Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Anarchy and impotence!

(The two words which describe the present Kashmir situation appropriately!)
The Cambridge dictionary defines “Anarchy” as “a situation in which there is no organisation and control, especially in society, because there is no effective government”. The word “impotence” is defined as, “lack of power to change or improve a situation”. In almost every front whether civil society, or the government Kashmir is in a total state of anarchy. In true sense, left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. Everybody tries to escape from facing the real situation in every aspect of life. Let us first take apprehension of an impending flood. Most of the experts have predicted that we may get a repeat of the 2014 flood as practically nothing has been done to prevent the same by all concerned. In spite of the fact that a very high level committee has been constituted by the government under the Chief Executive, the progress on the ground is abnormally slow. No preventive measures can be effectively implemented on the ground unless the work is taken up on a war footing with round the clock monitoring. All the concerned organisations seem to have become impotent both in execution and monitoring. One only needs to take a walk on the embankments of the flood spill over channel from Mehjoor Nagar to By-pass Bridge to practically know the ground situation. So God only can help us!
The same holds good for the worst ever traffic congestion; a free for all on pedestrian foot-paths by goods vendors, wrong parking on most of the roads on both sides of road and the crazy operations of three wheelers and mini-buses. They behave as if they alone are on the roads and think that they virtually own these roads! People are now used to getting stuck in traffic jams for hours at some places like Pantha Chowk, Shalteng, Pampore and  many other places. One of the reasons for this mess is the impotence of authorities. It is debatable whether the impotence is due to lack of resources and manpower or for certain political and material considerations! There are umpteen other spheres in which the same situation prevails. Take the instance of drains, garbage, and debris on the roads. However, the worst of all menaces are the hordes of ferocious stray dogs! Menaka Gandhi’s gift to Kashmir is these stray dogs that have made the life of the citizens miserable especially during night.
Coming to the political situation, the less said, the better! It is a self-created mess. Kashmir must be the only place in the world where the country’s best fighting machine is being used to control stone throwing youngsters! Over a couple of hundred Kashmiri young men have lost their lives, thousands have been injured and hundreds blinded in the process of controlling civilian free expression. The unrest is universal in the entire Kashmir valley and the authorities have totally failed to subdue or control it. It keeps on bouncing off and on. A massive military operation is on to eliminate a couple of hundred militants and in the process there is severe collateral damage of civilian life and property. One is often forced to quote the saying of the most illustrious son of Kashmir, Kalhana that the people of Kashmir can be conquered by the means of the spiritual merit and not by the force of soldiers. The Political leaders in Delhi are inducting more and more soldiers with newer weapons but they have failed to suppress the rebellious youth. Again it shows anarchy and impotence! Almost all right thinking people have repeatedly pointed out that the Kashmir situation cannot be resolved by military action. It needs a political solution. Here again one sees distinctly anarchy and impotence! The most distressing is the total impotence of the world bodies supposed to be guardians of human rights and world peace.
The most frustrating part has been the anarchy of the weather. Nature too has gone berserk in regard to Kashmir’s weather. In the end of June, normally part of the short summer, we have almost the winter weather! Thunder storms, cloud bursts, hail and snow in the wrong season shows the weather Gods too have been annoyed with us. They seem to have gone crazy in punishing us!
The tragic part after the loss of human lives and material damage is the damage to Kashmir’s image! From a world known Paradise of the East it has become a living hell! Tourism and many other economic activities have been shattered. The worst fear is there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel itself is choked with Pava fumes! Will Kashmir of the glorious times ever return? That is the million dollar question! In the meantime we are stuck in the anarchy and the impotence as defined in the Cambridge dictionary!


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

“Cowistan” and “Kaliban”!

(RSS through the ruling BJP is aiming to turn the Great Republic of India into a “Cowistan” with the help of their Gau Rakhshaks who are India’s “Kaliban”!)
`Kaliban-ising' India!

The obsessive protection of the cow and the subsequent attacks on people having various professional activities connected with it especially the Muslim minorities and the Dalits have created a piquant situation. India is being dragged back to the age of Brahmins and Vedas! According to many historians even at that time cow was not so much venerated and protected as it is now being projected by the Hindutva mobs.
Binu Mathew, the Editor of Countercurrents, an online news portal has written an article to motivate the progressive and secular Indians to rise and halt this fanatic religious onslaught on the minorities. He has specifically requested the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to lead people against the onslaught on the food habits of the people. The article bears the title, “Unfurl The Tricolour And Say India Will Not Become ‘Cowistan’, ‘Kaliban’ Will Not Rule Us”! The recent obsession with the Cow and related violence by vigilantes seems to have prompted this comparison to the religious fanaticism seen in Afghanistan during the rule of Taliban. The deliberately inflamed obsession about the Cow is, in fact, virtually turning India into “Cowistan” and the RSS vigilantes, the “Gau Rakhshaks” are turning into “Kaliban”, the Indian equivalent of the Taliban! This is very tragic when one considers India’s history and the bonhomie of the past among its inhabitants belonging to various religions.
India as a large country of the size which it had just before partition in 1947 existed earlier in the time of Chander Gupt Maurya, King Ashoka and Akbar the Great. Chander Gupt Maurya ruled when it was totally a Hindu country. His top advisor was the famous Visnu Gupt also known as Chanakya who wrote the well-known treatise on governance called the Arthshastra. Ashoka in spite of having the largest kingdom had converted to Buddhism after the bloody battle of Kalinga.
According to Justice Markandey Katju, Akbar the Great was a real secular King who believed in the philosophy of all religions being equal and gave the notion of the Sulh-i- Kul. Muhammad Abdul Baki, in his history of Akbar’s reign, states: “Akbar extended toleration to all religions and creed, and would recognize no difference between them, his object being to unite all men in a common bond of peace”. The website carries an article by Puja Mundal which gives detailed analysis of Akbar’s Sulh-i-kul.
Puja Mundal writes, “Sulh- i-kul was to become his method of judging what was legally right or wrong within his empire and was created because Akbar understood that he was trying to build political institutions for predominately non-Muslim society. Thus, in his empire, the beliefs and opinions of the orthodox mullahs were not to be the critical test for his rule because he wanted all of his subjects to be judged equally before the law”.
“Akbar established separation of state and religion and opened government positions to members of all religions. He abolished the jizya on non-Muslims and the forced conversion of prisoners of war to Islam. He converted the meetings of Muslim clerics into open discussions between Islam, Hindu, Parsi and Christian scholars and in 1579 issued an edict that made him the highest authority in religious matters”.
“In the civil courts Akbar abolished laws that discriminated against non-Muslims. He raised the Hindu court system to official status side by side with Muslim law and reformed the legislation with the aim to maximize common laws for Muslim and Hindu citizens”.
Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and other progressive leaders of the Indian freedom movement followed Akbar’s model and had been aiming for the revival of the great secular and democratic republic of his time. Even Dr. Iqbal known as the poet of the East had composed his poem about India being the best country in the world. However, the RSS which did not support India’s freedom movement was bent upon declaring India a Hindu Rashtra and fulfilling the dream of its creator Sadashiv Golwalkar. It is because of the threat posed by them that the movement for Pakistan materialised. After accepting the partition of the country on the basis of religion it was virtually impossible to retain the secular and progressive character of India. In spite of all the difficulties and the tremendous Hindutva underground opposition which resulted in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru tried his best to maintain the secular and progressive character of the Indian Republic. However, after his death, the communal forces had an open field and slowly and steadily grew in strength culminating in the takeover of the Republic by the BJP, the front organisation of the RSS. Now their declared aim is to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra by 2023! This was announced in a conclave held recently in Goa.
There is already virtual rebellion to this concept in the East and the South. The East, North East and the South have rejected the Central directive banning cow slaughter. In fact, in Kerala the Assembly session was started with a beef breakfast and in the North East a number of people have left BJP because of the beef ban. If this onslaught on the secular and the democratic nature of the Republic goes unchallenged there is every possibility of its disintegration. India may get ultimately reduced to the traditional “Cow Belt”. There is urgent need for all the secular and progressive people to oppose this march back to Stone Age and safeguard the secular and democratic character of the Republic!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cool Kashmir, Boiling Sub-continent!

(Presently the Physical Climate in Kashmir and the rest of the sub-continent is quite unpredictable and could turn scary!)

Cool Kashmir, Boiling Sub-continent!
There has been a significant change in the physical climate both in the entire sub-continent and the Valley of Kashmir. Apparently it is part of the global climate change. In the middle of June it has snowed on Baderwah Mountains and may be other places also. The night temperature has been sometimes around 11 degrees Celsius which is unusual for the month of June. In fact, a recent photograph in a local daily showed a man carrying kangris for sale (Kashmiri earthen pot with hot coals used by local population for keeping one warm in winter). Normally, June is the season for ice creams and cold drinks. But then things keep on changing and now the changes happen without a notice. Compared to Kashmir, most parts of the sub-continent are virtually boiling! Temperatures range from 42 to 49 degrees Celsius! An interesting aspect of the rains in the valley at present is the local formation of clouds due to the heat during day. The massive amount of snow which the mountains surrounding the valley have received during the last winter acts as a ready-made source for increased precipitation and formation of local clouds. Invariably, there is a thunder shower in the evening almost every day. This keeps our temperatures down and the nights are cool or sometimes even cold!
Apart from the usual global factors like gas emissions especially the exhaust gases of automobiles, pollution due to many industrial activities an important contributor is the loss of the green cover. Smog is now a constant companion of many metros. Especially, the capital Delhi is a virtual chronic patient of smog! The loss of greenery is definitely a major factor in the rise of sudden temperatures resulting in climatic change. In May this year, almost all major cities in India experienced temperatures in the range of 42 to 49 degrees Celsius. Whole of India has become hot! The loss of green cover during last few years has been substantial. According to a survey, in recent years about 11 crore trees have been cut all over India for roads, industrial units and many other projects. In contrast, only 1 crore trees have been planted. It is now an established fact that the overall global temperature has definitely risen. This has resulted in melting of the ice in the Polar Regions. Even in Antarctica there has been appreciable melting of the ice. The melting of the polar ice has resulted in a significant rise in the sea level. There are predictions that with the further increase in global temperature and consequent rise in sea level many Island Countries like Maldives will go under water! The early effects of the climate change have been distinctly visible even in the Middle East. In UAE, there was a snowfall in one of the Emirates. Additionally, there have been rains in the desert not known earlier. Even Saudi Arabia had a snowfall in some areas.
The environmental situation is virtually same in the whole sub-continent. However, Kashmir appears to be the only cool place in this entire region! Even though the climate here too has been behaving erratically, yet the heat seems to have been substantially lessened this year. Because of the heavy snowfall on the mountains during the last winter one can still see the entire Pir Panjal Range covered with snow. The excessive precipitation is definitely also because of the green cover which appears to have increased substantially over the last few years. The accelerated plantation of willows, poplars, and the conversion of extensive areas into orchards has definitely increased the green cover. Vast areas of land including paddy lands have been converted into housing and other constructions but on the other hand there has also been an increase in green areas. Notwithstanding the fact that in many places the national tree of Kashmir, the Chinar has been mercilessly cut; the people seem to have become very fond of trees, plants, flowers and kitchen gardens. Invariably in most of the new constructions especially in private housing colonies people prefer to have small kitchen gardens, trees and shrubs.
The scary part of this climate change is the floods! The last devastating flood of 2014 which is supposed to have occurred almost after a century still gives nightmares to the people. This is especially so because the concerned authorities reportedly have done nothing to ensure that there is no repetition of the catastrophe. In a recent meeting of engineers in a local club it was revealed that hardly anything has been done to prevent occurrence of future floods. The so called dredging of the River and the flood channel through a Kolkata based firm is a scandal. Neither there has been extensive dredging as per norms and requirements all along the River especially wherever it is technically required nor any steps have been taken to strengthen the embankments all along the Capital city. Come September and we may be once again devastated! One cannot fight nature. One has to respect it and live in harmony with it. With certain preventive measures taken sincerely one can harmonise with nature. Unfortunately, both the rulers and the people seem to be doing the reverse! In such circumstances, one can only keep fingers crossed and pray for God’s mercy!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Kashmir, a separate country!

(UN showing Kashmir as a separate country confirms the historical fact known right from the ancient times!)
There was recently a news item about the UN showing Kashmir as a separate country in some of its documents. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) have depicted Jammu & Kashmir as a “separate country”. In the “Advanced search for Civil Society Organization” section; Jammu & Kashmir has been inserted in the “Country/Geographical area” section. This gives an impression of the State being treated as a separate country by the UN. Well, just showing Kashmir as a separate country may not change its present physical position but somehow it reminisces one about Kashmir’s ancient history when it was truly a very famous independent country.
The first references about Kashmir being an independent sovereign country are from the Greek sources. The Ptolemy’s geography has preserved the references to Kashmir. He calls the region KASPEIRA which is supposed to enclose a large portion of land including parts of Punjab, North-West Provinces, and Central India. This may be related to the period when the power of the dynasty ruling Kashmir extended much beyond its borders. The importance of this reference lies in the name of the territory as it is a phonetic derivative between Kasmira, the ancient Sanskrit name of Kashmir, and the present day Kashmir or Kashir. Another curious notice is in the poem Bassarika of Dionysius of Samos. It mentions about KASPEIROI, a tribe famous among all Indians for their fast feet. Even Alberuni has mentioned about Kashmiris being good pedestrians. It is but natural that people living in high alpine valleys would have habit of long foot marches. Rajtarangni has given many examples of very respectable marching performances of ancient Kashmiris. The flight of King Bhoja across the peaks and glaciers of Haramukh range is a classic example of this marching prowess. Even Herodotus, who is known as the “father of history”, mentions KASPATYROS which is taken as a reference to Kashmir.
After Greeks is the mention of Kashmir in Chinese records. The earliest reference to Kashmir dates back to A.D. 541. This relates to the arrival of an Envoy in China during the early part of the reign of Tang dynasty. Kashmir is described as a country “enveloped on all sides like a precious jewel by the snowy mountains, with a valley in the south which leads up to it and serves as a gate of the Kingdom”. Almost all other Chinese accounts of Kashmir give a similar description. Ninety years after this first mention of Kashmir in Chinese records, Hiuen Tsang visited the valley and stayed here as an honoured guest for two years. He entered Kashmir through the valley of Vitasta (present Jehlum). After crossing over mountains and treading along precipices he claims to have arrived at a stone gate which was the western entrance of the Kingdom. During his two year stay he studied Sutras and Sastras and acquainted himself fully with the country. He describes Kashmir which he calls Kia-shi-mi-lo as a country surrounded on all sides by very high mountains which have very narrow and contracted passes for entry. According to him these natural bulwarks have protected the country from its neighbours who have never succeeded in subduing it. He describes the climate as cold and snow plentiful. The soil is described as very fertile with abundance of fruit and flowers. The people are described as light and frivolous, and of a weak and pusillanimous disposition. “The people are handsome in appearance, but they are given to cunning. They love learning and are well instructed”. He recalls many conferences with the Kashmiri doctors of the sacred law. The two full years which Hiuen Tsang spent in Kashmir was the longest halt at any place which he made during his sixteen years of travels through India and Central Asia. Probably after crossing through the hot and dusty plains of India the cool and salubrious climate of Kashmir cast its spell on him. Apart from the earlier Buddhist pilgrims to holy sites in India who halted in Kashmir, the Turki pilgrims from Kashgar,Yarkand, and other parts of Central Asia, whether on their way to Makkah or on their return, never failed to make a long stay in Kashmir in the recent past.  The partition of India which resulted in total disconnection of Kashmir from its northern neighbours. The next reference to Kashmir in Chinese records relates to the Annals of Tang dynasty which mentions the arrival of the first ambassador from Kashmir sent by Candrapida and then another sent by Muktapida (Lalitaditya) of the Karakot dynasty of the Rajtarangni. In fact, Muktapida had entered into a treaty of military alliance with the rulers of Tang dynasty of China against Tibet which he subsequently raided with a strong Kashmirian army. He failed to conquer it as his entire army perished in the cold and high altitude deserts of Ladakh. After few years of the visit of Muktapida’s envoy, Kashmir was visited by another Chinese pilgrim, OU-KONG. His account is very important in regard to the routes of ancient Kashmir. He gives very clear description of three great routes through the mountains which, since ancient times have formed the main lines of communication between the valley and the outer world. In the east the route leads to Tou-fan or Tibet. This is the road going over Zoji La to Ladakh and thence to Tibet. In the north the route leads to Po-liu or Baltistan which is the route to Gilgit through Upper Kishenganga valley (Gurais and Tilel) and from there to Skardo or Astor on the Indus. The route through the western gate leads to Kien-to-lo or Gandhara. This is the famous Jehlum Valley road which was always the most frequented and easy entry to the valley. Ou-kong also mentions a fourth route which remained always closed and was opened when an imperial army honoured it with a visit. This is the route over the Pir Pantsal range to the south. In fact this route came into prominence only after the Mughals annexed Kashmir in sixteenth century.
After Chinese we can examine the references in the accounts of Muslim scholars. Although the first rush of Arabs into Indus Valley brought them close to Kashmir yet they did not make any attempt to enter it. Even when Islam overspread the whole of Northern India, Kashmir behind its mountain ramparts remained safe for many centuries. In spite of this seclusion of Kashmir, the Arabic literature has very accurate and valuable account of Kashmir. This is due to the research and critical appraisal of ALBERUNI who travelled with Mahmud of Ghazni upto the borders of Kashmir at the fort of Lohkot (presently Loran in Punch). This stronghold of the Kashmiri forces brought the invasion of Mahmud to a standstill and he had to ultimately retreat from here due to the onset of winter. Though this expedition failed to reach Kashmir but it gave Alberuni ample opportunity to collect detailed information on Kashmir. He refers to the pedestrian habits of Kashmiris and mentions that the nobles were carried in palanquins on the shoulders of men. He describes Kashmiris anxiety and care to protect their country. “They are particularly anxious about the natural strength of their country, and therefore take always much care to keep a strong hold upon the entrances and roads leading to it. In consequence it is very difficult to have any commerce with them. In former times they used to allow one or two foreigners to enter their country, particularly Jews, but at present they do not allow any Hindu whom they do not know personally to enter, much less other people”. In ancient Kashmir there was a very efficient system of frontier watch stations known as Davaras and Drangas and the system of rahdari was prevalent till recent times. The head of the frontier watch stations was called the Davara pati. Alberuni’s description of the entire country including its weather is very accurate even though he did not enter it.
Compared to all these references in Greek, Chinese and Arabic literature, there is a lamentable lack of exact geographical mention of Kashmir in general Sanskrit literature. Judging from the extreme scantiness of the data, it is clear that Kashmir to them was a country foreign and remote in every way. The name Kasmira is mentioned as the designation of the country and its people but in a very vague fashion. The Mahabharata refers in many passages to Kasmiras and their rulers but in a general manner without giving distinct location of the country. The most specific piece of information regarding Kashmir that Sanskrit literature outside the Valley furnishes is in the term Kasmira or Kasmiraja that designates Saffron and Kustha for which it was famous since ancient times.
In view of these historical facts, the plea of the present Hindutva leadership about Kashmir having been an integral part and the crown of Hindu India is totally negated. It has always remained as an independent sovereign country even though the population followed the Hindu Saivite religion till Mir Sayed Ali Hamadani (Shah-i-Hamadan) converted entire population except 2% Brahmin rulers to Islam through his preaching. Incidentally, the Kashmiri Hindu philosophy of Trikka Saivism is a total contrast to North Indian Vedanta philosophy!
Thus the UN has not made any mistake but recapitulated a historical truth. In fact, it may be better for the three neighbouring countries to ultimately convert Kashmir into something like Switzerland which attribute has been given to it from the earliest times!. In spite of all the wars in Europe, Switzerland remained unmolested and served as a meeting point for all the rival countries. The revival of the Silk Route by the Chinese through CPEC and the fast developing situation in the South Asian region may ultimately make this proposition to be the best solution for Kashmir and all its neighbours!