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.

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".

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pakistan and India Hold a Meeting on Trade Across LoC

Key Meeting in Delhi on Cross -LoC Trade

Srinagar, Nov 17(KONS): Efforts to establish trade ties across the LoC have intensified with the officias of the Pakistan trade authority having met the union minister of commerce, Kamal Nath, and his deputy, Jairam Ramesh, in New Delhi recently. The Pakistani delegation was led by Chief Executive of Pakistan’s Trade Development Authority (PTDA), Tarik Akram.

The meeting reviewed the progress made on steps required to be taken or starting bilateral trade across the LoC.

The list of items considered for export from this side of the LoC includes carpets, wool products, tapestry furniture, silk products, Kashmiri plants, spices, black mushrooms, green tea and handicraft products.

India has proposed geographical indicators for Kashmir handicrafts, and Pakistan has objected to five of the fourteen items placed on the exports list by India, saying that they are being produced in Pakistan as well.

Geographical Indicators are used for products that are a specific to a geographical area.
Though the developments have given a sort of a set back to the prospects of trade between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, both sides have agreed to hold a meeting of experts at the Wagah check point next month to consider building high-tech infrastructure for cross LoC trade.
India is learnt to have earmarked Rs 700 crore for the purpose, and Pakistan is keen to make an investment of matching magnitude.

The union minister of state for commerce, Jairam Ramesh, has said that the Indian firm, Tata Consultancy was willing to set up a development centre in Lahore, and India would provide Pakistan technical advice and training for expertise required in the diamond industry.

'Similarly, resolution of issues like business visa, delays in issuance of visas etc., are issues part of a holistic package, where political considerations will play a crucial role,' a Pakistani official was quoted by local media as saying.

Trade between India and Pakistan stood at $1.6 billion in 2006-07.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

To her, "freedom" means no hatred, hostility or bloodshed


(Mr. Syed Basharat, 26, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

SRINAGAR, Nov 17: She is deadly against borders, which according to her, divide human beings into citizenry. To her 'freedom' means no hatred, hostility and bloodshed. Meeran Mahmud, 21, a young lawyerfrom Lahore-Pakistan has a message for both India and Pakistan, 'avoid belligerence and focus on the human development.

'Meeran's grandfather Sheikh Mahmud Ahmad migrated to Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK) from Srinagar in 1947. Born in an educated family she got her law degree from Kingston College London. However, upbringing in Pakistan and education in West had not deterred Meeran from loving her homeland Kashmir.

She still adores the vale like her own home. Representing the voice of younger generation of Pakistan in a first intra Kashmir women's dialogue titled 'Connecting women across the Line of Control (LoC), organized Center for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR) New Delhi in collaboration with Women's Studies Center for J&K Universities, she advocated for a border free nationhood.

Meeran is privileged in her family as she will be the first to visitKashmir in last 60 years after her grandfather migrated to PAK. "My father was crying like a kid when I left for this visit. He insisted for photographs and notes from Kashmir so that he could feel hishomeland after my return," Meeran said on the sidelines of the conference. Her father Tahir Mahmud has been encouraging her to visit Kashmir for attending this conference right from when she received theinvitation from CDR, she added.

She is of the opinion that India and Pakistan no doubt have achieved the freedom from British but they are still the slaves of hatred,animosity, belligerence and violence. "The real freedom is far away from these two countries. When I was in London, we including Indians and Pakistanis were called as Asians but the same does not apply inour native places," she remarked.

She says that people in India and Pakistan are feeding venom to their next generations with the hatred laden text books. "Let me tell youthat the youth of Pakistan want peace and amity with India and no one among common masses is in favour of war and bloodshed in these two countries," she added.

Meeran opines that both India and Pakistan have a military might and are nuclear powers to protect themselves from each other but when it comes to education and development-- both are the failed states.

This young lawyer is in favour of a new beginning between India and Pakistan, saying that the borders of hatred, agony and bloodshed should be demolished as they serve any purpose except exterminating and annihilating the human beings.

Meeran believes that both the countries should resolve their disputes amicably so that hopelessness among their masses especially in Jammu and Kashmir ends. "I have found the people giving vent to their cynicism about the prevailing situation here. Me and many others of my generation from both sides of the border want to bridge this divideand be free to have social, economic and cultural exchange," sheadded.

Meeran rued that the youth in India and Pakistan are being provided a different picture of Kashmir but, "I believe that partition was a big flaw which created all these problems. This conference has given me a hope that solutions to these problems are available to relive the people across the border of their miseries which words can't erase and make them to forget."

She adds that the budget which is spent on the military might by both the countries should be spent on the development of their people."Both the nations spend one half or ¾ of their budget on their military to protect themselves from each other. Through peace and dialogue that money can be spend on education, poverty alleviation and development which would help us both to grow as the great nations,"Meeran said.

She added that the first step towards this development would be free movement of people and trade across the border. Meeran advocated for relaxation in visa rules so that aspirants from both the sides could avail the maximum benefits out of it."

I think all the roads, rail links, and air services should be opened to people. Communication channels should not be blocked. We can not make a telephone call to Pakistan from Kashmir, which mean curbing the fundamental right of a human being. Channels of communication shouldbe freed from these clutches and people allowed to talk and exchange their ideas freely," she added further.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dr. Zahida prays for easier movement across the LoC


(Mr. Syed Basharat, 26, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

SRINAGAR, Nov 16: Cutting across all the barriers, of hatred, acrimony and animosity, she has landed here for the first time in her life. The first thing she did today was, crying. Tears emitted her long confined feelings about her homeland-Kashmir; from where her family had migrated to Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK) in 1965.

Dr Zahida Qasim—a medical doctor from Mirpur-PAK, was here to attend the first intra Kashmir Women's Dialogue conference titled 'Connecting women across the LoC' organized by Center for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR) in collaboration with Women's Study Center forJ&K Universities.

She was born in Chandak-Poonch. In 1965 her father Sardar Mohammad Qasim Khan along with his family had migrated to PAK where he settled in Mirpur. While as Dr Zahida's grandfather remained in Poonch.

"My father made efforts to get Visa in order to visit my grandfatherwho was on his death bed. For four times, he was denied the visa. At last when the visa was granted, my grandfather died in 1985 without seeing his son and his family," she said.

Dr Zahida added that till that time her family members used to weep on every Eid festival in remembrance of her grandfather and the rest ofthe family members living in Poonch.

"My father couldn't avail the visa and was shocked when he came toknow about his father's demise. He felt sick. So was my mother. Myfather died immediately after the death of my grandfather and my mother who was concerned about my father's deteriorating health left this world just after 22 day's of her husband's death leaving behind the five children including me who were studying professional courses in different colleges," she recalled, in a feeble voice.

Now Dr Zahida's prime concern is relaxation in visa rules. She wants divided families across the border to meet and move freely. "I want all the divided families to share their joy and sorrows. I beg to the governments of India and Pakistan to allow the divided families meet freely and don't suffocate them anymore," she demanded.

Dr Zahida who is daughter in law of former chief justice of PAK highcourt and president Liberation League Abdul Majeed Malik, also aspires to visit Poonch where her relatives are waiting for her glimpse. "We have been given visa for Srinagar and Jammu only. It was a dream come true for me, when I was invited by CDR to participate in this conference that too in Kashmir," she said.

She is of the opinion that there should be a free flow of ideas across the LoC exchanging views by composite discussions of high intellect representing all communities, sects and faith. "Let the people of the state meet each other by relaxing the security measurements making easy entry and exit from both sides especially for women," she opines, adding that meeting among divided families shouldbe made easier especially on the occasions of weddings, deaths, Eids,Deepwali, Basant and other social gatherings.

Dr Zahida who is consultant Pathologist, Ultrasonologist in D.H.Qhospital Mirpur, believes that people across the border should be allowed to receive health care across the border.

"It will also impart the lesson of co-existence, unity, integrity, composite character to our new generations," said Dr Zahida, who besides a doctor is a poetess, writer and a social worker and anchorperson of PTV.

Reading a few verses from her poem 'phir fasl-e-baharan aayegi' DrZahida said, 'phir fasl-e-bhara aayegi, is dil ki kheti mehkigi, kuchgeet naye kuch phool naye, khil jayen ge, ithlayeenge, aur bad-e-sabamuskayegi, phir fasl-e-baharan aayegi…"

First Intra-Kashmir women's dialogue begins in Srinagar

November 16, 2007

First Intra-Kashmir women's dialogue begins in Srinagar

Srinagar: Over 50 women from both sides of the Line of Control met in Srinagar today at the start of a three-day Intra-Kashmir Women's Conference titled "Connecting Women across the LoC".

The conference has been organised by the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR) and women's studies centre of Jammu and Kashmir universities.While inaugurating the conference, Dr. Sayeda Hameed, member Planning Commission questioned the lack of gender parity and balance in the region saying the voices of women are not taken into consideration when it comes to discussing the future of Jammu and Kashmir and India and Pakistan.

Sharing the platform with Dr. Hameed were Dr. Naseema Jogezai, women's rights activist from Muzaffarabad and Mrs. Nighat Shafi Pandit, chairperson of HELP foundation, Srinagar. Dr. Jogezai said that crossing the border for the conference was like "a dream come true" for her and the other women. "It is ironic that Muslims and Hindus have so much in common in Kashmir and yet there is conflict", she said and suggested that it was time to focus on the similarities rather than the differences.

Nighat Shafi Pandit spoke of the impact of conflict on women and children. Misery and disaster have trans-territorial dimensions, she said, and these acted as binding factors in terms of social response. "Experience has shown that when women from states of India forged unity on certain social issues, their combined action proved more fruitful and result-oriented than the scepter of law wielded by the State agencies response for maintaining law and order".

Some 14 women activists from other side of LoC are participating in the conference including teachers, lawyers, doctors and social activists.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

RTI Bill Passed Twice by the J&K Legislative Assembly is a Hatchet Job

RTI Bill antithesis of Central Act
Rakesh Kumar
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, October 22 If the idea behind the Central Right to Information Act, 2005, is to let the public have access to every possible information, then intention behind the J&K’s version of the Act, Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2007, seems to deny the common man every information inconvenient to the bureaucrats, its critics say. The debate over the use of ambiguous words, which are likely to be ready pretexts for officials in suppressing information, in the Bill and its limited purview has been reignited after the Governor, Lieut-Gen S.K. Sinha (retd), returned it to the government for reconsideration. A move much cheered by RTI activists.

Unlike Central, the RTI Act, which has the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, under its purview, the J-K Act leaves the judiciary outside its purview. So a state subject could obtain information on a relevant case in the apex court but he has no legal way to find details of a case going in a lower court or High Court of the state. However, what has made the activists of the organisations like the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) to doubt the state government’s motive most is that there is no provision in the Act that bars officers from asking applicants to disclose reasons for seeking information. The central RTI Act makes it clear that information officers would not ask applicants as to why they are seeking any information. And to top it all the state government has qualified the information to be given with the term “practicable”, leaving it to the mercy of information officers to decide what is practical and what not.

The information officer has been for all practical purposes vested with the power of a judge, undermining the very purpose of the Act, its critics say. The Act also seeks to appoint members of the information commission for a term of three years, unlike five years prevalent in other states.

The government’s indifferent attitude to transparency and empowering its citizens is also reflected in much-diluted punitive measures, compared to the Central Act, in the Act against officers not giving out information. The maximum penalty is Rs 5,000 and what disciplinary actions it would take against them have also not been explained, official sources said.

The CHRI says the government has shown undue haste in rushing through with the Bill, and it would be best if it is referred to a joint select committee of both Houses. The activists have also expressed their surprise as to what was the need for the government to amend the Central RTI Act when it has received people’s approval everywhere. The Raj Bhawan, sources say, has brought many of such concerns on the record before returning the Bill to the government.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Amendments to J&K Administrative Service Rules for benefit of few

KASHMIR TIMES, October 31, 2007

Amendments to J&K Administrative Service Rules for benefit of few
Syed Basharat

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 26, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

The amendments made to J&K Administrative Service Rules are being manipulated to benefit a handful of officers. The recent promotions given to five KAS officers from special to super time scale and 40 officers from selection grade of KAS to its special scale provides an ample proof of the game plan.

The promotions have been questioned by most of the KAS officers with different view points. The recent amendment to J&K administration service rules 1979, vide notification SRO 271 dated July 28, 2007 whereby the selection grade posts were reduced from 33.33 per cent to 30 per cent of duty posts (408 posts) which in turn reduced the number of selection grade posts in KAS cadre from 136 to 123 though practically 117 posts have been shown as selection grade posts which means 6 posts of selection grade have not been mentioned.

Vide the same notification number the number of special scale posts were increased from 45 to 87 that means 42 posts were added by recasting rule 2 (A) which states that the number of special scale posts shall be 20 per cent of the duty posts (408) including the 10 posts of super time scale where as earlier the number of special scale posts was equivalent to 33.33 per cent of the selection grade posts that is 1/3 of 136 posts which equals to 45 posts.

The 20 per cent of 408 if mathematical calculations are drawn correctly equals to 81 posts but where from other 6 posts have been added to this figure one can simply draw some conclusions.
Sources believe that these 42 special scale posts were increased simply to accommodate favoured officers who are at the helm of affairs in CM's secretariat, KAS Association, GAD and the backdoor appointees.

Even if the number of special scale posts is taken as 87 as has been shown in the annexure to SRO 271 the number of officers already holding the posts before issuance of the recent order was 61 which means only 26 officers were entitled to be promoted to the special scale but instead 40 officers have been promoted in violation of rules and amendments.

Sources added that in order to keep the favourite officers including one officer in GAD who is for the last over 20 years since his date of first appointment posted in the same department, one in KAS association and the one working in CM's secretariat in good humor the recent promotions were ordered. The officer in CM's secretariat along with another officer have been cleared in anticipation against the posts which would become available due to the retirement of two officers on Nov 30, 2007.

Earlier an amendment was made in KAS rules in 2001 when the selection grade posts were increased from 128 to 136 because the same group of officers was to get the benefits, sources revealed.

Meanwhile, the officers who are in time scale unhappy with the government for reducing the selection grade posts from 136 to 117 to accommodate the blue eyed officers for grant of special scale by correspondingly increasing the special scale posts.

"Some officers who have been appointed through Combined Service exams in 1984, 1992 and 1999 have not even been inducted into KAS cadre. Some officers have been made to file writ petitions in the court regarding seniorities, KAS induction and Annual Performance Report (APR) and there cases are not been settled by the GAD while as a particular group which includes some backdoor appointees enjoy promotions after promotions," said a time scale officer pleading anonymity.

The state government on Saturday ordered promotion of five KAS officers from special to super time scale and 40 officers from selection grade of KAS to its special scale. According to a government communiqu‚ the recent promotions have been made as a follow up to the last cabinet decision to expand the cadre span of KAS and to augment promotional opportunities to KAS officers.

According to the order, the five KAS officers promoted from special to super time scale of Rs 18400 -22400. Forty KAS officers promoted from selection grade to special scale of Rs 14000-18300 of KAS on officiating basis. While as the promotion of two officers shall take effect from December 1. The principal secretary to government (GAD) Khurshid Ahmad Ganaie and KAS Association president Farooq Ahmad Renzu were not available for the comment.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Pakistani dictator and Kashmiri leadership

Pakistani dictator and Kashmiri leadership
By Murtaza Shibli
Editor Kashmir Affairs, London

(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 "")

Like all the democratic peoples of the world, those on both sides of Jammu and Kashmir are in shock and saddened by the imposition of martial law under the veneer of ‘emergency’ in Pakistan. However, some of the political groups who are widely believed to be financially sustained by the Pakistani military regime are supporting the move, perhaps in an attempt to repay some of their debts to the ruthless General.

The main Kashmiri party that has publicly supported the move is one of the factions of Srinagar-based Hurriyat Conference (a political amalgam of pro-freedom Kashmiri groups) headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. For more than a decade since its formation, the Hurriyat Conference has been claiming to fight for the democratic rights of the Kashmiris who are struggling against the Indian subjugation. The Hurriyat regularly takes out street demonstrations and issues press statements against the atrocities committed by the Indian troops and lobbies for the abrogation of the laws that give undue and undemocratic powers to the Indian military personnel in the disputed region. To this effect, the Hurriyat sends its delegations around the world highlighting human rights violations and India’s continuous denial of the Kashmiris’ democratic rights. In addition, the Hurriyat Conference has always claimed its belief in democracy, peace and dialogue.

By supporting General Musharraf’s actions, the Hurriyat Conference stands exposed with all its claims fallen asunder. Moreover, it has virtually closed its doors for any negotiation with the next Pakistani government, should the present army regime be forced out by the popular public pressure. The support of Pakistan is vital for the Kashmiri struggle and the Hurriyat by choosing to support a dictatorial move in public will create hurdles in its relations with the future Pakistani leadership knowing that the General’s move is highly controversial in his country and his current stance is hated by the majority of Pakistanis.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has spent (or wasted) almost all his youth in attending international conferences around the world capitals. This would have been expected to give Mirwaiz some political appreciation of world politics. Welcoming a despotic act of utter indignity that General Musharraf has heaped upon his people and country will certainly tarnish the image of the Hurriyat Conference and the Kashmiri freedom struggle abroad. This will also give credence to the Indian claims that the Hurriyat Conference is a proxy fielded by the Pakistani regime that acts according to Islamabad’s liking rather than for the democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile, the Kashmir Centres based in New York, Brussels and London which normally boast and claim to be affiliated with the Srinagar based Hurriyat Conference must be feeling the heat as they have maintained studied silence over the ‘emergency’ issue and are keeping a low profile. However, it would be hard for them to distance from the Hurriyat support for this anti-democratic measure.

Prior to the Emergency, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s Awami Action Committee which is part of the Hurriyat Conference had celebrated General Musharraf’s Presidential ‘win’ when Mirwaiz contracted a dozen or so of his supporters for a firework display while holding the General’s photographs in the old Srinagar city.

Going by his familial legacy, one is not surprised at all with Mirwaiz’s actions. His family has always supported the despotic rulers in Kashmir for the sake of material favours. The young Mirwaiz is only extending his loyalty and support beyond the walls of the old Srinagar town to the General who has fortified himself surrounded by the ruthless power of his army. The great grand Mirwaiz and former President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah was the first Kashmiri religious leader to accord recognition and sanctity to the despotic Dogra rulers. He often compromised Kashmiri interest in lieu of his yearly stipend and other little inducements from Maharaja Hari Singh.

When Moulvi Mohammad Farooq assumed the role of Mirwaiz, he broke all the records and shifted his support and allegiance for the highest bidder and that too very frequently. He supported Sheikh Abdullah, then joined his opponent Janata Party, courted Congress and later created ‘Double Farooq Ittihad’ with the National Conference, fighting elections against the Muslim United Front – a forum that represented the popular feelings and aspirations of Kashmiris in late 80s.

The post-emergency situation on the other side in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is no different. The first and prompt call of support for General Musharraf came from the old and now retired politician Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan, former President and Prime Minister of the AJK. It was followed by calls of support from the AJK government headed by his son Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan. Later, the AJK Constituent Assembly surpassed all the boundaries of decency and democratic decorum by endorsing and justifying the martial law.

AJK Assembly’s rash and irresponsible decision will be closely monitored at the European capitals, in particularly by the European Union in Brussels which has provided millions of Euros in aid and assistance to the Pakistani side of Kashmir after the devastating earthquake in 2005. The utter and blatant disregard shown by the AJK government will also strengthen the allegations and accusations that the region lacks freedom and that all the decisions and political processes are controlled by Islamabad.

It is strange that the so-called liberal and moderate pro-freedom Kashmiri leaders from both sides have supported a dictator and his utter disregard for democracy and the rule of law. Among the pro-freedom camp, Syed Ali Geelani (often described by the Indians and Pakistanis as hard-line Islamist) and his faction of the Hurriyat Conference deserve kudos by standing by the side of the Pakistani people who are being brutalised and whose human rights are being violated like those of the Kashmiris. Pro-India leaders like Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference and Mufti Sayeed of the People’s Democratic Party have rightly shown concern at the General’s actions worrying that he has put the ‘peace process’ between India and Pakistan in danger and jeopardised talks on the future of Kashmir.

General Musharraf has abrogated the country’s Constitution, destroyed its judiciary and muzzled the voice of the media under the jackboot. This has damaged the reputation of Pakistan, if at all it had any left after years of Western media blitzkrieg about the country being a safe haven for extremism, Taliban and now Al-Qaeda coupled with the allegations that parts of the Army, intelligence and politicians are supporting and feeding the cult of extremism.

The Kashmiri groups in the West were already struggling for the support since March this year when General Musharraf tried to sack Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Many lobbying delegations that were accompanied by the leaders of the Hurriyat Conference and AJK law makers were subtly reminded about the Indian democratic credentials inferring the lack of it in Pakistan, thus tilting the balance in favour of India. The international support for the Kashmir cause has dried up to a great extent during the last few years, and now the Hurriyat’s stance and the AJK Government’s endorsement of the imposition of emergency by General Musharraf will erode it further. If the Kashmiri leadership is viewed as pro-despot supporting a martial law, it would be hard to convince the world that Kashmiris are fighting for the freedom and democratic rights.