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, April 30, 2009

Chilling Economic Divide: The State With Highest VAT Collection is also the One With Substantial Poverty

Kashmir provides a vivid contrast among the rich and the poor

Poverty: J&K not too far behind the rest

Jammu: Contrary to popular perception that J&K state fares quite well in poverty eradication graph vis-…-vis national statistics, the indicators of regional development put the state close to all India magnitude in percentage of population living Below Poverty Line (BPL).

As per these indicators, on the whole, the state has 21.63 percentage of BPL population in 2007-08 as compared to all India magnitude of 27.50 in 2004-05. The state has an estimated BPL population (rural and urban combined figure) of 2420826.

Of 22 districts of the state, eight districts i.e., Reasi, Ramban, Kishtwar, Poonch, Kupwara, Kargil, Bandipora and Doda, in 2007-08 indicators, have even crossed the scale of national statistics of BPL population percentage as recorded in 2004-05.

Though exact figures of BPL population for the year 2007-08 in the country are not available on paper yet roughly (including slum population also), they account for 40 percent of entire population of India. However BPL population percentage for the year 2007-08 in these districts of J&K hovers between 37.93 to 29.07 percent on high magnitude scale, which is again close to the latest (approximate) national statistics as well.

Reasi district has the highest magnitude of BPL population percentage i.e., 37.93 percent while Srinagar records the lowest magnitude with 6.51 percent. In Reasi, estimated BPL population is 103670 while Srinagar has an estimated BPL population of 73262.

Jammu district figures at the third position (lowest magnitude) with an estimated BPL population of 177399 which accounts for 11.97 percent of its entire population. Kathua district is slightly ahead of Jammu with 11.72 percent in BPL population percentage and an estimated BPL population of 69159.

However in three regions, it is the Ladakh region, which has the highest BPL population percentage i.e., 27.03 in 2007-08 which is almost close to the national magnitude as recorded in 2004-05. In Ladakh region, there is an estimated BPL population of 70541 as compared to 1291222 in Kashmir region which turns out to be 21.37 percent. However, Jammu region has an estimated BPL population of 1059063 which accounts for 21.67 percent of its population.

On the higher side vis-…-vis BPL population percentage and estimated BPL population, among the districts, Ramban and Kishtwar districts of Jammu closely follow Reasi district. While Ramban district has the second highest scale of estimated BPL population i.e., 89482 accounting for 37.73 percentage of its population, Kishtwar has just a difference of .01 percent and it emerges as the district with third highest magnitude of BPL population percentage with 37.72. In Kishtwar an estimated BPL population has been registered as 79417 in 2007-08.

Poonch, Kupwara, Kargil and Bandipora districts have an estimated BPL population of 138404, 233569, 41993 and 120846, which account for 33.67 percent, 32.55 percent, 31.90 percent and 31.09 percent respectively of their respective population count.

However, as per population count size (purely in terms of number), Baramulla district has the highest estimated BPL population i.e., 237068 (though accounting for only 26.7 percent of its entire population), closely followed by Kupwara district with 233569 estimated BPL population (accounting for 32.55 percent of its total population).

Leh has the lowest population count (purely in terms of number) i.e., 28548 (though accounting 22.07 percent of its total population).

JK tops in Vat collection

Jammu: Record revenue of Rs 1721.59 crore was earned by the Commercial Taxes Department by the end of February 2009 as compared to Rs 1623.87 crore during the same period last year.

This information was given to Minister for Finance, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Abdul Rahim Rather while reviewing the functioning of the department here this afternoon. The meeting was informed that revenue generated from General Sales Tax/Value Added Tax (GST/VAT) has been to the tune of Rs 1394. 31 crore by February, 2009 end while it was Rs. 1,287.72 crore during the same period last year which is a rise of about 12.94 percent .

Out of Rs. 1394.31 crore revenue collection, Rs 936.14 crore was generated in Jammu province and Rs 458.17 crore from Kashmir province. Similarly, under Motor Spirit Rs 275.37 crore, under stamps Rs 46.11 crore while as Rs 5.80 crore revenue was collected as Passenger tax during the same period.

Stating that the state earns major revenue from CT department, Rather stressed upon the officers to utilize their proficiency and ability for increasing the revenue realization. He hailed the efforts of the officers on the implementation of Value Added Tax and added that their efforts had made J&K, the first ranked state in the country in terms of VAT collections. He said that the performance should also be replicated in other areas, as well.

Minister said for achieving better revenue realization friendly relationship between traders and officers is imperative. He said that there is a general perception among people that red-tape in government departments leads to delays and inconvenience. He said that such perceptions needs to be changed in the present times when the government is going for a customer friendly set up.

Minister called for effective monitoring of tax realization and added that transparency and efficiency be maintained at all levels. He stressed upon the officers for undertaking random inspection and field visits to maximize the revenue realization in all the areas. Commissioner/ Secretary, Finance Sudhanshu Pandey, Commissioner Commercial Taxes, Basher Ahmad and other senior officers of the department participated in the meeting.

(Kashmir Times)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Kashmir

Rashneek takes a journey down the memory lane of a childhood long gone

(Mr. Rashneek Kher, 36, was born in the Alikadal precinct of Srinagar. He did his initial schooling from Vidhya Bhavan and Angels Garden in Kashmir and joined Boarding at the Sainik School Nagrota in Jammu from 1983 till 1990. He graduated from the University of Jammu and completed his Master's degree in Business Adminstration from the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University, where he currently serves as a Guest Faculty. He has published his work in various literary magazines(including SAARC magazine-Beyond Borders), and writes regular columns for the Greater Kashmir. He has delivered lectures at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA),and his poetry is a part of the the Anthology of Poets-in-Exile released by "Sampriti" - an organsation working for promotion of Kashmiri literaure. In his leisure time, he delves in History,Spirituality across borders, pschology and psychonanalysis, and music.)


Come Spring and small streams emanating out of Doodh Ganga would be full of water and the perennial brook near my home would be enticing small boys to its muddy banks. The willows will be in a new green hue while the solitary apple tree in my courtyard would be quietly awaiting the arrival of its fruits of labour.

Swarms of men and women would be ready for “thal” or sowing of the paddy saplings. People would dig small pipe like canals from the flowing streams to their fields. There would be minor quarrels among people as they jostle for water. But all that would be amicably settled. Chirping birds would fly down to pick insects from the freshly ploughed soil. Young girls would carry samovars full of hot salt tea and bagfuls of bread to their family members working in the fields. The teachers would have it easy though. A ready stock of students would be eager to work on their fields in hope of a mass promotion to the next grade. My village, would hear women sing in mesmerizing tones Rasul Mir’s “Hariye thavak na kan ti lolo”. The mild sun would shine over my small, non- descript village Kanipora.

I was seven when the elders of our house decided to sell our ancestral house at 10, Qutubdin Pora, Ali Kadal, Srinagar and move to a new location on the outskirts of the city. There was a deep sense of loss as the truck moved out of the narrow downtown lanes to the wider roads leading out of the city. I thought of Sallam the butcher, Kare Kon the local candy man, the flowing Vitasta ,the Batyaar Mandir, Rishi Peers Aastan and the avuncular saint Rahbab Saheb. I would miss them all, I thought. These were the by-lanes, the narrow by-lanes where we lived among Nawchis. Sultans, Patigaroo’s ,Dar’s, Hagar’s and Kaul’s. Then of course there was a man who seemed like a lunatic to all of us; someone who would have tea in a 5kg P-Mark Tin and share his Tale-vor (a local variety of Kashmiri bread) with dogs. He was called Hone-Rahman. No one knew where he came from. I was scared yet fond of him. It was him who I was to miss the most.

I was now a student of The New Cambridge Public School (later re-christened as Angels Garden) the only English medium school in the entire village. The school was housed in an old dilapidated building near the saw mill not very far from the main bus stand, not that there was any other bus stand in or around our village. Kanipora was a block in the Chadoora Tehsil of Budgam district of Kashmir subdivision of Jammu and Kashmir. It had a non working post office, a branch of State Bank of India, an Elaqaui Dehati Bank, a Boys High School, a Middle school for girls, a terrible primary healthcare centre and a very bad road connecting Kanipora to Kralpora-an equally small village on the main road to Char-e-Sharief .It was on this bad road that we had our new house-a palatial house compared to the concrete pigeon hole called a flat, that I live in now.

The new house was bereft of any living neighbours. The only other house around was a huge house across the small brook. The owners, we were told were too scared to live in that house. This is a haunted house they would say. One of their cousins, a short man with a beard would come to visit the house from time to time. His name was Khursheed and he was a probably a teacher in one of the Government schools in Srinagar. But Srinagar was far now, thirteen kilometres from the main bus stand and fourteen from our home.

The new house had a brook for running water and toilets were still a luxury. Endless vast expanse of green surrounded us and some hundred meters behind us was a small cremation ground. That seemed to be the only companion and neighbour that we had till a Peer Sahib with his three sons started building a house near the grazing field. The village had walnut trees, chinars, poplars, willows and yes it grew some strawberries and saffron too.

The village Moqadam was a pious man called Rasul Daar. He was a man with a great sense of humour and would often laugh at his own self. It was his grandson who was to be my best pal, my alter ego in times to come. It has been long; I have seen Yaseen or heard from him. I write this in hope that he may read it and get in touch with me. We would attend tuitions together in Nawab Bazzar where my uncle would teach us Mathematics. Another of my friends Ashwani met me here in Delhi after a gap of seventeen years. It was a tearful re-union as we talked about our common past, the village swamp and our uncertain future. Two of them, me, Mushtaq, Shafiq, Ameen and my younger brother Rinku would play cricket on Motilal Khar’s land, the land he was planning to build a house on after his spinster brother’s death. Neither did Mohan Lal die in Kashmir nor did Moti Lal ever make a house.

There was a family of Thokur’s pronounced locally as Thukre who lived in a dark lane near the biggest apple orchard of the village. The families of two brothers lived in a wood house with freshly painted wooden stairs and a big courtyard. The house was a picture of prosperity in an otherwise no so rich village. One early morning the elder Thukre and his wife were seen leaving the village, their only belonging being the metal trunk painted light green overall with purple coloured leaves and flowers adorning its borders. His unceremonious departure was talked about in hushed tones in the village. None had a clue where he would head to and none ever knew where he went. After a few days of his exodus no one even mentioned a word about him. Ramzan Thukre’s son Farooq, my junior in my school was now the only inheritor to the property of Thukrs.

I am sure the village would have changed now. The Railway Line might have changed the fortunes of the people who owned some land in the vicinity of the rail tracks. I just hope they haven’t cut the chinars of the village. The three Chinars near the green coloured mosque where the rivulet and the road take a bend are keepers of my yesteryears’ secrets. The second of the three Chinars, yes the one in the centre was already beginning to show signs of hollowness in late eighties. Is it still alive?

Twenty years is a long time. Ghlam Nabi the tailor must have grown old and his brother Wosta Ali must have excelled further in the art of masonry. The three shops near the Pomegranate orchard must have become more now. Would they still be selling Thoole Mithae ,I wonder. There must be no Prabha School anymore. Incidentally I could not attend Prabhawati’s funeral in Jammu.

Men and women would now be returning to their homes after a hard days’ work. They would soon fall asleep. The night sets in early at my village. Far away someone is singing….Mae Chu basan mae ma gache shaam vatey.

Human Effort for Love and Peace (HELP)

Aditi meets a special person who is using her connections for the betterment of suffering Kashmiri women

(Ms. Aditi Bhaduri's bio sketch is available from the webmaster.)

Crafting New Hope in the Conflict Zone

Nighat Shafi Pandit explains conflict precisely: "When two parties do not agree with the views of each other, it creates a conflict. A conflict always starts at home and then spreads in society."

Living in Kashmir, where ordinary citizens have been caught in the spiral of violence between militants and the army, it is striking that the activist uses words like family, home and disputes to explain conflict. But then for women, the personal is always political.

Pandit does not represent the common woman of Kashmir whose voice we usually hear — the economically underprivileged, the rural woman, the 'half-widow' or the one who has lost her husband or son to militancy. In fact, both her father and husband are senior bureaucrats. She has mostly led a comfortable life. Yet, when the Kashmir conflict was growing apace in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the violence became personal. Mohamed Shafi Pandit, her husband and Chairperson of the State Public Service Commission, was an automatic target for militants. Threats to her children were common. Following specific threats to her daughter, her family was given Border Security Force protection. Even her son had to be sent abroad.

Then, when militants attacked her husband, they moved to Delhi. The family returned only in 1997 when insurgency was waning. But the homecoming changed Pandit's life forever. When she saw the widespread devastation and despair, she knew she had her work cut out for the future. "I decided that I had to do something about the situation. So I called some friends and we set up Human Effort for Love and Peace (HELP)," she recalls.

In Kashmir, there are an estimated 30,000 women, who have lost their husbands in "militancy related activities", while 20,000 children have been orphaned. (The State Women's Commission's unofficial figure is 40,000 widows, while unofficially the Public Commission on Human Rights puts the number at 25,000-30,000). Today, if Tasleema, a widow and mother of three, is able to earn a decent living and send her two children to school, it's all thanks to Pandit.

HELP started small. "We began with a school for children of fishermen in one of the backwaters of the Dal Lake," says Pandit. Along with children, women have been the worst victims of the violence that has crippled the state of Jammu and Kashmir for almost two decades. Women constitute 48 per cent of the Valley's voters, and the literacy rate is about 32 per cent. With conflict claiming the lives of hundreds of men, more women are being compelled to become the breadwinners of their families, despite lacking the skills for it. Responding to this predicament, HELP started a special economic rehabilitation programme. "We realised that the women have nothing to sustain themselves with. I have been to villages in Kupwara where one can find three to four widows in one home alone. I know of women who never knew their husbands were militants.”

Six training centres have been established across the Valley — in Kulgam, Sitaharan, Kupwara, Handwara and in Srinagar — that impart training in embroidery and weaving and also extend interest-free loans to women to set up their own small groups. "My aim is to ensure that these women are not reduced to begging. And they are not exploited," says Pandit.

The women who enroll in the programme are divided into groups on the basis of their skills. All the handmade stuff is later sold in Shehjar Bazaar, which is owned by HELP and at exhibitions, which are periodically held in Kashmir and Jammu. The proceeds from the sales are shared with the women and also used to further HELP's work.

If winning the trust of the people was tough, another enormous challenge was the security concerns. "In the beginning people warned me not to move out. After all, my husband had been shot at by militants. But I had faith in God."

Neglecting Heritage is akin to Promoting Talibanisation

Abdul speaks for many in his letter to the Greater Kashmir

(Mr. Abdul Salam Qureshi, 69, was born in Srinagar. He studied at the Sri Pratap College, Srinagar, and completed his B.Sc. in Agriculture and his M.Sc. in Pomology from the University of Jammu & Kashmir. He joined the State service and at his retirement held the position of Director, Project Planning and Monitoring, Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST). He enjoys reading and gardening.)

Who is responsible for the neglect of our heritage?

It has been a practice to organize functions on any historical event or occasion, by holding seminars, lectures, exhibition or walks etc, to justify our otherwise forgotten existence through print and electronic media. Traditionally the world heritage day was also recently observed in serene and cool atmosphere of Pari Mahal garden. When it is a hard fact that state archeological department with its sister central unit has fallen into deep slumber from nineties onwards as the valley was surprisingly overtaken by the turmoil. Nevertheless, we should be thankful to the various armed organizations, which were running the show then, as they did not act like Taliban of Afghanistan, who damaged the world famous Bamiyan heritage site of Lord Buddha, inviting worldwide condemnation.

However, it pains to mention that our own people, residing around the various sites encroached and usurped them either individually or collectively under the garb of some religious and social institutions. The worst hit site of this criminal negligence is the illegal possession of Kalai (fortification) depicting complete insensitiveness and neglect on the part of people of Srinagar city. This historical structure was built by King Akbar on his first visit to Srinagar in 1586-97 around Hari parbat hillock, in order to provide timely succor to the starving people of the city, which was badly damaged due to devastating floods. Major portion of the Kalai have been plundered and even illegally held by the land grabbers patronized by invisible organized land mafia, having support of political goons for petty financial considerations.

The municipal authorities compounded the problem by providing facilities like tiled lanes and drains as well. Paradoxically, PHE and PDD(s) rushed with water and electric connections possibly under pressure from known quarters for vote bank politics. When left unchallenged, the encroachments have been extended up to Malakha (major graveyard) as well. New structures (concrete) have come up on both sides of Kalai including graveyard with tacit support of employees of Muslim Waqf Board. Considering the alarming and appalling condition of the historic kalai and Malakha, the concerned departments (Archeology, Waqf Board, Municipal Corporation, Revenue and Police) should have a pro active policy and move in unison in order to curb and vacate encroachments to save the threatened heritage sites from extinction for our future generations. The illegal possession should be asked for original land records of 1946-47 with allied information, as has been asked by LAWDA authorities from Dal dwellers.

The political organizations can be requested to keep their hands off from this sensitive issue, in order to save our prestigious heritage for present and future generations. The other heritage site, which also demands attention of the government are; Budshah tomb, Pathar Masjid, Grave and house of Mullah Ghani Kashmiri, Martyrs site of 1931 uprising, and gates of Residency (emporium garden).

The gates (royal type) of the emporium garden located at eastern and western side of the residency were built in second half of the 19th century, when official residence cum office was built for British resident stationed in Srinagar. The gates having artistic wood work, design and majestic look need to be listed and saved from further damage.

Thank you, Mr. Zafar Iqbal Manhas

Thank you, Zafar, for facilitating a cultural program called "Mauj Kasheer"

Kashmiri youngsters enthrall audience at Jammu

Jammu: It was an evening filled with nostalgia, pathos, sadness and tears. Yet, no element of hatred or bitterness could be felt at any moment during “Mauj Kasheer”, a variety cultural programme by young Kashmiri artists, presented by J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages here this evening. In fact the programme marked the celebration of the composite cultural ethos of Kashmir and the centuries old tradition of co-existence and mutual love and respect.

In his opening remarks, Secretary of Academy Zafar Iqbal Manhas said that the programme was being presented by young artists belonging to the Kashmiri Pandit community, all of whom were born in exile far away from their cultural moorings. Most of them have never visited Kashmir, he added. The programme was manifestation of the age old maxim “Jo sukh Fattu de Chobare, Na Balkh te na Bukhare” (East or West, Home is the Best) and signified the yearning of young generation of Kashmiri Pandit community to return to their land on ancestors. This programme is a humble effort on behalf of the Academy to keep the unique cultural ethos of Kashmir alive among the new generation. The need to keep their connection with Kashmiri language intact is also a thrust area that needs our immediate attention, he said. He added that he was quite assured of the ability of the community to surmount the economic and job related difficulties because of their intelligence, talent and hard work. The only thing that worried him was whether the connection of the young members of the community, born and brought up in exile, with their culture and language would remain intact or not. He expressed the resolve of the Academy to take this programme to different parts of Kashmir valley during the next few months so that these young Kashmiris could visit the land to which they belong.

The programme, composed by well known music director Krishan Langoo, consisted of compositions based on the poetry of Lalla Dyed, Mehjoor, Dina Nath Nadim, Abdul Ahad Azad and Moti Lal Saqi. The young artistes on stage displayed their love for not only their own culture, language and traditions but also their understanding of the festivities of the majority community in Kashmir. The tragedy of migration and the sufferings of the community also found expression in various items presented during the programme.

Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Khurshid Ahmed Ganai highly appreciated the efforts of the Academy in promotion and preservation of art, culture and languages of the State. He said that such efforts will go a long way in keeping the cultural richness and diversity of the State alive.

Arjun Dev Majboor, who presided over the function extolled the significance of mother in our traditions as the land of ancestors is known as motherland in India. He said that most rivers in India also carry a feminine name because we treat these as mothers due to their importance to the existence of mankind. He added that these young artists remembering their motherland and their mother tongue through this programme was a very significant event.

D.S.Saroya, Director, North Zone Cultural Centre, Patiala also spoke on the occasion.
The programme was ably compered by Ravinder Kaul and Sunita Bhat.

Programme was witnessed by a full house, saw the audience applauding the young migrant artists who presented the compositions based on the poetry of Lalla Dyed, Mehjoor, Dina Nath Nadim, Abdul Ahad Azad and Moti Lal Saqi. The lilting musical compositions were composed by Krishan Langoo.

Well known poet and author Arjun Dev Majboor and ace Music Director Krishan Langoo were felicitated by the Academy on the occasion.

(Kashmir Images)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Article 370

Balraj Puri looks recalls important events surrounding the controversial article of the Indian Constitution

(Mr. Balraj Puri, 80, was born in Jammu city and attended the Ranbir High School and the Prince of Wales College in Jammu. He is a journalist, human rights activist and a writer who has been an eye witness to the turbulent history of the State. He has written 5 books, including the historical "5000 years of Kashmir" in 1997. He is the Convenor of the J&K State branch of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and the Director of the Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, based in Jammu.)

Article 370: Can it be abrogated?

BJP General Secretary Arun Jaittey reiterated commitment of his party, during his election campaign in Jammu that abrogation of Article 370 of the constitution which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir State was the key issue for his party. He invited the State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to debate with him on it. Whether or not it remains the key issue of the party in the rest of the country, it promises to remain a perpetual controversy within the state where the coalition partner, the National Conference had contested the election on the slogan of restoration of autonomy of the state. It is therefore necessary to seek on end to this controversy.

Omar had maintained that any change in the statues of the State could have been done only by J&Ks Constituent Assembly which ceased to exist in 1956. Constitutional validity of this stand was never tested by a judicial court. Never were series of measures for erosion of the autonomy of the State challenged in the court on this ground. Likewise, Indian Parliament has inherited all the powers of the Constituent Assembly of India.

Intriguingly Congress which is locked in a contest with the BJP, and not the National Conference, in two Lok Sabha seats in Jammu, has not joined the issue with its rival. That tends to make it Jammu versus Kashmir issue. As far actual possibility of abrogation of the Article is concerned, the BJP does not have the support of its own allies in the NDA. Moreover, the Law Minister in the government led by it had declared that Parliament had no power to abrogate the Article unless the State assembly recommended it.

Not that the Article has entirely been used in the interest of the people of the State. For instance 73rd and 74th amendment to the Indian constitution which ushered in Panchayati Raj and local self government in urban areas were not applicable to the State. The most diversified State of the country, consequently, has been administered by a most centralised government. Which is the root cause of most of the internal tensions within the State.

Similarly, autonomous institutions like National Human Rights Commission and National Women Commission have no jurisdiction in the State. Obviously, people of the State do not get any benefit for being out of the jurisdiction of these national institutions which are autonomous of the executive authority. It was under the pressure of public opinion generated by some enlightened citizens that the State has just adopted Central Right to Information Act.

If Article 370 is restored to its original position, central autonomous institutions like Supreme Court, Auditor General and Election Commission would not have any jurisdiction over the State. These would be appointed and managed by the State government. It would also facilitate the Union government to manipulate affairs of the State. If Supreme Courts jurisdiction had extended to the State in 1953, Sheikh Abdullah could not be arrested under any law then in force in India.

It is the manner in which ruthless integration was imposed on the State by post Nehru leadership in Delhi and the manner the issue was posed as Kashmir versus Jammu and Kashmir versus India that provoked the people of Kashmir and alienated them. It was the agitated mood of the people in 1965 over such measures of forced integration that might have tempted president Ayub of Pakistan to send its army men in the form of infiltrators to the state that led to 1965 war. National interest, in no way, is linked with the degree of integration of the State.

Nor Jammu’s grievances have any thing to do with Article 370. Let people of Kashmir be free to discuss and decide in consultation with people of other region the type of centre-State relations that serve their interest. It may be recalled, that much damage was done to Kashmir’s emotional relations with India by the agitation for ek vidhan, ek pradhan and ek nishan (one constitution, one head of the state and one flag) launched by Praja Parishad, Jammu affiliate of the Jana Sangh, in 1953 ostensibly to safeguard Jammu’s interest and the national interest. Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, the founder president of the Jana Sangh came to lend his support to the agitation.

Jawahalal Nehru in a letter, to Jayaprakash Narayan on 29 July 1953, observes, reactions in the Kashmir to the situation have weakened our position terribly and for the first time I feel very doubtful about the future. Dr. Mukerjee had also entered into a prolonged correspondence with Pandit Nehru. Nehru had warned him also about the dangerous repercussions of Jammu agitation on Kashmir problem. Eventually, Mukerjee in his letter dated February 17, 1953 agreed to support Delhi Agreement that had conceded special status to the State provided principle of autonomy will apply to the province of Jammu as also to Ladakh and Kashmir valley.

This was precisely what I was campaigning for and had succeeded in getting Nehru and Abdullah to declare at a joint press conference on July 24, 1952, that when the constitution of the State is framed, it will provide for regional autonomies. The Praja Parishad agitation was finally withdrawn on July 3, after a meeting of its leaders with Nehru on this very formula.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mukerjee’s death in Srinagar jail had created sharp reactions in Jammu and many parts of India with counter reactions in Kashmir. This had caused further tensions and complications in the situation which were a major cause of the crisis of August 1953 when Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed from power and put under detention. From Indian point of view, it was the beginning of Kashmir problem.
After some months, according to Balraj Madhok who became president of the Jana Sangh after some years, the party withdrew its support to the formula Mukerjee had agreed viz autonomy of the State within India and of the regions within the State on directions from Nagpur (the RSS headquarters).

If successors of Nehru, Abdullah and Mukerjee had stood by their joint agreement, on the issue of status of the state alienation of the people of Kashmir would not have gone to the extent it exists today and Kashmir problem would have been resolved long ago. Let their respective commitment be recalled and debated to find an end to the Kashmir imbroglio.

Hurriyat's Moving Goals

Nazir explains how the right may be there in principle but it has been sentenced to death in practice

(Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani, 59, is a jurist. He was born in Naranthal (Jalshree) village near Baramulla and was a student at the Government Degree College in Baramulla. Subsequently, he studied English Literature and Politics at the University of Kashmir, Law at the Sindh Muslim Law College in the Karachi-Pakistan, Islamic Law at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), International Law at the Queen Mary University London, Victimology at Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik - former Yugoslavia, Peace Keeping/Humanitarian Operations & Election Monitoring from Scuola Superiore di Studi Universitari e di Perfezionamento S. Anna - Pisa Italy, and has a Ph.D. in the Jurisprudence of UN Resolutions and Kashmir Case. He successfully argued a constitutional writ petition in the High Court of Azad Kashmir from December 1992 to April 1999 on the question of self determination and duties of AJK Government. As a lead human rights advocate he has faced a sentence of 5 years imprisonment and 15 lashes and a death sentence during the Martial Law of General Zia in Pakistan. Dr. Gilani has introduced awareness around the title of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to a Rights Movement since 1877 and the respective sovereign claims of India and Pakistan since 1948.)

Death of Self Determination

Kashmiri leadership, in particular, Muslim leadership in the Valley, seem to have over done itself on the question of Self-Determination. The Right may be there in principle but it has been sentenced to death in practice. We all seem to be busy fooling each other and the public at large. If a majority of Kashmiri leaders represented in Hurriyat at one time, or having opted out of it at another, and others who have remained outside the fold, had won the elections in 1987, it would have been a way forward in politics under an oath.

The history of political wrangling may have been different, at least on the count that Right of Self Determination would not have died with the death of a generation. Keeping in view the Independence struggle of Quebec, we know inferiority of number caused by the loss of life in Kashmir and given the representative character of politics, may have sealed the success of Self Determination as a practical phenomenon for some time. Right of Self Determination may be alive in principle but is dead in practice for a serious loss of numbers.

On October 30, 1995, Quebec voted 51 to 49 percent to remain part of Canada –a switch of 25,000 votes would have led to a vote for separation. Some supporters of separation blamed non-French speaking minorities for voting to remain part of Canada - the 82 percent of Quebec's seven million residents who speak French mostly supported separation, while the 18 percent who do not speak French mostly opposed it. The Cree of Northern Quebec opposed the separation and declared that declaration of independence by Quebec would violate the Crees' principles of human rights, democracy and consent. They said that Parti Quebecois (PQ) and the Quebec National Assembly do not have the right to unilaterally proclaim that the Quebec people will exercise their vote on their collective future. They argued that the PQ cannot force them or their native neighbours to be part of the "Quebec people" for purposes of self-determination of secession.

The Cree believed they had a right to stay in Canada. They maintained that their territory will not be taken over or given to an independent Quebec without their consent; if Quebec leaves, the Cree wish to remain part of Canada. This action would show that Quebec uses unfair and undemocratic methods to carry out its wishes. The forcible inclusion of the Cree in an independent Quebec would go against international, Canadian, Aboriginal law and practice. The Innuit declared that they will use their legal rights to remain in Canada in the event of a Quebec separation.

Kashmir situation is no different than Quebec. Hurriyat has failed to keep to its constitutional programme of July 1993 which accommodated among many other things, the three opinions, namely pro Pakistan, pro India and pro Independence, only if pursued in accordance with UN resolutions. It would assure and retain the trust of minorities if followed in accordance with UN mechanism on Kashmir. It would put an end to the distribution of Kashmiri people and end an unfair control of Kashmiri people under three administrations.

Hurriyat does not qualify as a representative political leadership because in view of the plural complex of Kashmir UN has set a very clear test for representation. Hurriyat did not work to reduce this infirmity. Its political rerecord since 1993 away and outside the constitution too has made its representative ability for the cause of Self Determination weak and suspect.

The other more serious and real difficulty is the role of Kashmiri Pandit, Kashmiri Sikh, Kashmiri Dogra, Christian, Jew and many other faiths in the dispensation of self determination. They have the same case as Cree had in Quebec question of self determination or separation from Canada.

A switch of 25,000 votes would have led to a successful vote for separation of Quebec from Canada. The deficit killed the vote for separation. Our leaders are putting the death toll to over 70,000 (seventy thousand) and we see that the loss of life continues on the streets of Kashmir unabated. Even if, it is a militant, he is a State Subject and his death causes a deficit in the number to be called for in any future referendum.

Our leaders unlike mainstream politicians are under no oath. They seem having it all under no holds barred. A main stream politician elected to the assembly or the parliament could be taken to a court for any breach of oath or promise made during the election. The separatist leaders are born free and do not have any cause to answer under any oath. It is no disrespect to sensitise the call of common conscience and point to the constituency of information, that among the living youth a large number is educated unemployable, uneducated unemployable and an army is preparing to add to this waste. Without any hope, visible bench mark and programme not for the process but for the quality of life, Kashmiri youth has crossed once rigorously defended psychological barrier and have sought job opportunities in Indian army.

Do we need to label them traitors and cause a further deficit to our debilitated number for self determination or argue out that the right does not become defunct by joining the Indian army. We have narrowed down the constituency of our number and killed many ‘traitors’ and ‘non Tehreeki ‘people. The few moralists left behind have neither the ability to execute a political agenda nor the number to win the case of Self Determination. They may have accrued a criminal liability for some target killings and for failing in their duty to protect life.

How does it help to ask the people to boycott Parliament elections when the horses sit mid-stream after taking full part in Assembly elections? Even if people do not vote in full strength, there would a winner for the Parliament. He or she will be visible and if detached from people, would cause a serious disadvantage to the interests of our people, their children and to all spheres of life. It is a well known fact that elections or no elections, our leaders are always heard in India and Pakistan. They are well looked after and their children and in some cases their wives are favoured in utter disregard to equity and the moral ability required in representing the suffering and poorly people of Valley.

It is time to look beyond boycott and remain on the side of the people even after the elections are over. Life does not stop at a boycott and Self Determination does not face a threat from an election. Life stretches beyond self determination. A Kashmiri has to live and enjoy a protection of ‘life’, ‘honour’ and ‘dignity’. He has to have means to reconcile a day with a following night. The calendar would not stand still for him and his children.

The case is still at the UN, although in a degraded form, and India as a member nation of UN has a burden of responsibility under the Charter and UNCIP resolutions. Hurriyat leaders too should decide to be themselves and on the side of Self Determination and ask the Government of Pakistan to explain its failure in not raising Kashmir at the UN Security Council from November 1965 to August 1996, for a period of 30 years and 9 months. Hurriyat needs to explain its silence on the degradation of Kashmir case from a regular agenda item to becoming the subject of a risky annual ‘reminder’ rule. They have an explanation to offer for switching over from UNCIP resolutions and their own constitution to Musharraf’s four point formula.

How People in Denial Make "Soft Ethnic Cleansing" Work

Two related reports on dwindling Pandit Minority in Kashmir

Valley Based Pandits Face Economic Insecurity

Many mulling migration due to official apathy

Rashid Paul (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Official apathy and lack of economic avenues has forced 29,035 Kashmiri Pandits to migrate to different parts of India over the last few years, claims a survey conducted by Kashmiri Pandit Sangarash Samiti (KPSS). According to the survey carried during 2008-2009, out of 32,000 members of the community that stayed put in Kashmir after the armed resistance broke out in early nineties, only 2965 Pandits are now left in the valley.

“Neglect of the community by the government and lack of economic avenues has forced 29035 members of the community to migrate to India since 1992,” said Rattan Chakoo, a member of the survey team.

The study states that the community is comprised of 611 families residing in 187 places across Kashmir. More than one-third of the population is in the productive age group of 19 to 40 while as 700 souls are aged between 40 to 60 years. Rest of the population comprises children and elderly persons. Males comprise 45 per cent of the population.

“The boys are on the run as getting a job is an impossible feat in Kashmir,” said Sanjay K Tickoo, KPSS president. “Joblessness among youth compels the families to look for prospective grooms amongst Kashmir Pandits settled outside Kashmir,” he added.

Citing a government survey of 1992, Tickoo said that 32,000 Kashmiri Pandits had opted to stay in Kashmir, and lived freely with the majority Muslim community.

“Killings of non-migrants at Sangrahama, Vandhama, Telvani, and Nadimarg from 1997 to 2003 (all executed in the months of March) and rejection of an impartial probe by the government added to the fear psychosis and accelerated their exodus,” Tickoo said.

Master Avtar Krishan of Budgam while castigating the pro Hindutva Panun Kashmir, (a group of migrant Kashmiri Pandits demanding a separate homeland for the community) said, “New Delhi last year had announced an employment package of 6000 government jobs to those migrants who wished to return to Kashmir. But the hardliner Panun Kashmir opposed it. The programme could have helped stopping further migration and at least accommodated our 500 youth.”

Sociologist, Khurshidul Islam termed the unabated exodus as an unfortunate trend.

“The bulk of the community has assimilated in the alien culture of urban India. The leaders of the community need to give up radical politics and instead work for reconciliation with the majority community,” he said.

“They need to make themselves relevant to the current socio-political dynamics of Kashmir,” he said, adding, “The resistance leadership and intelligentsia here too have to be magnanimous in adopting the estranged sons of their soil.”

KPSS claims to be working for the welfare of Kashmiri Pandits who preferred to stay in Kashmir despite the political unrest.

Pandits Mysteriously Disappear from Voter Lists in J&K

Seema Sharma (Tribune)

Jammu: BJP state secretary and in charge Kashmir province S Charanjit Singh Khalsa and BJP Migrant Cell convener Hira Lal Chatta charged the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Chief Electoral Officer, Jammu and Kashmir, for deleting the names of thousands of voters of Kashmiri migrants from the voter lists of the valley and introducing M Form and Postal Form, which has turned the migrant voters as second class voters in their own country. They said the commission provides the voter lists to the candidates after filing the M forms just 24 hours before the polling starts, which is violation of the fundamental right of the contesting candidate.

The BJP leaders questioned the ECI as to why no action has been taken despite repeated representations to the CEO, Jammu, and the Chief Election Commission at Delhi, regarding irregularities in voter lists of Kashmiri migrants from the valley.

Elaborating further, BJP leaders informed that in the 1996 Assembly election, out of 1.47 lakh, 97,000 voted, whereas in 2002 the number came down to 1.17 lakh due to the death factor. Despite the boycott call of the Hurriyat Conference, 40,000 Kashmiri Pandits voted. In 2008, the number again decreased up to 71,000 out of which 17,000 votes had been polled.

Citing an example, Chatta said during the 2008 Assembly polls, there were 400 Kashmiri Pandit voters in Chanam village of Baramulla, but in the list prepared for the 2009 parliamentary election only 16 names are there in the voter lists which reflects that names of the Kashmiri Pandits voters have been deleted deliberately, a blunder ECI and state government is responsible as they both have failed to check the same.

Alleging that the NC and the Congress too was responsible of militancy and exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley, Chatta said now the NC and the Congress were again curbing the right of the Kashmiri Pandits by getting their names deleted from the voter lists.

They further appealed the Kashmiri Hindu migrants from the valley to vote in favour of party candidates Avtar Krishan Pandita and Mohd Sadiq Khan, who were contesting the parliamentary election from the Srinagar and Anantnag constituencies, respectively.

Highlighting the Misfortune of Living in Doldrums

Two recent Editorials in Srinagar based broadsheets put the misery in perspective

Mess all Over (Kashmir Images)

‘Conflict is development in reverse’. However, in Kashmir Valley, more than the political conflict, it is the incompetence of various governmental agencies that has not only halted the development process here but even reversed it. Worsening the matters further is the unfortunate lack of accountability that has become a characteristic feature of the state’s governance. Be it individual incompetence of the officials manning various developmental agencies or the collective inefficiency of various departments, it is hard to find even a single example wherein the government might have fixed responsibility on people for the mess they have created in the state.

Take the premier developmental agencies meant for executing and overseeing various public engineering works. Be it the Roads and Bridges (R&B) or the Urban Engineering and Environment Department (UEED) or the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) or the Power Development Department (PDD) or the Public Health Engineering (PHE) or the Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC) or for that matter the new monster called the Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA), all these agencies are in absolute mess. And so are the works undertaken by them, and consequently the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Now a glaring example of the mess created by these agencies is the pitiable plight of the Dr. Ali Jan Road. Right from Eidgah to Soura, this road, named after Kashmir’s noted physician is in complete shambles and it has been so for over two years now. Today the condition of this road is so miserable that it is difficult to walk on it not to speak of the problems faced by the vehicles that have to ply on this road.

For the past couple of years, this road has been under the sickle of authorities, sometimes for laying of water pipes and at other times for construction of drains. Ironically the works that should have been completed in few months time have dragged on for years and even today are nowhere near completion. Understandably, a huge chunk of population of the Valley is suffering owing to this road’s uncomfortable situation. With lethargic engineering wings of the government having provided a pretext for a vast majority of common people including the heavy rush of people visiting premier health institution SKIMS situated at one end of this road, to stop using it, some greedy land-grabbers too have started filling in the Khushalsar and Anchar lakes converting portions of these water-bodies into solid land masses. And again LAWDA is nowhere to check this plunder.

With a new government in place, the new Chief Minister will certainly do public some real good if he directs his attention towards the corrupt engineering wings of the government. The miserable condition of the Dr. Ali Jan Road provides a vital starting point for creating a culture of holding public servants responsible their lethargy and inefficiency. Given the complicity of various engineering wings in defacing and disfiguring of the Dr. Ali Jan Road, it will be really worthwhile to find out how and why the works that should be completed in months are dragged on for years – who are the people benefited by this lethargy and how it helps promote land-grab of lakes and lagoons. Otherwise, it’s better that the government renames Dr. Ali Jan Road. Naming a road after Dr. Ali Jan is no homage to this great soul if we are not able to give this road semblance of what a road is like. We have no right to insult the great son of soil Dr. Ali Jan.

Up in Smoke And Dust (Kashmir Observer)

Seasons used to come to Kashmir with their own unique delights, filling even the busy city of Srinagar with their particular charms. But now, common blights blur the lines between nature’s changing colours, turning life into an unbroken procession of ordeals most of which could have been avoided with a more sensible approach to civic issues.

The dominant feature in Srinagar these days, if it is not rain-submerged roads, is dust-laden air assailing pedestrians and passengers on the streets when the weather switches to the dry mode. What should have been the refreshing breath of spring is a choking, stinging experience thanks largely to the various government agencies supposed to be keeping the city in a decent state of repair.

Rains, not exactly unheard of in spring, turn into a major civic catastrophe as roads get instantly submerged and flooded, with a total breakdown of the already decrepit drainage system. Apart from the city’s showpiece, the Residency Road, hardly any other road has storm drains to handle run off water, and even the facility in this fashionable mall is defunct due to silt and clogging. So, sights of pedestrians wading through ankle-deep water, and vehicles marooned in tyre-deep bilge, are common even in the relatively better maintained city center after anything heavier than a drizzle. What happens to outlying areas is best described by photographs appearing regularly in the press depicting vast expanses of accumulated water where shiny stretches of tarmac were supposed to be. What is hidden by rains is laid bare by dry weather as waters recede to reveal deeply eroded and potholed roads badly in need of repair. Any hopes of relief when the downpour ceases are literally dashed to the ground by the clouds of dust that hang in the air like a pall after being kicked off by incessant traffic. If this is expected on bad roads, streets in comparatively better condition respond no differently, as they rarely ever get the attentions of a broom to sweep away the dust, and possess no drainage that could have carried the dirt away. The result is that most of Srinagar streets remain engulfed in billowing dust that makes nonsense of the government’s efforts to check emission levels of vehicles, which, in any case, is little more than a token gesture.

Far from being the temperate, refreshing and soothing abode that Srinagar used to be in spring, the advent of the tourist season, it today presents a grimy clime where the air, already difficult to inhale in the streets, becomes intolerable with a slight rise in mercury. As spring yields way to summer with its blistering heat, the situation is only bound to become worse as there is no sign of the government gearing up to undertake badly needed repairs on roads, repair and complete the city drainage, or give teeth to the municipality to discharge its expected duties. The only sign of the administration’s life is the annual coat of paint to the edges of sidewalks, an exercise and honour reserved for the return of the durbar from Jammu.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, or so the saying goes. The benefits of the plethora of government departments and agencies charged solely with the duty to maintain roads and drainage, monitor construction, or in general, develop the city to respectable standards, are there for all to see. Given the condition of the city, it would be hard to convince an outsider that there is department upon government department, guzzling money like water, supposed to be active in Srinagar’s upkeep.

The situation was a God-send for the present government to prove its sense of civic responsibility by cracking the whip on this array of erring agencies, but it apparently has yet to get over the daze of newly-acquired power.

Gross Injustice Through Gender Inequalities

Maroof speaks for the humanity

(Dr. Muhammad Maroof Shah, 31, was born in Kunan, Bandipore. He has pursued a career in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry, completing Bachelors's degree in veterinary sciences (BVSc) at the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry (FVSc & AH), Shuhama campus of the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-K), and MA English through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He is presently posted as a Veterinary Assistant Surgeon (VAS) at the Government Sheep Breeding Farm in Dachigam. Dr. Shah is the author of two books, and has lectured as a visiting fellow at the Jaipur University on Western Philosophy. In his leisure time he pursues studies in comparative religion, philosophy and literature.)

When a girl child is born ….

When it is a question of our choice vs. God’s choice we need not ask which one should be given priority and which in fact reigns ultimately. But how strange that we – most of us – think that we know better and God should accept our dictation and we go on petitioning for our choice and call it prayer. Is it imaginable that we are wiser or more knowledgeable than God? But we continue to practically assert our superior wisdom and knowledge vis-à-vis God so shamelessly by not welcoming a girl child.

I wish government to launch an awareness campaign to make truth prevail – the scientific truth that if we are bent on punishing her or teaching God a lesson for such a blunder (anyone not very happy on the birth of the girl child practically thinks he is wiser than God), for not honouring our will, we should punish the real culprit who is father or husband. Women have no role in deciding whether the new child shall be male or female. She produces the egg with x chromosome and a child is conceived when it meets either y or x chromosome. If it meets y chromosome it is a male child and if y it is a female child. Now it is male’s x or y which is decisive and which one meets the x chromosome of mother is purely a matter of chance that God controls himself. Scientifically onus lies on man rather than women and any court of law will punish the father only though ultimately he too is helpless and God does what he wants and those who accuse their wives or daughters-in law with the charge of conceiving a girl child should file a suit against God if they can. Any woman tortured on this account should easily seek justice by filing the case of slander, defamation and abuse of human rights against her accusers. Let the government fix a huge compensation for any such abuse and disqualify its employees if found guilty of such a crime. Murder is less serious crime than the slow death or mental/spiritual death that such victims are practically condemned to. Who can calculate the immensity of misery faced by a women for life in the form of bouts of depression etc. I have seen cases where more tears have flowed on this account than would be occasioned on the death of one close one in family. Women are unaware of their rights. Why don’t they seek justice?

I request victimized mothers to file cases against those who accuse them of the crime of bringing a girl child and lawyers could make great business out of such cases as it is very simple to win the case and extract huge compensation from the accusers. Many a time divorces and deaths have resulted and all these could be a matter of solicitation. If it is fundamental human right to be respectfully treated and emotionally mishandled or even physically abused as happens in these cases we could fight the cases legally. I wish some NGO take this issue and lawyers association attend to this problem. It should be possible to launch FIR against every slanderer and abuser. Government could enact fresh laws to punish the huge army of men and mothers in law who are guilty of such offenses. I wonder why we are yet to declare it as an offence. I think it needs more severe punishment than theft or corruption. I think even a few rears of rigorous imprisonment is not a sufficient imprisonment for such criminals. Employees found guilty should be retired- those who can’t honour God’s property (women) can’t be trusted to be trustees of government institutions. We don’t realize how dear every soul is to God who has made every human being with his two hands. There is no greater thing in the whole universe than human heart and there is no virtuous act greater than caring for this heart (dil anjam aanun) and conversely there can’t be greater evil than disgracing it, or injuring it. Torturing a mother for the “crime” really committed by her husband covertly or overtly (what is more killing than an abusive remark or taunt from her mother-in-law or husband and threat of a divorce if a girl child is born) is a form of slow death, a murder in cold blood that murders not only the body but lacerates the soul as well and therefore doubly punishable both here and hereafter.

Every time we feel shame or sadness for giving birth to a girl child we dishonour the divine image on which every human is created, we disgrace motherhood, we write off countless sacrifices.(which are great than the greatest sacrifices of great heroes and martyrs of history) that mother gives in nourishing a child, we authenticate Satanic reservations on Adam’s creation that the Quran narrates, we commit an unpardonable sin that no tears can wash off (Even God can’t pardon it because it concerns huqooqul ibad), we betray God’s trust and faith in us, and we stoop lower than the beasts.

Every time I go to congratulate a friend or a relative for becoming a father of a girl child I am in a fix whether to congratulate or to console or speak a few words of condolence as I don’t know how he takes it. Traditionally Kashmiris have learnt to console on these occasions by saying mubarak chu zuvow bachayi – her life was saved therefore congrats). Implied is the statement of condolence or consolation for missing the right kind of child.

For God a girl child is a gift to man. She manifests divine mercy. It is not only a gift in itself but it paves way for the greater gift of heaven in the next world. It manifests God more perfectly than male child does. I If God is love, as Jesus (AS) said, He is best manifested in mother and wife. If God is Beauty it is her face that celebrates and reveals him par excellence. As Ibn Arabi, one of the greatest Sufis and metaphysicians of Islam, said that it is feminine face that best unveils God. Beauty attracts us but great beauty liberates us even from itself as Jibran says and that is why a beautiful face can be a vehicle of salvation/enlightenment as it leads us away from itself, its form to the Essence that it dimly expresses, to the Formless who paradoxically expresses himself in all forms. It is not for nothing that hoors, who personify archetypal feminine beauty, are to be found in the heaven on the way to the Garden of Essence that is the highest paradise in Islam. Women is the gateway to God, not only for certain libertine mystics but for all mystical traditions, even the most ascetic of them Christianity. The women is not merely a creature, an object that gives pleasure, but a symbol of that which religion seeks. She is, for the most humans, for all those who love and seek love, for the poets, for the artists, for the Tantrics, for the generality of mystics especially bhaktas and most importantly for the Prophet of Islam (SAW) the medium through which divine speaks and manifests and through which the divine could be sought (the Prophet of Islam (SAW) listed women along with prayer and perfume amongst the most lovely things of the world). Contemplating the beauty of women without desire and lust in what Joyce echoing Augustine calls in the state of stasis is prayer and a mode of prayer that very few people, if any, dispense with. All prayer is essentially a feminine activity as it is emptying of oneself to the Cosmic Beauty, to Cosmic Self; it is a passive activity. One can only receive God in feminine receptive spirit. Those who don’t want to care for a girl child forgo primordial human vocation of serving/worshipping/loving God and seeing Him everywhere.

There is no such thing as mere girl children whom you can throw off in a dustbin or better abort. Metaphysically all women are loci of divine manifestations. It is slap on God to ask him to grant us male children and dislike his gift of a girl child. Asking God for boys instead of girls and going from shrine to shrine and pir to pir to impress upon Him our dislike for his likes and gifts is shameless to the extreme. Desiring a male child is human weakness but our decision to surrender to God’s will by consenting to say kalimai shahada means we no longer accept the bondage of desires and other human weaknesses. We gratefully and heroically accept God’s will, God’s choices and gifts. When I see a person not very happy on becoming a father or mother of a girl child I conclude, on the authority of the Quran and Sunna, that (s)he is yet to enter the fold of Islam. Islam, Iman, and Ahsan constitute the three ascending stages of perfection of religion. These people have yet to enter the first one. Those who don’t submit to or accept God’s will (which is the primordial meaning of Islam) are condemned to suffer and despair. They invite suffering.

Why is girl child disliked? Because it is other’s property (lukhhoond maal) and hurts our social ego and we don’t wish to be charitable. It is only our selfishness that ultimately dictates our dislike of her. So whenever you see a sad face after the birth of a girl child take it to mean that deep down this person is mean selfish godless (or better God abandoned) creature not worth meeting and making friends with. The darkness inside us is often covered but it comes to the fore on such testing moments as these. Some rationalize their preference for male children on the grounds that girls are badly treated in our society so it is better if they are not born. The question is who is responsible for this bad treatment? This reasoning implies, for instance, that the solution of poverty is to abort the children of poor parents or kill the poor. We want only good things from God as if he has really created anything bad in the ultimate sense. We are not here for comforts but bearing witness to Truth and that Truth respects no human likings and dislikings. The question is why were we brought into this world and why we will be driven back from here? Why should we cling to life? Why to bother about living life and not decide to round off the show? Why was the world made? And why God created everything in pairs? Pondering on all these questions leaves no scope for such silly things as pining for a male child or any child at all. God is the best treasurer and account manager and drawing disturbursing authority. Our job is only to do our duty. Our wages are paid exactly as required and as merited. There is no scope for mere chance. All is measured out by God as the Quran says. It is height of folly to advise God in these matters. We can’t avoid meeting our own fate that we appropriated for ourselves.

Asking saints to interfere in these matters is ideally not recommended. I am reminded of a story that someone approached a saint for the boon of a child and he resisted but upon great insistence he consented to pray and he got a handicapped child after some time and then it was a great bane for him to take care of and requested the same saint to pray for his smooth death. So it is better to pray for only one thing - to ask God to grant the vision to see things as He sees them, see things as they are. “O God, show us the things as they are” prayed the Prophet (SAW).
A girl child is not a liability for the rich class but they too dislike her. She is liked by God and His prophet; His servants have, however, mostly, different opinion and would like to advise God to think again while fashioning the sex of their child. These advisors are not worth talking to and deserve disgrace in hell. No word is mean enough for labeling them.

While pining or longing for a male child kindly remind yourself that perhaps you had sold everything – including your soul and the whole empire of desire – to God in the covenant made in preeternity (alastu birabikum) which you had revived when you consented to believe in God and his prophets by saying kalima. Let us trust in God and His wisdom who knows best what is best for us - a male child or a girl child or none at all. We are here to pine for God and there is no bliss in things other than God. (Ala bizikrillahi tatmainal qullob) How strange we pine for children. It is God’s business to distribute or withhold his bounties and not ours. Let us be Muslims. A Muslim is unattached to anything whatsoever. It doesn’t behoove him to be exulted or grieved by anything that happens under the sun. He glorifies God on every occasion. Alhamdullilah his every fibre speaks. He welcomes even death with a smile. He never complains; he only praises and celebrates. He is a lover who endures life’s hardships serenely as kisses from the Beloved.

I wish our politicians ask questions in the assembly or parliament regarding this issue and try to punish the criminals - criminals who stand against God, against humanity, against motherhood, against science and logic and ultimately who wrong their own souls by accusing, abusing and doing all kinds of subtle psychological – not even hesitating to use physical means also and give threats of divorce – torturing mechanisms. Let NGOs, lawyers, imams, doctors and other social institutions play their role in fighting these terrorists who are terrorizing countless women for no sins of their own. These terrorists are more insidious, bigger criminals that destroy the peace and dignity of countless souls even in their bedrooms. Let Muslims launch a jihad against them. Jihad is meant to be fought against all transgressors and traitors. Is it possible for our leading newspapers to present one sentence ad on front page for some time regarding these strange honour killings where a women is tortured to slow psychological/ spiritual death for the sin of motherhood? May I also request Radio Kashmir and Door Darshan to keep 30seconds slot in news etc. and announcing – ‘It is God’s “fault” to let a girl child be conceived and born. Scientifically the onus lies on male partner to decide the sex of the newborn. Beware ye women bashers. Insulting women on this issue is a crime punishable under law.” Would our CM take personal interest in this matter? I hope so.

There are few faces that glow when the news of girl child’s birth is given them. Let us be amongst those few. They alone can count as Muslims as Islam means submission of desiring/willing self to God. If we once pray like like this: ‘God! Grant us the will to will whatsoever You will’ we will never be frustrated in life and nothing will happens against pour (transformed) will. This is a corollary of the station of raza that Sufis seek. Eckhart has quoted a prayer from Seneca: “Lord, supreme Father and only Master of high heaven, I am ready for anything you will; only give me the will to want what you will.” One can quote dozens of Sufi sayings in this connection. Just one will suffice from Ba Yazid: “I only will not to will.” Hell is nothing but self will procured by sin which is a form of self-love. William Law has expressed this point succinctly. “See here the whole truth in short. All sin, death, damnation, and hell is nothing else but this kingdom of self, or the various operations of self-love, self esteem, and self seeking which separate the soul from God, and end in eternal death and hell.”

Scientifically it is absurd to blame anybody for the birth of a girl child. Metaphysically (according to Islamic metaphysics as explicated by Ibn Arabi), whatever befalls us we have asked for it so we have, in some plane that precedes out spatio-temporal being, asked for a girl child when one is born to us. It needs deep familiarity with Islamic metaphysics and Ibn Arabi to understand this point. May God grant us wisdom to appreciate His wisdom and the understanding and the vision of Him that we may wholeheartedly consent to His workings. Amen!

South Kashmir is Closer to New Delhi Than Srinagar

Kashmiris adopt the age old mantra ..... Follow the Market!

For youngsters in South Kashmir, Srinagar is alien but…….Dilli Door Nahin

Arifa Gani (Kashmir Times)

Srinagar: For hundreds of youngsters in South Kashmir, Delhi is nearer
and Srinagar not any closer. This is because they have not visited the state’s
summer capital even for once but they go to the union capital every winter with
their other family members by road. The families of these youngsters are apple
and walnut growers and traders. They go to New Delhi every year to sell their
produce. For them accommodation in the union capital is not a problem as the
commission agents there provide it to them.

In some cases the accommodation is free and in other cases the rent for the
accommodation is not usually that high. However, the well off business families
make arrangements on their own for the accommodation.

“I have been visiting Delhi every winter for last four years with my family.
During these years I came to know much about the metropolitan city. I move there alone without any problem,” said Rayees Ahmad, a village youngster in south Kashmir.
He added that he has never visited Srinagar. “I am very keen to see Srinagar but
have not been to that place so far. This is because I never felt the immediate
need to go to Srinagar. My educational institution is located in my area. For
higher studies I may have to go to Srinagar some day,” Rayees said.

Nayeem Ahmad, another youth, said he visited Delhi last year. “My father and
brother were with me. We had to sell our apple in Delhi market. As far as going
to Srinagar is concerned, I have not yet gotten any chance to go there. Who will
not like to go to that beautiful place and see Dal Lake and Mughal gardens? But
my family has apprehension that if I go there alone I may land in some trouble
because of security reasons,” he said. The youngster added that he has made up
his mind to go to Delhi again in coming winter. “It is fun being there. I get a
chance to watch movies in cinema theatres,” he said.

Mohammad Yusuf, a youth, said moving in Delhi for a Kashmiri is not a cake walk.
“Being a Kashmiri outside is itself sufficient to invite trouble. Eyes of police
and security agencies are on the movement and activities of Kashmiris
particularly in Delhi. We have been seeing such situations in Kashmir so we are
used to it and we will not stop going there,” he added.

Naveed had visited Delhi a number of times and was never in Srinagar for a long
time. He visited this place only after he was to get admission in Kashmir
University two years back. “While traveling on the unfamiliar roads in Srinagar
for the first, I almost cursed myself. I felt pity on myself for not visiting
this beautiful city which is part of our Valley. I was not guilty about visiting
Delhi because with that city our bread and butter is related. I have three
orchards at home and we have to go to Delhi every year for the sale of our apples,” he said.

Contraditions in Walnut Production Figures Accentuate Dismal Performance

Official apathy mars Rs 500 cr walnut industry

Rabia Noor (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: There seems to be contradiction in the figures of production of walnuts in Kashmir with the government claiming that over 1 lakh metric ton was produced annually while experts saying that the actual production was only 25 per cent of what is claimed.

“The government’s claim that 1 lakh metric ton of walnuts is produced every year is misleading. It is only on paper, not in records,” said Dr Zain-ul-Abidin, president, Kashmir Chamber of Food Processing Industry (KCOFI).

As per the official figures collected from deputy commissioner excise, Bashir Ahmad Saraf, the quantity of walnuts (in quintal) exported from the Valley through Lakhanpur for the past four fiscal years 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 (till ending February) was 29159, 44998, 33963 and 36709 quintal, respectively.

The quantity of walnut kernels in quintal exported from Kashmir during the same years was 75856, 93811, 109778, and 75767 quintal, respectively.

When converted into metric tons, the figures for walnuts stand at 2915.9, 4499.8, 3396.3 and 3670.9 metric ton respectively, where as figures for walnut kernels were 7585.6, 9381.1, 10977.8 and 7576.7 metric ton, respectively.

Generally in walnuts, 40 per cent is the yield, whereas 60 per cent goes waste in inner and outer husk. Therefore, by multiplying the quantity of walnut kernels by 2.5, we get the actual quantity of the walnuts, and the figures received this way were 18964, 23452.75, 27444.5 and 18941.75 metric ton, respectively.

Therefore, the total quantity of walnuts exported from the Valley was 21879.9 metric ton during the year 2005-06, 27952.55 metric ton during 2006-07, 30840.8 metric ton during 2007-08 and 22612.65 metric ton during 2008-09 (till February).

So the mean of the quantity of walnuts exported during past four years is 25,821.475 metric ton, which comprises of slightly over 25 per cent of the walnut production that is claimed by the government.

According to KCOFI president, only one to two per cent of the people in Kashmir consumed walnuts either indirectly or as nut “that would not comprise more than 50 quintal overall.”

“So how come the claim of government is valid that they produce 1 lakh metric ton of walnut annually when they do not produce even 30,000 metric ton?” he asked.

“In 2007, the figure had slightly picked up because the crop yield was fine in that year and then demand too was good. But it cannot go as high as 1 lakh metric ton,” he said.

He said no doubt global recession had been there in 2008, “but what about 2005 and 2006?” “Prior to recession, people would not store walnuts, for earlier the walnuts would be sold for over Rs 110 per kg, where as at present a farmer does not get more than Rs 40 per kg that too for high-grade walnuts,” he said.

Abidin said the global meltdown had adversely affected the walnut industry of the Valley, “but where are the rescue measures for this Rs 500 crore industry on the part of the government?”

“Whatever is happening on the departmental level is not enough,” he said.

He said the Valley had four departments in the name of horticulture and agriculture, namely Department of Agriculture, Department of Horticulture, Department of Horticulture Planning and Marketing and Department of Horticulture Produce and Marketing Corporation.

“These departments have got an excellent network all across India. They could have easily utilized this network to market mere 25,000 metric ton of walnut, which is the actual production of the Valley. But they don’t do so,” said Abidin.

“On top of that, the government does not know what the actual production of walnuts in the Valley is. They don’t have the correct data despite that they have got so many officials taking good amount of salaries. So the first thing government needs to do is activate its officials,” he said.

“We are the only producers of walnuts of the country, so central government too has to think in terms of rescue of the industry.”

Abidin said ultimately it was a farmer who was at loss. “Many of the farmers have sold their land in order to compensate the losses, especially farmers from Kupwara, Pulwama, Islamabad and in Sindh belt,” he said, adding that government must come to the rescue of the farmers.

He said banks too were not providing major rescue measures to the farmers the way they should have. “The rescue measures and schemes provided by the banks are not enough. It has to be more than that,” he said.

A Kashmiri Scholar Writes About Global Warming

Mushtaq is concerned that global warming may lead to extinction of the mankind

(Dr. Mushtaq A. Wani, 49, was born in Ajas village in the Bandipora District (erstwhile Baramulla District) and started his elementary school education in Ajas and finished at the Nadim Memorial Higher Secondary School in Bandipora. He completed his B.Sc. in Agriculture from the Government College of Agriculture Wadura in Sopore, securing the third position on the merit list. He obtained his post-graduate degrees (M.Sc. and Ph.D.) in Soil Sciences from the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), securing the perfect GPA of 4.0/4.0. His Ph.D. research was conducted in collaboration with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). He started as an officer in the Government Agriculture Department, joined SKUAST (Kashmir campus) in 1998, and was promoted as Associate Professor in 2007. He is currently the Deputy Director Research of the Research Directorate of the SKUAST, Kashmir campus. He has received numerous meritorious awards for his scholarly excellence.)

Global warming: The threat is real

Humanity is about to face the most devastating catastrophe since the Bubonic Plague of the Middle Ages. This catastrophe is global warming. Some people are still debating over if global warming is a reality and what actually are the long term effects of pollution in the environment, but the general consensus among most scientists and researchers is that global warming has started and is going to increase at an uncontrollable rate in the very near future.

The effects and consequences of global warming are both frightening and overwhelming. Currently, global warming has resulted in modest increase in the average temperatures throughout the world. However, this temperature increase will continue to spiral upwards and cause massive climate changes throughout the world. For instance, these temperature changes will increase the average worldwide rainfall yet decrease rain in some areas, thus negatively affecting farming everywhere. Seasons to grow foods will shorten in some areas and lengthen in other areas, while few farmers will have to adapt to these changes quickly. Farmers will be unable to properly change the types of their crops, because the local climate changes will be too unpredictable and changing too quickly.

Eventually, both polar ice caps will start melting at a very fast rate because of global warming. This will cause the world's oceans to rise rapidly. Not quickly enough to cause tsunami like conditions to drown thousands of people, but rather people will be forced to evacuate coastal cities, where most of the world's population now lives, to higher ground that is more inland. No one knows, how high the world's oceans will increase; but whatever the height, global warming will decrease the amount of land available for human use. This will decrease the amount of farm land available, thus further decreasing the amount of food mankind can grow. Since a large percentage of the world's population already does not grow enough food, this will cause mass starvations. The sudden increase in population densities in smaller cities not prepared for a surge in population growth will cause huge sanitation issues and diseases will spread much more rapidly, especially with food becoming scarcer. Furthermore with the ice caps melting, the amount of sunlight reflected back into space will decrease thus increasing the temperature of the Earth even faster. Underneath these receding ice caps and glaciers is dead organic matter that when thawed will release even more heat trapping greenhouse gases (carbon emissions) into the environment. While all this time, humankind will continue to produce an ever increasing amount of carbon emissions via pollution into the environment.

Eventually, global warming will melt enough of the polar ice to modify the world's oceans in two ways. First, the oceans will start to desalinate, in other words the salt in the sea water will be more diluted by the fresh water from the ice. Second, the oceans' water temperature will drop because of the cold melting ice, and this will cause the oceans' currents to change. Since the world's ecosystem is regulated by the oceans’ currents, this will cause another ice age. That's right, global warming will start another ice age. Human civilization is not equipped to survive an ice age that will last a few years let alone a few thousand years. No one knows when this ice age will start, but the world's agriculture can not sustain the world's population during an ice age. This may even cause the extinction of mankind.

No one knows when this ice age will happen, but it is coming. We know that the cycle of temperature increases are followed by ice ages, but this time the changes are not natural. These changes are caused by man-made greenhouse gases released in the environment. Therefore scientists believe that the next ice age will start much sooner than the scientific evidence has proven to have happened in the past.

Global warming is the effects of greenhouse causing gases released into the environment that increases the average temperature of the world, thus adding more energy into the atmosphere. This increase in temperature and energy will cause an increase in rain and hurricanes, and wreak havoc to the agriculture of the world. Eventually, enough of the world's icecaps will melt to increase the world's sea levels, thus further destroying the world's agriculture land. Furthermore, the melting ice water will disrupt the world's oceans that regulate the world's temperatures and cause an ice age. And finally, human civilization can not survive an ice age.

As a result, our world leaders have to recognize global warming as a real threat to humanity. They need to both try to slow down global warming and prepare for its eventuality. If they do not, the collapse of the human civilization is almost certain, and the entire human race is at risk of becoming extinct.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Food habits in Kashmir are Consistent With Global Trend Towards Indulgence

Dr. Dabla, head of the Department of Sociology, University of Kashmir, examines dietary habits among Kashmiris

Changing Food Habits in Kashmir

Dr. B A Dabla

The traditional Kashmiri society was till the recent past characterized with extreme poverty and miserable life conditions. But, while at the initiation of the twentieth century, a broader and deeper process of social transformation started affecting the material conditions of the masses; here the post-1947 period experienced a radical change in all fields of life, especially economic, political, demographic, social, cultural, ethnic and linguistic.

There is a lot of empirical evidence to support the fact that a significant degree of social change has occurred in the traditional life style, particularly in the consumption pattern/s among the inhabitants of the Kashmir valley. In actuality, it also reflects in the emergence of new consumer trends in the valley. These new trends of consumerism reflected specifically in the fields of food habits, dress patterns, entertainment items, household goods, toiletries, and so on.

In the preceding situational context, we carried out a survey with the objective of knowing-enquiring about nature and pattern of consumption of food items and food habits among the general people living in the valley of Kashmiri at present. This survey was conducted among 750 randomly-selected respondents (representing their households) living in different mohallas and newly-established colonies in and around the city of Srinagar. This sample was highly representative and gave representation to all economic, educational, demographic and other relevant sociological categories. This research work was carried out in the field by 35 trained Research Investigators through the questionnaires which composed of about fifteen fixed-choice and open-ended questions. The relevant information and data was collected, aggregated, tabulated and explained and the conclusions drawn scientifically. The entire scientific fieldwork was carried out by the third-semester strudents of M.A Sociology, Kashmir University under the supervision of the writer.

The main findings of the survey are as follows:

 The survey revealed a near-total majority of 99.33 percent respondents consumed plain rice twice every day. At the same time, dominant majority of 81.24% respondents consumed different vegetables with rice daily. The survey also revealed that a huge majority of 95.09 percent respondents drink the salt (Kashmiri) tea daily (twice a day, morning and afternoon). The survey found that the sweet delicacies like Kehwa, Halwa and Fereeni was consumed by majority of respondents occasionally in the respective proportions of 86.00 percent and 88.01 percent.

 The survey conveyed that while a huge majority of 77.22 percent take Lipton tea daily many times a day), a majority of 77.007 percent respondents drink Lassi daily. It was found that 66.93 percent respondents consumed chicken weekly and 65.46 percent respondents consumed meat weekly. At the same time, 64.13 percent respondents eat Biryani occasionally, Stick meat and kanti were used by 69.06 percent respondents ate biryani occasionally. Stick meat and kanti were used by 69.06 percent and 72.04 per cent occasionally and respectively. While the Pulao was taken by 77.04 percent respondents occasionally, fried rice was taken by 60.00 percent respondents occasionally. Butter was used by 61.64 percent respondents daily.

 It has been found that from the past decade, 76.06 percent respondents started using the mineral water, especially on special occasions like marriage. Among 60.13 percent respondents, salad has become a necessary component of good food among Kashmiris. Fruits are also taken regularly by 64.06 percent respondents. During the winter season, 67.08 percent respondents took Haresa several times. Along with different varieties of sweets, the chewing gums were taken regularly especially by younger respondents as reported by 59.02 percent.

Now it is clear from the above statement that the Kashmiris at large have adopted many new consumer items related to food habits, which stands extremely opposite or parallel to the traditional nature and pattern of food habits in Kashmir. It follows that while in the traditional situation, the inhabitants in Kashmir could hardly get even two time simple meals (i.e. haak-batte) and a cup of black tea, they now consume most of the foods and other related items in the changing situation.

(Rising Kashmir)

Juvenile Delinquency is a Growing Menace in Kashmir

Iftikar think school teachers can be most helpful in tackling the social disorder

Fighting the evil

Iftikar Rashid Wani (Rising Kashmir)

Finally an institution of international repute woke from a deep slumber to have deliberations on a serious social problem - delinquency. While interacting with people, a galaxy of eminent academics stressed teachers to play their role to fight juvenile delinquency.

Teachers are supposed to handle these cases with care so as to motivate and help the delinquents to live their normal life. Most of the people are ignorant about this ever increasing problem.

Juvenile delinquency is a social problem that is embedded in the changes of the society itself; rapid changes, unsustainable development and other activities have shaken and uprooted the old institutions and established new norms of behaviour which are some times undesirable to the people. Technically child is delinquent when his anti social tendencies appear so grave that he becomes the subject of official action.

Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed many such cases. However, due to certain reasons law enforcing agencies these are dealt with under prevailing laws. Because of the disturbed conditions in Kashmir the percentage has gone up manifold and according to an estimate it has risen to 70% from 30% over a period of 20 years.

The Valley of Kashmir is passing through a critical stage. There is chaos and confusion everywhere. The children got hit by violent atmosphere. Unemployment, unnatural deaths of their elders, victimization by different agencies, drug addiction and other such evils add to volatile situation pushing the society towards fragmentation. It is strange that in Kashmir we only a few rehabilitation centers. Keeping the present scenario of Kashmir in mind there should be a counseling center in every district

According to repots published in local dailies majority of the offenders are male teenagers and their offences range from theft to murder and most of the juveniles apprehended were in the age group of 12-21 years. The problem is rapidly spreading with increased urbanization of the state. Though such cases are more frequent in cities but rural areas of Kashmir have also started getting affected. The excessive outdoor indulgence of house wives and general tendency on the part of educated women to get a job has disturbed the harmony of family structure of Kashmir. Modern woman is no longer confined to her domestic duties with the result the internal discipline of the family is disrupted. Due to this child is overpowered by the evil influence. Thus the lack of care and affection on the part of parents results in their detachment from their family and ultimately leads them towards the world of crimes. But it is important to remember that there is no single factor, but a combination of factors working mutually, responsible for delinquent behavior.

There are various causes responsible for the juvenile delinquency and unless these things are checked well in time the rate of delinquency will go on increasing. The ever changing life style of people imitating the fast life style worsens the situation. Hence a lot of responsibility falls on the shoulders of parents and teachers. Normal there is no contact between teachers and parents. Both are ignorant about the problems of the students and their insensitiveness compels some students to search other ways and means to solve their problems which ultimately makes lose track of things. Thus to ensure the safety of the students there should be a mutual cooperation and contact between the teachers and parents so as to keep an eye on students.

Teachers are expected to play an active role to curb the problem because it is only through education that the rate of crime in the society can be brought down. It has been found that 75% of delinquents were illiterates and this rate decreases in those parts of the country where the literacy rate was high.

It is our collective responsibility to root out the problem and everybody has a role to play. In recent past it has received the attention of sociologists, criminologists and other social workers of the our state and conducting of this type seminar after a long time is certainly a welcome step and it will definitely play a great role in making people aware about the problem of juvenile delinquency. Law enforcing agencies are also required to be educate about the problem so that they can treat these cases properly. If things are to be set right every member of the society has to play a role.

The government should take the steps so that the very condition that gives birth to this evil is targeted. By creating more employment opportunities and by lifting the standards of education we can create a situation that will direct the energies of our young generation towards desired goals. Sports and other activities also can be beneficial in this regard. It is good that the state government is promoting the sports activities at Panchayt level to direct the attention of youth towards the sports fields consuming their energies in harmless activities.

All said and done, teachers have the main role to play if our younger generation has to be saved from the ignominy of crime.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tackling Unemployment

Tanvir describes his blue print for the most pressing problem of the day

(Mr. Tanvir Sadiq, 31, was born in Srinagar and attended the Burn Hall School. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Information technology and management from Orissa University. He is the youngest Municipal Corporator of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and was elected from Zadibal Constituency. He has contributed regularly to local newspapers like the Kashmir Times, Kashmir Images, Greater Kashmir, and Kashmir Monitor. He was associated with many programs on Disaster Management of J & K and did a couple of programs on highlighting urban poverty. He is active in State politics and his interests are writing and social work.)

An Idea....!

Some wise man once observed that if you give a poor man some bread, you feed him for one day. But if you teach the poor man how to grow food, you feed a whole generation. I could be paraphrasing this saying incorrectly but all I want to accomplish is convey the message. Same is true in dealing with the issue of unemployment in Kashmir. Generating more government jobs is not the solution. What we need is some serious aid from other parts of India and overseas in training our youth in areas such as technical trades, intensive agriculture, electronics and computers, and modern construction techniques.

The purpose of education should not be to simply churn out graduates with worthless degrees who contribute very little to society, and whose only goal in life is to procure a civil service job. I personally know hundreds if not thousands of youth with multiple PHd's and yet they are unemployed, greying in the hopes of getting a foothold into the public service. It is not their fault that today's society has very little to offer them in terms of employment or means of earning a living for all their hard work and dedication in earning their degrees. It is the fault of our education system for not having the vision to foresee that the ultimate goal of any education should be to secure the future of the student economically and not to add uncertainty. Sadly, today's education system has failed in this regard.

The most stark difference in the education system of other countries and our Indian system of education is that our focus here is on generating more degree holders without consideration for the interests and capabilities of the students. The students trust the education system and work endless hours to finally pass the grueling exams and after three or four years of treading the tortuous path of education, they finally make it only to be added to the sad statistics of unemployed youth in Kashmir. It is for no fault of theirs. This is the responsibility of the government to devise strategies for the best possible utilization of the state's manpower, and I am certain things will change in this direction in the near future.

The current polytechnic colleges in Kashmir should be our blueprint to work with. My mother is one of the instructors in the women's polytechnic therefore I can talk about this with authority. These polytechnics are a phenomenal success and without a doubt the students who pass from these colleges are in a much better state in terms of being self-employed or being employed in some private firms. They fare much better than my friends holding multiple degrees in arts, history, or physics from degree colleges. Why this discrepancy? because these polytechnic colleges took the initiative of imparting education that helps meet the student's immediate needs in terms of being employable right after completing their courses. Sadly, there is a cap on how many students these polytechnic colleges can enroll and therefore many students are left out.

I suggest that the government put all resources in action and open up polytechnic colleges so that all students, whether old or young are able to enroll in them to seek valuable applied knowledge. By 'applied knowledge' I mean courses that will meet their immediate needs, courses such as "auto repairing" "tailoring" "computer network" "computer repair and maintenance" "cellular repairing" "horticulture" "crop disease diagnosis" "carpentry" "masonry" and the list goes on. We all are aware of that these courses are offered in all community colleges in other countries and has helped ease the unemployment numbers in these countries.

We also know that apart from the two polytechnic colleges in Kashmir, there are no other institutions where students can learn about these applied skills without being charged an arm and a leg for learning these courses. For instance, a student is charged ten thousand rupees at a private computer centre just for learning basic computer skills. This scares away many students from seeking applied skills and thus the cycle of dearth of skilled manpower continues.

If unconventional courses such as "intensive agriculture" or "green house production" are taught in Kashmir on a regular basis with the help of aid from overseas leaders in this field such as experts from Holland, it could jump start an altogether unique industry in Kashmir. Remember it doesn't necessarily take an million dollar investment to start an industry. Kashmiris have the skill and the diligence to learn and innovate. All we need is a jumpstart.