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.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

UJC Squirming for Excuses as Muslim Clergymen Declare Terrorism Unacceptable in any Shape or Form

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz reports on shifting ground realities in Kashmir and beyond

Clergy conclave leaves no space for ‘cause-and-consequence’ argument

Deoband fatwa ruffles feathers of Kashmiri separatists

(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, Feb 28: The historic congregation of over 10,000 clergymen in the Sub-continent’s theological seat of Deoband on February 24-25 has understandably ruffled the feathers of Kashmiri separatist politicians and militants as the declaration adopted unanimously has not only dismissed “terrorism” as Un-Islamic but has also asked all Muslims to “continue their loyalty towards their motherland”. Two days after the Kashmiri guerrilla outfit Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen rejected the fatwa as “poison for all Islamic movements in the world”, militant conglomerate Muttahida Jihad Council (MJC) has termed the declaration as “one-sided” and asserted that “Jihad” would continue till Doomsday.

Identical reactions to the declaration have poured in from almost all separatist politicians, including some militant outfits, who have invariably expressed surprise over the fact that it has left no space for the cause-and-consequence argument. Leaders of the so-called moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference have made a reaction only when they were contacted by mediapersons. Presently in the United States of America, Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is under no compulsion to make a statement. Those who made an observation in the last three days, seem to be invariably disappointed as their famous argument of ‘cause-and-consequence’ has been ignored with contempt.

In a mixture of confusion and desperation, some of these “moderate” separatist leaders, like the fresh Hurriyat entrant Shabir Shah, have partially welcomed the declaration. They sound to be relieved over the fact that the declaration has also been forcefully critical of the Indian Police and security agencies for targeting the Muslims and their religious schools and labeling them as “terrorists”. Leaders of Kashmir’s Jamaat-e-Islami, who have been often influenced by Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan and maintained distance from Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, have taken pleasure in the fact that some leaders at the conclave have described the US President as the world’s “biggest terrorist”.

Kashmir’s head Mufti, Bashir-ud-din, has been the one-odd Kashmiri Muslim theologian who has fully endorsed the Deoband declaration in unambiguous terms. According to a Chandigarh-based newspaper, Mufti Bashir-ud-din has termed “all killings in the name of Islam, including those in Kashmir” as Un-Islamic.

The most emphatic reaction among all Kashmiri separatist leaders has come from none other than the estranged Jamaat ideologue and Chairman of the so-called hardline faction of Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Unlike all of his Azadi colleagues, Geelani has made it a point to contact a number of Srinagar-based newspapers and news agencies so as to register his protest. Like all of his colleagues, Geelani is surprised as to why the Deoband declaration has “not drawn a line of demarcation” between the “armed struggles of genuine cause” and “terrorism”. He has, as usual, argued that the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and some Muslim countries was a “consequence of the State terrorism”.

While most of the separatist leaders have endorsed that all acts of terrorism and killing of innocent people were Un-Islamic, they have implicitly asserted that Kashmiri militants were not indulging in acts of terrorism.

Radical militant outfit, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, has categorically rejected the fatwa with the allegation that it was a “poison for all Islamic movements in the world”. It was quickly seconded by Muzaffarabad-based amalgam of 14 militant organisations, MJC, which observed that the declaration had not distinguished between “terrorism and Jihad”. In a statement today, MJC spokesman Sadaqat Hussain expressed surprise that the Deoband clerics had not lent any sanctity to the “Jihad Fi Sabeelillah” in Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya etc. He has desired to know why India had not been mentioned as “tyrant and oppressor” in Kashmir by Maulana Madni of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind who had “rightly” called George Bush as the Muslim world’s “terrorist”.

The MJC spokesman has alleged that Maulana Madni had just made an attempt to appease the Government of India. He has asserted that “Jihad” (in Kashmir and other places) would continue till Doomsday.

Deoband declaration is unprecedented for it first time that a gathering of over 10,000 clergymen, representing nearly 6,000 Islamic madrasas all over India, has denounced “terrorism in all its manifestations”. With the participation of more than 50,000 students, it has unequivocally specified that all acts of terrorism in the name of Islam---violence, oppression, mischief, rioting, murder---were Un-Islamic.

The organisers also called upon all Muslims to continue “their loyalty towards motherland”. More importantly, the anti-terrorism conference was attended by all schools of thought including Deobandis, Bareilvis, Ahl-e-Hadith, Shias, besides top-ranking representatives of Rabita Madaras-e-Islamia Arabia, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and All India Muslim Personal Board.

Notwithstand the fact that in most of the political and religious matters, Kashmiri Muslims and those in rest of India have not been on one alignment, Deoband declaration has a tremendous potential of isolating a fairly good section of population from the militant mainstream. While a top thinktank of Darul Uloom Deoband, Maulana Anzar Shah Kashmiri, has been a frequent visitor to Mirwaiz Manzil, both Deobandis as well as Bareilvis, have not only established two separate chains of madrasas all over the Valley but have also gained control of hundreds of mosques, particularly in the last 10 years. Reports said that the congregation in Deoband had also a “reasonable representation” from Kashmir.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One has to wonder why the Srinagar print media ignored the following story for over two weeks?

Could it be that the topic dealt with a life-and-death issue involving the minority community living in the valley?

Pandits demand re-opening of massacre cases, disappearances


Srinagar, Feb 27: The Kashmir Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSM) on Wednesday blamed the government of its failure to come up with the truth on Wandhama and other massacres, demanding re-opening of the killings and disappearance cases of the Kashmiri Pandits.

In a statement, the Samiti’s president, Sanjay K. Tickoo, said that the Pandit community had faced six massacres from 1997 to 2003. “It is very disgusting that after 10 years, the Wandhama massacre case has been closed by the police for want of evidence,” Tickoo said.

“By this the police department and the government has played with the emotions of the Kashmiri Pandits and has given way to the unscrupulous elements who are behind the killings,” he said.

Tickoo said that he had approached the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and it had already directed the inspector general of police Kashmir to file a detailed report in the matter.

“There is no reason that our community should trust the police department and the government,” he added while demanding a thorough CBI inquiry into these matters.


Like Phoenix, the Kashmiri Pandit Community in the Valley Rises to Assert its Voice

The Srinagar-based Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS) President, Sanjay Tickoo, seeking intervention of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to investigate mass massacres of Kashmiri Pandits in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003.

(Mr. Sanjay K. Tickoo, 45, was born and raised in Srinagar. After graduating from Hindu High School in Sheetal Nath, Srinagar, he completed his B.Sc. degree from S. P. College, Srinagar. Currently self-employed, his hobbies are reading and traveling. He is among the 8,000 brave Pandit souls who have weathered the worst of the militancy in Kashmir, and is proud to call himself a citizen of Kashmir who stayed put in the valley.)

The Hon’ble Chairman,
State Human Rights Commission,
Srinagar / Jammu.

Subject: Human Rights Violation against Kashmiri Pandit Community.

May it please your Honour:

With respect and humble humility it is submitted as under on behalf of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti and the members of the Community:

That since the onslaught of violence from 1989 the Pandit Community became the soft target for anyone who wanted to do something for news value and during that period dozens of members of the Community disappeared and never returned back. There were about is still unknown as mass fear gripped the community and majority left their ancestral home and were scattered in the whole world for their livelihood. During the early 1990s hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits were killed and their F.I.R.’s are still pending before the Police. After a gap of nearly 17 years Police Department is unable to solve these murder cases with respect to the minority Community.

Our Community faced six massacres from 1997 to 2003, 1997 – Sangrampora, 1998 – Wandhama, 1999 – Teelwani, 2000 – Pethbugh, 2001 – Hugam and 2003 – Nadimarg, which reduced our population from 32,000 in 1992 to 9,865 in 2003. It is very disgusting that after a gap of 10 years the Wandhama massacre case has been closed by the Police Department for want of evidences. On the one hand Police Department solves the cases within the stipulated time but in the case of minority these remain unsolved and the state government has failed to come up with a truth. By this the Police Department and the State Government has played with the emotions of the Kashmiri Pandit Community and has given way to those unscrupulous elements who are behind the killing of minority Community to move in the society keeping their heads high.

For the last 17 years our Community was having faith on the State Government that they will bring those persons who were behind these heinous acts but the recent statement (Annexure – A) has scattered all our hopes and trust from the Government. Even at the time of Nadimarg Massacre which happened in 2003, the then DG Police claimed in media that they have recovered nearly 1.5 Kgs of gold ornaments, but it is still unknown whether those gold ornaments were given back to the persons to whom it belonged.

In view of above, it is requested to your worthy goodself, to intervene in the matter as there is no reason for our community to trust on the Police Department and the State Government and direct the State Government to reopen all the cases pertaining to the Community (whether individual or massacres or disappearances) and the cases be handed over to C.B.I. (Central Bureau of Investigation) so that truth comes fore.

Yours faithfully

Sanjay K. Tickoo

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kashmir's Lakes: Where Greed and Environmental Negligence Swim Together

Yes, LAWDA is corrupt and highly inefficient, but have you seen those illegal homes built by houseboat owners behind their houseboats in Dal Lake on improperly reclaimed land along with a mobile phone tower?


Srinagar, February 20: Hundreds of houseboat owners today took to the streets demanding that all the water bodies in the Kashmir Valley should be handed over to any foreign company for their conservation.

Marching through different streets from famous Nehru Park in the Dal Lake to civil lines here, the houseboat owners of Dal, Nigeen, Chinar Bagh and river Jehlum alleged that Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) had failed to restore the pristine glory of the water bodies, particularly Dal Lake. ''Hand over the water bodies to any foreign company before it is too late,'' they demanded.

The LAWDA had completely failed to deliver what was expected from it, they said, adding it was responsible for the degradation of the Dal and Nigeen lakes since it took over the control of the water bodies.

They also rejected the Socio-Economic Survey conducted by the Urban Environmental Engineering Department (UEED) in 1986, identifying a number of residential or other structures existing in the Dal basin. ''The survey conducted has now become irrelevant as the demographic index with regards to the family units and the size of population of Dal dwellers has gone up since,’’ they said.

Demanding immediate stop of dismantling houses and other structures in the Lake by LAWDA and other agencies, they said the entire population living there should first be shifted and rehabilitated elsewhere. More than 3.5 lakh trees and hundreds of illegal houses and other structures were razed to ground by the authorities in the Dal Lake and Chinar Bagh during the past one year.


Are you serious about the conservation of our vanishing lakes and other water bodies?

If you are, then come and join us for
Creating awareness &
mobilize public support for the
Preservation of our precious lakes and other water bodies.
All men and women of conscience, including students, are invited to participate
in a peaceful rally organized by the Houseboat owners association
to endorse support to this noble cause.
the rally will start from Nehru Park and will end at Press colony,
Partap Park, Regal Chowk Srinagar.

Some of the salient features of this rally are:
  • Demand identification and demarcation of territorial limits of Dal and Nigeen Lake as the same is in consonance with the directions issued by the Hon'ble High Court of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • LAWDA should come up with a model of the Dal Lake as it should look after its restoration which should be made public in print and electronic media. The much hyped master plan of which the conservation of Dal, Nigeen, River Jehulm and Chunti Koul is a part has become redundant since these were designated as protected water bodies by law.
  • Immediate rehabilitation of all such families who are willing to shift from Dal, Nigeen, River Jehlum and Chinar Bagh voluntarily.
  • Immediate ban on use of all polythene and plastic material in an around the water bodies. The orders of the Hon'ble High Court against the import of this hazardous and harmful material to the valley though in place or not being implemented in letter and spirit. We suggest that a mobile judge be deputed who will monitor the complaints of these orders by law enforcing agencies of the state.
  • Immediate cessation of dredging along the western foreshore road of Dal Lake by LAWDA as this has plugged many natural springs found on the lake bed. Similarly, filling of land with so excavated mud and slush in the area under dredging by the authority be stopped forthwith.
  • Install drainage systems with septic tanks which will cater to all the houseboats.
    Plug all live drainage pipes around the peripheries of our water bodies which are dumping harmful effluents round the clock.
  • Immediate widening of backwater channels of Dal Lake, leading to Rainawari and Naidyar to make these functional again for a smooth movement of boat traffic.
  • Restore the former needle type system of water gates at Dalgate, Nallah Amir-Khan and at Brari Nambal immediately as the iron shatters/gates have adversely affected and impeded the normal outflow of these water reservoirs.
  • If all else fails and options run out to preserve our water bodies, we demand that their conservation be handed over to some private firm or to a foreign agency or agencies who have the requisite expertise and technology for accomplishing the job rather than allow it lingering before it is too late.
  • All participants to bring along with them banners or placards, if any, in the proposed rally.

It is a historical facts that Houseboats and the conservation of Dal, Nigeen, Chunti Kul and River Jehlum have a strong correlation and same is, therefore, indispensable. As such, all houseboat, prepared to fully cooperate with conservation plan. For that, the Houseboat Owners Association has more suggestions we shall be made public in due course of time.

Similar rallies will be organized same day in national capital and other Western cities to highlight the importance of preserving our endangered water bodies.

So, with an unfailing commitment and sincerity purpose we appeal to you to join your hands with us and show your resolve for the preservation and conservation of our heritage for our future generations.

Contact Numbers are:
+91-0194-2450326 Mobile: 09906735715
Mohd. Azim Tomal, Chairman
Houseboat Owners Association

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Serious Commentary on Pakistani Election Results and its Impact on Kashmiri Politics

Writing on the wall could change colour, not text
Pak polls may shut some shops in Kashmir

From Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Feb 20: Developments forcing cardinal changes in Pakistan's policies vis-a-vis militant Islam and Kashmir have been taking place in quick succession after September 11th, 2001. Be it General Pervez Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto, everybody supported the emotional policy of "driving the forces out of Jammu & Kashmir" by guerrilla warfare. The emotion went on for decades even as Pakistani's struggle to win the "jugular vein" resulted in halving of its body in 1971. While the institutions of Army and clergy remained conveniently---and predominantly---relevent in all circumstances courtesy Kashmir, the Prime Ministers, including Sharif and Bhutto, did only supplement the frenzy. Notwithstanding a myriad of inner conflicts, it was all one entity in the matters of Kashmir.

September 11th has changed many equations in South Asia but it has pushed the Pakistani leadership so proportionately that yet again the Army and the political outfits of Sharif and Bhutto are one entity inspite of numerous conflicts within. Only the so-called Jihadi sections of militancy and clergy are on the other side of the fence today. In all of Musharraf's "counter-terrorism operations" from Waziristan to Lal Masjid, Sharif and Bhutto were implicitly or explicitly supportive of the military action. Lal Masjid shrunk the space of even the so-called moderates to the dramatic extent that men like Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman of Jamiat-ul-Ulema Pakistan and Qazi Hussain Ahmed of Jamaat-e-Islami flew all the way to London to sign Sharif's draft for restoration of democracy and eradication of "terrorism".

For a mild face saving, Qazi had attempted to introduce a neutraliser by way of seeking condemnation to the British Government's accolade of Knighthood on the blasphemous author Salman Rushdie. It was contemptuously ignored by Sharif under the spotlight. Qazi did neither revolt nor object to calling one-time Jihad as terrorism. In the next few months, Pakistan witnessed historic developments like Bhutto's and Sharif's return from 'exile', and finally the former's death in a shootout---and now the National Assembly elections after an 8-year-long spell of the military regime---but the radical base is increasingly shrinking to extinction. Its impact on the situation in Kashmir---and more specifically the forthcoming Assembly elections in J&K---has perhaps begun to show.

In the last few weeks, Hizbul Mujahideen had declared that it would not use the gun to enforce boycott to the elections. Its political arm---Jamaat-e-Islami---has now declared that it was not going to run a door-to-door anti-election campaign. Last week's admission into PDP of one-time confidante of the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Abdul Khaliq Hanief, and senior pro-Pakistan leader Mehmood Sagar's brother, Mushtaq Sagar, may not necessarily signify a change in the Valley's political spectrum. Mehbooba Mufti's announcement of "more separatist leaders to follow soon" may not, either. Yet, many people in Kashmir today believe that later part of the current year was going to witness one of the highest turnout elections, which could write the obituary of the 18-year-long armed strife in Jammu and Kashmir.

Among all moderate politicians in Pakistan, Imran Khan alone has so far sided with Jamaat. Musharaf-promoted faction of Pakistan Muslim League, which had some prospect of soft corner for the estranged radical allies, has been routed at the hustings. Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman has won from his safety segment but he too has been demolished in his traditional stronghold of Dera Ismail Khan. With Musharraf pushed to the back seat, if not an ouster by impeachment, late Bhutto's PPP and Sharif's PML(N) have emerged as the new claimants of power. Given statements of both the parties' leaders vis-a-vis militancy---which they call terrorism as forcefully as Musharraf does---as also the fact that Kashmir has for the first time not been an issue of emotion or populism in the Pakistani elections, it appears to be clear that the process of change over Kashmir would only be strengthened.

Inspite of Musharraf's recent rhetorical expression that Pakistan would never "forget" Kashmir and the Kashmiris, fact of the matter is that before getting entangled in Chief Justice Iftikhar Chowdhary crisis in 2007, General-President has left Kashmir at a point where only a new military dictatorship or clergy could retrieve it. (Remember his outright negation of the UN resolutions, dismissing the options of accession to Pakistan and Azadi and asking for "anything between Azadi and Autonomy"). Since the elections have been widely hailed as free, fair and credible, neither Army nor clergy seems to shape Islamabad's new policy vis-a-vis Kashmir, Afghanistan and militancy.

This phase of armed strife in Kashmir has clearly entered a critical juncture. Inspite of 50-odd incidents of infiltration in 2007, total number of "listed militancy" in today's Valley, according to highly important officials, is "less than 200". To get yet another life, Kashmir's militancy and the separatist movement will need nothing less than a 1999---which created Kargil, followed by the strategy of Fidayeen attacks. Developments from New Delhi to Islamabad, Kabul to Washington and Srinagar to Muzaffarabad indicate neither. It is for nothing, thus, that Geelani has ceased to be one-odd potential successor to Sofi Mohammad Akbar of hometown Sopore and most of his estranged colleagues are blowing hot and cold between rising to the glamour of Sheikh Abdullah and fading out in the oblivion like the late Mahaz-e-Azadi chief.

Monday, February 18, 2008

J&K State Human Rights Commission Gets a Failing Grade

Syed Basharat provides a timely report card on the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC)

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 27, 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, Feb 18: Devoid of a full fledged chairman, without its own building, manned by two out of five members, the report card of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) presents a dismal picture of the state government, which has failed to implement its recommendations, rejecting them blatantly. Only 353 out of 600 recommendations have been implemented by the government since Commission's inception in September 1997 till November 26, 2007.

A home department communiqué sent to government vide number Home/ SHRC-221/2007 dated November 26, 2007, reads that 353 cases out of 600 have been implemented, 76 cases are to be implemented as they are 'under process'. "171 cases are pending with the police department and CID on account of inquiry and are yet to be screened," this communiqué reads further.

Sources in home department maintain that most of the recommendations made by SHRC are out rightly rejected by district level screening committees on the pretext that such recommendations do not fall under rules. In case of Jammu province this reports states that 27 out of 42 recommendations have been implemented. 15 recommendations out of 42 cases are to be put before district level screening committee which according to this report is 'under process.'

From its inception in September 1997 till February 28, 2007 total number of disposed of cases by SHRC is 3647. The commission has recommended ex-gratia in 626 cases. From February 28, 2007 to November 30, 2007 the Commission has received 495 cases and disposed of 332 during this period.

The Commission has received 578 cases of involuntary disappearances, 221 cases of custodial killings and 34 rape cases since its inception till December 31, 2007. The number of disposed of involuntary disappearance cases during this period is 283, custodial killing cases 61, and 10 rape cases were disposed of during the same period.

The Commission has not its own accommodation and it pays Rs 50000 per month for a 12 room building at Buchwara Dalgate. The construction which started five years ago on its own building near Moulana Azad road was stopped for unknown reasons.

The Commission sans its investigation staff which includes one superintendent of police, two deputy superintendents, one inspector, five head constables and 15 constables. This staff has been sanctioned only on October 23, 2007. The commission still relies on the police agencies for investigations of the complaints which are mostly filed against them only.

Recently an Inspector General of Police P. L. Gupta has joined the Commission in October 2007. Before him, Mohammad Shafi Wani was appointed in 1998 who remained for one and a half year in service with the commission. Later there was no IGP in SHRC for a period of two years. After two years lull, S S Oberoi was appointed who remained for next two years. He was later transferred.

Its is pertinent to mention here that under section 11(1) of the J&K protection of human rights act the commission is to have its independent investigating agency headed by IGP.

In its recent annual report the Commission has mentioned that it is disappointed to place on record to the effect that its entire recommendations are blatantly rejected by the government. "The recommendations are rejected by the revenue officers," the report reads further.
There is no full fledged chairman of the commission. Out of five members only two Habibullah Bhat (acting chairperson) and Bahdrinath Tingloo shoulder the overall responsibility of the Commission.

In September 2005, the then SHRC chairperson Justice A.M. Mir was quoted as saying that sofar as the implementation of the SHRC's recommendations was concerned, he was effectively "whipping a dead horse." "One of our earlier chairmen [said] the commission [was] a toothless tiger, and when the government withdrew the inspector general of police rank officer [attached to the SHRC], we did say that we have lost the tail as well. The executing agencies are behind all this," Justice Mir had charged.

In July, 2006 Justice A M Mir resigned from the post of chairman State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to protest against "growing human rights violations in the state and non-implementation of commission's recommendations." Making serious allegations on the government, Justice Mir had stated that SHRC was just'eyewash to befool the world community' that human rights of people are being respected.

"Ever since I assumed the office, I have been observing that the Government is not serious about the Commission. Though I made strenuous efforts to draw the attention of the Government towards the difficulties, the institution was facing, but nothing substantial happened," Justice Mir wrote in his resignation letter.

Now when the Justice M Y Kawoosa retired from SHRC in November 2007, the commission is yet to see its full-fledged chairperson.

Corruption and the Role of RTI Legislation

Muzaffar Bhat addresses a topical issue on how corruption is institutionalized in J&K

(Dr. Raja Muzaffar 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.)

Truely speaking corruption is one of the gravest problems faced by common people globally. If we talk of our state Jammu & Kashmir Common man has been sandwitched between corruption and and the political in stability prevailing in Jammu and kashmir since last 18 years. These two problems have hampered the smooth functioning our whole administrative system to such an extent that it seems very much difficult to overcome this menance. I want to throw light on the corruption scenario prevelent in jammu and kashmir and the ways to overcome it. It is more paining to see from the recent statistics of "TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL" that our state ranks no 2 after Bihar with regard to corruption.Life of a common man has been crippeled by the people belonging to a section of the society who induldge in mal and ill practices without caring for common people.

The rise of unemployment in our state is directly proportional to corruption related malpractices in the government departments. An estimated 500 crore rupees are misappropriated annually by Govt officials of all ranks in our state. With the result Govt is not able to provide jobs, subsidies and low intrest loans to unemployed educated youth as the money goes into pockets of Ministers, Bureaucrats, and other Govt officials illegally. In this context many social, psychological, and mental problems are crippling the mindset of unemployed and highly educated youth to such an extent that the graph of drug addiction, depression and other psychiatric ailments has increased manifold since last 10 years. Many qualified and educated youth have crossed upper age limits put forward by Govt for getting into govt sector.An estimated 40% Urban boys and girls who have crossed 35 years of age and are still un married as they dont get proper match due to being un employed. Who is to be held responsible for this alarming pathetic social and psychological degradation?

To crack down corrupt Govt officials in J&K State Vigilance Organisation is doing an appreciable job. But due to lack of man power especially dearth of officers this agency too is not able to do its job in a more better way. Moreso state govt too is not cooperating with it, putting a question mark on its credibility. Since last two years vigilance org has netted many corrupt govt officers, but there are many many big fishes who are still out of its trap. It is not the fault of vigilance org but it is clear apathy of state govt as they are not giving sanction under section 6, prevention of corruption act, for the prosecution of top level bureaucrats and politicians. One of the such cases is "Jute mat scam" in education department, which was talk of the town few years back but inspite of the fact that a top level IAS officer was challaned in this case but till his retirement govt did not gave sanction for his prosecution. There were three people mainly accused in this multicrore was the contractor for him no sanction was needed,other was the then chief accounts officer (CAO) in civil secretraits education Deptt and third person was the then Principal Secretary education deptt. Sanction was granted by state Govt to prosecute Chief Accounts officer but as for as the Principal Secretary is concernned it was to be granted by Ministry of Personnel Govt of India . Till his retirement few months back neither state nor central government granted the requiste sanction for his prosecution and instead the State govt reinstated the bureaucrat then who was under suspension for nearly one year. When govt machinary is shielding such people where to knock the doors for justice? There are other corruption scams which have been kept untouched by the govt agencies here. What happened to Multi crore rural electrification scam? State Accountibility Commission has named a high profile ex minister as the main accused in this scam but no body dares to prosecute him.I remember when the accountibility bill was tabelled in the state assembly that time. Law Minister Muzaffar Hussain Being clearly said that even Chief Minister will be held accountible before this commission if found guilty, but every thing turned out to be fake. This commision was termed as the Dead Horse by its ex Chairperson.

I remind Mr Azad our Chief Minister about his dream of "Khushhaal Kahmir". There is no change felt on ground, nothing has changed. It is true that he has empowered vigilance org to a great extent rather more than the previous governments, but when the question of cracking down of Politicians, Ministers and Bureaucrats arises he seems to be helpless. If he is really dedicated to eradicate corruption from our state then the Vigilance organisation or Accountibilty commission should not be limited to trap lower rung officers only but these agencies must be given free hand to trap any high profile bureaucrat or a politician. Accountibility commission must also check the assets of Vigilance officers who are kept untouched till now.They are accountible before whom? This is a big question mark on our administration. Very few IAS, IPS or KAS officers are being caught by vigilance organisation rather this number is negligible.We have many top Police officers and bureaucrats in our state who have amassed huge properties, erected big mansions, owning costliest cars and having other assets in posh areas but still our vigilance organisation is a mute spectator. Why? Why this stepmotherly treatment with lower rung officers? Why are they being made scape goats? I never want to defend their immoral and un ethical activities but just to remind our government about its dual policy. If we see the recent prosecution list issued by GAD about sanctions granted for prosecution we can see only patwaries, girdawars, junior assistants, junior engineers, head constables et all in this list with exceptionally a few gazetted officers . This is clear sign of favouritism and hypocracy on part of our state administration. If big fishes are caught it will have a tremendous impact on other top govt officers and ministers and may be they will shun this illegal path once for all. In addition to this J&K Right to Information Act 2004 must be made more stronger and functional.This Act will help to reduce the graph of Corruption in our State. It is so sad that our govt officials and general masses are not familair with Right To Information Act (RTI Act). Only one lack rupees have been earmarked for the publicity of RTI Act which is a very very small amount. The recent ammendments in this act too are not impressive. There is no provision of penality for the erring government officials who refuse to share information with the applicant or who provide wrong information.As per central RTI Act such erring officer is fined Rs 250 per day and this amount is deducted from his salary. Even the section 7(1)of cntral RTI Act is not present in this amended act.As per section 7(1)the information related to life and liberty of a person is to be given within 48 hours only. Incorporation of this section in J&K RTI Amended Act is need of the hour bucause of exixtance of Armed forces special powers act.People are being picked up by security agencies without informing their relatives but under this law they are bound to provide the information of the arrested man within 48 hrs only. Judiciary and legislature are not being covered by the amended act. There is no provision of Assistant departmental information officer. As per Central Act in each department there is a one Public Information Officer (PIO) and as many as Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) who deal with the RTI related pleas, but in the amended J&K RTI Act there is no such provision. Only one departmental information information officer has been designated to deal with RTI related issues. This officer will be stationed at each district headquarters but the problem arises that people of far flung will again be deprived of excersising their right under this great legislation. Hardly any person from far flung areas will afford to go to district headquarters and file RTI plea before DIO. The only solution to it is to appoint Assistant Departmental Information Officers (ADIOs) at block and tehsil level in the same way where there are APIOs in other states. To create awareness about RTI Act govt must organise awareness programmes in schools & colleges. RTI must be included in the school syllabi in the same way as has been done in Maharashtra state i.e. RTI has been included in Civics books of 9 & 10. Programmes on RTI must be telecasted on TV, in this context local cable networks need to play a pivotal role. This is true that J&K RTI Act is weak, but as for as sharing of information by govt deptts is concerned they have to share it with Citizens under this week act also.

Right To Information Act will help the citizens of our state to seek information from all the govt deptts regarding developmental works like Roads, Buildings, power, ration cards, old age pensions etc. They can seek information on estimate of work, material used etc from various govt agencies. They can also make the physical verification of developmental works.Even the information regarding human rights violation too can be ascessed under this act. People can seek information about all those persons who are missing in custody of security forces. If we want to see J&K a corruption free state then state govt must enforce RTI Act strictly. An ordinance must be passed by the government to incorporate all the important provisions which are missing in the amended RTI Act,this is my earnest appeal to honourable CM. J&K wont be a "Khushhaal State" unless corruption is fully eradicated . To eradicate corruption Right To Information legislation is one of the best tools.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
Convenor, J&K Right To Information Movement

A Young Kashmiri Laments on Fading Memories of a Pluralistic Society

KASHMIRIYAT: Is it a long forgotten concept?


(Ms. Nida Shiekh, 22, was born in Srinagar. She passed her Matriculation from the Presentation Convent High School and completed her 12th grade from the Mallinson Girls High School, both with distinction. She recently graduated from the Women's College, Srinagar, and hopes to pursue a Master's degree in mass communication. She is presently a free lance writer who likes writing about the Kashmir issue and other topics like communal violence that have torn apart the Kashmiri society with tragic consequences. )

Kashmiriyat (Kashmiri-ness) is the ethno-national, social consciousness and cultural values of the Kashmiri people. The concept emerged long back but developed approximately around the 16th century and is characterized by religious and cultural harmony, patriotism and pride we Kashmiris have for our homeland.

According to a Hindu legend, Kashmir was once a vast lake called Satisar, inhabited by the Nagas, the snake people. Once upon a time, a demon, Jaladeo, began terrorizing the Nagas, so they beseeched their father, Sage Kashyap, to help. Kashyap, deciding to evoke the gods, performed such severe penance that the heavens shook. Finally, Shiva descended from Mount Kailash, his abode in the Himalayas, and rented the mountainside with his mighty trident. All the water of Lake Satisar drained out. Then Vishnu’s consort, the goddess Laxmi (called Sharda in Kashmir), took the shape of a Hari or a mynah bird and dropped on the demon’s head a pebble, which penetrated his body and grew to the size of a hill, encasing him in the rock. Thus, the hill came to be known as Hari Parbat (Hari’s Mount). In gratitude to Kashyap, the site was called Kashyap Mir or Kashyap Mountain. Over the years, the slopes of the hill became enshrined with Hindu, Muslim and Sikh places of worship. Till the 16th century; Akbar constructed the Hari Parbat fort along the top of the hill, enclosing the city of Srinagar in a citadel.

Even before Akbar built his fort, Srinagar and the whole Kashmir valley was already a citadel nestled securely between the lofty Himalayan range in the north and the Pir Panjal in the south. The 134-kilometer by 40-kilometer oval plane with its meandering rivers and rippling lakes, rolling greens and flower fragrant paths was a citadel of eden, a citadel for a way of life which the world would never comprehend. And Kashmiris call it Kashmiriyat .

Kashmiriyat , when experienced as a culture, is so syncretic that it inspires and epitomizes co-existence: man’s oneness with man; man’s oneness with nature. Kashmiriyat , when perceived as a faith, is an amalgamation of four great traditions: the aborigines’ Shivism, a Hindu monistic philosophy, and the disseminated wisdoms of Qur’an , Buddhism’s Nirvana and Sikhism’s Ek Onkar. Kashmir enjoys a significant ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. The region has historically been an important centre for Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam was introduced in the medieval centuries, and Sikhism also spread to the region under the rule of the Sikh Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Kashmir has a significant place in the mythology and history of all four religions. Kashmiriyat is believed to have developed under the rule of Muslim governor Zain-ul-Abedin and the Mughal emperor Akbar, both of whom gave equal protection, importance and patronage to Kashmir’s different religious communities. Kashmiriyat is believed to be an expression of solidarity resilience and patriotism. It is believed to embody an ethos of harmony and a determination of survival of the people and their heritage. To Kashmiris, Kashmiriyat demands religious as well as social harmony and brotherhood. The culture and ethos of Kashmiriyat was greatly eroded with the onset of the Kashmir conflict, when this region was claimed by Pakistan and India and its territory divided during the Indo-Pak War of 1947. In the political debate on sovereignty over Kashmir, many interpret Kashmiriyat as nationalism and an expression for political independence from both Pakistan and India.

One of the finest examples of Kashmiriyat is in Rajtarangini, which is one of the oldest literature on Kashmir written by Kalhana. It is mentioned that there was an entire period in Kashmir’s history under so many governors and rulers when no major event took place and there was nothing which Kalhana could write about that period. This entire period was characterized by peace and harmony. This capability of Kashmiri people to live in peace and harmony with each other is Kashmiriyat . Also at the time of the partition in 1947, when the entire Indian sub-continent was witnessing bloodshed, Kashmir was the only region in this part of the World which did not witness any communal violence. Mahatma Gandhi had quoted then, “if there is a ray of hope for humanity, it is there on the soil of Kashmir.”

Another question that I was asked in an Indo-Pak youth conference was, “Has Kashmiriyat been redefined because of the armed conflict?” I had never heard of Kashmiriyat in my school but I told them that I did not believe at all that Kashmiriyat has been redefined because of the armed conflict. But rather from the perspective of religion, this idea has lost its essence to some extent because the Pandits (Kashmiri Hindus), who formed one of the basic pillars of Kashmiriyat , are no longer in Kashmir. But, that doesn’t mean Kashmiris have forgotten Kashmiriyat . It is still deep rooted within us. We still believe in religious harmony and peace. We still value our traditional sanctity and cultural heritage. So, whether Kashmiris live in Kashmir or outside Kashmir, the value of peace and brotherhood will always be within them.

It is the responsibility of the youth of Kashmir to keep alive this tradition of Kashmiriyat and to show to the world that Kashmiris love peace. We inherited peace from our forefathers, not violence. Let us promote peace wherever we go and make Kashmir a better place to live in. Kashmiris are facing an identity crisis at present. No place is perfect. We have to make our Kashmir perfect. For this we need to feel proud of what we are and what we have inherited. The youth of Kashmir has to dream of a brighter future and do their level best to attain it at all costs.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Like Phoenix, the Kashmiri Pandit Community in the Valley Rises to Assert its Voice

The Srinagar-based Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS) President, Sanjay Tickoo, seeking intervention of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to investigate mass massacres of Kashmiri Pandits in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003.

(Mr. Sanjay K. Tickoo, 45, was born and raised in Srinagar. After graduating from Hindu High School in Sheetal Nath, Srinagar, he completed his B.Sc. degree from S. P. College, Srinagar. Currently self-employed, his hobbies are reading and traveling. He is among the 8,000 brave Pandit souls who have weathered the worst of the militancy in Kashmir, and is proud to call himself a citizen of Kashmir who stayed put in the valley.)


The Hon’ble Chairman,
State Human Rights Commission,
Srinagar / Jammu.

Subject: Human Rights Violation against Kashmiri Pandit Community.

May it please your Honour:

With respect and humble humility it is submitted as under on behalf of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti and the members of the Community:

That since the onslaught of violence from 1989 the Pandit Community became the soft target for anyone who wanted to do something for news value and during that period dozens of members of the Community disappeared and never returned back. There were about is still unknown as mass fear gripped the community and majority left their ancestral home and were scattered in the whole world for their livelihood. During the early 1990s hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits were killed and their F.I.R.’s are still pending before the Police. After a gap of nearly 17 years Police Department is unable to solve these murder cases with respect to the minority Community.

Our Community faced six massacres from 1997 to 2003, 1997 – Sangrampora, 1998 – Wandhama, 1999 – Teelwani, 2000 – Pethbugh, 2001 – Hugam and 2003 – Nadimarg, which reduced our population from 32,000 in 1992 to 9,865 in 2003. It is very disgusting that after a gap of 10 years the Wandhama massacre case has been closed by the Police Department for want of evidences. On the one hand Police Department solves the cases within the stipulated time but in the case of minority these remain unsolved and the state government has failed to come up with a truth. By this the Police Department and the State Government has played with the emotions of the Kashmiri Pandit Community and has given way to those unscrupulous elements who are behind the killing of minority Community to move in the society keeping their heads high.

For the last 17 years our Community was having faith on the State Government that they will bring those persons who were behind these heinous acts but the recent statement (Annexure – A) has scattered all our hopes and trust from the Government. Even at the time of Nadimarg Massacre which happened in 2003, the then DG Police claimed in media that they have recovered nearly 1.5 Kgs of gold ornaments, but it is still unknown whether those gold ornaments were given back to the persons to whom it belonged.

In view of above, it is requested to your worthy goodself, to intervene in the matter as there is no reason for our community to trust on the Police Department and the State Government and direct the State Government to reopen all the cases pertaining to the Community (whether individual or massacres or disappearances) and the cases be handed over to C.B.I. (Central Bureau of Investigation) so that truth comes fore.

Yours faithfully

Sanjay K. Tickoo

Friday, February 8, 2008

Two Young and Determined Ladies Ask: Has SHRC Heard of the RTI?

Anjum and Shireen write to the Daily Etalaat about their recent interactions with the J&K State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) .......

(Anjum Mir, 22, and Shireen Shafi, 24, represent the new youthful face of Kashmir committed to bringing social justice among its disfranchised people. Ms. Mir was born in Srinagar and completed her B.Sc. degree in Environmental Science from S.P. College in 2006. She is pursuing her Master's degree in Social Work (MSW) from the Kashmir University and is presently doing internship at "Act Now for Harmony and Democracy" (ANHAD), a Srinagar based NGO. Ms. Shafi was also born in Srinagar and completed her B.Sc. degree from Women's College in Srinagar, and is presently doing MSW in the Kashmir University, and doing internshio at ANHAD. Both are volunteers/members of the J&K Right to Information (RTI) movement. Their interests include RTI, cleanup of Dal Lake and awareness of human rights abuses.)


Dear Editor,

Any person who has got some rights and is bound to perform some duties is said to be a citizen. Besides, duties and rights there comes concept of freedom - freedom of thoughts, freedom of speech, freedom to express him or herself, freedom to know about his society but, people living in this part of the world are not aware of these rights.

JK Right to Information Act, 2004 came into force on Oct 12, 2004. As per this act every citizen has the right to obtain information from the office in charge of any Govt dept or public authority and the officer incharge is liable to provide information under and in accordance with the provisions of this act. The office incharge can deny to disclose the 'seeked' information if the disclosure of information would prejudicially affect the sovereignty, integrity and security of the state or conduct of international relations. Moreover, officer in charge can also refuse to disclose the information if disclosure can lead to law and order problem etc.

With the ambition in mind to know about the human right scenario in our blood stained Valley, we filed RTI application in J&K State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). We sought the information about the details of the total number of human rights violation cases filed in the commission right from its inception till date, total number of fake encounter cases filed in SHRC, total number of custodial disappearances and custodial killings with details from its inception till date, total number of cases for which compensation has been sanctioned.For that matter we approached administrative officer to our surprise he appeared totally ignorant about Right to Information Act (RTI Act). He promised us to provide all the possible help as a good will gesture. He referred us to the legal assistant who pretended to be very reserved and busy gentlemen. That very gentleman after so many queries asked us to come on Jan 23, 2008. Initially, he refused to give any kind of acknowledgement in form" A" of JK RTI Act. He was very suspicious about our identities and the staff there including the administrative officer got irritated by our presence. Reasons best know to them.

When we reached to the commission office on Jan 23, 2008 we were directed to meet secretary as the administrative officer was on leave. We were ill treated and embarrassed by him. He said it is practically impossible for him to gives us such details as they don't have manpower available to get such vast details. Later on we met the commission secretary who firstly talked very politely, but gave same reasons for not providing the information. Besides, he also refused to give reasons in black and white. He asked us to satisfy ourselves with one of the annul reports plus some annexure, when we refused to accept it he asked us to come on Jan 28, 2008 to meet Administrative officer to get requisite information. The Commission secretary also turned rash. We tried to explain him about the legal formalities that the officer should follow in providing the information or rejecting the seekers application under this act but instead he treated us like kids.For the first time in our life we realized that we are living in such a type of society where every concerned govt. officer displays behavior quite contrast to his position.

J&K SHRC didn't provide us the complete information under J&K RTI Act 2004. At one hand government claims to bring about transparency and accountability in the state administration. But the situation is totally different in govt offices. Laws and rules are only present in books. They never get implemented on ground. Govt officials are totally unaware that they are public servants. The whole govt machinery has got paralyzed and has totally collapsed. All this needs a massive over handling.


Anjum and Shareen
MSW Students, University of Kashmir
Volunteers ANHAD/J&K RTI Movement

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Yours Truly in GK on Institutionalized Corruption in J&K

Greater Kashmir
February 4, 2008


Dear Editor,

It is a ritual that has withstood the test of time. Whether it is NC, PDP or INC ruling the State, there is a “thieves honour” among our elected politicians never to discuss the annual audit report of the J&K budget performed by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, which bares open all the sleaze in the J&K. In every budget session of the Assembly, this year too - like in the past - the CAG report was tabled barely a few hours before adjournment of the Budget Session of the State Legislature today (January 30). As always, it was totally ignored by the opposition as well as by the treasury benches.

Corruption, not Mr. Azad, rules the State.

Vijay Sazawal

Monday, February 4, 2008

Why cannot people of Kashmir have clean drinking water? An amazing story of official apathy, neglect and injustice.

Funds released by GOI left unspent by JK babus

Afsana Rashid (The Daily Etalaat)

Srinagar, Feb 3: Funds released under various schemes by the Ministry of Rural Development (HRD), Government of India under Department of Drinking Water Supply (2005-07) to Jammu and Kashmir are utilized ineffectively as a hefty sum remains unspent. In this connection, three letters have been shot by the Ministry of Rural Development, to Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department, Srinagar and Jammu and to Joint Director (P) PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Civil secretariat Jammu vide No. W-11014/11/2006-TM.II dated November 21, 2007, No. W. 11038/10/04-CCDU/DWS-IV dated July 23, 2007 and No. W.11038/10/04-CCDU/DWS-IV dated September 5, 2007 respectively.

“...A sum of Rs 93.72 lakh has been released during 2005-07 for the purpose of HRD capacity-building about safe drinking water among the rural areas in the state. However, it was observed that the funds have not been utilized effectively for the purpose and a good sum remained unspent over the year,” the letter to the PHE says.

The letter further adds that the objective of the programme activities should be focused on community-based approach involving state, district and village level evolving mechanism (that is, PRIs, NGOs, technical and educational institutions) and officials/works so as to ensure regular drinking water quality testing activities and reporting accordingly.

The contents of the letters marked to Joint Director (P) PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Civil secretariat Jammu reads that the guidelines of CCDU, para 6.2, specify the requirements that are to be complied with for release of funds by Government of India. The funds to the CCDU J&K were released accordingly specifying the terms and conditions in Annexure-I to the sanction letter. It is observed that these terms are not being complied by the CCDU. The audited statements of accounts for the years 2005-06 and 2006-07 have not been submitted. These statements should be sent to this office after getting the accounts audited by a Chartered Accountant duly approved by SWSM or state government. Utilization certificate (2005-06) and Action Plan (2007-08) are also not submitted yet.

Sources who did not wish to reveal their identity said that J&K state shows zero performance in this regard. No work, according to them, has been started to obtain complete school sanitation.

Sources added that political leaders deliberately create “myth” in their respective constituencies that they have been allotted no funds by the GoI for implementation of various schemes, which according to them is absolutely baseless.

According to them, Utilization Certificate has to be sent by the state government to GoI that provides way for further release of funds. “Sixty percent of the funds allotted in the first phase have to be spent necessarily. It is only after that that Utilization certificate can be send to GoI for the release of second instalment of funds. Utilization Certificate is just 2-3 lines statement,” reveal the sources.

They informed that despite having simple procedures to avail these facilities, Jammu and Kashmir state fail to spend the money sanctioned for the first phase, which is done deliberately. The remaining funds as such are withdrawn by the GOI and allotted to better performer (state) as an incentive.

“This is no injustice. If the amount is not utilized here it is better if other state uses that for developmental purposes. Otherwise there is a simple procedure involved for acquiring these schemes but Jammu and Kashmir state shows lack of will,” added the sources. “This is the biggest loss to people of state,” they argued.

Elaborating on the schemes available they said that these schemes are demand-driven and not supply driven. “People should be informed and made aware about these schemes so that they demand for these amenities. Government has to take onus of making people aware about these schemes,” they said.

“The state government is shy of spending money. There is no political will to do it and it is nobody’s concern. No competency or commitment is shown to spend this money that would prove beneficial for the community,” they added.Communication and Capacity Development Unit (CCDU), according to the sources, came into being at all state level to implement various schemes offered by Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. Consequently, CCDU started in J&K in 2004.

Playing the "370 Card": Whether it is RTI or Police Reforms, J&K goes its own way to feed a corrupt system

J&K's 'no' to police reforms evokes concern

Arjimand Hussain Talib

(Arjimand, 33, 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.)

Admidst the hullaballoo over the forest scam in the Legislative Assembly throughout the budget session, one very significant development seems to have gone almost fully unnoticed. The J&K government's reported "no" to government of India in adopting and implementing the much-needed police reforms on the pretext of "abnormal conditions" has come as a rude surprise. What is more disturbing is that all this has passed by even without a murmur at the civil society level as well. Although Opposition, National Conference's silence on the issue is understandable, what is surprising is that pro-freedom parties and other human rights groups are silent too.

After years of dilly dallying, police reforms are becoming a reality in India today – courtesy its Supreme Court's landmark judgements to ensure replacement of the current Police Act and that the recommendations of various commissions and committees having been created since 1970s are implemented. Even as most of the States in India are in the process of consideration and implementation, J&K's rude "no" needs to be protested.

Ours is a State which needs police reforms the most, primarily because we are grinding under a twin saw. J&K's policing system is not only carrying along all the baggage of the British and Dogra Maharaja reins, we are also living with the extra-constitutional laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Disturbed Areas Act and a serious Official Secrets Act. Police as an organisation in J&K, its role, police-public relations, political interference with its work, misuse of police power and police accountability and performance evaluation are such areas where reforms cannot be put on shelf any more.

J&K's policing system continues to be highly influenced by the colonial police law passed in India 1861. Although policing is a state subject in India and J&K State by virtue of its separate constitution is supposed to have additional powers with regard to policing, yet today this state enjoys least powers in its policing system. The manner the government of India has come to influence the policing and security systems leaves policing hardly as a State subject for J&K today. As such it becomes all the more important for us to initiate meaningful reforms.

Lack of transparency in the transactions of the police in J&K, often facilitated by the extra constitutional laws and colonial policing practices, is a serious problem. There is a huge scope for transparency even as the 'sensitive' areas are guarded from undue 'exposure'. The Model Police Act has called for transparency in all police activities except for the areas of operations, intelligence that is used to plan and conduct investigations, privacy of the individual citizen and judicial requirements. There is nothing wrong in making these exceptions in J&K's context as well. These exceptions would also take away most of the reservations that protagonists of the current policing system might have for the reforms.

Another dimension of this is concerning the powers of the District Magistrate. In J&K the powers of a District Magistrate continue to be abused by executive political authorities. There is a dire need to make the police accountable to the law and not the District Magistrate and political executive as is generally interpreted.

It has been stressed in Model Police Act that police performance should not be evaluated primarily on the basis of crime statistics or number of cases solved. In J&K, police officials' performance continues to be rated on the basis of the number of 'militants' killed, arms and ammunition recovered, information sought about people indulging in "anti national activities" and so on. This system of performance evaluation and rewarding has developed a kind of jungle law within the police in J&K State. We must not forget that when recently a number of custodial murders of innocent civilians were uncovered here, involving many police officials, it was the lure of promotions and cash prizes which had clearly motivated those police officials to committing those heinous acts crimes against humanity.

The biggest problem in J&K polity has been that there has always been an untypical convergence of powers and interests between political executive, police and bureaucracy; which creates such a unique power bloc where the checks and balances of a normal democratic system simply dissipate. It has been emphasised by the Model Police Act that the basic role of the police is to function as a law enforcement agency and render impartial service to the law, without any heed to the wishes, indications or desires expressed by the government which either come in conflict with or do not conform to the provisions contained in the constitution or laws.

One of the areas of concern which is being addressed in rest of India is the murky system of promotions and transfers of police officers. The Model Police Act has recommended that before promotion to the rank of Superintendent of Police, Deputy Inspector General of Police or Inspector General of Police, all India Police Service officers should be required to undertake a pre-promotion course, followed by an examination and an objective selection process. This procedure needs to be adopted in both IPS and KPS cadres in J&K and would go a long way in eliminating undue political interference in police. It has been recognised that the threat of transfer or suspension is the most potent weapon in the hands of the politicians to bend the police to their will. All this has resulted in serious erosion of rule of law and loss of police credibility as a professional organisation.

The serious dearth of women police officers and police stations in J&K also needs immediate action. The way male police have been dealing with women filing complaints in police stations and the manner male police have been treating peaceful women protests on the streets cannot by any stretch of imagination be a system of a democratic set up.

Time has come for us to have a State Security Commission and a State Police Commission, setting up of Complaint Cells at district and State levels and create systems of checks and balances to make this institution people-friendly and modern. Time has come for civil society to put their act together for making police reforms possible in J&K. Organisations like Common Wealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), which has maintained silence on police reforms in J&K, while playing a good role in making them happen elsewhere, must also come forward to play its role.

(Daily Greater Kashmir February 3, 2007)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Will Kashmiri Politicians Cast Aside Their Petty Politics to Complete an Overdue Infrastructure Project?

Google Earth imagery does not lie ......

A dream project turns distant dream: An 83 crore four-lane highway overdue by 4 years

Abdullah Shervani

(Mr. Abdullah Danish Shervani, 25, a native of Baramulla, was born in the city of Khamees Mushayt, Saudi Arabia. As a child of expatriate parents in the Gulf, his early education was in schools run by the Indian Embassy in cities like Abha, Taif, and Jeddah. He graduated from high school in Aligarh before moving back to Baramulla where he pursued a B.Sc. degree in Mass communication and Multimedia Production from the local degree college. Currently, he is doing post-graduate studies in mass communication at the Media Education Researh Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University. He is also a budding journalist, covering the campus beat for the newest city newspaper, The Daily Rising Kashmir. His interests include documentary film making, clearing misconceptions about Islam, and in general trying to make the world a better place to live in.)

The work on the Rs 83 crore; four-lane road from Dalgate to Zakura was started in 2001. Then chief minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah announced with great pomp and show that the project would be ready in 3 years. But it is seven years since and the ‘dream project’ is still pending. Blame game between politicians and officials is one of the successful developments that the project has witnessed till date.

The foundation stone of four-lane road named ‘Meerakh Shah Road’ was laid by Dr. Farooq Abdullah on September 8, 2001. He had termed the road project as the dream of Sher-e-Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and claimed that the four-channel road would be completed in three years. According to then R&B minister Ali Mohammad Sagar, Rs. 46 crore were to be paid as compensation for acquisition of land and structures along the road, Rs. 11 crore were to be spent on the construction of new bridges while Rs. 26 crore were to be utilized for the construction of the road. At the foundation laying ceremony, Farooq Abdullah had asked the engineers ensure that majestic chinars were saved during the road project.

But all these seem to have been great words that would have made a great idealistic article titled ‘My Ambitions in life’. Such tall claims seem to have only been a means to justify money spent over the years, before and after 8th September 2001.

As per the plan four new bridges were supposed to be constructed at Dalgate, Nowpora, Saida Kadal and Ashai Bagh to remove the bottlenecks on the road. The first two have been constructed while the Saida Kadal bridge was thrown open for two way traffic in mid-2007. The construction of the bridge at Ashai Bagh may be in its final phase, but traffic movement is yet to start.

Talking to, Chief engineer R&B said, “The project was sanctioned under the Central Road Fund (CRF) and the state government only pays for the road construction. They do not pay even a single penny for the land acquisition”. (And 46 crores for land acquisition?!)
He said that Rs 83 crore seems to be too less an amount to suffice the project cost. “It would cost much more than that”.

Senior NC leader and then R&B minister, Ali Mohammad Sagar told that the first phase of the expressway from Zakura to Ashai Bagh was completed by the end of 2001 while in the second phase the road was widened from Ashai Bagh to Nowpora in 2002. “The state government had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kashmir University for acquisition of the university land for the road. It is only that part of the road that is almost complete till date”, he said.

CE R&B too admits that the road stretch surrounding the university was first completed as it was acquired from the university. But satellite imagery from Google Earth is witness enough that the road is yet to look like a four-lane proposed project.

Sagar argued that the funds had already been given to the JKPCC to construct the bridges but JKPCC officials say that the construction of bridges had to be stopped halfway as the government reconsidered its decision.

A JKPCC official, on condition of anonymity, said, that the construction on the bridge had to be stopped halfway because the government had second thought on its construction. “We returned the remaining funds to the government”. He further adds with skepticism, “We are the ones stuck in between the lines. Every new government has its own agendas and the plans of the older ones are subsequently taken up with disinterest”. An easy deduction to this can be that every time a new government comes in force, it neglects the already running projects and starts its own. Obviously to justify more money for their own homes like their predecessors.

With the JKPCC and the government playing the blame game, there seem to be no clue as to where all the money for the bridges has gone.

The R&B department, according to its chief engineer, is ready to go ahead with the rest of the construction provided the government settles the acquisition of the land on both sides of the “dream project”. “We have surplus funds for the road construction but due to slow process of land acquisition, the construction work has got delayed”, added CE R&B.

Sagar adds, “I don’t know why the government shelved the project. The government does not want to reveal the reason for shelving this dream project. The shelving of project makes it amply clear that government is not interested in carrying out developmental related activities in Srinagar”.

Is he sincere in his comment or removing blame off his shoulders? You decide.

(News article appeared in on 24th January 2008)

The Story Behind J&K Bank's Success: Indian taxpayer/Treasury contributing zillions in interest payments to cover State Overdrafts

The Flip Side of Success: A Hush-Hush Tale of J&K State's Dependency on Overdrafts From the J&K Bank Not Normally Allowed Under the Reserve Bank of India Rules (two related stories) .....


Net profit in nine months recorded above Rs.300 crore

Srinagar: J&K Bank recorded a 30% rise in net profit on the back of significant rise in Interest Income on loans & advances and Other Income. The net profit for the quarter ended December 31, 2007 rose to Rs 109.16 crore from Rs. 83.89 Crore compared with the corresponding period a year a go. For the nine months of this fiscal, bank has reported a 31% rise in net profit at Rs.300.20 crore from Rs.229.21 crore. The Loan Book as on December 31, 2007 stood at Rs.18287 crore up 23.30% from last year’s Rs.14381 crore. Due to the volume growth in Advances and improvement in yields, the interest income on advances went up significantly by 41.80% over the corresponding quarter of the pervious year. As on December 31, 2007 banks deposit base stood at Rs.26527 crore from Rs.20296 crore a year back registering an increase of 30.70%.


ODs cross Rs 2288 cr, up by Rs 98 cr in 1 year
Govt mulls long term debt

JAMMU, Feb 2: Overdrafts of the State Government with Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd (JKBL) have constantly been on rise. Ever increasing Overdrafts have forced the Finance Ministry to consider replacement of structural part of ODs by a long term debt.

Presently, the J&K Government had an Overdraft of Rs 2288.21 crore. Overdrafts have now been divided into two categories—Normal Overdrafts (OD-I) and Power Overdrafts (OD-II)
While OD-I stood at Rs 2092.57 crore, OD-II was to the tune of Rs 195.64 crore, a Finance Ministry document said.

In January last year, the ODs stood at Rs 2190 crore—Rs 1942 crore as normal overdraft and Rs 248 crore as power account overdraft.

Figures revealed an increase of Rs 98 crore in ODs in last one year.

The Overdraft amounted to 15.33 per cent in 1996-97 and went upto 18.37 per cent in 1997-98. Overdrafts at the end of third quarter of last year i.e. December 31, 2007 was Rs 2110 crore i.e. below the March 2007 level.

The Government proposed to make every effort to bring down Overdrafts in first instance to 14.5 per cent of expenditure, the document said.

It added that a very large part of Overdrafts has assumed the character of a "structural deficit" which is required to be broken into current level of ODs into two components—a long term liability and a short term "ways and means" facility.

"The first component can be overcome through a combination of grant from the Central Government, issue of bonds by the State Government and raising of additional market borrowings", the document observed but noted "the most practical way and perhaps the only way to go forward is to replace the structural part of Overdraft by a long-term debt".
The Finance Ministry attributed power deficit as one of the major reason for Overdrafts.
The Government has admitted that bills were pending in treasuries but majority of payments were being cleared at regular intervals. Total pending bills in all treasuries of the State amounted to Rs 551.66 crore a fortnight ago. The amount include Rs 85 crore payable to Food Corporation of India (FCI). Total pending bills in Civil Secretariat treasury were Rs 129.51 crore, sources said.

Rs 6.06 crore worth bills for salary, pension and wages have been cleared. Other outstanding liabilities which the Government has cleared during last two months include salary, pension, wages, CDF, TE-OE-POL/drug and diet, cash assistance to migrants, gratuity commutation, GP Fund, contractors, firms, material/supplied and self help group payments.

The railway land compensation was Rs 8.19 crore only but the bills received during 2007-08 amounted to Rs 20.07 crore. Bills aggregating Rs 11.88 crore stand cleared, sources said.

(Daily Excelsior Report)

Easy Come, Easy Go: A new scam is exploiting both parents and children

Coaching centres turn into money minting centres

Coaching Centres are turning into money minting centres


Srinagar, Jan 30: The coaching centres are fast turning out to be money minting centres. The primary focus of these institutions is to grab money rather than providing quality education to students.

Hundreds of coaching centres have been established in Srinagar city. In every nook and corner, a coaching centre has been set-up with the claim of providing best and quality education to children studying in these centres. But there is a general feeling among the masses here that these centres instead of providing quality education to children are fast turning out to be money minting centres.

The coaching centres are now resorting to exploitation. They have set pre-conditions, wherein a parent of a ward cannot refund the money in case he wants his/her children to be shifted from that coaching centre. The refunding of money is not applicable in rules and regulations of these coaching centres.

“I came all the way from Anantnag to study here. But the quality is not upto the mark. I am stuck here as I have paid Rs 10000 as advance. The money cannot be refunded back,” said Naseer Ahmed, a student studying in a private coaching centre in city centre.

The coaching centres have been able to attract large number of students by resorting to bombardment of advertisements. “These institutions claim to provide quality education but like the government schools the teachers in these centres too fail to do justice with their job and provide quality education to the students,” said Reyaz Ahmad, a banker.

Reyaz had admitted one of his sons in the coaching centres and is now repenting his decision. “Through advertisements these tuition centres create such an impression that we get tempted to admit our children in these study centres. My child is not satisfied with the teaching quality,” said Abdul Rehman.

Such is the demand for the coaching centres that a teacher teaches more than 100 students under a single roof and uses microphones to deliver lectures.

“Hundreds of students study here and the hall remains jam packed. Today I was few minutes late and I had to stand on stairs outside the lecture hall,” said Adil Amin, a student of one of the renowned coaching centres in Srinagar.

A retired teacher, Abdur Rehman said, “Few years ago Education Department banned the private tuitions but the law was not implemented later. Had it been implemented so many tution centres would not have come and people would not have been exploited by the management of the coaching centres”.

Like others, Rehman too demanded that the government should look into the matter and prevent the coaching centres from looting people. “Some guidelines should be framed for these institutions so that people are not looted and quality education is provided to their wards,” they added.