Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Curse of the Good Life: Valley on the brink of food disaster because of the massive real estate boom

Conversion of Agricultural Land Into Commercial Goes Unabated


Srinagar, Dec 25: The conversion of fertile agricultural land into residential and commercial is going unabated in the Valley, posing a serious threat to food security, experts have warned.

The conversion is going at "large scale" in Pulwama, Anantnag, Varmul, Kupwara and Budgam districts. As per available records, residential colonies, brick-kilns and shopping malls have been constructed on hundreds of acres of agricultural land. The trend amounts to violation of the Revenue Act that bars conversion of any land under the cultivation of paddy, maize, vegetable or saffron.

Some officials in the Agriculture Department have been objecting the trend for the past many years, given its serious implications on the food security of people and fodder for animals.

Some top officials of the Agriculture Department have written letters to Tehsildars and Deputy commissioners of these districts, asking them to check the conversion of agriculture land into commercial and residential.

One of the letters mentions that a residential colony is being constructed in paddy fields near Narbal crossing in city outskirts, posing a serious threat to food security.

"A private construction agency is busy in expansion of the colony by way of earth filling of the submerged area in the interior of paddy fields at Narbal crossing. You are requested to look into how the colony has come up in the area," reads the letter from Joint Director, Agriculture (Extension) to DC Budgam.

The letter, written in 2006, has evoked little response. The land, according to the Narbal residents, is a submerged water body that serves as drainage of excess water in paddy fields and is also a source of irrigation water for many areas. "The present activity undertaken in the said area is also threat to eco-system as the area was a sanctuary for fish and many other birds," the letter reads.

Another letter to DC Pulwama mentions the large scale removal and excavation of soil from a saffron rich area at Pampore. "The excavation is about 50-60 feet deep, endangering a large area of about 500-600 kanals of most fertile saffron growing area," the letter reads. "The matter may be treated as most important as any activity, be it the construction of house, business establishments or excavation of earth is highly prohibited on the area under saffron cultivation."

Sources in the Agriculture Department said that hundreds of kanals of agriculture land have been used for residential and commercial purposes at Chackla and Chanand areas in north Kashmir's Varmul district.

Another two-page letter to tehsildars of Budgam, Chadoora, Beerwa, Khansahib and Charar-i-Sharief mentions many places in these areas where the land conversion is taking place. In Chadoora, the letter reads, the situation is "dangerous as the most fertile lands under paddy and vegetable crops, with perennial source of irrigation, are being converted." "All land is being converted at the face of the government departments responsible to implement the Revenue Act in letter and spirit," the letter reads.

But the letter hasn't evoked any response, even though is states that if the trend is not stopped forthwith, the governments efforts aimed at boosting of production of food and other crops to achieve self-sufficiency shall prove futile. Many brick-kilns, residential colonies and shopping malls have come up on pure agriculture land along the Khanabal-Pahalgam road in south Kashmir's Islamabad district.

In Srinagar, many houses have come up on agriculture land at Hyderpora and Parimpora.

Documents available with Greater Kashmir reveal that some 4200 kanals of paddy land have been transferred to the Srinagar Development Authority for development of some housing colonies at Rakhi Gundakshah, an area which houses thousands of migratory birds every year.

About 235 kanals of land have been transferred to the Railway Department for construction of a Railway station in Awanitpora. Nearly 8000 kanals of paddy land have been transferred to the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority. According to experts, the usage of agriculture land for purposes other than agriculture has brought the Valley on the brink of food disaster. As per the available information, there is a growing deficit in food drain production in relation to population growth in Kashmir.

In 1980-81, Kashmir had a food deficit of only 23 percent for a total population of 3.3 million. In 2005-2006, the food deficit has risen to 40 percent for a population of six million.

"Right now, the valley has 44 percent deficit in food production, 33 in vegetable production and 69 in oilised production," sources said, adding that the 44 percent food deficit is likely to touch over 60 percent in the next 10 years.

Experts say that such a situation could lead to serious food insecurity in Kashmir, given its topography and closure of its link with rest of the world. Many officials in the Agriculture Department, who spoke to Greater Kashmir, said the land conversion trend needs to be stopped immediately, given its hazardous fallouts.

"There is no well-defined policy with the government that could monitor the food security mechanism. The government should immediately come up with a policy that calls for end to conversion of agriculture land into any other form. Otherwise, a food disaster is certainly in the offing," the officials said. "The trend to encourage constructions on agriculture land is being pioneered by the government. This is highly detrimental and encourages the land brokers to utilize agriculture land for construction purposes," they said. The government, they added, should immediately ban the purchase and selling of agriculture land so that the food-grain deficit is controlled and production elevated.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007 Copyright © 1998-2007-

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fiscal Challenges in J&K: A Pre-Budget Review

Arjimand Hussain Talib treads where few Kashmiri journalists have ventured so far

(Arjimand, 32, is from Srinagar and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University. He is also an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit. Arjimand is currently working as Project Manager for Action Aid International (India) in the Kashmir region and is a member of its International Emergencies and Conflict Team (IECT). His forthcoming books: " Kashmir: Towards a New Political Economy", and "Water: Spark for another Indo-Pak War?" are scheduled for release in 2008.)

SRINAGAR, Dec 21: It is always like a trade off between electoral populism and fiscal prudence. With the elections to the Jammu and Kashmir State Assembly just round the corner, this year the coalition government is faced with quite a few challenges with regard to the 2008-09 budget.

Would it go that extra mile, act more prudently and address the challenges of rising fiscal and revenue deficits, low internal revenue mobilisation and burgeoning debt? Most importantly, would it be able to give a longer term direction to the State for creating job opportunities for the huge mass of unemployed youth and also raise the much-needed internal revenue generation capacity? And would it be able to address the structural lacunae and fine tune the public delivery systems to ensure funds utilization as per the set time lines?

J&K is a classic case of a State with a relatively sound economy according to South Asian standards but with rather poor g o v e r n m e n t finances. Can it capture the opportunities in the economy to make the State finances achieve a respectable and sustainable revenue generation capacity?

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report for 2005-06 has raised some very disturbing trends in J&K’s financial management. It reported the State’s overall fiscal liabilities having increased from Rs 9224 crore in 2000-01 to Rs 16,801 crore in 2005- 06. It also reported the fiscal deficit to have risen from Rs. 1311 crore in 2002-03 to Rs. 2,643 crore in 2 0 0 5 - 0 6 . According to it, the State also had a serious primary deficit, which increased from Rs. 216 crore in 2002-03 to Rs. 1,528 crore in 2005-06. All these revelations have come up in the midst of the government claims that we are now having “zero deficit” budgets – something which the Opposition National Conference has also pooh poohed and something which the coalition government has not satisfactorily explained. The other aspect is the chronic use of overdraft by the government from J&K Bank and the State’s tax payers ending up paying hefty interest to the bank.

The 2005-06 CAG report indicated that there was no improvement in the management of cash balances, as overdraft facilities were used for all 365 days during 2005-06 rather than on discreet basis with the J&K Bank. And, as a result, the State’s interest payment on the overdraft has increased from Rs 71.57 crore in 2000-01 to Rs 138.42 crores during 2005-06. No wonder there was an outstanding balance of Rs 2047.44 crore at the close of the year.

Another dimension which is seldom talked about in the State’s budget statements is the growth rate of fiscal liabilities which was 18.33 per cent during 2005-06 over the previous year. The ratio of fiscal liabilities to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) also increased from 60.37 per cent in 2000-01 to 73.78 per cent in 2005-06. That means that the fiscal liabilities had grown faster than the State’s GSDP.

Given the fact that the basis of the GSDP calculations are far from accurate, given the concerns about our mechanism in quantifying certain economic activities in the State it is likely that the actual fiscal liabilities grew even faster than what the CAG has reported.

Over the years many of us have been saying that high reliance on unproductive borrowings, including loans from NABARD and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – which the governments have been presenting to people as “heavenly grants” – would land J&K in a despicable situation.

CAG has already raised its concerns on that. It is common sense that the spiraling debt liabilities often result in a vicious cycle of deficit, debt and debt service payments, unless suitable measures are taken to arrest the persistent increase in fiscal liabilities. The premise that these loans would spur economic growth and hence enhance the State’s ability to re-pay loans has been based on faulty assumptions, more often guided by narrow populist considerations rather than sound economic logic. The huge backlog of NABARD loans, for instance, for making rural roads is a case in point.

As pointed out in the CAG report, public debt is considered sustainable as long as the rate of growth of income exceeds the interest rate or cost of public borrowings subject to the condition that the primary balance is either positive or zero. An analysis of the primary deficit vis-à-vis quantum spread clearly reveals that their sum turns out to be negative in each year of the period 2000-06 indicating rising debt-GSDP ratio and deteriorating situation of debt sustainability in the State. It is incredible that the State is yet to enact its own law which could put a limit to the borrowings.

There is another dimension to it: that is preference to creation of populist and decentralised political systems to sound fiscal management without relative accountability. How would the State address this problem in the budget? How would the government rein in the deficit on account of the power purchases?

Part II: Work culture 'deficit': Under-spending and cost over runs need attention

Srinagar, Dec 20: Political governance in a State like J&K has never been just all about securing financial allocations from the Centre. It has always been about the ability of the governance structures to spend funds in time and with quality. It is not that we have a problem of plenty. It is basically about the capacity of the State's delivery systems to do things in time and quality.

It is not only about the projects being executed in the State sector it is also but special projects and centrally sponsored schemes.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has already highlighted this disturbing trend. According to it, there were 348 incomplete projects as of March 2006 in which Rs. 1, 716.58 crore were blocked. Besides, there was cost over run of Rs. 1,718.79 crore in these projects as the initial estimated cost of Rs. 2,319.28 crore was revised to Rs. 4,038.07 crore.

The way the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the State Legislature has been taking up follow up and action taken issues has always been far from satisfactory. There is no doubt that it is the legislature which in theory has to use its moral discretion to take up audit issues for correction and remedy. But we will have to acknowledge the fact that the credibility of J&K's democratic system has a long way to go before our legislature could do it with integrity.

When it comes to the special schemes the state of affairs is hardly different. During the last budget session, it was revealed that out of Rs 848 crore released under the PM's Reconstruction Package our State was able to utilise only Rs 484 crore during that year.

Out of the Rs 4100 crore released last year under ADB-funded projects and Bharat Nirman Yojana hardly 5 per cent of the funds had been spent.

The dismal state of spending and delayed delivery of public services has been exposed in a government document itself which was prepared to argue for time extension for the PM's Reconstruction Package. The ways we have failed to deliver makes interesting reading.
The Package which was scheduled for completion in 2007-08 has already been extended to 2009. J&K's planners are upbeat that the Rs 500 crore which were not released by the centre for State sector projects for 2006-07 until January 2007 would not lapse and they will be extended to next financial year. It has been revealed that many central projects under the Package which are to be implemented by State government agencies, either work is yet to be taken up or little progress has been made over them.

Under State sector projects, the PM's Package has Rs 3316.12 crore worth of projects, whose cost was subsequently revised upwards to Rs 3787.42 crore. Out of this only Rs 1215.36 crore had been spent till early this year.

As against a provision of Rs 1056 crore for transmission and distribution of electricity, only Rs 133 crore have been used until 2006. Out of Rs 142 crore kept for model villages only Rs 44.68 crore have been spent so far. For upgradation of nine women's ITIs only Rs 14.91 crore have been spent against the actual outlay of Rs 30.60 crore. Surprisingly, hardly Rs 17.77 crore have been spent against the sanctioned amount of Rs 49 crore for 14 new degree colleges, which were billed to help decongest the existing colleges and help provide quality education.

The dream of electrified villages and quality supply to others has remained unfulfilled despite a provision of Rs 700 crore as reportedly until now only tenders had been floated.

Out of Rs 83.62 crore sanctioned for National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), a mere Rs 8 crore have been used on civil works in Community Health Centres (CHCs) even as people in our State continue to die for want of basic health facilities.

Although promotion of tourism continues to remain the pet goal of the State's governments, nothing could be as ironic as the fact that our State had spent only Rs 1.64 crore out of Rs 31.50 crore approved for development of tourist villages until early 2007. Shamefully, only Rs 3.85 crore had been used for providing assistance to Tourism Development Authorities as against Rs 240 crore sanctioned under the Package.

Out of Rs 201 crore sanctioned for rehabilitation of horticulture and establishment of agri-clinics, a paltry Rs 25.44 crore had been spent. The document reveals that only Rs 1 crore was incurred on urban self employment as against Rs 26.94 crore reserved under the scheme during last year. As if all this was not enough work is yet to be launched on upgradation of Jammu and Srinagar Medical Colleges for which Rs 120 crore each were sanctioned.

The PM's package had also earmarked Rs 1741 crore for Greater Srinagar and Rs 1470 for Greater Jammu for drainage and sewerage. But the government had not spent anything until early 2007 despite the fact that Srinagar city has witnessed two floods due to lack of drainage facilities during the last one year alone.

In these state of affairs what is needed for J&K State is not only the traditional appropriation and regularity audits, the propriety audit and the efficiency-cum-performance audits need primacy. For that to happen we must have external audit and quality delivery appraisals and transparent system of ensuring actions are taken.

It also needs transparency and public information on the Action Taken Notes by various ministries so that people know about the outcomes.

Part III: Power budget puzzle: Taking on the myths and contradictions

Srinagar, Dec 23: Power economics in Jammu & Kashmir has always remained a kind of puzzle difficult to demystify. Post 90s, every government in the State has held the argument that if the deficit on account of power purchases could be curbed, the State could well achieve "financial self-sufficiency". The reasoning has been simple: we are not being able to raise as much revenue as we pay to purchase power. But is that the only reason?

One thing that a separate budget for power has done is that it has demystified many a myth about this power deficit. An analysis of the Power Budget 2007-08, apart from bringing to light its intrinsically paradoxical premises, also brings out quite a few conflicting conclusions.

As per the official figures, J&K purchased 6400.96 MUs of power from various Central Power Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) in 2003-04 while as in 2006-07 the purchase is expected to be around 7260.852 MUs. Purchase of power from the State-run Power Development Corporation (PDC) in 2003-04 was to the tune of 850.677 MUs, while as in 2006-07 it is expected to raise to 884.866 MUs. This simply shows, something not so novel, that our demand for purchases from both CPSUs and PDC are on a rise.

The cost per unit and the total purchase bill show almost the same trend: According to official figures, in 2003-04 total cost of purchase of power was Rs. 1071.778 crores while as in 2006-07 it is likely to be around Rs. 1838.00 crores. Then there are the costs of "Other Expenditure" as detailed in the Power Budget 2007-08 which are expected to be Rs 188.14 crore. Let us also note that the rate/unit (in Rs/KWH) has also been steadily increasing: in 2003-04 it was Rs 2.001 while in 2007-08 it has risen to Rs 2.256.

It is obvious that J&K's power demand would continue to grow steeply given the rise in consumption and upward social and economic mobility. But how would J&K meet this demand?

A section of strategic analysts in New Delhi have of late maintained that in case India and the United States could make their nuclear energy co-operation agreement successful there were good chances that the centre would heed the recommendations of the Rangarajan Committee and, at least, hand over the Dulhasti Power Project to J&K State.

Now that the Indo-US nuclear agreement stands in jeopardy India's energy needs, mostly in its north are clearly linked to the hydro-power potential in J&K State. Under such circumstances can any J&K government successfully negotiate transfer of the Dulhasti or Salal Power Project to it?

The problem is that under such circumstances J&K's financial condition would continue to remain precarious given its inability to quantify its energy losses in a political economy where it is not just the State and civil society but also armed forces/police who constitute a significant portion of the energy consumption grid.

As far as revenue/receipts from power are concerned they are rising too, albeit with huge mass of deficit. In 2003-04, our revenue from power was Rs 393.05 crores while as in 2006-07 it is expected to be Rs. 711.64 crores. While the deficit on account of power was Rs. 847.02 crores in 2003-04, the deficit this year is likely to be Rs. 1314.50 crores.

But the point is why the mass of deficit in percentage terms has remained almost the same over the years? There are many questions that are rising again and again and which need to be addressed.

Let us take the issue of revenue generation from power being directly linked to installation of electronic power meters in the State. It is on several occasions that government ministers and officials have said that once all our consumption centres are metered and people pay power fee, J&K's power woes would be history. But is that so?

As per the 2001 Census, there are a total of 15,68,519 households in our State, out of which 7,95,100 are in Kashmir division while as 7,73,419 are in the Jammu division. According to the figures given in the 2006-07 Power Budget, it is revealed that in the year 2005-06 there were 10,14,745 registered power connections in the State which are expected to rise to 10,51,745 by the end of this financial year due to the addition of another 37000 registered connections. This means that about 67 per cent of all the households are having a registered power connection.

As per the figures made available by the PDC, a total of 10,66,181 electronic meters shall be in place by the end of this financial year in the State, out of which 5,33,803 are installed in Kashmir division while 5,32,378 are installed in the Jammu division. This means that about 68 per cent of our total households are electronically metered as well.

It is possible that there are other commercial entities which have not been mentioned in the Power Budget. But it is obvious that their number is not a significant one.

Now the point is that if about 67 per cent of our connections are registered and one would assume that they are paying for power then why are our power losses and transmission and distribution (T&D) losses so high? Are the gigantic numbers of government and military/para military establishments included in this analysis?

The percentage difference makes it clear that there are some other factors as well which are not reflected in the State's budget analysis.

Part IV: Mobilising internal revenue - What are the choices by the way?

SRINAGAR, Dec 26: It is not about rocket science but basic economics in budget making: J&K has to take some extraordinary steps, including going back to the Article 370 and the powers of tax devolution, to raise enough revenue internally to arrest the fiscal deficit, debt and other fiscal liabilities. The problem is that J&K government under the present circumstances has very little choices to raise revenue internally. Let us see how.

There are no such economic activities in the State currently which could be taxed and revenue increased. If at all there are a few activities, primarily in primary sector, government would not like to tax them given the populist compulsions. Then if there is an increase in economic activities in the services sector, the revenue from there would go to the central kitty and in the absence of clarity on J&K's tax share formula and its role in taxing services after the Indian Constitution (Eightieth Amendment) Act, 2000 optimism in that remains elusive.

During the current year revenue receipts as per government's initial estimates would be Rs 12666 crore, which would be all those receipts, which do not incur repayment liability. But there is every possibility that this figure would be revised downwards. This figure also includes grants from the central government for the financing of State Plans as well as non-plan grants, in addition to the State's own tax and non tax revenues.

In comparison, the revenue expenditure, the State's routine administrative expenditure, such as wages and salaries, expenditure on maintenance and repairs and other overheads like payment of taxes, interest, insurance premia etc. is likely to be around Rs. 9774 crore. Going by this optimism there is a revenue surplus of Rs. 2892 crore this year.

But the source of worry is our capital receipts, which include loans raised by the State from the market, borrowings from RBI and other institutions, loans from the Centre and the State's recovery of its own loans, which have been pegged at Rs. 1770 crore for this year.

The capital expenditure, which constitutes spending on capital assets like roads, power projects, water supply schemes, buildings etc. during this financial year are likely to be Rs. 4662 crore. This also includes disbursements which are on account of repayment of State's public debt and the loans and advances made by the State to the various entities.This would put our capital account deficit at a whopping Rs. 2892 crore. And the budgetary deficit is not small too. The budgetary deficit, which represents the State's total expenditure minus the total receipts, is large too but since the State Governments in India have no access to the monetisation route and as such budgetary deficit in J&K's case also ought to be zero.

When it comes to the fiscal deficit it is likely to be Rs. 1337 crore this year, which in any case is not small.

The fact is that the increase in the revenue receipts by 16.34 per cent during 2005-06 has been mainly on account of central transfers comprising grants-in-aid from the centre. But the overall fiscal liabilities of the state increased from Rs 9224 crore in 2000-01 to Rs 16,801 crore in 2005-06. The fiscal deficit increased from Rs 1311 crore in 2002-03 to Rs 2643 crore in 2005-06. The primary deficit during the same period increased from Rs 216 crore to Rs 1528 crore.

The overall fiscal position of the state as reflected in terms of key parameters revenue, fiscal and primary deficits, indicates deteriorating fiscal situation during 2005-06 over the previous year.

In its annual report last year the CAG has pointed out that the J&K continues to be dependent on borrowings for plan or development expenditure and has also criticised the way in which government departments were utilising the money. It has also already asked the J&K government to "take immediate steps to improve the buoyancies in resources because of the deterioration in its overall fiscal position." But does it have that room? The fact is that the capital and revenue expenditures have increased by 38.5 per cent and 19.5 per cent during the year but revenue receipts and non-debt receipts could not keep pace with the increase in expenditure of the state.

Questioning the government claims of zero deficit budgets, the CAG has summed it all up: "The cardinal indicators of debt such as quantum spread together with primary deficit being perennially negative, increasing ratio of fiscal liabilities to GSDP with a growing fiscal deficit and the higher buoyancy of the debt with regard to its revenue receipts indicates unsustainable debt situation of the state in the medium to long run."

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Dawn of a New Age in Kashmir: All Politics is Indeed Local

(Ahmed Ali Fayyaz writes about common citizens willing to make supreme sacrifice to improve the quality of life in their neighbourhoods.)

MAGAM, Dec 17: For over a decade, sponsors of Kashmir's secessionist movement interpreted all development-related demands of the poor people as a "treacherous distraction from the freedom struggle". "Let Azadi come, development will automatically follow", they would argue, forcefully. In next few years, people began taking to the streets to demand BPL rice, subsidised power, pure drinking water and metalled roads. Some former champions of Azadi later declared the elections Halal on themselves with the argument that "day-to-day problems afflicting the masses" could not be ignored for unlimited elasticity of the "freedom struggle". In the last three days of massive demonstrations, each and every 'leader' and organisation has described the demand of 20,000-strong Magam population for a degree college as "genuine" and everybody has jumped the bandwagon of "condemnation" to the State Government and her Police for the shootout that gave birth to Kashmir's first non-Azadi martyr since 1988.

Nearly 20 years ago, Police in Srinagar had opened fire on a mob demanding uninterrupted power supply and left four people dead and many more injured.

Demand for creation of a degree college in the twin towns of Magam and Beerwah five years ago, united and split the people for a many reasons in Budgam district. With the dubious distinction of being Jammu & Kashmir's most backward district in education, Budgam became India's only district with not a single degree college. In the wake of skirmishes between Chadoura, Chrar-e-Sharief, Khansahib, Beerwah and Magam, Mufti Sayeed's coalition Government finally gifted it to the centrally located district headquarters. On February 27th, 2004, when Chief Minister Mufti was declaring creation of another College at a rally in Beerwah, residents of Magam burned not only hearts but also tyres on the streets. And 'militants' threw a grenade on the rally, killing a woman and leaving many others wounded.

Like Jammu, a shutdown in Magam has been the last option. This economically prosperous township of 5,000 population and over 700 shops on Srinagar-Gulmarg highway has been bustling with business even in the thick of militancy. Everybody here asserts that Magam's worst time of the last 20 years was when militant commander Mustafa Khan forced the town shut for 29 days in year 2001.

"Magam has always been a hub of business but invariably sinned against by successive Governments. Uptil 1967, Magam was an Assembly constituency. Later, it was shifted to Narbal and Beerwah. Our added bad luck is that none of our MLAs since 1967 has been a Matriculate. Earlier we had veterans like (former Ambassador) Mubarak Shah, but they actually belonged to Baramulla etcetera. Thereafter, Magam's PWD Division was shifted to Sumbal. NC Government did cut a cruel joke when it maintained for six long years that a Community Development Block would be set up here. Later, we learned that the same was being considered for two different villages on Soibug-Beerwah Road. PDP's government promised us a District Hospital but didn't get one till it expired in 2005. Congress leaders, including Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, assured us, of late, that we would get the degree college in December. The other day, Mr Azad gifted 18 colleges to villages and hamlets but none for Magam", complains, retired Dy SP Mohammad Ibrahim Mir.

According to Mir, there's one-odd reason behind the "injustice": Magam is a Shia population township. He is surprisingly corroborated by prominent academic and close relative of PDP's Beerwah MLA Sarfaraz Khan. "It's a fact that this entire belt has been suffering on account of Magam being a Shia-dominated town", says Ghulam Hassan Shabnam, a retired Chief Education Officer. Shabnam, who lives in the peripheral Adina village and runs his own Green View Public School at Magam, adds: "Be it Farooq, Mufti or Azad, everybody tells us that your demand is hundred percent just and genuine. All of them promised us a college but none of them honoured the commitment. Other leaders of their parties complain to us that Magam has been casting very few votes and it should not dream about development. But, we believe that the turnout is essentially a reciprocal activity. When they don't give us a block, a district hospital, a works division or a college, why should they expect us vote? Tati chhee noon teel rayi rayi baagraan" (Government functionaries are utterly biased and selective in distribution of development avenues), Shabnam complained in verse.

"From districts to Tehsils to colleges, this Government has showered everything on particular political faces. It created two districts (Shopian and Kulgam) between Anantnag and Pulwama. Two more between Bandipore and Srinagar (Bandipore, Ganderbal). Now, it is looking for villages which could be decorated as Tehsils", Ghulam Hassan Bhat, a retired school-teacher in Mazhama vomitted. "Look to Kulgam and Khansahab. Earlier this year, Khansahab was declared as Tehsil headquarters. A couple of months later, it was declared as Sub Division. The other day, it got a degree college", Bhat added. According to him, there were only 25 shops in Khansahab compared to 700 in Magam. He said total roll of Higher Secondary School Khansahab was less than 200. On the other hand, Magam has over 1,000 students at two Higher Secondary Schools.

Shabnam counts the population of Magam belt anything between 20,000 to 25,000. According to him, there were more than 7,000 students enrolled with 10-15 High and Higher Secondary Schools in Magam belt between Khag, Tangmarg, Hanjivera, Narbal and Magam. "They are all subjected to untold miseries by seeking admission either in a College in Baramulla or in Srinagar. Consequently, more than 50 percent of them fail to continue studies", said Mohammad Akbar Mir of Kanihama.

And, the common man on the street is turning more and more militant. On third consecutive day today, entire Magam belt observed complete shutdown to protest "Government's humiliation to this village of respected people" and the Saturday last Police firing in which shopkeeper Zahoor Ahmed Mir died and 40 others were left wounded. SSP Ashiq Bukhari doesn't appear to be in controversy but both of his Magam subordinates, SDPO Manzoor Ahmed Dalal and SHO Haseeb, continue to be in the eye of the storm. Hundreds of demonstrators converged on the streets on the third day with anti-Government and anti-Police slogans and burning effigies of SDPO and SHO. PDP's Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari and NC's Ali Mohammad Sagar dashed in the town to show their 'solidarity' with the residents of Magam but the people here have developed so much of hatred for politicians of all hues that they suspect every incoming leader as the Government's emissary or 'trouble-shooter'.

"All separatist politicians have sold us dreams in the last 18 years. And, all mainstream leaders have betrayed us with their false promises. It's no religion, no region, no politics but only development. We will take a decision with regard to future course of action on occasion of the martyr Zahoor Ahmed Mir's Rasm-e-Chaharum tomorrow", said a prominent leader of Magam Coordination Committee. "We are determined to get not only the degree college but also a District Hospital and other facilities", he asserted and his followers yelled: "Chheen ke lenge apna haq". They added that the strike would not be called off until SDPO and SHO were placed under suspension and a murder case was registered against them.

"Even yesterday, Police has beaten up and injured 30 people, including 8 women. They ransacked over 30 houses and smashed several cars. They even stormed the mourners' gathering, roughed up women and dismantled the tents", said a bitterly hurt bearded youth. It appears that much more than the political and religious leaders, the residents of Magam are now banking on continued closure of Srinagar-Gulmarg Road. With the strike in Magam, entire winter sports and tourism activity in Gulmarg has come to a standstill and the Police firing has failed to open this vital communication link. Traffic was completely off the road and no vehicles have plied on Srinagar-Beerwah-Arizal, Srinagar-Magam-Khag and several other links since Saturday.

Even as Magam continued to simmer with protest, two of the civil society organs---Citizens Council and Alamdar Traders Union---enforced complete shutdown in Chrar-e-Sharief town, in Budgam district. Yet again, the demand is creation of a degree college. Hundreds of the residents and traders gathered at Bus Stand, near Sheikh-ul-Aalam Sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani's shrine and staged a demonstration in order to press for their demand of a degree college. Speakers expressed "surprise" over the fact that the coalition Government had distributed as many as 40 colleges in two installments and showered blessings on "nondescript hamlets and villages" but it had not announced a college in Chrar-e-Sharief. They said that Chief Minister Mr Azad had assured the local Mirwaiz that his Government would grant a college to Chrar but the holy town did not figure in the list issued by the Government on December 14th.
Reports of a similar protest poured in from Noorabad area in Kulgam district of south Kashmir.

Kashmir's rural economy (the largest employment generator in J&K) is in shambles

Horticulture takes major blow
Zubair A. Dar

Srinagar: The engine of JK’s rural economy - horticulture - is heading for a major hit with rates of apple falling drastically - beyond 50 percent in certain grades. The situation is resultant of a desperate selling practice as Kashmir has yielded a bumper crop this year.

The loss is estimated to cost a whooping 1000 crore rupees this year for want of a retention capacity for fresh fruit in Kashmir despite being a major apple producing region, making the growers anxious. The problem is complicated by the absence of a proper marketing mechanism for fresh fruit from Kashmir. According to a rough estimate, 4 to 6 crore rupees are lost by Kashmir growers every day in Azadpur where 500 truck-loads of apple are sold every day. The total losses for the last one and a half month amount to over Rs 250 crore. “Last year, the yield in my orchard was 800 boxes. This year, it increased to 1400 boxes but the rates fell from 850 to 350 per box for the top quality apple,” says Shabir Ahmad, a grower in Shopian, one of the major apple producing areas in south Kashmir.

The annual average produce in Kashmir ranges between 10 to 11 lakh metric tones. This year, however, the bumper crop has increased the estimated yield between 20 and 25 percent, taking the total yield to 14 lakh metric tones. Shabir says that he was forced to send his apple, which otherwise he could have retained till rates improved, to Delhi’s Azadpur market before winter. “Highway remains closed for several days during winters so we have to sell it as early as possible. We can not store it. There is no cold store to preserve our apple till an appropriate time when rates would again increase,” says the grower.

Like Shabir, most of the growers are desperate to sell off their produce before the packed fruit rots. Around 80 percent of Kashmir’s apple produce is exported annually while the rest is consumed in local market. With 5.5 crore boxes of apple likely to be exported this year, as against a 4.0 crore boxes last year, around a half has already been supplied outside the state, mainly to Azadpur. Rest is waiting to be supplied in trucks at the earliest, some of it already making its way to Delhi.

While an increase in apple yield should have played to the benefit of the growers, it has proved fatal for the industry. Unable to break the strong trader lobby, growers blame the government for failing to provide assistance in marketing the apple better. “Last year I sold 800 boxes of fruit for 4 lac rupees. This year, the yield increased but the price fell to 2 lakhs,” says Mohammad Akbar, a grower in Kulgam. “A trader from Delhi who purchased my fruit here offered me same rates as were prevalent in Azadpur while the freight was deducted from the amount,” he adds. “Had there been a store, we could have waited for better times.” When asked why the growers do not look beyond Delhi while selling their fruit, Akbar said that the market is beyond his reach and it is for the government to guide him. “Who would show us the way?”

However, the Horticulture Marketing and Produce Department disputes the allegation by claiming that changing the mindset of the grower is nearly impossible. Says the director, Showkat Zargar, “No one can dispute the fact that our retention capacity is minimal. But markets are not closed for the grower. We have failed to change the mindset despite trying all these years. The grower does not look beyond Azadpur.” Adds the director, “We have no enforcing powers. We can only guide them not compel them.” For now, however, the collaboration does not appear to work, taking Kashmir horticulture to its lowest ebb. “Even desperate times can be expected in future,” the director admits, while adding, “Unless the growers do not cooperate. They have a right to agitate. But they also have to behave responsibly.”
2007-12-15 11:18:17

Kashmir University's Dirty Little Secret: Scam involving B. Ed. degrees

INDIAN EXPRESS (November 30, 2007)

"Guess what is one of Valley’s biggest draws? B Ed colleges where degrees come easy "

Bashaarat Masood

Students from the Valley may be flying to Bangalore, Pune and Delhi for higher studies, but it has also become the favourite destination for many students from other states. Educationists in the state, however, are not amused.

Thousands of students from outside enrol themselves in colleges here that offer Bachelor’s Degree in Education. And while the number is swelling every year, the reason is also clear. The B Ed colleges here offer a one-year degree and. that too, while the students stay home for most of the period.

This is also perhaps one of the reasons why the Valley has only 30 degree colleges and 67 B Ed colleges.

Kashmir University Vice Chancellor Abdul Wahid Qureshi admits that there are problems with the B Ed colleges here. “This is an area of concern for us,” he said.

The mess in the B Ed colleges, affiliated to Kashmir University, came to the fore during an inquiry into a scam at the university. The report submitted termed the B Ed colleges as the “face of corruption” in higher education. However, since then the university has done little to clear the mess.

“B Ed colleges affiliated with the University of Kashmir are the worst examples of corruption and manipulation,” reads the report submitted by the inquiry committee early this year in the “Admission against Cash” scam.

The report had also suggested some corrective measures. “The colleges affiliated with the University in 2006 have fulfilled all the requirements for affiliation not by merit but by some mysterious help from certain elements,” it says. The report blamed the university administration for the mess saying the university had “extended the deadline for the B Ed colleges for development of infrastructure to benefit some of its blue-eyed businessmen in the Valley”.

The scandals that surfaced in Kashmir University in the recent times too hint towards the B Ed scam. The “Admission against Cash” scam in which the varsity terminated the services of Public Relations Officer Abid Hussain Musawy too is related to the B Ed admissions. A university inquiry revealed that Musawy had earned more than Rs 1 crore through the B Ed admissions. In fact, the whistleblower himself was a non-state subject from Rajasthan.

The Kashmir University, last year, affiliated 13 new B Ed colleges despite many of them not complying with the guidelines set by the university and necessary for affiliation of any B Ed college in the Valley. This year, four more B Ed colleges have been affiliated taking the total number to 67. The university guidelines make it mandatory for the colleges to have separate boys and girls hostels, a minimum of one acre of land, separate academic and administrative blocks, and well-equipped laboratories.

“Most of these colleges do not have hostels,” said a senior university professor. “The results are obvious. The non-state subject students are asked to pay the mess and hostel fee and are allowed to go back to their home states after completing their admission formalities. They attend a few classes and return only for the examinations.”

A non-state subject student pays over Rs 15,000 as hostel and mess fee even if he or she doesn’t avail the facility. More than 15,000 students — more than 80 per cent of them from outside — are enrolled with the 67 B Ed colleges here.

The Vice-Chancellor admitted that there were political pressures. “When I asked these colleges to submit fine, I received several calls from political figures asking me to re-consider the decision,” he said, adding that it included even a sitting J&K minister.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yet Another Example of Mismanagement and Corruption in J&K

Tip of the iceberg: A. A. Fayyaz exposes the rot in the State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC)

From Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

(Mr. Fayyaz, 47, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. He is the Srinagar bureau chief of Jammu & Kashmir's largest-circulated newspaper, Daily Excelsior. )

SRINAGAR, Nov 27: Minister of Transport, Hakeem Mohammad Yasin, appears to have taken a calculated risk in ordering attachment of the Joint Managing Director of Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC), Yogesh Kaul and Assistant Accounts Officer (AAO), Mohammad Ashraf, on November 19th. But, on November 23rd, he has perhaps stirred the real hornets' nest by issuing the attachment orders of 20 junior officials who have been actually running the poor public sector undertaking for years and decades while enjoying high political clout and---consequently---impunity.

Unlike many PSUs, SRTC's affairs have been run by junior officials by virtue of the combination of their vocal chords, muscle power and political clout. When SRTC's Managing Director (MD), M M Afzal, demonstrated uncommon adventurism and drove off to the National Highway outside the capital city of Jammu to catch a subordinate driver red-handed in November 19th, 1997, he was forced to eat the humble pie in less than a fortnight. Afzal had taken the expeditious drive over a substantial complaint which revealed that a "mafia of drivers, conductors, accountants and managers" had been swindling more than 40 percent of the corporation's revenue since long. As the MD, accompanied by a General Manager, forced a Katra-Jammu bus to halt and desired to know the driver's identification, he was publicly humiliated and shouted to silence.

Fearing a physical assault, the poor MD was quick to withdraw and return to his office chambers. As anybody would do, the MD issued the hot-headed driver's suspension orders. Not one or two, but four influential politicians---including two Cabinet Ministers--- swung into action on the suspended driver's push-button. Their intervention resulted into the revocation of suspension orders in less than two weeks. MD had to be content with the nominal fine of Rs 500 for the driver's "not-so-serious misconduct". His helplessness is implicitly recorded in the reinstatement order issued vide No: MD/JKSRTC/5488-91 dated 2-12-1997. This entry of misconduct is nowhere mentioned in the driver's service records.

According to an earlier order, issued by SRTC's Deputy General Manager (M&S), Jammu, vide No: JKSRTC/DGM/M&S/F-24/6 dated 6-01-1992, same helper-turned-driver had been placed under suspension for making as assault on Works Manager (TF) Jammu on 3-1-1992 inside his office chambers. "He was repeatedly asked by the Works Manager to leave the office but instead of leaving the office, Mohammad Arif, Helper took out the knife and scared him. He caught Works Manager by the neck and pounded left side of his face", says the official text. Inspite of the registration of FIR at Police Station Trikuta Nagar, the helper was soon reinstated and thereafter promoted. He is now among the 20 officials removed from duty and attached to a different department on Hakeem Yasin's orders. Yet again, quite a number of politicians and their conduits are on tenterhooks.

According to insiders, the most influential lot of officials remains invariably posted in the most lucrative inter-State bus service of the corporation, which runs 100 buses to 6 north Indian states. Others of this privileged lot have invariably remained posted with the 150-bus Tourist Fleet, which operates on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and Jammu-Katra. Yet another vociferous lot remains busy with politics and "trade union activity". Two senior General Managers (GMs) confirmed that, be it Jammu or Srinagar, more than 30 drivers and equal number of conductors had never done the duty they were supposed to do in the last 15 years.
"A number of drivers collect fare from passengers and operate as conductors. They put a junior conductor on the steering wheel and embezzle receipts. Some others have been simply doing sloganeering. They influence senior officials to first create some trouble for junior officials and later do their trouble-shooting against cash payment. One can easily check the log books and find that over two dozen of our drivers and conductors have never handled a vehicle", revealed a GM. According to him, SRTC had been suffering loss of Rs 10 cr a year only because of the "fraudulent conduct" of drivers, conductors, accountants and managers, enjoying strong political clout.

It is now for the first time in SRTC's 31-year history that as many as 24 blue-eyed boys have been attached and driven out of the corporation. They include nine of 20-odd officials who had been shifted by former MD, A K Mehta, from the inter-state passenger service to the least preferred district services. They also include the 'bold' driver who had the temerity of assaulting a Works Manager and thereafter publicly humiliating the MD and forcing him withdraw the suspension orders in two weeks. Sources reveal that immediately after Mehta removed 20 particular officials to the "cell" postings, SRTC's revenue showed considerable increase of 20 to 25 percent. Immediately after Mehta was shifted to a different posting, almost all the truncated officials staged a comeback. Results have been disastrous: SRTC's revenue from the back-bone inter-state service was Rs 38 cr in the first two quarters of the year in 2006. It reduced to Rs 30 cr for the same period in 2007.

On the other hand, the number of luxurious cars, Taxi fleets and palatial houses acquired and owned by junior officials, including many drivers and conductors, has remarkably increased. Their patrons in the corporation have been equal beneficiaries. Insiders calculate a senior official's expenditure on his pets alone at Rs 20,000 a month. This particular official is now facing the charges of having made backdoor appointment of more than 500 people in the last few years. Everybody from Minister to Transport Commissioner to the newly appointed MD, Manzoor Ahmed Lone, tried best to get the exact number of the SRTC staff in the last two months. It varied from 4500 to 4900. When the senior authorities failed to get the employee code numbers of many drivers, they issued their attachment order on November 23 without the same.

It was also observed that senior officials, including the just attached joint MD, have practiced total anarchy, not only in making backdoor appointments but also in making transfers, suspensions and reinstatements, granting promotions and changing cadres without authority besides auctions and purchasing of spare parts.

SRTC, which is currently operating under the red balance of Rs 107 cr, including loan of Rs 28 cr from J&K Bank, has been a white elephant for the State Government but a lush green pasture for blue-eyed boys of many politicians and bureaucrats. "We need to earn revenue of Rs 95 cr a year to reach the break even point. We have got to spend around Rs 42 cr on salaries, Rs 33 cr on fuel and lubricants, Rs 6 cr on spares and Rs 10 cr on repayments. For the current year, Government has given us cash assistance of Rs 17 cr. Even if we earn Rs 60 cr, we will be falling short by Rs 30 to Rs 35 cr", MD SRTC, Manzoor Lone, said.

Lone explained that SRTC had to pay Rs 1.00 lakh a day to J&K Bank on account of compound interest alone. The staff have not taken salaries of last about three months. Even the employees' CP Fund deductions have not been posted for many years. For the first time, SRTC has lifted loan of Rs 10 cr, in addition to Government's yearly financial support, but the same stands restricted to acquisition of vehicles and augmentation of its fleets. In 9th 5-year plan, SRTC had received support of Rs 22.57 cr but it has drastically reduced to 6.73 cr in the just ended 10th 5-year plan.

Lone is confident about a significant increase in the revenue if the attached employees remained at bay. "I don't know why they are crying hoarse. We have neither placed them under suspension nor terminated their services. We are ready to pay them full salaries if they all confine themselves to their respective homes and let the sincere, hardworking officials deliver. When they were on duty, until November 23, our daily receipts were between Rs 4.50 lakh to Rs 5.00 lakh. On Monday, our net receipts increased to Rs 6.25 lakh and on Tuesday it went further up to Rs 6.65 lakh", Lone revealed. He said that, in compliance with the Government order, he was still holding an inquiry but the charges were so serious that one particular manager, who remained posted in inter-state service in New Delhi, was alleged to have swindled Lakhs of Rupees every month. When the official was called back to Jammu and posted as Manager Load, he failed to deliver. He was consequently attached to Transport Commissioner's office.

Eighteen-year-long armed insurgency, which destroyed the tradition of work culture, has come as a tragedy for SRTC but a veritable boon for the unscrupulous elements indulging in loot-and-scoot of public money. Since its conversion from Government Transport Undertaking (GTU) to SRTC in 1976, corporation had managed its entire expenditure, including salaries, out of its internal resources till 1990. Militants destroyed as many as 117 vehicles in SRTC which had a fleet of 1684 buses and trucks in January 1990. Corporation has disposed off 1382 vehicles by auction. It has replaced 886 buses and trucks and maintained a fleet of 1188 vehicles but SRTC high-ups insist that only 700 vehicles---450 buses and 250 trucks---were operational. As against the continuously loss-making district passenger service of 150 buses and city service of 50 buses, only 100 buses operating in inter-state service and 150 in Tourist Fleet have been showing profits, inspite of siphoning by well-connected officials.

Though SRTC enjoyed a degree of monopoly in the passenger services till 1990, in the last 17 years it has obviously reduced to a skeleton in the State which has now nearly 600,000 vehicles, including 30,000 buses and equal number of trucks and load-carriers.

All Politics is Local: A citizen-activist highlights two stories of social injustice in Pulwama and Budgam

Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat from Gopalpora, Chandoora, narrates two harrowing tales of mismanagement of public services and government apathy.

(Dr. Bhat, 32, was born in Wathoora village in the Budgam district and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial High School in 1993. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Dental Surgery from from the Karnatka University in 2000. He has a private dental practice in Chandoora and is a social activist dedicated to educating public on the Right To Information legislation.)


This is in responce to the achievements of District hospital Pulwama kashmir published in the Greater Kashmir (GK) dated 26th November 2007.The Medical Superintendent has shown the revenue generated in 6 months in the year 2007 wef 1.4.2007 to 31.10.2007 and the year 2006. In this context i want to ask the Medical Superintendent of DH Pulwama regarding following irregularities in the Dental Department. Total number of dental fillings done in 2007 wef 1.4.2007 to 31.10.2007 (six months) is 2122 and the revenue generated is a megre amount of only Rs. 2765 (Rupees two thousand, seven hundred and sixty five).If Distt hospital authorities charge only Rs 10/ for each dental filling the amount generated must be Rs. 21220(Rupees twenty one thousand two hundred twenty),but Distt hospital Pulwama has only generated Rs. 2765. It means the Dental section of this hospital is charging only Rs.1.25 (one rupee and twenty five paisa) per filling. In addition to that there were some 895 dental procedures performed in 2007 but no money was collected for these treatments.

It may be mentioned here that only dental extractions are done free of cost in Govt hospitals. At the DH Pulwama, only 124 dental x-rays have been done in 6 months of year 2007. It meams only one or two x-rays were carried out per day. What we see in private clinics is that Dentists perform at least 5 x-rays per day but in a Distt hospital only one or two x-rays are done per day, and even for these 124 dental x-rays no revenue was generated i.e., these were done free of cost.

If we see the collections in the year 2006, everyone will be stunned. Total dental fillings done in year 2006 are 6655 i.e., six thousand, six hundred and fifty five, but DH Pulwama collected only Rs. 9310 (Rupees nine thousand, three hundred and ten). Actually the hospital was supposed to generate at least Rs. 66,550 (more than sixty six thousand rupees)if at least Rs. 10 was charged for each dental filling. Again 892 dental procedures other than dental extractions and fillings have been done free of cost and the income generated is nil. For 474 dental x-rays done in the year 2006 no money was charged from patients.

These are the official figures from the Medical Superintendent of Pulwama Distt Hospital published in a local paper. What about those hospitals who do not publish such information? God only knows how much misappropiation of funds will be taking place in other Govt hospitals. I appeal to the Health Minister, the Vigilance Commissioner, and others to probe such irregularities in all Govt hospitals so that people do not suffer any more with regard to basic health care needs.

I appeal to the people of my state to make use of J&K Right To Information Act 2004 (RTI) more rigrously to get all the information from all Govt departments where there is an appearance of irregularities. Let us all make our Administration accountable and transparent.


This is in refrence to the pathetic condition of Chadoora tehsil of district Budgam.Chadoora was granted the status of tehsil in early 70s but it has always been bestowed with stepmotherly treatment by the administrators and politicians of J&K.

Recently on the recomendations of delimitation commission headed by former Chief Secretary Mr S.S Bilorea few sub divisions were created in J&K state. Chadoora being one of the oldest tehsils of Kashmir valley, and having a vast jurisdiction, was totally neglected from being elevated into a sub-division. Just one year back before delimitation of tehsils and districts took place, Chadoora tehsil had its jurisdiction starting from Kursoo Rajbagh to Pakherpora Yusmarg. As per Goverment norms a sub-division must contain more than one tehsil in it. As for as Chadoora is concerned it would contain newly created tehsil of Charar-i-sharief and proposed tehsil of Bagaat-e-Kannipora including Chadoora tehsil if it would have been granted status of a sub division. Chadoora has a court of Munsif judicial magistrate, three rural development blocks - Chadoora,Kannipora, Nagam.

But this is a matter of grave concern that inspite of having all the necessary infrastructure Chadoora was neglected totally by Boleria Commission and what is more pinching is that this commission elevated Khansahib tehsil into Sub-division. Till 2006 Khansahib was just a small rural development block and in the same year it was granted tehsil status and after few months it got elevated into sub-division. This is sheer injustice with the people of Chadoora.

Bilorea commission too has proved to be a tooth-less tiger like other commissions of our state such as the Human Rights Commission, and Accountibility commission. There has been a gross political interferance in Bilorea Commission. Khansahib has much lesser patwari and panchayati halqaas than Chadoora. Even the population of Khansahib is half than that of Chadoora.

Chadoora town has a muncipal committee but it too is powerless. There is not a single public lavatory in the whole town with the result people especially women face lot of inconvience.Chadoora bridge is under construction since last 10 years. There is no degree college inspite of the fact that Chadoora covers a vast area and students from far flung areas of Charar-i-sharief, Yusmarg, Pakherpora and Branwar have to travel all the way to Srinagar after passing 10+2 school education. Even in this 21st century people of Chadoora town and its adjacent villages are drinking unfiltered water as there is no filtration plant for Chadoora.

Most of the far flung areas of Chadoora have not been brought under Backward area while as 80% villages of Charar-i-sharief and Khansahib are having RBA status. I appeal to Chief Minister, Mr Azad, and Chairman of delimitation commission, Mr Bilorea, to give a patient hearing to the plea of Chadoora people who have always been neglected because of political expediency.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Grand Reconciliation Needs Strong Civil Society in Kashmir - Two Reports on a Meeting in Srinagar Conducted by Prof. Fida Hassnain

Intellectuals discuss future of peace process


(Mr. Bhat, 24, was born in Srinagar and attended Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. He received his degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kashmir University in March 2007. He is employed as a journalist by the Greater Kashmir Communications Group headquartered in Srinagar, Kashmir.)

Srinagar, Nov 24: At a “Civil Society Interaction” where most of the speakers said they were not optimistic about the Indo-Pak peace process, the vice chancellor of Jammu University Prof Amitabh Mattoo Saturday said the Kashmiri Civil Society should come forward and play a proactive role in the resolution of Kashmir issue.

Addressing a “Civil Society Interaction” on Peace Process: Agenda for Future organised by Action Committee for Return of Migrants, Mattoo floated an idea, which he termed as ‘grand reconciliation’ for the resolution of Kashmir issue.

The three main ingredients of this grand reconciliation according to Mattoo should consist of the reconciliation between Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims, second the reconciliation between the people of the three regions of the state, and third the final the reconciliation between the both sides of the LoC.

He said Kashmiri Muslims as well as Pandits must introspect, and pose difficult questions to each other.

“We may have hurt each other, but we should be ready to forgive, that only can become the starting point of reconciliation process,” he said, adding that they have to identify the advantages of staying together.

Mattoo said that the Kashmiri Civil society should work for the resolution of Kashmir issue. “We as a civil society should lay the basis for the resolution of the Kashmir issue and stand as an Army for Peace and Justice. We have a chance to make history and change the adversity into opportunity,” he said, adding “The end may be far, but the beginning needs to be made here and now.”

Vice Chancellor, Islamic University Prof. Sadiq Wahid also emphasized upon the role of the civil society in the redressing the problems confronted by the people. Civil society should play a proactive role in mitigating the suffering of the common masses.

Vice Chancellor Kashmir University Prof. Abdul Wahid Qureshi, however said, “We need to look into the historical perspective of the migration of Kashmiri Pandits, which he started way back in 1947.

On the occasion noted Journalist, Ved Bhasin, urged on the democratic and just resolution of Kashmir issue for the lasting peace in the sub-continent.

Many speakers in the audience said return of Pandits was pre-requisite for resolution of Kashmir, but Amitab Mattoo said he “doesn’t buy the suggestion that return of Pandits was a pre-requisite for peace in Kashmir.”

A man in the audience said we have to first identify the forces and factors that led to the exodus of Pandits.

Saturday, November 24, 2007
Copyright © 1998-2007-


Prof Mattoo for reconciliation among all communities

(Excelsior Correspondent)

SRINAGAR, Nov 24:There needs to be 'grand reconciliation' between the communities all across the Jammu and Kashmir for ushering new era of bonhomie and peace.

This was stated today by Prof Amitabh Mattoo, Vice Chancellor Jammu University, at a civil society interaction, 'Peace process: Agenda For Future' organized by Action Committee for Return of Migrants (ACRM), an apolitical and nongovernmental organization working for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Valley.

Prof Mattoo while deliberating on his idea of 'grand reconciliation' said the reconciliation must be at every level which can be incremental for peace process. "The reconciliation not through ordinances but as readiness to forgive and to accept that we have made mistakes", he said adding, that real reconciliation at every level can snowball in a grand peace.

About the role of civil society, Prof Mattoo said, when states and governments are unable and unwilling to act, civil society can become a main actor and change maker. "We all the members of civil society, where we are; the members of civil society have a role to play and have a chance to make history, if at all we can act. But civil society does not take an initiative. However, we must not look for quick fixes and magic mantras too."

Jatender Bakshi, President of ACRM, expressed his anguish over the civil society of the subcontinent. "Civil society has a major role but unfortunately it is not vibrant in India and Pakistan", he said. Discussing Kashmir issue, he said it must have a permanent solution, temporary solutions will not work.

The Vice Chancellors, Prof Abdul Wahid and Sadiq Wahid of Kashmir University and Islamic University, who were the guest of honour also spoke at the occasion.

The interactive session was attended by a cross section of civil society including Aga Ashraf Ali, Rouf Punjabi, Gul Mohammad Wani, Hameeda Naeem, Farooq Nazki and Many others. Noted historian Fida Mohammad Hassnain conducted the function.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Save Kashmir by Serving Kashmir

24 November 2007

Serve Kashmir to save Kashmir
That is the only way we can do good to our people


(Mr. Firdous Syed, 41, was born in Bhaderwah, Doda, and had his schooling in Jammu. He is currently the Chairman of the "Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies," and associated with the J&K National Conference. Between 1989 and 1991, he led the Moslem Janbaaz Force, a militant group, and was jailed from 1991 through 1994. In 1996, he publicly renounced the gun culture, and has since joined mainstream politics and is an active member of the Kashmir civil society.)

The stunning beauty and scenic splendor of Kashmir which captivates the stranger at first glance has also planted a sense of superiority among the natives. The love for one’s soil is an indispensable part of human psychology even in case of the people coming from barren deserts; and in case of Kashmir, it is but natural for the people to feel ecstatic about the marvel of their abode. However, the Kashmir we all love, is also suffering because of our collective oversight and greed. The wretchedness one is enduring because of the prevailing political conditions aside, mere fascination for this land which holds people near to their roots is not enough. Possessing beautiful country is not enough unless people of the country are ready to serve it well so as to maintain its magnificence for all times to come.

For a long time we have been reading about the shrinking of Dal and Wullar lakes as also about the dangers faced by other water-bodies. The danger of Chinar tree becoming extinct and fast depleting forest cover are other issues that have been discussed since decades. However, the unfortunate reality remains that mere talking has not helped much in saving these natural assets. The Dal Lake, for instance is shrinking faster today then ever before. According to some reports, the rate at which silt enters the lake has gone up from 7,254 tones a year during 1998-2003 to 22,354 tones a year during 2003-2005. What remains of the Dal today is a stinking cesspool of not more than 10 kms in radius.

The number of Chinar trees is also decreasing fast. While there were 70,000 Chinar trees in1970’s, now there are less than 14000 left. The forest cover has not been rejuvenated either. According to some estimates, in 1980 the forests of the state had shrunk from, 21,000 sq.kms to 13,000 sq.kms in about 50 years. In March 2004, then Minister for Environment and Forests had said “the forest cover has come down by 20 percent in last two decades.” The situation of nature’s other bounties too is as disheartening as is the case with lakes and forests.

It will be totally wrong to blame global warming alone for the destruction of our nature. We, the majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, have proved irresponsible and callous at times towards our natural assets of national importance. While some among us have been directly responsible for the plunder and destruction of these assets for their own petty individual interests, others can be blamed for being mute spectators to this loot.

The way the urbanization is eating up the village life, one can only confess with great pain and astonishment that villages of Kashmir are set to be lost forever. The green patches are being converted in the concrete jungles in utter disregard to the traditional architecture and local heritage. This haphazard and unplanned construction boom is not only an eye-sore on the beautiful landscape but is also unfit for habitation in view of the local climatic conditions. But who cares as the element of prospective planning is a missing dimension when it comes to construction activity here!

The land-use is most indiscriminate and mean. The rich paddy lands are being converted into housing colonies here at a very fast pace. Kashmir’s legendary pastures and meadows are losing ground to the unplanned and myopic development. Natural springs and small water channels have almost vanished. Only couple of decades back, people of the villages would draw water not only for agriculture but also for household use from the nearby springs and channels (‘kohls’), but today what these water-bodies have been turned into open severs and drains with all kinds of filth and refuge including even the human excreta finding its way into them. People spend millions for building or renovating houses, but don’t bother to spend a few more bucks to remove the old debris of these houses, which is instead left scattered in the lanes and by-lanes. While homes are kept clean and tidy with great pains the surroundings are splattered with all kinds of filth and rubbish.

This reflects the individualistic and self-centered behavior and mindset of the people who show no concern for the collective welfare of people, their surroundings and environment. If the collective environment deteriorates, it shall certainly impact the individual also, for when a ship sinks, with it also sink the people on board.

It is a known fact that the diminishing forest cover is mainly responsible for changing weather patterns, for incessant rains and floods and at times even the prolonged dry spells. Our rivers and water-bodies are choking and subsequently dying due to silt. But nobody seems to care. Such is the height of our collective heartlessness and numbness that it matters very little if the cool and green Kashmir of today turns into a half-baked barren desert tomorrow!

No doubt global warming and climatic changes are world-wide phenomena, but communities across the globe are not only aware of the risks of the looming environmental disasters but are also trying and contributing in there own way to avert such an eventuality. However, here in Jammu and Kashmir, more than peoples’ ignorance, it is their collective neglect for the environment that is the major cause of worry.

In the heat of present surcharged political atmosphere, it is true that issues of survival have taken precedence over all other important impending problems. But how can one justify, unending lure for personal comfort and abnormal mad rush for materiel possession when death has come to be so cheap here and life had become completely unstable?

As a people we may desire a lot, do we actually also deserve what we desire? We seek rights and privileges for ourselves, but are we prepared to discharge the responsibilities also?

We are not concerned and ready to mend our ways vis-a- vis some bad habits which are widespread here. Agreed all these traits are not unique to us only as something awful is prevalent elsewhere in other societies as well. But then what makes other societies different is that they are at least informed about the wrongs plaguing them and strive for ridding their societies from them, which unfortunately is not true with us.

Moreover, in the journey towards political empowerment, political issues are obviously critical, but issues related to nature and environment too cannot be relegated as non-issues. Rights are for the people and independence for the land; if the quest for freedom is not sheer rhetoric, then protection of life and honor of fellow Kashmiris as well as conservation and protection of the nature also becomes of paramount importance.

True love demands sacrifice and selfless service. Freedom never comes cheap. Any person espousing the cause of freedom for Kashmir will have not only to cherish but respect and safeguard all the elements of Kashmir — its people, land, culture, heritage, language, literature, flora and fauna et al. People in the political realm may continue to strive in the freedom struggle, and the masses who support the cause shall continue to do their bit as well. But it is imperative upon both the “freedom fighters” and the common people to develop a self-corrective mechanism when it comes to preserving things that form our collective identity. It is very important to understand that in the process of search for political identity, we must ensure that our collective identity does not get eroded. The notion of independence in Kashmir is anchored in the unique character of Kashmir. If somehow this unique character gets diluted, this will, in the long run, ultimately weaken the movement for free Kashmir.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

As violence subsides, a filmmaker celebrates the return of film industry to the valley

Kashmir again emerges as Bollywood's popular shooting attraction
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

(Mr. Fayyaz, 47, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. He is the Srinagar bureau chief of Jammu & Kashmir's largest-circulated newspaper, Daily Excelsior. He is also a filmmaker and currently making a film on Kashmir's top pilgrim tourism destination of Chrar-e-Sharief, and about Sheikh-ul-Alam Sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani, also known as Nund Rishi.)

SRINAGAR, Nov 23: Bollywood's main outdoor shooting attraction of the second half of 20th century, Kashmir valley is yet again poised to host a galaxy of cinestars as over a dozen prominent producers and directors have expressed desire to picturise fiction at Pahalgam, Gulmarg and other favourite destinations. While Santosh Sivan's full length feature film "Daastaan" is all set to break the ice in Pahalgam, top Iranian director Majid Majeedi is burning midnight oil to make a documentary film on the boatmen of the world-famous Dal Lake.

Thiruvananthapuram-based noted cinematographer and director, Santosh Sivani, has been shuttling between Kerala, Maharashtra and Kashmir to finalise his shooting schedules with a number of popular Bollywood actors for his all-new "Daastaan". Sivan's managers have created massive sets for the film in Betab Valley, on Pahalgam-Chandanwari Road and the month-long shooting is all set to take off any time. Actors, Ratish Menon and Sarika are among a number of people who have arrived in and settled at Pahalgam. The picturesque valley takes its new name from Sunny Deol, Amrita Singh-starrer "Betab" filmed here in late 1980s.

Even as Salman Khan's arrival in a few days in being dismissed as a rumour, sources associated with the production revealed to EXCELSIOR that leading actors like Victor Banerjee, Anupam Kher, Akshay Khanna and Rahul Bose would be reaching here from Mumbai on different dates from November 27th to December 4th next. Proprietor of Hotel Pine-n-Peak, Faisal Mira confirmed that that Sarika and a few others had arrived in and others were expected shortly but insisted that it was all a "reccee" to see the location. He said that immediately there was no major programme of shooting in Pahalgam. Sources, however, informed that preparations were in full swing for the shooting of Sivan's film next week.

Daastaan, the film's tentative title, has already created enthusiasm among film lovers as it is said to have been set in Kashmir's contemporary era of insurgency, almost like Mani Ratnam's "Roja", though the theme is reportedly altogether different. Interestingly, Santosh Sivan has been Mani Ratnam's cameraperson in most of his Bollywood hits from “Roja” to Dil Se. An FTII graduate, Sivan has, of late, turned to be an independent director and his 2001 magnum opus, Asoka, in which Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor played lead roles, has won him a many accolades in Hindustani cinema.

Sivan, who happens to be the son of a prominent Kerala filmmaker and the brother of prominent Malayalam film directors, Sanjiv Sivan and Sangeeth Sivan, has won eleven National Film Awards from his participation as a cinematographer in over forty films from the 1980s to mid-1990s. His success as a director began with his critically acclaimed "The Terrorist"---a film on Rajiv Gandhi's assassination by Tamil terrorists--- in 1999.

Santosh Sivan was among a galaxy of the Indian film producers, directors and cinematographers who attended the October film conclave, organised by SATTE in collaboration with Producers Guild of India, in Mumbai. Sources said he was attracted to Pahalgam and Gulmarg by an official delegation of J&K Tourism Department which played a presentation on J&K's best film locales. Others who attended and later expressed one or the other willingness of shooting in Kashmir included the UTV giant Ronny Screwalla, who also happens to be the President of Producers Guild, producer of the 2005 Bollywood hit "Rang De Basanti" and few others of Amir Khan's films, Bobby Bedi and Ravi Chopra.

Joint Director of Tourism, Kashmir, Sarmad Hafeez, refused to comment on Sivan's shooting schedules in Pahalgam but he confirmed that the renowned Kerala director was among those who were convinced that shooting of Indian films was not only economically better than Malaysia and America but also necessary to break a monotony of two decades. "We got a fairly encouraging response at the SATTE event and we assured the producers that today's Kashmir was indeed security wise safer than many Indian cities. He advised them to revive the shooting activity in J&K and convinced them that Department of Tourism would function as the nodal agency in making all arrangements, including permission from different departments and organisations. They were glad to learn that unlike many shooting locations in India and all over the world, there was no shooting fees in J&K", Sarmad Hafeez said.

Even as a few Bollywood films, including "Mission Kashmir" and "Mere Apne", have been shot in the Valley in the last 18 years of armed strife, popular shooting attractions of yesteryears, like Pahalgam, have been haunted by a many nightmares, particularly the kidnapping of six foreign tourists in July 1995. Inspite of increasing number of tourists and Amarnath pilgrims, a number of IED and grenade attacks have taken place in Pahalgam in the last 12 years.

With the Valley's gradual metamorphosis into sublime, the frequency of direct flights between Srinagar and Mumbai has remarkably increased in the last two years. Almost all the private operators have been running hopping flights between the two major tourist destinations on regular basis and the International Airport is coming up in Srinagar with considerable speed and progress. Hospitality and tourism sources said that as many as 10 hotels had installed the much-needed central heating system at Pahalgam and Gulmarg in the last two years as against one-odd at Gulmarg until recently.

Interestingly, one of Iran's top ranking filmmakers, Majid Majeedi, spent a week here last month while exploring the possibility of making a documentary film on the life of boatmen on Dal Lake. Sources said that Majeedi was currently finishing with the script and other logistics in Tehran and he had already selected some child artists from among the children of boatmen in Srinagar. Like Ja'far Panahi, Abbas K Rostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Majid Majeedi is among the well-known personalities in the Iranian film industry. Majeedi's Persian film "Baid-e-Majnoon", story of a blind professor, was widely acclaimed all over the world in 2006 and this year. "The Colour of Paradise", which won the Best Film award at the Montreal Film Festival last year was also screened and appreciated at The International Film Festival in Malappuram, Kerala. Sources said that J&K Tourism officials were also making efforts to woo the legendary Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf and his young daughter, Sameera, who won the best film award for one of her films few years back in New Delhi but refused to accept in protest against the gang rape of a European embassy official at the festival venue. Makhmalbaf's and Majeedi have made the best of Iranian films on children.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Taking a Page From Separatists Playbook: Kashmiri Politician Plays Both Sides

London Kashmir Conference in Jeopardy
Kashmir Centre condemned by wide-section of British Kashmiris
Massive Protests, boycotts in offing - APKCC

By Murtaza Shibli
Editor, Kashmir Affairs

(Mr. Murtaza Shibli, 37, was born in Bijbehara and completed his Master's degree in Media and Journalism from the Kashmir University. He has worked as a journalist, as a security consultant for the International Committee of the Red Cross, and as a communication trainer. Well versed in Farsi and English Literature, he is currently based in U.K. and edits online quarterly

The proposed ‘International’ Kashmir Conference on 28-29 November in London may be called off due to intense condemnation of the organisers - Kashmir Centre headed by Nazir Ahmad Shawl. The Conference is being widely condemned by the UK-based Kashmiri groups for inviting National Conference leader Omar Abdullah. All Parties Kashmir Coordination Committee (APKCC), an alliance of the British Kashmiri groups and an equivalent to Srinagar based the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), while opposing the participation of pro-Indian Kashmiri leaders has asked Nazir Shawl to withdraw the invitation to Omar Abdullah. A conglomerate of 12 political parties and activist groups, APKCC has threatened boycott and a massive protest against Kashmir Centre if the invitation to Abdullah was not revoked.

Accusing Nazir Shawl of sprinkling salt on the wounds of Kashmiris by inviting Omar Abdullah to the Conference, prominent British Kashmiri leader and president of People’s Muslim Conference Chaudhry Shaban questioned if the conference was really being held for the benefit of the Kashmiri people.

Another Kashmiri activist and the JKLF leader Raja Abdul Rauf Khan condemned the decision of Kashmir Centre to invite Abdullah in the conference. Maulana Bostan Qadri, one of the senior and very well known Kashmiri activists and Chairman of Tehreek-e-Ullma J&K UK, said London Conference would be boycotted if invitation to leaders like Abdullah were not withdrawn. Inferring that Kashmir Centre was involved in conspiracies against Kashmiris, he said that Kashmiri community was fully alive to “conspiracies against the freedom movement and it will not allow anyone to play with the sentiments of Kashmiri community”. One of the Kashmiris, on the condition of anonymity, accused Shawl of making money out of Kashmiri cause and now trying to reach out to India in order to get a safe passage back to Srinagar. Earlier this year, a newspaper report claimed that his wife Shameema Shawl held meetings with a pro-India Kashmiri politician and tourism minister here in London.

Nazir Ahmad Shawl would be hardest hit by the statement of Tehreek-e-Kashmir a pro-Jamat-e-Islami group who used to support Shawl because of his Jamat background. In his remarks, President Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK Mohammad Ghalib said that inviting Omar Abdullah was tantamount to making a joke with the blood of martyrs and their sacred sacrifices. A onetime Jamaat member and head of their ‘diplomatic affairs’ in Azad Kashmir, Shawl developed tense relations with Jama’at-e-Islami after he left Syed Ali Geelani and came to join Kashmir Centre London. His critics accuse that he was ‘bought’ by the Pakistan government to stay away from Syed Ali Geelani, often described as hardline Islamist.

Shawl, the executive director of Kashmir Conference has been under pressure to ‘perform’ for some time, as out of the three Kashmir Centres supported by the Pakistan Government, London Centre has supposedly failed to achieve any desirable results. There have been rumours for quite some time that London Centre might be closed down or its head changed. The current controversy has added weight to the opposition claims that Shawl is inept in handling delicate situations and lacks wisdom to reconcile differences within his own lot in the community.

The status of the London Conference was already a suspect given the fact that there is severe resentment among the Western politicians with regards to the emergency in Pakistan. The British politicians have out rightly condemned Pakistani emergency and demanded the restoration of democratic institutions. Though Shawl has managed to sign a couple of British MPs to attend the conference, he has failed to solicit support from the ethnic Pakistani MPs. According to the informed sources, the British Muslim MPs of Pakistani background who have previously showed their support for Kashmir are not attending the event. Many others have decided to stay away for the fear of being seen close to the General Musharraf’s regime, as Kashmir Centre is closely seen as part or extension of the Pakistani military regime.

The Conference is proving a major problem to the Kashmir Centre due to the current Pakistani crisis. Majority of the Kashmiri participants from either side are pro-Musharraf politicians. This includes Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who openly supported ‘emergency’ imposed by General Musharraf as well as the President and Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir whose government endorsed the emergency calling it a step in the right direction. Calling the organisers approach silly, one London based Kashmiri said that organisers should have postponed the event given the current international sentiment. Now that the Kashmiri leaders are planning to launch a massive protest against Nazir Ahmad Shawl and threatening boycott, there are growing indications that the Conference might be abrogated last minute.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kashmiri Politician Exposes Duplicity of Separatists

Tarigami asks separatists to condemn all type of HR violations

(Mr. Mohammed Yusuf Rather, 58, was born in Tarigam village in Kulgam area of Anantnag district. He usually goes by the name Yusuf Tarigami. He is a two-time member of the J&K Legislative Assembly, and was elected from Kulgam in 1996. Mr. Tarigami is the secretary of the J&K branch of the Communist Party-Marxist, and a member of its national Central Committee.)

Srinagar, Nov 21: Strongly condemning the innocent killings during the last week in Kulgam district, CPI (M) State Secretary and MLA Kulgam M Y Tarigami has demanded to nab the culprits involved in such type of heinous crimes and added that whosoever is involved in these two incidents be it from any rank or position is to be punished as per the law of land.

Tarigami visited the residence of both the bereaved families and expressed his sympathy with them. The two youths killed, one Reyaz Ahmad Sofi by security forces and another Manzoor Ahmad Wani by unidentified gunmen in different incidents in recent days in Kulgam district.Tarigami asked the government to investigate both these killings thoroughly and take necessary measures to arrest the culprits involved. He said that human right violations from any quarter would not be tolerated and said that government should take it seriously. He said that Kashmiris are known as tolerant society in the world, “but such type of gruesome killings could not be tolerated at any cost”.

Tarigami asked the separatists groups to condemn all type of human right violations, which is the primary requisite for bringing peace in this trouble torn state.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 Copyright © 1998-2007-

European Union Parliament Resolution on Kashmir (24th May 2007)

“Resolution on Kashmir: overwhelming backing from the European Parliament”

Strasbourg, 24th May 2007

Press Release from Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE)

Kashmir: European Parliament calls for confidence building measures before plebisciteBaroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (UK, Lib Dem) welcomed the overwhelming support (522 in favour, 9 against and 19 abstentions) from Parliament for her report on the present situation and future prospects for Kashmir which was approved today in Strasbourg.

The report is directed primarily at the governments either side of the Line of Control (India and Pakistan) to pursue the bilateral talks which were temporarily suspended last year following the Mumbai bombings and to explore options for increased self-governance, free movement and demilitarisation. However the report suggests that the preconditions for holding the long-promised plebiscite on final status do not yet exist. Instead it calls on the international community and parties concerned to boost confidence-building measures in the region in areas like tourism, environmental action, trade and academic exchange.

The report notes the extensive damage, both to infrastructure and human life, of the October 2005 earthquake which left 17,000 children dead and hospitals, schools and buildings in ruins. The humanitarian disaster compounded the problems of the region already weakened by conflict and terrorism, further undermining stability and security and fuelling organised crime and activity of terrorist cells.

Baroness Nicholson, commented after the vote:

“I am pleased by the overwhelming backing from the Parliament for this report as well as the messages of support from Kashmiris and others including Imran Khan and Benazir Bhutto.”
“The European Union has a strategic and growing interest in the region and although it has no specific mandate to intervene, it can engage constructively through solutions that have been effective in resolving conflicts in Europe’s own turbulent past.”

“The report rightly highlights the important peace process that India and Pakistan have now undertaken, which is essential for Kashmiris to have hope for a better future. One of the keys to this is the opening up of opportunities for trade which makes the commitment given by all South Asian states within SAARC to pursue the goal of a South Asia Free Trade Area so vital.”
For more information please contact:Neil Corlett: +33-3-88 17 41 67 or +32-478-78 22 84also consult:

European Parliament

Resolution on Kashmir

European Parliament resolution of 24 May 2007 on Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects (2005/2242(INI))


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

HRW Seeks Withdrawl of AFSPA

Human Rights Watch pleads for withdrawal of AFSPA in J&K, NE

NEW DELHI, Nov 20: An international watchdog has pleaded for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) describing it one of the blackest laws in the statute books anywhere in the world. The US-based Human Rights Watch has said that the law has prevented the military from being held accountable for human rights violations.

"The Armed Forces Special Powers Act effectively allows Indian troops to get away with murder," said Meenakshi Ganguly, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The Indian government may claim that it has zero tolerance of human rights abuses, but this law shields troops from prosecution and punishment."The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) grants the military wide powers of arrest, the right to shoot to kill, and to occupy or destroy property in counterinsurgency operations.

Indian officials claim that troops need such powers because the army is only deployed when national security is at serious risk from armed combatants. Such circumstances, they say, call for extraordinary measures. The AFSPA, which has been in force for decades in Jammu And Kashmir and the seven northeastern states, has provided immunity for killings and other serious human rights violations committed by the army.

Human Rights Watch has documented many cases in Jammu and Kashmir, such as the killing of human rights lawyer Jalil Andrabi in 1996 and the student Javed Ahmed Magray in 2003. In both cases, when police inquiries identified the perpetrators as members of the armed forces, they were shielded by the impunity offered by the AFSPA. Clauses in the AFSPA state that no prosecutions can be initiated without permission from the central government. Such permission is rarely granted, providing troops with de facto immunity from prosecutions for human rights abuses.

"Generations of Indians have suffered abuse at the hands of troops empowered by this act, and it has fuelled the cycle of violence in Kashmir and the northeast," said Ganguly. "Ending this impunity by repealing AFSPA would be the best way to address the public discontent that only fuels further militancy."

For more than seven years, Irom Sharmila, an activist in Manipur, has been on hunger strike demanding that the government repeal the act following a massacre of civilians by troops in that northeastern state. The government has responded by keeping her in judicial custody to prevent her from attempting suicide, and has ordered her to be force-fed through a nasal tube.

Following widespread protests after the 2004 rape and murder of Manorama Devi in Manipur, the Indian government set up a five-member committee to review the AFSPA. The review committee submitted its report on June 6, 2005, recommending the repeal of the act. In April 2007, a working group on Jammu and Kashmir appointed by the prime minister also recommended that the act be revoked. However, the cabinet has not acted on these recommendations because of opposition from the army.

"The fact that the government has chosen to ignore recommendations from its own experts suggests that it is not interested in providing accountability."

Monday, November 19, 2007

BBC Journalist: Kashmiris have not produced a single leader of international stature

British author doesn’t see an early Kashmir resolution

‘Kashmiris have not produced a single leader of international stature’

By Sarwar Kashani
(Kashmir Images)

New Delhi, Nov 19: Despite a positive change in the overall security situation in Kashmir, militancy in the state looks far from being resolved, says BBC journalist and author Andrew Whitehead.

"Srinagar (the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir) is much better than what it looked like in early and mid 1990s. It's jostling with activity. People can walk on roads after 10.30 p.m. unlike then (when militancy was in its peak)," said Whitehead, also a social historian, whose book ‘A Mission in Kashmir’ was launched here last week.

Whitehead, who has travelled and reported extensively in Kashmir, reserves his "judgement" on a final solution of the Kashmir issue.

"As a journalist, I don't think I should be giving my take on that, more because I am a foreign journalist. I mirror the situation for the people... but I don't see the issue being resolved very soon," the British author told IANS in an interview.

The soft-spoken Whitehead has visited Kashmir Valley since 1993 as a BBC correspondent and studied the problems very closely. He has also visited Pakistan-administered Kashmir several times.

Asked if he felt that the Kashmir separatist movement had suffered due to the jehadi colour given to it, Whitehead smiled, but lamented the leadership crisis in Kashmir.

"The world does not ignore Kashmir... but Kashmiris have not produced a single leader of international stature," he said.

Whitehead's ‘A Mission in Kashmir’ traces the human angle of one of the world's most-enduring conflicts, which first erupted in violence in 1947 when Pakistani tribals invaded this princely state.

He has recorded first-hand accounts of eyewitnesses, including an Italian nun, Sister Emilia at St. Joseph's mission, who survived the tribal attack on the Christian mission at Baramulla in Kashmir.

"The convent and the hospital there were the scene of one of the most violent and notorious events during the initial stages of the Kashmir conflict in 1947 and it was where my personal quest into the origins of the Kashmir dispute began," Whitehead remarked.

The book, as the author claims, is an apolitical attempt - free from being obscured and impeded by competing nationalism (by India and Pakistan) - to establish how the Kashmir dispute first erupted.

The book "is much more a work of history than of reportage. At its heart are the stories of those caught up in the first Kashmir conflagration", said Whitehead.

Asked why anybody should believe the people he has interviewed, Whitehead says, "Take it the other way round".