Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The mother of all disasters!

The prediction by the scientists of the Oregon State University may be the “final” solution of the Kashmir problem!

The statement given by Yann Gavillot, a Geo-Scientist from the Oregon State University of USA about an impending earthquake of 8 or more on the Richter scale in Jammu & Kashmir has sent a wave of panic among the people. According to Gavillot, the Reasi fault in J&K has been building up stress for thousands of years and is due for sliding to release the stress. Additionally, the construction of power projects in the Chenab valley creating large bodies of water must also be putting some pressure underneath. There have been some earthquakes, even though smaller in intensity, in the Chenab valley. A similar sliding had occurred in the Balakot fault in Muzaffrabad area of Pak Administered Kashmir in 2005 which resulted in more than 80,000 casualties. Gavillot estimates more than a million casualties due to Resai fault sliding as there are several towns in this area. He has further emphasized that the question is not whether this will happen or not but only when it will happen? Such a disaster would be truly a mother of all disasters the state has faced in the living memory!
Geologically, the Valley of Kashmir itself is a tectonic creation. Koh-i-Sulaiman or the Shankaracharya hill and Hariparbat are supposed to be dormant volcanos. As the legend goes, Kashmir Valley was once a huge lake called Satisar and Kashyap Rishi, the Sage, after long meditation was able to kill the demon Jalodhbhava at Uri which released the waters. The result was Kashmir Valley with Jhelum flowing through its middle. Again the release of waters must have been a tectonic movement which removed the blockade at the Uri gorge. It is certain that the Valley was a huge lake. This is confirmed by the Karewas all-round the valley. These are the sedimentary clay formations in layers.
Earthquakes have been occurring in Kashmir off and on as it is situated in the most susceptible earthquake zone in the Himalayas. However, there is no history of such a strong earthquake having occurred in the past. Many scientists have been predicting some strong earthquakes in the Himalayan region. It is stated to be because of the collision of the continental plates in Earth’s crust. The Indian plate is thrusting into the Eurasian plate. The Himalayas are supposed to be a creation of this collision. Even though scientists are able to give various hypotheses yet no one has been able to predict earthquakes with some definite accuracy.
 In the earlier times, Kashmir has faced many disasters like floods, famines, plagues and sometimes earthquakes. There have also been many political upheavals. Many migrations of Kashmiris have taken place in the past because of these natural as well as manmade disasters. It is said that at one time only eleven households were left in Kashmir! But then we grew back again due to our resilience and the incredible capacity for survival. 
Apart from a scientific explanation of some of the disasters, there is a spiritual view also. Kashmir is known as the valley of the saints because of many pious personalities who have been meditating and praying here. The Rishi or Sufi culture of Kashmir has been hailed by all as the true humanism. Some people opine that the natural disasters are a divine retribution for our misdeeds. It is a fact that the last 70 years or so have seen a total change in Kashmiri character. People have become totally materialistic and greedy. Immorality and waywardness is gone haywire! Religion has been reduced to symbols and rituals. Faith is missing! The last flood which virtually destroyed parts of Srinagar too was opined to be a divine retribution by some religious men. It was said that this time God had taken our possessions only but next time He will take our lives also unless we mend our ways! The Holy Quran describes the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, the twin cities of sin. Prophet Lot was sent to them as a messenger to warn the people against the sinful lives they were pursuing. However, they did not mend their ways and God destroyed these cities. 
Well, both from the scientific world and the Spiritual World there are warnings of an impending disaster. When will it strike? God alone has the knowledge. Kashmir’s political problem has been plaguing not only the sub-continent but entire South Asia for almost 70 years now. One of the reasons for the prolongation of the problem has been the deviant behaviour of the people inhabiting the land. God Almighty may finally resort to the ultimate solution for ending the problem once and for all unless we mend our ways soon!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Convictions, not personalities

Time to end the personality cult which has plagued Kashmir’s popular movement from its very start
Convictions, not personalities 
Recently, a columnist friend posed a question about the future leadership of the Kashmir’s popular movement. No doubt all movements need a symbolic head as a leader but that should not be an end to itself. It is more important to understand and follow the ideology and convictions which the leader represents than to turn that person into an end in itself regardless of the fact whether he remains steadfast on his declared convictions or not. No one can deny the fact that Sayed Ali Shah Geelani has become an unflinching and uncompromising symbol of Kashmir’s resistance after umpteen somersaults by other leaders. However, the greatest misfortune Kashmir’s movement for emancipation has faced right from the start is the development and encouragement of a personality cult. The promotion of a personality cult to the extremity of virtually worshipping a person destroys the very movement. Having been ruled for centuries by Kings and Queens-both native and foreign-the local people have developed a love for a ruler or a leader with a distinct personality. Also because of our ancient Hindu past, idol worship is in our blood.  Even after following the basic Islamic teachings for over eight centuries which totally negate idol worship, we have not given the trait up! One could say that we Kashmiris did not truly convert to Islam but adopted some of the Islamic teachings to our traditional centuries’ old Hindu lifestyle. Some have even alleged Kashmiri Muslims to be ‘worshippers of the dead’ as we turn every grave into a shrine! Ironically, the only dead person being guarded round the clock by the security forces is the Kashmir’s tallest leader, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah!
There can be no two opinions about the Sheikh being the most important rather the tallest leader of Kashmir in the recent times. He was thrown up by the first historical movement for basic rights started by Kashmiris in 1931 against the Dogra Maharaja. This was the first major awakening after centuries of subjugation by outside rulers. As Professor Joseph Korbel, a former chairman of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) and father of Dr. Madeleine Albright who served as the first woman Secretary of State in the US, records in his book-Danger in Kashmir- that the Sheikh rose like a morning star on the sky of Kashmir. He became a symbol of Kashmir’s resistance and people idolized him. He was given the title of ‘Sher-i-Kashmir’ or the ‘Lion of Kashmir’ Virtually he gave the same hope to Kashmiris as Moses had given to the Israelites in Egyptian bondage. People even rumoured certain divine attributes to him. It was rumoured that his name had been carvedby insects on Chinar leaves! Towards the fag end of his political life, people even chanted, “Alle Kari Wangan Kari, Bab Kari, Bab Kari!” This extreme personality cult wherein the people put everything in the hands of a tall leader resulted in Kashmir’s undoing! Due to certain inherent human weaknesses he could not become the Moses for Kashmiris and very unfortunately led them from the pillar to the post and in the end abandoned them in total wilderness out of which they are still trying to come out. In spite of his umpteen somersaults, people would have forgiven him but the 1975 episode completely ended his charismatic leadership. In spite of the final somersault, people still loved him especially because of his revolutionary act of land to the tiller. Some people opine that towards the end he was really fatigued and died a sad person! Dr. Korbel likens his fall to that of a meteor!
Omar Mukhtar of Libya too was a teacher and as tall as the Sheikh but he preferred hangman’s noose to a compromise with Italians which led his people ultimately to freedom. There have been other leaders like Vladimir Lenin, Mao Tse Tung, Ahmed Ben Bella, and Fidel Castro who led their people to final emancipation. Such leaders are now a rarity. Ironically, most of the present leaders end up with dynastic succession and nepotism. In view of this, it is more prudent for people to have a collective leadership following a clear ideology based on sound convictions. If the goal is clear and the way is well defined, it does not matter who is in the lead at a particular point in time.If he falters, he can be replaced without any hassle! 
However, the most important point right now is not who should be future symbolic leader but what in concrete terms is the goal and what is the definite and clear road map to reach that goal. If the goal is total emancipation called “Azadi”, then in what shape can that “Azadi” be attained and how? Again, if it is the common goal then why a couple of dozen parties with a dozen leaders with highly bloated individual egos? Incidentally, while the popular movement leaders and their parties are competing with each other, their main opponent is allegedly integrating the land of Kashmir and all the important institutions one by one through the tunnel of Article 370 which according to a BJP leader would be scrapped in 2017! Allegedly, some of the security bunkers’ walls carry the message, “We need land of Kashmir and not the Kashmiris!”Thus, the need of the hour is collective leadership with one clearly defined goal with a visible road map to reach that goal rather than one more towering leader! 


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Finalising the physical integration!

(After having failed in their overt attempts to integrate Kashmir by wooing Kashmiris, the physical integration of the state which was ensured through subtle and covert means is now being given final touches!)

Finalising the physical integration!

The extremist Hindutva elements in India with their collaborators in Jammu, tried to effect total merger and integration of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir right from the day of the signing of the instrument of accession by the then Dogra Maharaja of Kashmir, late Hari Singh. The accession itself was limited to three aspects and was conditional subject to ratification by the people of the state through the exercise of their free will. In fact, allegedly, Maharaja himself was not very keen for the merger of the state with the Indian Union and wanted to maintain an autonomous status. His hand is supposed to have been forced by the Tribesmen entering the state with tacit Pakistani approval. The story of those turbulent times has been recorded in umpteen numbers of books written by a galaxy of historians, the connected officials, politicians and others. While on one hand Pandit Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and others were trying to woo Kashmiris to a so called secular India of Tagore, on the other hand Patel with the help of RSS and others was trying to force complete integration of the State into the Golwalkar’s India!  
In the beginning, Sheikh Abdullah, the tallest Kashmiri leader was taken in by the bonhomie of Pandit Nehru and others but the subsequent agitation of Parija Parishad in Jammu for total integration which was sternly put down by him causing a tremendous media furor in entire India made him doubt the correctness of his decision, the expression of which landed him in prison for eleven years! The major official integration was effected in the time of G M Sadiq. The “tunnel” of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was utilized to effect integration in various spheres including the political, financial and other aspects. The so called Article supposed to be safeguarding the State’s Autonomy was extensively used to integrate the state into the Indian Union and it is now only a hollow shell! While on one hand hue and cry is raised about the removal of this article generating upheaval among the local people, on the other hand very subtly measures are taken to integrate the state fully in a very surreptitious manner. The apparent aim seems not only to merge the territory into the mainland but also to make the local people totally dependent on outside aid. 
The most important resource, the water has already been mortgaged by the so called leaders. The state could not only live but be very prosperous without any outside dole had Kashmiris been able to exploit the potential of hydro-electric power on their own. The campaign for outside dependence was started from the very day of the deposing and imprisonment of the Kashmiri leader who had been used to gain the peoples’ support for the accession of the state. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad started the culture of subsidy which has finally reduced the state to an economic wretch! 
Some of the recent moves appear as the final touches to the full geographical, economic and political integration of the State. The conversion of REC into NIT which changed its composition of 50% State and 50% Central to 80% Central and 20% State; the recent trouble at NIT; the move regarding the identification and process for acquiring land for setting up Sainik colonies and composite townships for Pandits; the proposal for setting up shelters for outside labour almost a million of whom are already here, have been alleged by local leaders to be moves to change the demography of the State. The continuous presence of Army and Para-military along with outside labour has already changed the demography. However, physical integration of any territory in the world by turning the locals as inmates of a big prison does not last long. This is a historical fact which the authors of the present move for integration need to keep in mind. The British had to leave India in spite of having held it for two centuries. The French had to leave Algeria; the Italians had to leave Libya and in recent times the Americans had to leave Vietnam and the Russians Afghanistan! The Americans are right now in the process of leaving Afghanistan!
The only integration which lasts is the integration of the mind and the soul. Both the Indian Government and the Indian people in general have so far utterly failed in integrating the mind and the soul of Kashmiris into the Indian mainstream. The stark evidence of that is the extreme alienation especially among the new generation of Kashmiri youth. One and all have admitted this alienation caused by the suppression faced by the people during the last two decades at the hands of the security forces operating with total immunity. The extent of alienation is evident from the increasing new wave of militancy and the total outright open support of the people to these new militants. 
There are two possibilities. Either the neo-nationalists in India realise that by forced physical integration of the land they cannot win over Kashmiris and take practical measures to end the oppressive regime. This would involve repealing AFSPA and all other black laws, releasing all imprisoned youth and leaders, and starting a realistic political dialogue both with the local leaders and across the border for the final resolution of the problem. In the alternative, the continued oppression even if ensuring total physical integration of the land will result in a massive outburst which no one will be able to control and may ultimately result in a South Asian Armageddon !   

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The culprit is ad hocism!

The story of all development in various sectors in Kashmir can be summed up in one word, “ad hocism”!

The culprit is ad hocism!

Dictionary defines ad hocism as, “The tendency to establish temporary, chiefly improvisational policies and procedures to deal with specific problems and task”. The definition appropriately fits working in various sectors in J & K. Most of the decisions taken by various authorities are on ad hoc basis in a whimsical way. Let us start with the construction of the fly overs in different places. Most of these have been started and some completed on considerations other than easing the flow of traffic. Unfortunately, Kashmir in recent years has been plagued by VVIPs and VIPs. The most important consideration is always to ensure safe movement of these parasites living on the Kashmir Society. The first fly over was meant to smoothen travel of VIPs to the Civil Secretariat. Interestingly, the project was suggested to Dr. Farooq Abdullah by some engineers. However, after listening to the then Chief Town Planner, he shelved it. But as soon as Mufti Sayeed took over as Chief Minister, the same engineers convinced him and got the fly over constructed. No doubt the fly over gives a smooth run to VIPs but it created the worst traffic bottle neck at the Jahangir Chowk and Exhibition Crossing. 
The other fly over is to provide a smooth passage to the airport to the VIPs notwithstanding the impact it would have on the population en route! Again it is an ad hoc whimsical decision. There are two parallel roads which could have been sufficiently widened with an extra bridge at Rambagh to have through passage to Airport. This flyover is supposed to have been funded through an Asian Development Bank loan. Some Civil Society members approached one and all for taking up the alternative and shelving the fly over. However, they did not succeed as there were allegations of huge pay offs in the allotment of the contract. Already some more fly overs are under construction on some other roads!
The most annoying aspect of these huge construction projects causing immense inconvenience to the citizens is the hurry in starting these on ad hoc basis. Normally, in most of the countries where such projects are taken up, the first consideration is to provide alternate routes for smooth flow of traffic till the projects are completed. Not in Kashmir. Here, everything happens on the spur of the moment. One fine morning one discovers there are some diversions because of a road or fly over project. The diversions are through lanes, by lanes and so on. What is most fascinating to watch are the contraptions and all sorts of wires and iron pieces used to mark out the diversions? The roads look like junk yards! In a number of countries one has observed the diversions are more smooth and appealing than the main roads! Well, one cannot fault the engineers or the traffic managers for these unseemly scenes! Tragically, the state of most of the roads, lanes and by lanes is already in a total mess. The living example of this mess is the repeatedly changing diversions being made for the fly over near Rambagh. 
There are a number of other ad hoc decisions regarding parking places, setting up of fountains in the middle of crossings causing total obstruction to line of sight for traffic from various roads, converting a traditional parking place in Lal Chowk area into a park to prevent meetings and processions and so on. We are masters in making master plans, but past masters in totally violating these. Land use, building bye laws, proper drainage is always given a go bye. It will not be fair to put blame for all those violations on the authorities. We are ourselves responsible for umpteen violations in every sphere for totally personal reasons. Take the case of some of the new colonies. These totally lack in proper drainage and sufficiently wide roads. People, instead of leaving couple of feet of their own land to have wide roads, encroach on the government land, thereby turning roads into narrow lanes. God forbid if a house in these colonies catches fire; no fire brigade vehicle will reach it! 
There has been a total free for all in some of the affected posh colonies after the last flood. People, instead of rehabilitating themselves, have gone in for massive constructions of a commercial nature. Instead of once having been calm and peaceful private residential colonies, these are now turning into commercial hubs in violation of the strict guidelines given in all master plans in total violation of land use and building bye laws. 
The latest ad hoc decision is the change in School timings for the smooth passage of VIPs. The schools are being asked to run from 7 am to 2 pm. The main objective is to ensure a smooth ride to our aristocratic rulers to the Civil Secretariat. Usually most of the top ones go home for lunch. It would be in keeping with the summer timings of Jammu to have similar hours for bureaucrats and politicians in Kashmir also as with the climate change we are expecting a very hot summer. They could have timings of 8 am to 2 pm and go home for lunch after office hours. The kids could attend school from 10 am to 4 pm. 
The main cause of ad hocism is the total lack of accountability which has resulted from a perennial state of political uncertainty. No one is responsible or accountable to no one. A complete state of anarchy. Many people have been heard saying that the Governor’s rule was much better as true accountability had started appearing on the horizon. People were happy during the Governor’s rule but not the politicians. There is only one way to clear that impression. The politicians have to get rid of ad hocism and introduce complete and true accountability. Till they do it people will keep pinning for another spell of Governor’s rule!