Introduction to Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Changing Dynamics Requires Changing Attitudes

Nazir says Kashmiris need to change their political and social habits

(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.)

Guiding in the Right Direction

Neelofar and Asiya tragedy has started cascading from the newspaper headlines. It would eventually fade away in favor of other events that make news. We seem to be a people driven by incidents and not by a social agenda. Kashmiris seem to have given up on self confidence and on the need that it is time to change our political and social habits. The only thing that we have specialized post 1990 is to refuse to listen, accommodate, accredit and respect each other while holding a political opinion at variance to each other.

As a follow up to incident oriented politics, Kashmiri politics used the issue of the death of a generation, which is calculated at over 70,000, violation of human rights, rape, disappearances, sex scandals, Shrine Board land issue, elections and myriad other issues to justify their respective schools of politics. Militancy and politics of the manner of early 1990s has also rolled up its spread sheet.

People of Kashmir, at least those who have access to Newspapers may have woken up to read that a suicide attack has taken place for the first time since 1947 in Muzaffarabad Azad Kashmir, a place heavily supervised by the eyes of secret services, than any other habitat in Pakistan. Angels dare not escape the intelligence network here but the dedicated suicide bomber moved to its target in Shaukat Lines. Many others would have read the report of Community Drug Abuse Study Survey Kashmir by Valley’s renowned psychiatrist Dr. Mushtaq Margoob. According to this report Kashmir has 24.32 lakh drug abusers and Kashmir tops the world in the list of opium abusers.

A nation which has lost almost 100,000 in the last 19 years, has 24.32 lakh drug abusers, has lakhs of educated unemployable and more uneducated unemployable, thousand in prison and missing and has leadership split on the understanding of Rights Movement and on the question of allegiance, has scarcely a future to look for. There is a desperate need to change political and social habits.

At the top of all these scary details we are following a serious agenda to secure the Right of Self Determination for our people. Our Rights Movement has graduated through various stages in the last 132 years. Unfortunately the weaponry and the craft used in the last 19 years have killed the right of self determination as a realizable right for a long time to come. We have suffered a number deficit and the poise of this loss does not remain in our favor. Therefore, right of self determination shall have to be defended as a ‘principle’.

Our people and the social structure is more at fault than our leaders. It has now turned into a fashion to welcome international leaders for their reference on Kashmir. At home in Srinagar it has become a status symbol to receive officials of various foreign embassies based in Delhi. Kashmir in all inclusive is discussed in these meetings and news items bedeck the headlines the next day.

We fail to reconcile the incident or event oriented politics with the fact that Hurriyat had an ‘Awareness Bureau” in Delhi and it had the time and opportunity of working in close proximity with these foreign missions and the civil society of India. What happened? At best our leaders turned the Awareness Bureau into a rest room and at worse it became a gossip office, to negotiate personal interests in and outside Kashmir. It was packed lock, stock and barrel and all those involved in the Bureau are no more part of the present Hurriyat political discipline. They have been forced to reconnect with their previous vocations in Government or in private.

Over the years in the last 19 years civil society in Kashmir, in particular in the Valley has developed a behavioral pattern which encourages it to fake evidence to make believe that all is flawless. We know that all is not well in Hurriyat or Mainstream, except that the former is not under oath and accountable as the latter. We as a people have failed to induct accountability in Hurriyat and have failed to test the performance of Mainstream under the oath. The statement of former president Pervez Musharraf in his TV Interview to Dunya News is one more eye opener that Kashmiris have developed a second habit to fake things to create a make believe environment. According to him during his Agra visit he held talks with all stakeholders including the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference and the leadership of Azad Kashmir for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute “but no one could guide me in the right direction”.

It is time that we start examining the political and social character and habits in Kashmir. We may have made a serious mistake in allowing the Hurriyat play it all free and all alone with no holds barred. At the same time we may have erred in absolute in not using the Mainstream political agenda to empower the common man and woman and to change the process of life into a quality of life. We need to understand that the daily life in Kashmir is conducted in reference to the Mainstream political agenda. It is the duty of every conscientious and responsible Kashmiri to ensure that this character of politics remains accountable and in accordance with its oath. Mainstream political parties have made it clear that the Kashmir dispute needs to be resolved. So they have outsmarted the Hurriyat discipline of politics, at least in principle.

If we take the evidence provided by the Government of India and the leaders in Pakistan on the present political and social habitat in Kashmir as credible, Hurriyat has a serious threat to its existence. It does not seem to have worked out any convincing agenda and has been sucked into an incident driven political reflex. It is a dangerous option and Kashmir can’t afford to cause many more regular tragedies for Hurriyat to survive. We seem to have wasted 19 years and a generation without convincing India or Pakistan that we are a people with all the nobility and dignity associated with any people on earth.

There is an urgent need of a fresh rethink. It seems that Mainstream political discipline could deliver more on the question of self determination than Hurriyat. Mainstream political parties have a duty to ensure that the Government of India as another contracting party in the Instrument of Accession, on the basis that it is provisional, has to be put to a final vote and meanwhile Indian Government is responsible to protect ‘life’, ‘honor’ and ‘property’ in Jammu and Kashmir. This political discipline which is ridiculed as ‘pro India’, has an obligation under oath to keep watching that the Government of India keeps to its case and argument made at the UN under article 35 of the UN Charter.

The representatives elected by the people of Kashmir for State Assembly and to sit in the Indian Parliament remain under oath to “discharge faithfully and conscientiously the duty upon which they have entered”. One and the principal duty remain to ensure that the Government of India keeps to its statement made at the UN.
Kashmiris need to stop to reappraise their social and political behaviour. It may be that we are misleading into disowning the Mainstream School of politics. We should not waste our vote for electricity, water, road and a job. We should put the elected representatives through a higher burden of responsibilities. We are caught between a paid and accountable politics and a paid but unaccountable political culture. Two different results would follow from the two.

For a Civil Society Obsessed With Politics, the Rest Does Not Matter

Shocking news of the day (but be forewarned that it is not about politics), followed by State government's approach - two stories

Kashmir is World's Top Opiate Consumer: Report

(Rising Kashmir News)

Srinagar: As International Day Against Drug Abuse is being observed on Friday, 26 June 2009, Kashmir has earned the dubious distinction of topping the world in using the Opiates related drugs with 3.8 percent leaving behind Iran where the percentage has been pegged at 2.81 only. Experts blame the Civil Society for not rising to the occasion to arrest the trend which is potent enough to derail the entire social fabric.

Concerned over the disturbing increase in the number of drug abusers, leading psychiatrist Mushtaq Margoob believes that this was the opportune time to formulate a comprehensive policy to counter the menace. “It is not the government only but the Civil Society has a potential role to play in making people aware what was happening” Dr Margoob, who has conducted extensive studies on the issue, told Rising Kashmir on Thursday. According to a survey conducted by him, the percentage is increasing in all the areas of drugs which are responsible for causing disturbances in a human mind.

The district wise survey shows startling results. While the Alcohol consumption is 0.7 percent, use of Cannabis has been put at 2.4 percent, Bzd at 0.87 percent, and Opiates at 3.8 percent. The cigarette smoking is still prevalent among 25 percent population of Valley with 10.63 percent resorting to other forms of smoking and 4.63 to smokeless tobacco. “The findings are certainly disturbing,” says Dr Margoob. Surprisingly the Opium related drugs are being used in Kashmir at a high level. “The percentage is highest in the world,” Dr Margoob says.

There are a few factors responsible for pushing the people into drug abuse in this fashion. And the first and foremost is the trauma the people have been facing on account of the turmoil since 1989. The situation has made people including women psychological wrecks due to loss of one or other family member. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the main reason for driving people to drugs. “I have seen many such patients who have not been able to sleep because of trauma and they resort to easily available drugs in the market and then become dependent on them”, says Dr Margoob. This has emerged as a pattern among such cases as they are left in lurch by the society following their traumatic experiences. The conflict apart from other issues has contributed a lot to this situation which apparently is not comprehensible.

Likewise the youth in Kashmir is of late driven to drugs with codeine ingredients. Not only that many are using iodex, boot polish and fevicol as something to quench the thirst once they are pushed into this abuse. Not only the poor class which is most vulnerable but also the wards of rich and high profile are in the net. At the Advanced Institute of Management in Stress and Life Style Problems (AIMS) in Nigeen, Dr Margoob and his coulleagues treat scores of people who are coming with mixed reasons. “It is tough time to deal with them and many things are unimaginable” says Dr Surraiya at AIMS. Besides the drugs which are easily available in the market, other forms are smuggled from rest of the states. The wrong notion in India, according to experts is that the drugs only come from the area between Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent which they say is not true. “India is the only country where the opium is produced legally over 11000 kanals of land for making opium gum” says Dr Margoob adding “but most of it is diverted for drug abuse and those responsible for it do not agree and blame outsiders”.

In Kashmir the poppy and charas cultivation has been main concern and despite government claims to take on violators it is flourishing like an industry. Every other day police claims to have destroyed Fukki but who takes care of the bushes which are left in that process. If they are used for heroine production it will create havoc, experts opine.

The process to tackle the drug abuse in Kashmir is full of faults. Experts point out that the absence of drug policy in the state is the main reason for growth of this menace. Any person can get any medicine from the market without having a prescription from Registered Medical Practitioner. It is possible with the mushrooming of chemists, which have come up out of malpractices. “Unless we have a strong Drug policy and Drug Act we cannot control this,” said a senior doctor. “You have to crack a whip on this illegal industry”.

Inspector General of Police Crime, S M Sahai, agrees that the menace is growing but he says that government was putting its efforts to counter it at various levels. “We are looking at two aspects-reductions in demand and reduction in supply” he said adding “there are various agencies working and results are coming to the extent these agencies work”. But we need to do more, he adds.

Dr Margoob made a passionate appeal to the Civil Society to come forward and play the vital role in reaching to the people. “It is a multi-cornered responsibility and all the conscious people should play their role to save the society especially youth from drifting away,” he adds.

AT DRUG CONFERENCE, MINISTER SPILLS BEANS: Says for six decades JK has no drug policy

(Greater Kashmir News Network)

Srinagar: In Drug conference on 26 June 2008, the Health Minister, Sham Sharma, said the government has no drug policy for last six decades and accused the top officials of the state for exploiting the department for their own benefits.

He was speaking at a function, organized by the Jammu and Kashmir Police (Crime Branch) in connection with the observance of International Anti- narcotics Day here in B.Ed College.

Sharma said since 1950 the state government has no drug policy.

He however, said the government would come up with the policy within a month. He said the policy would help the government check the menace of over the counter sale of drugs which was major cause of medical opiates.

Sharma said rural and backward areas require attention and “it needs doctors who get reservations on backward category to render their service as a duty and commitment towards their people.” However he said the doctors who obtain the degrees on backward area certificates were preferring postings in cities rendering the whole concept of backward area useless.

He said the government spends crores on the doctors when they get selected for the MBBS and it was painful when after obtaining the degree they rush to foreign countries.

“The government might make it mandatory for student who qualifies MBBS and the post graduation to give an undertaking that after completing the degree they would work in the state at least for ten years,” the Minister said. The Minister said the Government might decide not issue passport to the doctors till they complete ten years of services in Kashmir. He said in case the professionals wish to have passport they should obtain the no-objection Objectionable Certificate (NOC) from heath department.

He stunned the audience saying that there are places where 40 doctors have been posted to treat 40 patients. He said 35 doctors were trained for the mental health programme and none of them were working in proper position. He said three doctors trained in the mental health were posted in Chanakyapuri in New Delhi. He said these people use connections to get away with everything.

Speaking on the occasion, Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda sought cooperation from all sections of the society to deal with this social problem subject. He said that Police Department has established a counselling and rehabilitation centre which is operating very successfully, adding the Centre is providing, free treatment and guidance to the drug abuse sufferers.

Clinical Psychologist Dr Muhammad Muzaffer Khan said Kashmir has witnessed turmoil for about two decades which had led to great increase in psychiatric illnesses and o
ther psychosocial disturbances.

“The alarming scenario of drug abuse in Kashmir has made the experts to comment, “we lost one generation to bullets and we may lose another generation to drugs”

He said the number of patients who visited drug de-addiction centre on daily basis is 2000 and number of registrations for inpatient treatment is 255.

“The Common drugs of abuse- Medicinal opiods and sedatives 75%, Alcohol increasing trend, Cannabis, and Volatile substance (correction fluid) alarming and often found in young school children .which is difficult to detect and more deadly,” he said. Dr Arshad Hussain, consultant psychiatric Disease Hospital also spoke on the occasion.

Institutionalized Corruption

Ghulam Nabi Mir explains how certain amendments to service rules give arbitrary powers to a particular class of top level bureaucracy

Encouraging Sycophancy

Advocate Gulam Nabi Mir

The Government, vide SRO-27,1 dated 28th July, 2007, made certain amendments in the J&K Administrative Service Rules, 1979, inserting sub rule 6-B in the said rules. However, this sub rule is not only arbitrary and harsh but smells of malice. The sub-rule needs to be repealed in view of the fact that it is against mandates of law, besides being violation of human rights. These rules are prone to misuse and manipulation, especially sub section d, e and f of sub rule 6-B; these are reproduced as under:

If the Vigilance Organization has received any complaint(s) against any officer, the gist and nature of such complaints shall be made available by the Vigilance Commissioner to the General Administration Department for placement before the Establishment-Cum-Selection Committee for taking a view.

Inputs obtained by the General Administration Department from sources other than Vigilance Organization about the reputation and integrity of the officer shall be placed before the Establishment –Cum Selection Committee for taking a view;
In case the officer has been acquitted in any criminal/vigilance case, the Establishment-Cum-Selection Committee shall examine the grounds of acquittal, i.e. technical grounds or merit. In case, the officer has been acquitted on technical grounds, the Committee shall make specific recommendations whether the officer deserves to be empanelled for promotion to the Special scale/Super Time Scale or not;

These sub sections of the sub rule 6-B appear to be inserted with bias and vendetta against a section of employees who either are not posted in the Secretariat or do not enjoy close proximity to the persons at the helm of affairs. These Rules can become a tool of coercion to make people fall in line. It is a potential threat against those who are against Sycophancy and dare to take bold initiative to fight this menace of in the Administration or plead for transparency in the dealings which is often seen as undesirable.

By virtue of these rules any officer can be deprived of promotional benefit merely on an imaginary case either contemplated or likely to be contemplated against him and even false implication would mar his career.

The canons of law of land are clear that unless a person is convicted by a Court of law he cannot be treated as guilty or said to have committed the crime and nobody can be condemned unheard while as the sub sections referred to above vest all legal/judiciary powers with the Establishment Committee and the persons in corridors of Secretariat. These rules are even abusive to most stringent anti corruption rules of state and by inserting these sub rules the Government proves that it does not either trust these rules or the agency implementing these. No law of any place suggests double penalty for a crime. However, under these rules if a complaint of corruption or misuse is established against an accused he would be twice panelized, and if proved innocent even then he stands penalized.

These extra constitutional powers provided to a particular class and agency are bound to tell upon the imitative of officers and would compel them to either camp in the corridors of Secretariat or in the kitchens gardens of their bosses. In case present Government is sincere in allowing officers to work transparently and without prejudice to any section of society it must ab initio repeal the rules on the grounds put forth above and as the same are not applicable to human society, admitted principles of law, and principles of natural justice.

Demanding Rights Without Accepting Responsibilities

Kashmiris complain about lack of power, but are not willing to pay for it either

J&K govt fails to meet power tariff collection targets

Ishfaq Naseem (Indian Express)

A month before the Jammu and Kashmir government will present the annual budget at Srinagar, the State government review of the power collection targets has found that the there has been a shortfall in the collection of tariff by over Rs 200 crore by the close of last financial year.

According to sources, before finalizing the budget a Jammu and Kashmir Finance department review has revealed that the collection of power tariff targets have not been met. The assessment of the tariff collection targets in state was taken up late as after the Jammu and Kashmir government led by Omar Abdullah took over in the state it presented an interim budget in March this year to get the authorisation of the assembly to spend Rs 9,503 crores till the end of August this year.

According to Finance department officials from the target of Rs 850 crores kept for the last financial year, Jammu and Kashmir power development department has only collected the tariff of Rs 633 crore by 31 March 2009. According to officials the targets were kept in the last year's budget with the government presenting a separate power project last year in which it gave a grim picture of power sector reforms and also the deficit in the collection of targets. “The collection of tariff in the power sector was a constant worry as the targets have not been met,” said, a top official of the state's Finance department, adding that the government will further build a pressure on the Power Development department (PDD) so that the tariff collection picks up.

Officials however also add that while the targets have not bee met in the collection of tariff, Jammu and Kashmir government has asked the Centre to continue provide the annual power reform grant of Rs 1300 crore for the next six years to upgrade the power distribution system in the state. Centre had started providing the power sector reform grants to Jammu and Kashmir government from 2006 which was to last for only three years.

However last year nearly Rs 1000 crore were not released to the state as it showed also poor performance in checking the transmission and distribution losses. Commissioner Secretary, Power, Sundeep K Nayak, admitted that the targets were not met last year. He however said that in this financial year government was aiming to perk up the annual revenue collection. “We were aiming at increasing the revenue collection in the state. The shortfall in the revenue collection targets has been mostly due to the fact that people didn’t pay the revenue,” he added.

Officials in the PDD said that the government has recently issued a circular fixing the revenue collection targets and even asking the staff of the PDD to take measures to reduce the transmission and distribution losses.

Barter Trade Across LOC Requires Trust and in Kashmir There is a Trust Deficit

Kashmiri traders may not admit it publicly, but Indian market prices are better than what across-the-LOC has to offer

More Kashmir based firms opt for Poonch route

Jammu: More Kashmir based business firms have started giving preference to cross-LoC trade from Poonch-Rawlakote route in Jammu region instead of Uri-Muzaffarabad in the Valley, mainly due to the fact that there was no report of any misunderstanding between the traders importing and exporting items on the barter system.

Only this week, two new trading companies from Kulgam district in the Kashmir valley conducted trade with PoK based firms through Poonch-Rawlakote route exporting tonnes of imli and rajmash.

Confirming that two new companies from the Valley joined the cross-LoC trade through Chakan-Da-Bagh route this Tuesday and Wednesday, official sources said there was no bar on the businessmen of entire Jammu and Kashmir to carry out trade with their counterparts in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) from either of the two routes—Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad.

However, they declined to comment on the reasons for Kashmir based traders opting for Poonch-Rawlakote route instead of Uri-Muzaffarabad.

Reports said Business Lines Trading Company, Kulgam conducted trade with Business Lines Trading Company, Muzaffarabad exporting tonnes of imli.

Mehmood Dar, Proprietor of Business Lines, Kulgam and Zahoor Dar, Proprietor of Business Lines, Muzaffarabad were in blood relation, reports said, adding they were divided in 1971 when Zahoor Dar left for PoK.

Both of them have kept same names of their company and were reported to be dealing in wholesale business of karyana and other items.

Yet another firm from the Kashmir valley conducted trade with a Muzaffarabad based company from Poonch-Rawlakote route on Wednesday.

M/s SAT Traders, Yaripora (Kulgam) exported tonnes of rajmash to Maud Trading Company, Muzaffarabad.

Both the firms of Kashmir valley were, however, yet to receive items and the consignments from their trading partners in PoK. It couldn’t be ascertained as to which items they have asked for from their counterparts in other part of the divided State.

Prior to this, about half a dozen firms from the Kashmir valley had conducted cross-LoC trade from Poonch-Rawlakote route.

According to sources, most of the companies in both parts of the divided State, dealing with barter system of trade were fully satisfied with import-export of items. The companies on both sides were receiving an equal amount of items after working out the currency variation of India and Pakistan which was the major factor that none of them had any complaint with each other.

It may be mentioned here that in the absence of any currency guidelines between India and Pakistan, cross-LoC trade between two parts of divided State on both Poonch-Rawlakote and Uri-Muzaffarabad route, which were simultaneously opened on October 22 last year, was going on barter system.

(Daily Excelsior)

Legacy from the Budshah Era

The 15th Century bridge was the first to connect two sides of Srinagar


Jamsheed Rasool (Greater Kashmir)

Thrusting aside its submissive meandering up to the Zaina Kadal Bridge, river Jhelum shows off its latent ferocity on reaching near Aali Kadal Bridge, which is also the first bridge to be constructed on river Jhelum in Srinagar.

The bridge was built between 1413-1420 by Sultan Ali Shah, the brother of Zainul Abiddin (Badshah).

Maharaja Pratap Singh, who ruled from 1885-1925, got it reconstructed at its own place and than it was G M Sadiq, the then chief minister, who got it repaired in 1964.

Five years ago a new bridge has come up at the place of the same old bridge.

The channel of the river compresses as one reaches the Aal-i-kadal Bridge, the river flows so strong that sometimes it is just a pleasure squatting on the nearby Ghat and airing the gentle breeze that the river carries with it.

In the earlier times when boat used to sweep under this bridge it was tossed about on the waves caused by swirls and eddies.

This bridge has been a doubtless witness of Kashmir’s transition to Islam.

To the north of Aal-i-Kadal lies the Masjid of Roentgen (some people call him Rinchan Shah) said to be the first Masjid in Kashmir.

Close to it lies the highly revered Jamia Masjid and Aastan-i-aali of Shah Woosi Sahib (RA) where it is a common sight to see women in large numbers busy in prayers.

To the south of Aal-i-Kadal bridge is the Mohalla of Rehbab Sahib wherein lies the relics of Peer Dastageer Syed Abdul Qader Jeelani (RA) and the Sehyaar Masjid where according to elders of the area Rinchen Shah, the first Muslim Ruler of Kashmir, saw Bulbul Shah pronouncing Azaan for the first time in valley.

Historians say the spiritual vacuum of Rinchan Shah finally got filled with prudence and contemplation when he got under the studentship of the great saint Bulbul Shah Lankar and embraced Islam.

Khalid Basheer in his Jhelum-the river through my backyard quotes an interesting story from Shamsuddin Ahemad’s Shah-e-Hamdan-Hayat Aur Karnamay. It is said that after being annoyed over an un-Islamic cultural show of dance and music organized by Zain-ul-Abidin on the completion of Zaina Lank which was an Island built by him on the Lake, Woosi Sahib(RA) jumped into the Wullar lake.

A frantic rescue effort was launched and the divers were put into service but to no avail. Dejected and heart-broken, the King decided to return to Srinagar. During his upstream journey Zain-ul-Abidin to his utter disbelief spotted Woosi Sahab near Asham, a place upstream of Wular, washing his Khirqah (dress of a religious mendicant) on the banks of river Jhelum.

After having expressed regret, the King made him to embark on the boat. The Boat journey concluded at Aal-i-Kadal where the Woosi Sahib spent the rest of his life in devotion to Allah.

Like the shrine of Woosi Sahib many other shrines adorn the banks of the River Jhelum and have remained a focal points of religious activities for the Muslims of the valley.

The various Ghats on the banks of the river Jhelum served as the present day bus stands and railway platforms where people would collect in numbers to go to their destinations in different types of boats and also to send and receive cargo. Every devotee before going to the shrines on existing on its banks would first bathe or perform ablution (wadu) in the river Jhelum.

Thus these Ghats remained crowded with people all times of the day.

A Ghat and a Yarbal is a platform made of a local stone on the river bank and connected with a stone-stair going up to the Bund. Since the river transport has ceased to operate in Kashmir, these Ghats including that near the Ali-Kadal Bridge, are used by washermen to wash clothes and carpets.

The Ghat near Ali Kadal Bridge known as Daeb Ghat or washermen’s Ghat is famous for washermen and even today it is a common sight to see washermen smashing clothes against the stairs or twisting the clothes by putting their feet on one side and twisting the other side of the cloth.

“We have been doing this job from many generations. Government is unconcerned about the plight of the Daeb Ghat as the stairs have roughened and they need to be repaired if our business has to continue” says Ghulam Rasool pointing towards the bumpy stone of the Ghat.

Yarbal was used by people, especially women folk, to wash clothes and fetch water for drinking and cooking purposes.

There are several places in Kashmir with Yar connected with their names like Khanyar, Naidyar, Surasyar, Shahrayar, Badyar, Sehyar, Ganpatyar etc. “This bridge was the first to be constructed on river Jhelum. It has tremendous significance in the history of Kashmir and this bridge has been witness to many events of great political and social importance” says Farooq Fayaz, a teacher of History at the University of Kashmir.

As the river swiftly roars towards Nawa Kadal, this bridge reminds us about the measureless resilience that the Kashmiris are endowed with.

The boys swimming near the river cutting across the unsparing waves tell us about the vigor of both the Kashmiris and the river Jhelum.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Should Kashmiri Leaders be Cheering a Meeting With a "Missing Topic"?

Mr. Bukhari comments on the recent talks between the Pakistani President and the Indian Prime Minister where the topic of Kashmir simply did not come up

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

Indo-Pak Thaw and Kashmir

Kashmiri separatists have a unique characteristic. They do not lose time to react to a meeting, particularly between India and Pakistan. As stake holders in Kashmir issue, they are supposed to make their responses, but any meeting which discusses Kashmir merits a response and not the one in Russia, between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in which the latter was on back foot. The only positive side of the development was that both the leaders met for the first time after Mumbai attacks. And Kashmir was no where in the short conversation half of which took place in full media gaze.

Instead Dr Singh took on Zardari like a Headmaster of the School. He shook his confidence leaving him nervous. His (Dr Singh’s) focus was on terrorism and did not move beyond that. Zardari responded with a meaningless grin and had nothing to offer him when asked about what his government did to tackle the terror directed towards India. A fumbled Zardari did try to mollify him but Dr Singh was clear cut in driving home the point that if Pakistan can launch a crackdown on Taliban why not on those who according to Dr Singh were hell bent upon creating disturbances in India.

So Kashmir figured nowhere in the talks about which more hype was created by Kashmiri leaders here by welcoming “God Knows What”. Both sides did agree that Foreign Secretaries will meet in July. But the meeting, according to those privy to the development, will be uni-focal and Pakistan will be asked to produce the “Report Card” on what it did to reign in the terror against India. This is substantiated by the wrath Zardari is facing back home where he was asked to explain as to why he failed to rake up the Kashmir issue and was like a lame duck in front of Dr Singh. That is why he has put of his proposed visit to Egypt where during the NAAM Summit both leaders were again expected to meet and carry forward the dialogue. Now Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani is likely to attend the meeting.

Pakistan’s failure to miss Kashmir at the meeting should be seen in the backdrop of its disturbances within the country. Pakistan is going through the worst face of instability and tackling Taliban, which is its own creation, in collaboration with United of America, is becoming difficult with each passing day. Till a few years back its (Pakistan’s) sole attention was focused on Kashmir and no opportunity was lost to push India to the wall. But now the situation is entirely different. India’s ostensibly strong diplomacy and increasing proximity with Washington is playing a significant role in cornering Pakistan on the issue of “terror”. Ironically Pakistan is America’s ally in “War on Terror” but India has found a place in “Victims of Terror” category alongside America. This advantage is going in favour of New Delhi to brand even a genuine political struggle as an off shoot of “International Islamic Terror Network”. But in this game of pushing one another to corner, both Washington and Delhi are playing safe. While Obama administration is prone to pressure from New Delhi on Kashmir, but it subtly kicks off the Kashmir issue as it was done recently by Burns. This is being done to sooth the Pakistani sentiment keeping in view its importance in taking on Taliban-Alqaeda nexus which the Washington thinks is detrimental to its existence.

India is also playing safe and giving an impression that it was not washing its hands off the solution to Kashmir issue. Dr Singh’s well tailored strategy to send a strong message is something to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand he responded to Washington’s desire to resume the dialogue with Pakistan and on the other he made it possible to assert his country’s position vis-a-vis terror. He clearly told Zardari that his mandate was to tell him that what he was doing on terror. So the talks, though resumed do not have any bearing on Kashmir as of now.

This becomes more interesting in the wake of recent agitation. Pakistani analysts believe that Zardari was better placed in that sense to raise Kashmir issue but he was so weak that Dr Singh didn’t allow him to even sweat. Any dialogue between India and Pakistan, in the recent years has centered on Kashmir. This is in spite of the u-turn made by former Pakistani President Parvez Musharraf when he talked about out of box solution. But this time, Pakistan’s quagmire is redefining the contours of dialogue between the two countries. This certainly pushes Kashmir out, unless Pakistan takes a radical line, which in the given situation seems impossible. It goes beyond any doubt that Pakistan is one of the principle parties to Kashmir dispute and its role can never be ignored. But at this stage when the Pakistani government is grappling with the worst ever crisis, the Kashmiri leadership should stop looking towards Islamabad and think independently to charter their own course.

This is imperative as the situation on ground does not show any signs of reconciliation and the people’s mood is defiant. If separatists claim to be representing true aspirations of Kashmir they should have their own roadmap, otherwise will have to bear with the accusations like one by Dr Singh that they have nothing to offer on table. Leave Pakistan aside for the time being and let the country recover, but wake up and think big to deliver on resolution. This is the demand of the time.

Environmental Degradation in Kashmir is Occurring on Both Sides of the LOC

Zafar says that development at the cost of destruction of environment is self defeating

(Mr. Zafar Iqbal, 32, was born in village Tarar, Rawalakot, in the Poonch district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. He did his early schooling in a private school, matriculating through examinations conducted by the Mirpur Educational Board, and completed his higher secondary education from the Government Degree College in Rawalakot. He received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Rawalakot campus), and his M.A. in Mass Communication from the Punjab University in Pakistan. He received international scholarships to attend the International Summer School at the University of Oslo in 2005 receiving a Graduate Diploma in Media Studies, and the Nottingham Trent University, U.K., in 2006-2008 receiving M.A. in Media & Globalization. Mr. Iqbal has been a journalist working in the print and TV media since 1999 and is very active in human rights, earthquake relief and rehabilitation especially involving women and children, and inter-faith harmony. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Press for Peace (PFP) and the Founder-President of the Environmental Journalists Forum, both based in Muzaffarabad. Mr. Iqbal has been invited to numerous national and international seminars and workshops related to human development.)

Perilous Development

Pakistan has initiated a mega power project in its administrative part of Kashmir without fulfilling mandatory environmental obligations required for development projects. Contemporary international environmental laws and standards bound all governments and their publics to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and ecological surveys (both phase1&2) in every developmental project to achieve goals of sustainable development.

Nonetheless, Pakistan’s official Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), has started the construction of US $2.16 billion- Neelum-Jhelum Hydro Project in a remote and scenic Neelum Valley, 100 km to the north-west of Islamabad, through a consortium of Chinese firms in order to generate 969 Megawatt electricity, without fulfilling the set global criteria.

The project will divert Neelum River, which originates from Indian part of Kashmir and also called as Kishangana, through a 47-km long tunnel system to another river Jehlum near Muzaffarabad, capital of the Pakistan-administered Kashmir. After 8 years of its completion period, it will be the first underground hydropower project of its kind in Pakistan which the government claims is under the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 reached between India and Pakistan, and the country would get “priority rights” to the use of its waters trough this significant project.

The officials of local Environmental Protection Agency working in project area have confirmed that WAPDA has started the construction work on this mega project discarding environmental considerations. The builders, however, insist that the proposed project does not pose any threats to the ecological system of the area, as an initial study conducted in 1990s had suggested ‘limited environmental impacts of the project’. On the other hand, local ecologists contradict these claims of WAPDA authorities.

“Much has been changed during this period in terms of people’s conditions, needs and ecology and necessitates fresh evaluation of the concealed damages, says an EPA source, forecasting alarming hazards to local ecosystem due to hurriedly-launched commencement of this mammoth development venture, which excruciatingly ignores required mechanisms envisaged for the protection of environment and rights of local populations.

Today, Pakistan, with 40 per cent population without electricity, is facing severe energy crisis. In some areas the duration of load-shedding has reached to 16 hours a day, paralysing national economy and daily routine life as well. Government has already scrapped its long disputed Kala Bagh Dam project after uncompromising reservations from its federating units. The country, crippled by a surge in extremism, suicide attacks and recent military operation against the Taliban, is struggling to overcome its energy deficiencies in order to run its day-to-day affairs in a smooth manner. Apparently, newly initiated mega power project in northeast area is part of its attempts to alleviate huge shortfall in electricity sector which has increased 5,000 MW range.

Ostensibly, in their hastily convalescing measures, Pakistan’s development pundits seem to negate parameters of sustainable development and public concerns. The power authority of the country is being criticised harshly for bulldozing rights of indigenous population, which maintain that government is going to deprive them from their cultivable land and fruit orchards, which already, have been affected by Indo-Pak rivalry along LoC, the de facto border of divided Kashmir, and subsequent earthquake of 2005. Similarly, the package offered for the compensation of farmers’ lands do not equal to the market price of property and it has been termed as disgracefully low, and has created profound resentment among affecters.

“The government must pay the compensation of affected land according to market price and arrange alternative residential towns”, demands Tariq Ali, a representative of Action Committee of affected farmers.

Likewise, local environmental groups also carp deliberate violation of laws by government’s own officials and have expressed their concerns related to prospective environmental hazards on local economy and biodiversity. Ecologists say the project area has significant conservational importance due to abundant of forests, aquatics life and presence of many species of wild life, which have been declared endangered globally.

This scenic valley, where the said project is being built, plays a key role in the configuration of Himaylan ecosystem. It is also serves as the habitat of various rare species considered on the verge of extinction. Pheasants are abundant in this locality and conservationists suggest that developmental activities would impact their natural habit, wildlife nourishment (both terrestrial and aquatic). Ecosystem change also destroys feeding as well as breeding grounds, with a resultant loss of fish species. Projection of large area reduces public access to certain localities, and thereby affects outdoor recreation opportunities. Interestingly, Global Environment Facility (GEF) has contributed millions of funds to protect local natural resources through Machiara National Park Projet which is one of the three globally significant national parks selected for a GEF-funded project.

Paradoxically, this severe deviation of conservation laws and measures by WAPDA in this area is also contradictory from world bodies and governments’ efforts for the protection of natural resources and wild life in this important ecological zone.

In Kashmir, 88 per cent population lives in rural areas and depends upon forestry, livestock and agriculture for their existence. Water of rivers and natural springs is also considered a major source for drinking and irrigation of lands located at the banks. Local population around the flow of Neelum river also concern that the diversion of the river would cause an acute water scarcity, making life of inhabitants miserable, particularly, a huge population of capital city of Muzaffarabad would be at the stake, because Neelum river is the chief source of water provision for this population through lifting and purification process.

No doubt, power generation is vital resource of energy in development, which is basic human need but it must not be done at the cost of disruption in biodiversity, habitat loss, fragmentation and the displacement of indigenous populations. Many hydropower plans and strategies are made without looking at the ‘big picture’, and as a result these projects can have negative impacts on the environment. Luckily, some of the damage done to biodiversity by hydropower can be reduced by equipment upgrades, mitigation measures, and proper management. Local user groups and other stakeholders should be involved in decision-making, to keep good relations concerning peoples’ livelihoods and the sustainability of aquatic resources. River systems should be thoroughly studied jointly with concerned agencies (e.g., electricity, irrigation and fisheries, environment authorities; and local authorities) during formulation and application stages of this project.

Professor Hamid Ansari Speaks at the University of Kashmir

Riyaz' commentary on the Vice President's speech followed by the text of the speech by His Excellency Hamid Ansari

(Mr. Riyaz Masroor, 37, was born and raised in Srinagar. He is a Srinagar based journalist who writes in English, Urdu and kashmiri. Besides working in the local press, his articles have appeared on BBC Radio online, Himal Southasia and the Journal of International Federation of Journalists.)

Let’s set the clock right

“Time, regrettably, does not stand still,” said India’s Vice President M H Ansari in his fairly admired speech in University of Kashmir’s Convocation Hall on 20 June 2009. Reading out from a carefully crafted speech that featured an interesting discourse on identity, assimilation and integration, the Vice President went on to say, “We never step into the same river twice; nor can we use a time machine to re-live a gone by era. This university campus, and its endeavor in different branches of knowledge, suggests a desire to move with time (“Time”).”

Mr. Ansari remained too scholarly to elaborate his opening metaphors but the message went down without any loss of meaning. The speech has a richer subtext. The VP, it may appear in the context of Kashmir situation, was pointing to the “time” when India had a poor international clout and its 'unofficial' ally USSR was falling apart; the “time” when Kashmiri boys rose up against Indian military and the country’s growth rate was at measly five percent or less; the “time” when Pakistan had enough wherewithal to continue a 'proxy war' in Kashmir and get away with it; the “time” when India would not find a single politician or intellectual to plead her case; and the present “time” when India is China’s ‘friend-at-large’ and America’s officially stamped buddy; now Pakistan gives out signs of implosion; many layers of Kashmir’s privileged classes are serving New Delhi’s cause in the guise of ‘regionalism’ or ‘soft separatism’ and the Americans or the Europeans find it difficult to pull up India publicly over the Kashmir mess. The Vice President, unlike a rhetoric-obsessed politician, did not tell all this, he just conveyed it decently. Mr. Ansari’s urging came rather more obliquely. He appeared suggesting Kashmiri people, especially the youth that they should not “step into the same river” once more. Precisely, it was a clear conclusion on part of the Vice President that the “time” for Kashmiris to pursue special political goals, which entail the alteration in the status quo, was long over.

The emphasis over this urging is of significant note: “…nor can we use a time machine to re-live a gone by era.” And even more significant is the historical context of this remark. Recall 1974 parleys between then Indian premier Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Abdullah told Gandhi that he wanted to begin from where he had left in 1953 and got a terse reply: “While I respect your sentiments, I must tell you that the hands of the clock cannot be turned back." Between 1974 and 2009 New Delhi’s approach toward Kashmir, as Mr. Ansari’s speech may suggest, has gone through as much evolution as can be observed in a clock (of Indira Gandhi) becoming the time machine (of M A Ansari); the expression differs, the text is same. If late Mrs. Gandhi, in her politically blunt expression, had refused to turn the clock back in 1974, Mr. Ansari, in his academically subtle style, has only reiterated her remark in a modern slang: “…nor can we use a time machine to re-live a gone by era.” Both the statements have the nuanced message, which is DENIAL in soft words.

Back to the Vice President’s speech: Following his figurative assertion was a positive hope: “This University campus, and its endeavor in different branches of knowledge, suggests a desire to move with time (“time”).”

This too is an open-ended or we can say a ‘double-edged’ remark, which can lose the real meaning if not elaborated. After all which “time” did Mr. Ansari refer to when it appeared to him that the KU campus suggested a “desire to move with time”? And if it is the same “time” as construed above, then, can we safely assume that the educated youth of Kashmir have finally decided to repulse all the notions of Azadi or separation from India and allow themselves and their future to be integrated if not assimilated, as the Vice President would prefer, within the grand Indian Union? These are some interesting questions, which need elaborate answers.

Unlike the university culture Mr. Ansari may have experienced in Aligarh, our university here is a cut-out government institution where the free expression may not be visibly curbed yet it is not sincerely promoted and is subtly discouraged. Or, certain ‘enlightened souls’ prefer security to the job rather than free speech and end up in a self-imposed intellectual exile. After all what is a university? Describing the university as a utopian state, Edward Said believes that the university should not be, and cannot be, a place where a victorious party uses the university as a place to expand its program. (Power, Politics and Culture pp 189-190).

The Vice President candidly explained that the convocations are to academic life what festivals are to social life. Given the immediate context in which this convocation was held Mr. Ansari’s insightful comment pales before a massive security restriction on the eve. The students as well as the scholars were asked to leave the campus in order to organize the “festival” smoothly. It is not yet clear if the visiting dignitary knew all of this, but the sanctity and the grandeur of the convocation was all too smeared in the wake of irritating security curbs put in place days in advance.

Mr. Ansari’s incisive take on “assimilation” (fusing of a culture or civilization into another dominant one) and integration Which implies the coexistence of a weaker cultural group alongside a dominant one. It’s a huge debate for which intellectual heavyweights such as Late Edward Said, Chomsky and Late Eqbal Ahmad have produced enough material. But Mr. Ansari’s attempt to deconstruct the broader concept of civilization identity in case of Kashmir seems inspired by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence –The Illusion of Destiny. Without going too deep into a weighty philosophical discourse, one can afford to assume that Mr. Ansari has attempted to view Kashmir situation as an extension of Indian Muslim problem, which it is not. That is, perhaps, why a 'generous' integrative enterprise from India has not paid off since 1947. True, the clock cannot be turned back. What if the clock were terribly wrong? Yes, we readjust our clock when it doesn’t show the right time. And the “time” has come to set the clock right so that the Kashmiris “move with the new times”. Time here, Mr. Vice President, has regrettably stood still for 62 years.

Following is the text of the Vice President, M Hamid Ansari’s, speech delivered at Kashmir University on the occasion of 17th Annual Convocation on 20th June:

“B’ naam-e-khuda-vand jaan aafarin
Hakim-e-sukhan dar zubaan aafarin

It is difficult to come to Kashmir and not be reminded of an admiring visitor’s
penned many centuries back:

‘Kashmir is a garden of eternal spring. Its pleasant meads and enchanting cascades are beyond all description. There are running streams and fountains beyond all count. Wherever the eye reaches, there are verdure and running water.’

Time does not dent the beauty of nature. Time does allow humans to enhance the benefits they derive from it. Time, regrettably, does not stand still. We never step into the same river twice; nor can we use a time machine to re-live a gone by era. This university campus, and its endeavour in different branches of knowledge, suggests a desire to move with time. It would undoubtedly please the spirit of saints and rishis who inhabited this land in yesteryears and imparted so much of wisdom and spiritual solace to the people.

I am happy to participate in today’s ceremony. Convocations are to academic life what festivals are to social life; they signify rites of passage, the passing of seasons, a celebration of achievement and benediction for facing the harsh world beyond the somewhat sheltered academic environment. The motto of the University –– From Darkness to Light – exemplifies the transition that graduating students undergo.

Convocations are also occasions to draw lessons from the experience of life. I too may be permitted to do so. Let me begin by recalling a couplet addressed to students of my own alma mater a long time back by a poet very well known to you:

Auron ka hai payam aur, mera payaam aur hai
Ishq ke dard mand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai

My message today pertains to the world of tomorrow. We live in an era of rapid change. A quarter of a century back an eminent historian wrote on the need to prepare for the twenty first century; he offered the prognosis that instead of a ‘new world order’ we confront ‘a troubled and fractured planet whose problems deserve the serious attention of politicians and public alike.’ The man and woman in the street, he added, know that their world is changing; they demand political responses in addition to technological ones.

I venture to suggest that these matters are of critical relevance to a society like ours. India is engrossed in challenges of development and political empowerment. It is one-sixth of the world in terms of population and is a microcosm of the diversities that characterise our world. It has been rightly called ‘the largest multicultural society in the world.’ The accommodation of diversity has been an Indian trait down the ages, made possible by an innate capacity for synthesis. How do we use this asset in the future? In what manner can we harness it for accommodating the competing demands of identity, autonomy and integration in a world that is perennially shrinking and inter-dependent?

How would this translate into institutions and practices? How would it impact on the daily lives of citizens? What may be the pitfalls that need to be avoided? What, in concrete terms, should be expectations of youth from society? A healthy society faces these, and related questions, and responds to them meaningfully.

The process of social cohesion proceeds from small groups to larger ones; each step enlarges the common agenda and reveals points of convergence and divergence; each divergence necessitates a choice: rejection or adjustment in the wider framework. In this manner rights and duties, as also adjustment and accommodation become integral to social life. The process also reveals a desire to distinguish between what is shared and what is held close to the chest. The latter generates the impulse for self-management or autonomy, to the exclusion of those who participate in managing the realm of what is shared. It thus becomes an essential characteristic of identity and reflects on patterns of governance. When transferred to the sphere of public life, it takes the shape of several autonomies – horizontal, vertical, political, fiscal and cultural - that may be sought. In this sense, autonomy ceases to be an exceptional principle in a democracy and, instead, becomes one of its essential ingredients functioning, in the words of one scholar, as ‘autonomies in perpetual dialogue among themselves, linked by respective

It needs to be admitted straight away that the question of identity, integration and social cohesion is complex and necessitates conscious and continuous efforts at calibration of challenges and responses. It requires identification and justification of areas of autonomy and integration.

Two other terms, deprivation and alienation, are contextually relevant in relation to groups. The former signifies persons who find themselves disadvantaged or lacking for reasons beyond their control; the latter denotes estrangement, social isolation and powerlessness. Both impact on social cohesion.

A clear distinction is to be made between assimilation and integration. The former implies the blending or fusing of minority groups or cultures into the dominant society or culture. It is usually reflective of the desire of the dominant group on grounds of cultural nationalism and is resented and resisted by minority ones. Integration, on the other hand, implies the movement of minority groups and the underprivileged sections of a society, without erasing their identity, into the mainstream of the society to give them full access to the opportunities, rights and services available to the members of the mainstream. It is always a two-way street and thus goes hand in hand with social solidarity.

The debate on identity, autonomy and integration was part of the Indian discourse in the Freedom Movement and in the formative period of the Constitution. In the words of a distinguished academic, ‘the Indian Constitution was well ahead of its time not only in recognizing diversities but also in providing for representation of the collectivities in the formal democratic structures.’ The special provisions for guarantees or affirmative action in six broad categories – caste, class, backwardness, religion, region, sex and language – is evidence of this approach for securing justice and ensuring cultural autonomy in a composite culture within a framework of a quasi-federal structure driven by an overriding imperative of maintaining territorial integrity.

Closer scrutiny shows that the multiple identities so recognized are amplified in our Constitution for legal and operative purposes and total as many as thirteen - identities grounded in religion; identities grounded in language; caste identities; tribal identities; community identities, such as in the case of the Anglo-Indian community; class identities, such as in the case of the socially and educationally backward classes; racial identities, notably prohibiting discrimination on grounds of race and permitting notification of specific races or groups within races to be deemed to be Scheduled Castes; gender identities; identities grounded in region, place of birth or residence, especially in the context of prohibition of discrimination and provisions contained in Part XXI of the Constitution; identities based on age, such as those provisions relating to children and the aged; minority identities, whether based on religion, language, script or culture; identities grounded in descent, especially in the context of non-discrimination on grounds of descent; and identities based on occupation, such as agricultural or industrial workers, defence personnel or civil servants etc.

Accommodation of diversity has thus been consciously incorporated as a distinctive feature of the Indian state. It implies that a standardized image of an Indian cannot be constructed; if presented, it is partial, incomplete, misleading. Despite this accommodative framework, there have been acts of omission and commission impacting on identity and integration issues.

Perceptions have evolved nationally and globally and highlight areas that remain to be addressed. Democratic politics and economic liberalisation has also strengthened regionalist trends. Linguistic reorganization has ceased to be the culmination of the process of expression of identities. Linguistically homogenous states have been subdivided over grievances of development. New demands for statehood continue to be made on grounds of ethnicity, culture or regional grievances. The imperative of better governance adds a sense of urgency to these.

These impulses of identity assertion and recognition confront two contradictory trends at the micro and macro levels. On the one hand, forms of identity assertion at national and state levels combined with existing patterns of political mobilisation have been perceived as thwarting the impulses towards internal integration and consolidation. A modern market economy does not coexist with autarky. On the contrary, societal transformation resulting from economic growth and urbanization has erased or downplayed certain identities while emphasizing new ones. Each of these impacts the political agenda at local, regional and national levels.

At the other end of the spectrum, we are living in a global village where new integrating impulses have gone beyond national boundaries weaving nations into a common fabric of economic and financial architecture, shared membership of multi-lateral institutions and common value systems governing individual and state behaviour. Countervailing forces have also emerged. Thus, globalization has produced a counter trend of resurgence of nationalism and of an emphasis on national and cultural identities.

Domestically, one notices certain unhealthy trends towards a homogenising nationalism that flattens diversities, and has little respect for local cultures, value systems and ways of life.

What do these developments mean to common citizens? What indeed is our vision of the interplay between identity and integration in the 21st century?

First, it is clear that living in isolation is not an option. It is nevertheless essential to realize that there are many ways of living together. Integration is necessary and desirable; assimilation is neither desirable nor practical. Throughout our history, we have seen identities being built on a series of inclusions and exclusions reflective of ground realities. The challenge in the future, as in the past, would be to maintain a balance in favour of inclusions.

Second, political management of identities and ethnicities has tended to vary between accommodation, polarization and manipulation. The only workable arrangement for a country of our diversity is accommodation in a constitutional and democratic framework. This necessitates negotiations with the state, and by the state. The politics of polarization and manipulation practices should have no place in our country.

Third, in an evolving polity and a developing economy, institutional dynamism plays an important role in making the conceptual transition from plurality to multiculturalism. The latter ‘is concerned with issues of equality: it asks, whether the different communities living together peacefully, co-exist as equals in the public arena.’ Such an approach would result in ‘a form of citizenship that is marked neither by a universalism generated by complete homogenisation, nor by the particularism of self-denial and closed communities.’ Such a vision of society would be contingent on the citizen body imbibing a new set of values.

Fourth, the youth in the age group of 15-35 years constitutes nearly 40 per cent of the total population of India. It is the same in the case of Jammu and Kashmir. This group represents the most vibrant and dynamic demographic segment and constitutes potentially a most valuable human resource. Youth empowerment would mean effective participation in decision making processes, with requisite knowledge, skills and capabilities. It is premised on attainment of higher educational levels and expertise by our young citizens, in line with their abilities and aptitudes, and access to employment opportunities.

How is it possible?

Two years ago I had, as the Chairman of the Working Group constituted by the Prime Minister on Confidence Building Measures, submitted a set of recommendations which also focussed on the Kashmiri youth. The issue was also addressed in the Report of the Working Group on Economic Development of J&K. The Prime Minister had expressed complete agreement with the view that implementation of the Working Group recommendations was the key to retaining the confidence of the people.

There is no option but to reconstruct the economy of the state ravaged by two decades of militancy. The potential of youth must be utilised to get out of the ‘backwardness trap’ of low economic activity, low employment and low income generation. Better education and health for the youth lead to inclusive growth where the poor continue to grow and benefit from it.

The graduating students today represent a minuscule and fortunate elite among youth having obtained tertiary education. We need to focus on creating adequate facilities for technical and vocational education, for skill up-gradation and improving employability of youth. New opportunities in services sector, including in the IT industry, must be made available to the youth of Jammu & Kashmir.

The youth of Jammu & Kashmir, like in the rest of the country, want to fulfil their potential, lead lives with dignity and honour and contribute to their communities and the nation. The Government is committed to enable this and thus herald a new future for the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

How realistic is such an approach? The answer seems to lie in our experience with other innovative norms that challenged orthodoxy. The processes of devolution of power to Panchayats and Nagar Palikas, the acceptance of the need for transparency in governance, the insistence on fundamental rights and observance of human rights norms, are instances of new perceptions impacting on state practice. Each proclaims a new beginning; none can yet claim perfection; all need to be pursued vigorously. The challenge, as Richard Falk would put it, is for ‘morally sensitive and forward-looking political forces’ to ‘seek unexplored normative potential.’ No segment of public is better qualified to do it than the youth. For them immobility, retreat, or disinterest is not an option.

I felicitate the students graduating today and wish them success in life. They would, I venture to hope, hold aloft the banner of the University and adhere to its motto. As citizens they should remember Edmund Burke’s dictum that ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ To do so meaningfully, they need to heed Allama Iqbal’s advice:

Jab tak na zindagi ke haqaiq pe ho nazar
Tera zajaj ho na sake ga hareef-e-sang.

The focus, above all, has to be on self development:

Taamir-e-khudi kar, asar aahe rasa daikh.

I am grateful to the Chancellor of the University for inviting me to participate in the Convocation today”.

Phrases Unfamiliar to Separatists - Can They Handle it?

Javed says that Hurriyat has to seriously work for the "socio-economic" and "psycho-educational" development of common Kashmiris

(Mr. Javid Ahmad Dar, 26, was born and raised in Srinagar. He received his Bachelor's degree from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar and secured first position (Gold Medalist)in Master's degree from the Political Science Department of the University of Kashmir. Mr. Dar passed the National Eligibility Test held by the University Grants Commission (UGC-NET) for lectureship position and started as a Guest Lecturer in the Department of Law, University of Kashmir, shifted for a short-term to the faculty of the Government Degree College, Baramulla, and presently holds the position of Assistant Professor in the Post-Graduate Department of Political Science in the University of Kashmir. He is also enrolled in the M. Phil program.)

Challenges for Hurriyat

The Hurriyat Conference over the past few months has been under a scanner for its, what many call, apparent failure of missing the historic opportunity. It was not only for the first time that the Separatist leadership failed to capitalize the situation rather it has a history of ‘missing opportunities’. Hurriyat faces challenges within and without. Internally, democratization and decentralization are to be carried out; sooner the better.

It has to reach to every corner of Kashmir and make people aware of their rights. It has to appraise the young generation of the Career opportunities and sponsor the education of the poor students. It has to initiate programmes of financial assistance on wider and deeper scales. It has to seriously work for the socio-economic and psycho-educational development of the common Kashmiris. There are many things which people can wait for but certain things, if left unattended, make achievements all but meaningless. The victims of violence whether targeted by militants or by coercive machinery of the State cannot be left to die in the open. Government has made only a feeble attempt for a particular ‘class’, but both the classes of militants (whether state or private) and civilians do need help in different proportions. The more you ignore the problem, the more complex it becomes. This problem has given birth to many other problems of drug abuse, flesh trade, child labour etc. and, thus, grows an urgent need to arrest the root of this complex whole.

Many a people argue that the decision of breaking the Intifada of summer 2008 proved immature and ultimately brought the movement to such a place where from it had previously started; Nowhere. They strongly lament for missing ‘something’ which was to come out of the box; may be 1953 position, complete Aazadi or…. May be their estimation was correct in their own over-estimations. This position has brought even Syed Ali Shah Geelani into a position of defense when he shifts the responsibility to Co-ordination Committee. The problem lies in fixing a balance between the problems and the prospectus. Probably ‘people’ or some elements over-estimated their achievements (of making empty stomachs dance on the tunes of Azadi) and under-estimated the strength (of fiercely chasing even the best runners) of the other party—the State. A velvet hand was too optimist of crushing an iron-hand when the latter had not demonstrated what it is known for. How long would have an average man living a hand to mouth life fought against a mighty Institution putting his survival at both the levels of being a combatant (which otherwise he is not) and at domestic front at risk?

How long would have some “haves” donated in cash or kind or both for all “Have-Nots” of both rural as well as urban Kashmir? People were crying for food and some people whose food containers had been empty for several days because of Hartals and stringent curfews did not appreciate the means and methods adopted by the leadership. There were some people who donated food grains in the afternoon only to ask for the aid in the evening and, unsurprisingly, some asked for the help despite having enough of it in their stores because the cause was dear but dearer was the family. The families which were about to starve would have breached the “code of conduct” and parents would have felt proud in being blamed as “traitors” than to allow children die of hunger. The business class was biting the dust because it was they who inflated the atmosphere for which they had to (unwillingly) pay a heavy price later on.

Needless to mention that Kashmiris agitated in unison, during summer 2008 uprising. But not only masses even the leadership could neither understand the situation nor decide the future course of action or foresee the implications of it. A journalist friend told me that they (Journalists) were hunting for a man (perhaps credible) to give out a strike call and thought of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. When the call was positively responded (which he initially perhaps was not sure of) he spearheaded the movement till the other flock (of leaders) followed and Co-ordination Committee was formed where Hurriyat was in minority. None could peep beyond the obvious! Co-ordination Committee deemed itself it as a State within a State; a similar situation which had forced the thinking people to strike against. Capital has its own interest and it is in pursuit of it irrespective of anything and everything which an innocent sentiment never comes to know of. No one can rule out the role of the capital but its role is to be determined, failure of which results in its dominance and subjugation of the cause for which it was called in.

Hurriyat should welcome every quarter but before handing over the reins to such elements it must look beyond the surface. It hurriedly embraced even such elements which had accidentally landed at its platform. They had their own agenda other than Hurriyat’s to work on. Hurriyat’s intentions of making it ‘inclusive’ have merits but inclusion of disgruntled elements is pregnant with serious ill-consequences. “Pretentious friends are more dangerous than known enemies”, advise wise. The way you never make them to wait to come in and handover the peoples’ aspirations whose representatives you claim to be, in the same fashion they are always ready to hijack your cause and peoples’ sentiments which none could easily make out from their words. Hurriyat must, first of all, strike against it. It is quite easy to call anyone in PDP or even NC to join the Separatist camp but taking a flood into the fold needs a proper assessment of the possible ingredients or threats of the muddy water that you wish to mix with, what you call, holy blood of devotees. Past mistakes cannot be undone today but, in any case, they should not be repeated.

One of the biggest outside challenges that Hurriyat faces is PDP, which is regarded as a ‘soft-separatist’ group by some quarters within India. It has emerged as a state party with reasonable strength, on the one hand, and tries to be an alternative voice of the alienated lot, on the other. Over the past few years, PDP has been using or abusing the stands of Hurriyat Conference—be it Self-Rule, Demilitarization or Revocation of Draconian Laws like AFSPA or People to People contact in which they made a progress by opening few traditional routes along the LoC. At one point of time, it talked about a separate currency for the State of Jammu and Kashmir. So far as its solution in shape of Self-rule is concerned, its content could be different than that of Self-rule which Hurriyat Conference talked about, at least during Musharaf period. Demilitarization is to be defined—does it mean sending military back to barracks which PDP demands (Pre-1989 Position) or 1949 Position or complete vacation as was proposed by Mc. Naughton Plan or reduction in troops’ level as suggested by Graham’s Mission. Usage of same term for different demands does not make the different organizations similar. Hurriyat has not only to expose the PDP agenda but also to precisely define its own demands and the terms it associates with such demands.

It has to be fully equipped with the contemporary currents of conflict resolution mechanisms and the history as it operates today. The political demands have to have contemporary relevance. Past cannot be negated in any case but the present cannot be dumped down for the sake of past rather it is to be used to make a better future. Certain slogans can be postponed for a time being until a mature time comes but, at present, priorities need to be thoughtfully fixed and pursued in such a manner which costs the least.

"It is Impossible to Analyze DNA of a Kashmiri"

A Common man and a regular reader of GK seeks answers to a wasteland called Kashmiri politics


S D Shah

I am a regular reader of Greater Kashmir for the past of couple of years. Journalism in Kashmir is a very risky job and both print and electronic media have to walk on sword’s edge while reporting events. A healthy trend has started now where people of valley have started to speak out their minds. While going through mail addressed to editor of GK one comes across divergent views about events occurring in valley particularly about merits and demerits of Hartals and strikes.

This trend should get encouragement and we should be tolerant enough to give freedom of expression its due space. I am a common Kashmiri and no authority on political matters. I have my own viewpoint.

It was March 1990.There was a total chaos and government had no control. Every road and street was brimming with people of every age shouting freedom slogans and flashing ‘V’ signs. It was free for all and security forces were mowing down unarmed slogan shouting people with impunity and without any accountability. Freedom music sung by AJK singers resonated in every direction. In those days there was favorite programme on AJK radio station dedicated for the people of valley whose name I do not remember right now. There was one typical character “Amm Saeb’ in that particular programme. One evening while listening the programme the other character addressed Amm Saeb in Kashmiri with AJK accent and the loose translation sounds like this ‘ we will offer next Friday prayers at Hazratbal shrine, Inshaallah’. The atmosphere at that time was full of uncertainty and freedom sentiment was it its highest.

Two decades have gone by. A lot of water has flown in river Jhelum since then. Kashmiris have witnessed death and destruction at a mega scale. We have witnessed five parliamentary and three assembly elections since then. We have added many more lacs to our teaming population. A lot has changed in Kashmir and its surroundings. The whole world has witnessed massive changes since 1990. What was relevant at that time is a thing of past. Communism has disappeared and soviet union disintegrated. World has become uni-polar now and U.S.A is busy in establishing its hegemony. Few tiny Muslim dominated countries like Bosnia and Kosovo emerged in Europe after disintegration of Yoguslavia. At that time it were Russians dying in Afghanistan and the same country is now becoming graveyard for American and NATO soldiers. Pakistan is fighting a bitter war on its own soil for survival. U.S.A has invaded Iraq twice and now entangled in a bitter street warfare there. After 9/11 happenings the myth of America being invincible and economic powerhouse has been exposed.

Economic freedom is now outshining political freedom. Economic considerations are now driving force in creation of better relations among countries. Economic blocs are now more relevant now than defence ones. The economic meltdown of 2008 has shown that all that glitters is not gold. One could not believe his eyes watching on TV long queues of homeless people in front of community kitchens for free meals in USA. The huge joblessness even in developed countries has shown the fragility of capitalism. This has lead to depression among people, increase in crime and suicide rate.

This is just glimpse of what changes took place in the world in the past two decades and it will certainly have some effect on situation in Kashmir. In this time of cable TV and Internet it is hard for any government to conceal the facts. What we achieved in these twenty years is highly debatable. What we certainly got is ‘shaheed mazars’ in every nook and corner of valley and a bruised psyche. There will be hardly any person who has not suffered by gun. For the information of the generation born during this period we observed hartals and strikes for months together at a stretch. Full marks to Kashmiri as they have handled all shutdowns deftly and shrewdly. In even months of shutdowns they squeezed some days to provide opportunity for government employees to draw salary and store essential commodities.

The hartals and shutdowns will lead us no where because it affects small percentage of population particularly students and daily wage earners. For maximum number of people it provides reason enough to enjoy type of holiday. This has resulted making people lethargic and mentally sick. It is right of every citizen to resist any excesses and infringement of their human rights.

The agitation in June 2008 against the Amarnath Land Transfer was spontaneous reaction of people of valley as they perceived it to be conspiracy to change the demographic status of Kahmir. The government of that time buckled under public pressure and had to revoke the order. I still remember the brief press conference where President of Kashmir Bar Association Mian Qayoom who was heading co-ordination committee said in simple words ‘ we have won. Go and celebrate’ This showed people agitated under a particular set up and scored a victory against that particular establishment. Unfortunately this victory was short lived as the public anger was guided in another direction. The blockage of Srinagar-Jammu national highway by hindu fanatics added fuel to fire and was followed by chain of events resulting in the loss of precious seventy lives in prime of their youth. If that agitation would have been unconditional and complete opening line of control, I am confidant that I would not have been requiring passport to travel to other part of my home land. The economic integration with AJK will ultimately lead to political integration.

Recent horrific events in Shopian have again showed how attempts are being made to channelize the public anger in other direction like last years Amarmath Land Row agitation. Our focus should be not to rest till culprits are caught and handed down exemplary punishment. This is the demand of bereaved family and the residents of Shopian. It is the duty of every Kashmiri to show complete solidarity with the bereaved family and not forget like Tabinda Ghani and Romana cases. Why these double standards? Because killers of Romana were Kashmiris. At least leaders spearheading present agitation would just have appealed people to observe a social boycott of families of these goons.

My dear fellow Kashmiris freedom is not so cheap that it can be a achieved through efforts of few hundred stone pelters and shutdowns. If any outsider will visit Kashmir first time on a normal day when there is no hartal and seeing roads and markets teaming with people and vehicles, who can imagine what has happened all these years. A country fighting for independence should have bombed out buildings like Bosnia, vast swathes of refugee tents like Darfur Sudan and large chunk of population walking on crutches like Afghanistan. It looks like both present government and separatist camp are playing to gallery and there is someone checking their report card. On a normal day the winner is government and on a shutdown day it is the other group. Both sides are having ostrich like approach for situation prevailing in Kashmir. Both state and central government should realize that there is a perennial problem beyond bijli, sadak and paani. They should take immediate steps for its solution because what they perceive normalcy is superficial. The problem will manifest time and again and needs spark for ignition which agents of destruction are ready to provide.

It is the moral duty of separatist camp to unite and chalk out strategy for future course. They should put forth a road map before public for achieving the goal of freedom with its clear definition.They should realize that political freedom is meaningless without economic freedom. If they guarantee freedom then even a decade of protests and shutdown is worth it. They should take cue from recent history. The last years historic agitation where lacs took part had an anticlimax in shape of massive participation of people in assembly elections. Just before his death late Ghani Lone was asked a question in a press conference”. Lone sahib if you enjoy so much public support, why don’t take part in elections” The reply of Lone was terse ‘If I will field my servant against Farooq Abdullah, He will win with thumping majority’. And now see what drubbing his child got in recent assembly and parliament elections. While addressing mammoth gathering at Eid Gah last august our young Mirwaiz wearing shimmering and flowing white robe got so much carried away that he issued an ultimatum to leaders of mainstream parties either to join their movement or leave Kashmir and later events need not to discussed.

It is impossible to analyze DNA of a Kashmiri. He is highly unpredictable and no one has been able to decipher his original nature. It high time for Geelani Sahib, Mirwaiz Sahib and Malik Sahib to leave their differences and egos behind for sake of hapless Kashmiris to sit and chalk out a programme which will get us out of this nightmare. The whole Kashmiri nation has great faith in them at presnt. We all know that Hurriyat(G),Hurriyat(M) and JKLF are non-entities without these stalwarts. They sneeze we observe a shutdown. They should disassociate themselves from huge number of single person parties and prove themselves to be true well wishers of kashmiris. They should take every step with great caution because they know that it takes little time for Kashmiris to carry their leader on shoulders and to crush the same leader under feet.

The Voice and Conscience of Disabled Community in Kashmir

Javed makes a feverish pitch, denounces the State government for denying a peaceful march on the Helen Keller Day, and meets with the Vice President (three related stories)

(Mr. Javed Ahmad Tak, 35, was born in Bijbehara in the Anantnag district. He received his schooling from Government schools in Bijbehara, and his B.Sc. degree from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. Unfortunately, at the age of 21 he became a victim of a terrorist bullet which hit his spine and disabled him for the rest of his life. However, he overcome mental and physical odds to complete his Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Kashmir, and also completed certificate courses in Human Rights and Computers from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). Although wheel-chair bound, Mr. Tak is recognized as a leader who has relentlessly and with extreme passion taken up the cause of disabled people in J&K, seeking full citizen rights guaranteed under the J&K Disability Act but never implemented in the past. He is a founder-member of numerous NGO's dealing with issues and sensitizing public about challenges faces by physically handicapped people in Kashmir. He has received numerous awards and citations for his selfless work and has attended numerous workshops on disability rights around the country.)

Allocate 3 p.c. budget for us: disabled community

Syed Basharat (Kashmir Times)

SRINAGAR: Ahead of budget session 2009-2010, Humanity Welfare Helpline Organisation (HWHO)-an NGO working for the welfare of disabled community in Jammu and Kashmir, has asked the minister for finance and planning to allocate three per cent budget as per reservation quota in favour of the disabled as a rehabilitation package which can improve the education, employment and access level of the community.
In its letter forwarded to state finance minister, Javed Ahmad Tak, chairman HWHO has said though under Jammu and Kashmir Persons with Disability Act 1998, they are guaranteed with equal opportunities; protection of the Rights and full participation but at the policy level disabled community is kept at margins. "A sympathetic approach is related to us. This makes us more handicapped and victimised by social stigma," Tak adds.

The chairman HWHO has further said the government has failed to protect their rights which are guaranteed under various laws. He has added that the disabled community in the state does not seek any undue favours but their rights be protected under law. "The time has come that as per reservation quota three per cent budget allocation be made in our favour. That will decrease our problems."

Tak, in his letter, has lamented that disabled community is being denied reservations in professional courses and competitive exams. This is because there are no proper facilities for children with disabilities at primary schooling level, he has said and added that thus most of the children with disabilities turn to be dropouts and few reach to secondary level and fewer to the higher education level.

"So far we are a crippled lot who do not have access to courts, government offices, transport and public places. Because such places are not disabled friendly at all. We have to face humiliation at the every entry point," Tak said and added that the intelligent human resource is made handicapped by promoting and providing destitute pension in the name of social security.

"These funds on practical grounds create insecurity and disgrace to physically challenged in the society. A grant of Rs 400 per month or Rs 4800 per year is simply to add insult to our injuries. Can a person with disability manage his needs with such a little amount? Is it security or insecurity? We need a full time commissioner who would look after the matters of disabled community," Tak has demanded.

The letter reads further: "Before giving a finishing touch to the under process budget we should be taken in consideration and three per cent of budget should be allocated for the complete rehabilitation of physically and mentally challenged (the disable people) so that we can get proper education, appropriate employment and access to anywhere we need."

While talking to the Kashmir Times, Tak said that the government has always treated disabled community with a step motherly approach. He said the infrastructure needed by the community is a long pending demand before the government, which has always ignored the same on different pretexts.

"I fail to understand why the good sense does not prevail on our leaders? Why do they ignore us? Are we not human beings? Why the government fails to protect our rights? Is our disability our sin?" Tak rues.

Disabled denied permission to protest

Srinagar: At a time when, every political party and people with vested interests sponsoring engineered 'shows' in Srinagar have a free access to any pocket in city to hold what they called 'protest against muzzling their rights'; the genuine and the most neglected (disabled) community in our society has been denied permission by the district magistrate to highlight their genuine concerns.

Abiding by the legal procedure, Humanity Welfare Helpline Organization (HWHO) a group of few disabled youth working for the welfare their community, had sought permission from the deputy commissioner Srinagar to hold peaceful protest rally on the birthday of great and renowned (disability) activist Helen Keller on June 27. But the same has been denied by the additional deputy commissioner on a pretext that situation was not 'favorable' to allow any protest rally.

"We had planned to organise a rally which would include children, youth and women with disabilities. The protest rally was scheduled to march from press enclave and culminate near chief minister's private office at Church Lane in Sonawar, where we had decided to submit a memorandum to chief minister. But we have not been allowed to go with our programme for reasons best known to authorities," said Javed Ahmad Tak chairman of HWHO.

The group has been working for the rights of the persons with disabilities, running a school for disabled children at Bijbehara in South Kashmir and has collaboration with other NGO's in Srinagar as well, who also run schools or homes for the disabled people.

The aim of the rally, Tak said was to highlight the disability issues and sensitise the common man and state government towards the protection of rights of persons with disabilities. "We will not protest in ugly way or raise any slogan that might harm the national integration or communal harmony. But our rally will be peaceful just taking banners and play cards highlighting the problems of the persons with disabilities," reads the application submitted by Tak.

Tak in his application hopes that the administration will definitely allow them to highlight their issues to gain equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation as guaranteed by the JK- Disabilities Act 1998.

"The additional deputy commissioner denied any written denial. I fail to understand that when the situation is not favorable for us how the administration allows employees, political parties and other groups to hold protest demonstrations in this situation,' asks Adil Rashid, a member of HWHO who had submitted the application before DC Srinagar on behalf of Tak.

It is pertinent to mention here that Jammu and Kashmir has over three lakh disabled people and the major contributor this figure has been the two decade old conflict, which forced the state government to enact a law for the protection of their rights. Time and again, HWHO has called for an increased cooperation between the government and NGOs to ensure better care, protection, welfare and rehabilitation of the people with disabilities, as the number of number of disabled, both physical and mental, has increased manifold in the state due to the ongoing conflict.

What adds to the gravity of problem faced by these people is the government's failure to chalk out a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation of this vital component of the society. "In 2003 the state government had hiked the monthly pension of the disabled people from Rs 150 to Rs 200 and it was proposed to be taken to Rs 500 in a phased manner. But any sane person can understand that is it enough on government's part. The government treats us beggars but we want it to make clear that we are for the protection of our rights and not for your alms," Tak rues.

A delegation of persons with disabilities met Vice President of India

A delegation of persons with disabilities met His Excellency the Vice npresident of India under the leadership of Honorary chairman Humanity Welfare Organisation HELPLINE NGO working for the Rights of the persons with disabilities in J&K. The meeting took place at Raj bavan at 6: PM. The delegation requested Jenab Ansari regardding the implementation of the draft policy framed by the J&K social welfare department in 2006 for the Welfare of Persons with disabilities in lieu of JK persons with Disabilities Act 1998 and UN convention of persons with disabilities recently ratified by INdia. Instead of Pension the delegation demanded the rights based approach from the government. In addition the implementation of recommendations made by the working group meant for the rehabilitation of the victims of the armed conflict. The working group was formulated by the honorable PM of India of which Jenab Hamid Ansari is the headhead.

His Excellency The Vice President of India assure of taking the matter at both state and cental level.

Seeking Minority Rights in a Land Starving for Pluralism

Sanjay and his associates float an advocacy group to address the shrinking economic and political space for minorities in the Valley

(Mr. Sanjay K. Tickoo, 46, was born and raised in Srinagar. After graduating from Hindu High School in Sheetal Nath, Srinagar, he completed his B.Sc. degree from S. P. College, Srinagar. Currently self-employed, his hobbies are reading and traveling. He is among the 4,000 brave Pandit souls who have weathered the worst of the militancy in Kashmir, and is proud to call himself a citizen of Kashmir who stayed put in the valley. He is the President of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti - KPSS.)

'Kashmir Minority Forum' Formed

Srinagar: The members of the minority community still living in the Kashmir valley formed a '' Kashmir Minority Forum'' (KMF) today to safeguard their interests.

In a joint statement here this afternoon Sanjay Kumar Tickoo and Harvinder Singh Raina, who were elected Covener and General secretary of the forum, alleged that during the past twenty years of uncertainty and turmoil in the Kashmir Valley minorities have been deprived of their fundamental rights.

They said even the Right to Live has also been put under a big question mark due to the step-motherly treatment of the successive Governments of the State and the Centre. Mr Tickoo and Mr Raina said the local politicians are also treating the minorities as second class citizens but never miss a chance to cash our miseries for their petty political gains.

They said the minorities, who chose to live in the valley even after the armed uprising, in a historic move decided to form the forum as they remained neglected by the successive governments at the Centre and State.

We have constituted a Minority Forum under the name ''Kashmir Minority Forum'' having its head office at Jawahir Nagar.

They said the Forum was constituted by the various factions of the Society to make it a single platform for all the minorities living in the Valley.

Mr Tickoo and Mr Raina said the KMF will raise voice against the Human Rights violation against the minorities in the Valley, safeguard their interests and fundamental rights, impress upon the central and the state governments for budgetary support, including employment, establish minority institutions, re-construct minority religious places, business establishments, and Government sponsored re-building programmes and financial support for BPL families.

The KMF will also work for special budgetary allocations for financial support for medical assistance who are suffering from serious ailments, strengthen relations with the majority community and to start serious dialogue with them to assure safe existence of minorities in the Valley.