion! Instead of taking India to a modern progressive goal, efforts both covert and overt were made to retrograde it to the Hindu period of Vedic times. The main weapon being used is the hatred of the Muslim minority. All the ills and wrong doings are being labelled on them. The process which had earlier remained covert and low key is being now continued with greater vigour openly!
But all the Hindus are not bad. It is a particular class of the Chanakya or Kautilya genre which dominates all the bad ones. Tagore, Gandhi and Nehru too were Hindus but poles apart from the Golwalkar’s kind! In the meantime, the younger generation among all the classes of the people continued its progressive march with the rest of the world in different institutions including the now controversial JNU. The rabid Hindutva brigades remain mostly confined to the so-called “Cow Belt”. The greatest obstacle in their march has been these progressive institutions like the JNU. All this time, Kashmiris have been subjugated in a manner worse than the one adopted by the British to subdue India. The new generation did realise this tyranny and started protesting and resisting it both within Kashmir and outside. The President of the JNU Students Union Khanaiya Kumar recently detained for “Sedition” for raising the issue of Afzal Guru’s illegal hanging, had visited Kashmir sometime back and addressed the Kashmir University students. He had fully sympathised with them for all the oppression they were suffering at the hands of security forces unleashed on them by the Golwalkar’s India. The JNU spark has already started raging fires in many other institutions in different parts of India. It is in fact, the beginning of the end to Golwalkar’s India and the resurgence of Tagore’s India. Tagore’s lines from Geetanjali may truly usher in the India of his dreams through the spark of JNU! 
“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”.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Politicians on a holiday!

The dithering in government formation has forced the Governor to take charge. The politicians should now be kept on a holiday till the rotten system gets overhauled!

Politicians on a holiday!

The 69 year old uncertainty about Kashmir’s political future has mortally damaged the process of the Governance and the Accountability in the State.
There have been only very few patches in between when the State had good day to day Governance. Accountability has always remained elusive in spite of constitution of a plethora of organisations and commissions. For the past sometime especially after the upheaval of nineties the State apparatus has been totally lacking in accountability. Politicians have always tried to make hay while the sun was shining. In fact, successive governments have tried to undo what the previous ones had done. The sole aim has been to capture power and advance their dynasties. In the meanwhile, the State has virtually gone to “Dogs”!
There used to be saying that “If there is a Paradise on Earth, it is this, it is this and it is this!” That is no longer true. In fact, Kashmir has become a “Dogs’ Paradise!” Srinagar was sometime back rated as the fourth dirtiest city in entire India. Over and above this, the politicians responsible for this mess have been demanding declaration of Srinagar as a smart city. Yes, it is smart in destroying every civic facility including roads, water bodies, river banks, and so on. In fact, all these things should be left as such so that people all over the world are invited to see how things should not be done.
If one just goes along the embankments of the flood spill over channel from Mehjoor Nagar to National Highway bye-pass Bridge near Tengpora, the amount of filth and garbage is sickening. A drive along the National Highway bye-pass from Tengpora to Qamarwari junction reveals tons of garbage, filth and stinking marshy patches on both sides of the road. The lamp posts on the road divider are also tilted in a number of places. The same is the case with garbage in many other areas in the city. 
There is no control on building activity. Huge malls and hotels have come up in residential areas
 in total violation of the land use prescribed in the master plan. Parking is a headache. All commercial establishments have been allowed without any provision for customer parking. Traffic is in a mess. There is no check on minibus drivers for stopping to drop and take passengers anywhere they like because of the regular hafta given by them. 
The water bodies have either disappeared or turned into stinking marshes. Dal Lake is in throes of death notwithstanding the fact that the area along boulevard is kept somewhat clean by constant mechanised de-weeding. However, they are unable to do anything about the stink! Settlers inside the Dal Lake can’t be moved out being a strong vote-bank. In fact, one is reminded about an Arabic saying about a camel. It asks the camel as to which part of its body is straight?
Right now, Kashmir does not need greedy Politicians and their intrigues. It needs strong, honest and upright administrators who can deliver. In fact, Sir Walter also mentions in the Valley of Kashmir that a strong and just ruler can change the shape of things in Kashmir. Unfortunately, we have yet to see such rulers! The Governor’s rule in the present scenario may be better for some time. Incidentally, the Governor’s rule means direct rule from Delhi. Normally, Delhi tries to fulfil its agenda though proxy rule as direct rule is diplomatically uncomfortable for it globally!
Two leading journalists have given opinions on the Governor’s rule. One says “Mehbooba has gifted Kashmir to Delhi” and the other opines that the “Governor’s rule is a dangerous preposition”. It is true the Governor under the J & K constitution has sweeping powers. In fact, he is like a monarch! He could turn everything upside down if he so desired especially at Delhi’s bidding. There were only two Governors in the past that refused Delhi’s bidding. They were, L.K.Jha and B.K.Nehru. 
The present Governor has the reputation of being an honest, upright and a capable person. He has chosen two most upright, honest and dynamic advisors who have served Kashmir in the past to the best of their abilities. If he utilises the time only for the developmental side leaving the political side to the “Politicians on Holiday” till they return, he could get a lot of things done. He has started the most important and urgently required project of dredging the Jhelum which the politicians had forgotten for almost a year. The project needs acceleration and constant monitoring to avoid a future disaster. Here comes in the missing accountability which must be fully restored. If the good governance and accountability are restored, people may ask the Politicians to extend their holidays for some more time!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Who failed whom?

The leader-people debate is to be seen against the ground situation in Kashmir and the actions of its two neighbours, overt as well as covert!

Who failed whom?
Some time back a debate had started regarding the “leaders” and the “people”. There were many opinions about one having let down the other. Some observed that the Kashmiri people had let down their leaders. Others said that the leaders had let down the people. The trigger for the debate was probably the general feeling that the popular movement in Kashmir is not moving forward and has got stagnated. Well, that is far from the truth. Kashmir’s movement is probably in the strongest and the final phase at the present time.  The strength of the movement can be judged from the fact that even the so called mainstream parties which have always claimed Kashmir to be an integral part of India are these days professing for their acceptability, what has been given the name of “Soft Separatism”! As a friend recently remarked, resistance is like water it circulates everywhere and slowly rises to its own level. The alienation of the people especially the new generation is at its peak. During the entire history of the movement for last 69 years there has never been so much wide spread resistance. It does not matter if the resistance does not expose itself widely. There is inherent resistance which manifests itself whenever it gets the chance.
For the sake of comparison let us take the general conditions of mid-seventies and now. There was no apprehension to security forces from any civilians during those days. In fact, there was a kind of bonhomie. A large number of security officers from all the services used to live in the posh localities of Srinagar in rented houses. People could freely enter any security area such as cantonments, army and security camps etc. In fact, children used to cross from Gupkar to Batwara through the Badami Bagh Cantonment on bicycles to go to school. Now one cannot imagine crossing the area even in a government vehicle. Many civilians were regular invitees to Army and Air Force messes on various occasions. Sometime back, a friend related that a Brigadier friend of his told him that he used to go every day to a popular bakery on Maulana Azad Road to buy bread but not now. If he wanted to do that now, he would have to take a platoon of soldiers to ensure his personal security! No doubt there has been a massive security upgrade after the outbreak of militancy of nineties. Even though now the overall situation generally appears peaceful, yet the atmosphere of seventies with its bonhomie is missing.
The security on way to the airport and at the terminal itself has been rated the strictest in the world! In no airport in the entire world passengers and their baggage is screened more than a kilo-meter before the entry to the terminal building. This aspect has been recently highlighted in the Government of India, Ministry of Tourism report on bottlenecks for developing International Tourism to Kashmir. No doubt the US airports have now most notorious body searches and security drills but the security at Srinagar tops all these. In fact, every arriving passenger after leaving the airport sees a kilometer long line of security vehicles waiting outside for protected passengers!
As regards the presence of soldiers, Kashmir has been described as the most militarized place on Earth. Almost a million soldiers, para-military and other security personnel. Almost every locality has security presence as bunkers and camps. It looks like a huge prison. The Independence Day and the Republic Day are two ordeals for the local people. However, they have got used to all these restrictions and hardly take notice. It is part of the life here!
Regarding the freedom of expression, the less said the better. The phrase has probably disappeared from our lexicon. No public meetings or marches are allowed even if these are non-political. Even people demanding wages or protesting against power shortage are dispersed violently. Some religious processions like the Muharram tazias have been disallowed for decades now. Some leaders are perpetually under house arrest while some others have been under detention for years together. One of the leaders who has been repeatedly asked to be released by the State High Court has been slapped 31 times the draconian Public Safety Act! Truth along with accountability seems to have been banished from Kashmir. The suppression of basic human rights has been globally taken up by various organisations. Still it hardly makes any difference. 
Personal security has surpassed everything. Bullet proof cars, jammers, escort vehicles, security at home and then personal security officers for every tom, dick and harry! Even people who fought elections quite some time back have personal security officers. Some retired officials too have personal security officers, escorts and home security. All these security measures and means to suppress the truth cost huge amounts to the Government. The security related and defence expenses run into billions of rupees. The intelligence agencies of both the countries spend billions to tailor various political streams to their view point. In fact, India is economically bleeding through Kashmir. Some years back during a mass upheaval in the State, an RSS ideologue, Thakur, had opined that India should dis-invest Kashmir. The overall uncertainty caused in the entire sub-continent due to the Kashmir problem has shied away billions of dollars of Non Resident Indian Investment from the country. 
In view of these facts, the question as to who has let down who seems totally irrelevant. The real question should be about the unity of leadership. That is the most important and the most relevant thing at the moment. Why don’t the leaders unite if the goal is same? Why there have to be dozens of parties led by dozens of leaders, even more? Incidentally, the popular movement and the peoples’ resistance are strong as ever. This is in spite of the disunity of the leadership! The new generation follows ideology and convictions. They are leaders in themselves. They have given up the personality cult which has been plaguing every sphere of life in Kashmir for ages. 
As regards, violent incidents and new breed of militants, this is a natural process. When suppression exceeds limits and there is total clampdown on any kind of free expression, violence is the natural outcome. There is no need for anyone to tell people to take up a gun. There is a universal saying that violence begets violence. However, violence does not solve issues but compounds these! The only practical and sensible way to solve all the problems whether of leadership or the final solution to the decades old dispute is dialogue among all the stake holders. However, the first right is of the people inhabiting the land and living in an atmosphere of uncertainty for the last 68 years. They are the main party! Without their participation no solution will endure!