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.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Time to Move Forward and Forget the Past

Since we highlighted the Cabinet Decision 94/7 and the Government Order 184-FST, we also reproduce the latest agreement on the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB)

Original text of agreement between Governor’s panel and Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti (SAYSS)

Jammu, Aug 31: Following is the test read out by governor’s adviser S S Bloeria and SASS convenor Leela Karan Sharma during a joint press conference soon after the forth round of talks concluded during the wee hours here today.

Dr. Bloeria said that the government has requested the Samiti to call off their proposed rally for today.

Following is the text of the joint statement issued at the press conference:
1. 'The Shri Amarnathji Yatra, which has been going on for many centuries, is a shining symbol of communal harmony and brotherhood in Jammu & Kashmir and reflective of the State's composite heritage. The Yatris have been welcomed with open arms by the people of both Jammu and Kashmir Divisions and all required facilities have been made available for them. Sadly, certain decisions of the State Government relating to the Yatra created misunderstandings which led to controversy and agitation and loss of many precious lives. Apart from the damage to property, there has been a colossal loss to the State's economy in different sectors like transport, trade, industry, horticulture and tourism.
2. 'The Yatra to Shri Amarnathji Shrine has traditionally benefitted a large number of local residents, many of whom have crucial dependence on this annual pilgrimage for their livelihood.
3. 'There has been no occasion in the past on which the State Government has failed to provide the required support for the conduct of the Amarnathji Yatra. On the contrary, the extent and nature of governmental support to the Yatra has been progressively enhancing, from year to year.
4. 'In view of the need to seek a peaceful resolution of the fundamental issues, to settle all existing doubts and clarify the continuing responsibility of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir had constituted, on 6 August, 2008, a four-member Committee comprising:

Dr. S. S. Bloeria, Advisor to Governor
Justice (Retd) Shri G. D. Sharma
Prof. Amitabh Mattoo, Vice Chancellor, University of Jammu
Shri B. B. Vyas, Principal Secretary to Governor and Chief Executive Officer, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board -2-

5. 'The Committee held three rounds of discussions with the four-member Committee nominated by the Shri Amarnathji Yatra Sangharsh Samiti (SAYSS) which comprised:-

Shri Tilak Raj Sharma
Brif (Retd) Suchet Singh
Prof. Narinder Singh
Shri Pawan Kohli

6. 'The Governor has also held discussions with the leaders of political, social, religious, academic and other organizations in the Kashmir Valley. The predominant view, emerging out of the consultations, is that the Amarnathji Yatra, which is a centuries old tradition of J&K's rich composite heritage, will continue to be welcomed and supported by the people of Kashmir, in every possible way. It was also felt that while the Shrine Board could continue to use the land, as in the past, for Yatra purposes, nothing should be done to alienate or transfer the land. While an assuring convergence of views has emerged, the Governor is committed to continuing the consultative process to ensure against any remaining misunderstanding whatsoever on an issue which has earlier led to serious misperceptions and grade human and economic loss.
'Based on detailed discussions and deliberations held in the recent weeks, the following framework of action for resolving the issue relating to the use of land for the period of Yatra by the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, at Baltal and Domail, has been agreed to:-
A. 'The State Government shall set aside for the use by Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, exclusively, the land in Baltal and Domail (Compartment No. 63/S, Sindh Forest Division) comprising an area of 800 kanals, traditionally under use for the annual Yatra purposes.
B. 'The proprietary status/ownership/title of the land shall not undergo any change.
D. 'The Board shall use the aforesaid land for the duration of the Yatra (including the period of making the required arrangements and winding up of the same) for the purpose of user by various service providers according to its needs and priorities.
'The aforesaid land shall be used according to the Board's requirements, from time to time, including for the following:-
i. 'Raising of temporary pre-fabricated accommodation and toilet facilities by the Board;
ii. 'Establishment of tented accommodation by private camping agencies (locals, permanent residents of the State);
iii. 'Setting up of the shops by shopkeepers (locals, permanent residents of the State);

iv. 'Facilities for Pony Walla’s and Pithu Walla’s;

v. 'Provision of healthcare and medical facilities;

vi. 'Setting up of free Langars by private persons and groups which are licensed by the Board;

vii. 'Facilities for helicopter operations/ parking of vehicles;

viii. 'Arrangements of security by local police/para-military forces and other security agencies as per the arrangements in place here-to-fore; and

ix. 'Undertaking measures relating to soil conservation, land protection and preservation of ecology.

2. 'It has further been agreed that the Board shall continue to remain responsible for the overall arrangements of the Yatra on both the routes during the Yatra period, including all arrangements as mandated under the provisions of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Act, 2000 A.D.

3. 'Apart from the above, the Committee set up by the Samiti had, during the course of discussions, presented a fourteen-point "Charter of Demands" for consideration by the State Government. The main demands relate to withdrawal of criminal cases against various persons during the period of agitation, provision of compensation to the families of the deceased and to the injured and working out of appropriate packages of financial assistance to compensate losses of the transport sector, trade and industry, horticulture sector, hoteliers and tourist operators. The State Government has agreed to examine all these demands in an appropriate manner on time-bound basis.

4. 'In particular, as regards the registration of criminal cases against various persons during the period of agitation, it is agreed that all cases of non-serious nature which shall mean bailable and compoundable will be withdrawn. The remaining cases will be reviewed, on the merits of each case, by a Committee headed by Shri Anil Goswami, Principal Secretary (Home) within 60 days. Till the completion of this process, no action will be taken in such cases. Also, specific allegations of atrocities on agitators, based on prima-facie evidence, could also be looked into by this Committee.

5. 'Ex-gratia relief will be extended in favour of the next of the kin of the deceased and in favour of permanently disabled and the injured in all cases covered under the existing rules of the State Government.

6. 'Further, a Working Group, under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretary will address all compensation issues relating to both Jammu and Kashmir Divisions and the Central Government will be approached for extending enabling financial support to the State Government for this purpose within a period of two months. To make the exercise meaningful, one representative from each of the affected sectors will be associated with the deliberations of the Working Group.

7. 'The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board will be reconstituted keeping in view the provisions of the Act and the past precedents.

8. 'It is agreed that the Law Department in the State Government will examine the issue of disposal of LPA in terms of the understanding made hereinabove within one month.'

Sd/- Sd/-
(Lila Karan Sharma) (Dr. S. S. Bloeria)
Convener Advisor to Governor of J&K
Shri Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti

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