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.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Services Cricket Team's Behavior was Most Unsportsmanlike

Yusuf, being both a sports coach and a sports lover, is doubly hurt and his raw emotion is showing

(Mr. Mohammad Yusuf, 56, was born in the Dalgate area of Srinagar. He attended Government Schools in Drugjan, Sonawar, and Batwara, all in Srinagar, and completed his college studies at the Sri Partap College, Srinagar. Following his graduation, he briefly attended the University of Kashmir, and in 1980, joined the Physical Education Department of the University of Kashmir. Mr. Yusuf teaches aquatics and adventure sports (swimming, mountaineering, snow and water skiing, rafting, parasailing, skating, kayaking, canoeing, etc.) and has won many local sports trophies. He has led many exploration expeditions in Kashmir, and is the Treasurer of the Winter Sports Association of Jammu and Kashmir, General Secretary of J&K Aero Sports Association and the J&K Ski & Mountaineering Association, Secretary of Srinagar Winter Sports Association, and Vice President of the J&K Yoga Association. In his leisure time, Mr. Yusuf engages in social work, gardening and writing.)

Ranji Trophy Row - Nothing but Prejudice

This is in reference to news regarding refusal by Services Cricket Team to play Ranji Trophy match in Srinagar. It is most unfortunate that the Services Cricket team did not play the match in Srinagar. The entire sports fraternity of J&K was shocked and thus condemns this act. Every sportsperson of the state was stunned on learning that the team did not turn up at S.K. Cricket Stadium.

They should have informed the organizers and BCCI about their withdrawal early in view of threat perception so avoid huge financial loss to the JKCA. We fail to understand what made the Services Team to stay back. They were not perhaps prepared to play the match and thus made the lame excuse of security arrangements. Pertinently the state hosted a number of sporting events at national and international levels in Kashmir valley this year which include Global Derby and National Snow Rugby Championships at Gulmarg in winter, International Rafting Championship at Sonamarg by Tourism Department , National School Games (Cricket) by Youth Services Department, National Police Water Sports Meet by J&K Police, All India Inter-varsity Kayaking and Canoeing Championship by Kashmir University, Greater Kashmir Golf Championship, Ambassadors’ Golf Championship and many other major events.

Surprisingly the North Zone Inter-University Football (Men) Tournament is in progress at Kashmir University Campus these days in which twenty two teams of different Universities of north India are participating. All the participants of these prestigious championships were roaming freely and without any fear or threat. None of the participants was given security cover. The S.K. Cricket Stadium is fully sensitized and is always highly guarded by Para military forces. It is located in high security zone. On its north is the Ram Munshi Bagh Police Station is situated. On the southern and western sides, all the important Ministers of J&K State reside in their Bungalows. On the eastern side the Amar Singh Club makes a garrison of Para military forces. The S.K Cricket Stadium is near Badami Bagh Cantonment (Army Headquarters), thereby leaving least chances of security lapses.

We highly appreciate the Indian Police teams who boldly came forward and took part in Police Water Sports Meet here in summer. The refusal of Services team has sent a bad message and hurt the sentiments of local sports fraternity in general and Cricketers in particular. It was nothing but the expression of hatred against Kashmiri people. The report given by Union Defence Ministry could not convince any Kashmiri. We appreciate the BCCI for banning the team for rest of the Ranji Trophy matches. They should have in fact given them more severe punishment so that no such dramas are repeated in future. The step taken by Dr. Farooq Abdullah, President of JKCA against Services Team is laudable. His expression of anger was touching. The JKCA must stick to its decision and not accept any explanation from Services Sports Control Board. The State Government must also impose ban to Services Team to play any match in Srinagar vicinity in future. The displeasure expressed by Union Home Minister is highly appreciating. The JKCA must desist from asking Services Cricket Team to tender apology. Every Kashmiri is emotionally hurt. So no compromise please.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Fourth Option in Kashmir

Sajjad recalls late Sofi Ghulam Mohammad's desire for the peace option

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 45, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Khalsa high school and the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. He received his bachelor's degree in Media and his master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Bazaz has over two decades of experience in journalism (both print & electronic), and he is author of the book "Bankwatch" which is about a financial scenario with particular reference to the J&K state. He is currently incharge of corporate communications department in a leaduing financial instution in J&K. Mr. Bazaz likes to spend leisure time watching movies and enjoying company of his friends.)

Sofi Departs

Last week Editor of one of the leading Urdu dailies Srinagar Times, Sofi Ghulam Muhammad breathed his last at the age of 77. One of the pioneers in Journalism, particularly Urdu Journalism, Sofi enjoyed an illustrious career as a journalist since 1960 when he joined Congress mouthpiece ‘Khidmat’. Later on, he started his own daily newspaper – Srinagar Times - in 1969. During his 50 year long career, he authored several books including ‘Loosmet Tarakh’ and ‘Sheeshi-Te-Sangistan’ both of which won Cultural Academy Awards. In 2002 he was nominated to the state Legislative Council. I had a few brief meetings with this gutsy journalist.

I met him first time in 1986 when I was doing my post graduation in Mass Communication and Journalism in Kashmir University. Some political developments at national level attracted me to pen down some thoughts with an intention to get them published under my own name in Srinagar Times.Basically Rajiv Gandhi's performance in the middle of his term in office as Prime Minister of India was best summed up as "good intentions, some progress, frequently weak implementation, and poor politics." Two major scandals, the "Spy" and the "Bofors" affairs, tarnished his reputation. In January 1985, he had confirmed in Parliament the involvement of top government officials, their assistants, and businessmen in "a wide-ranging espionage network." The Spy scandal had remained a lingering embarrassment to Rajiv Gandhi's administration.In 1986 India purchased US$1.3 billion worth of artillery pieces from the Swedish manufacturer A.B. Bofors, and months later a Swedish radio report remarked that Bofors had won the "biggest" export order by bribing Indian politicians and defense personnel. The revelation caught the attention immediately because of the allegations that somehow Rajiv Gandhi and his friends were connected with the deal. Despite relentless attacks and criticisms in the media as well as protests and resignations from cabinet members, Rajiv adamantly denied any role in the affair.

With this background, I wrote an article ‘Rajiv Gandhi Ka Jahaz Khatray Mein’ and approached to Srinagar Times office. A frontline staff member in the office took me to the Editor’s room where I saw Sofi Ghulam Muhammad first time face to face and he was busy in writing something. After introducing myself, I handed over my article for publication. While having a look (at a glance) at the article, he smiled and suggested me to write regularly for the newspaper and even suggested me to join as a sub-editor after completing my post graduation. Precisely, his response was encouraging. I left his office with all satisfaction and fervently hoped that the article would be published soon.For about 10 days I was eagerly looking for my article in the newspaper, but it didn’t find a space. In the meantime, on a few occasions I approached Sofi sahib and every time he assured me that the article would definitely be published and that too ‘within couple of days’. But that didn’t happen. After a week or so, I once again approached him about the status of my article. This time, he made me to sit comfortably in his office and offered me a cup of tea. Even as I was glad to enjoy tea with the editor of a leading newspaper, at the same time I was curious to know about the fate of my write-up.

The curiosity ended soon when Sofi Sahib categorically told me that the article would not be published. “Most of the revenue comes to us from government advertisements, and no newspaper can afford to lose this support. I appreciate the content of your write-up, but the political situation demands not to publish it,” said Sofi Sahib and simultaneously gave me some topics to write. His blunt ‘no’ did disappoint me, but the way he advised me to write on certain social topics was a huge encouragement to me. Later on I wrote on the topics which he suggested and after submitting for publication, he used to publish them in the very next issue.

Second time, I met him at a private function in October-November 2002. He had a close shave with death when on the evening of September 17, 2002 he was fired upon by an unidentified gunman in his office chamber. He had sustained a bullet injury in his hand and was still nursing his injury. The attack on Sofi sahib was condemned worldwide and the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 100 countries, had expressed their serious concern at the attack and had even called upon then union Home Minister, L. K. Advani to ensure that everything possible was done to bring the attackers to justice and to ensure the safety of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir.Coming back to the interaction with Sofi Sahib on the occasion, I told him that he was lucky to escape the deadly attack. He reacted sharply and said, “If I am alive today, it is because of the grace of God. The person who tried to shoot me was basically lucky because I tried to catch him. I think he was luckier.” He had jumped over a small table and raised his to grab the assailant. During the scuffle the gun shot hit him in his right hand, he elaborated.

I asked him about his analysis of the Kashmir situation. He blamed ‘all forces’ and not any particular side. He summed up by saying: “There are so many vested interests here for which the Government of India must take responsibility, just like the government of Pakistan. State administration is also responsible for the turmoil.”What is way out to come out of the turmoil? Like other commentators, Sofi sahib in response to this question said that he firmly believed that this stalemate cannot be solved by the gun. First he listed three common categories of the dispute - those who want to go to Pakistan, those who want to remain with India and those who favour independent Kashmir. Then he listed a fourth category - which according to him is peace. He advised me to ‘please write it on my behalf’. He dished out that ‘unless and until there is peace, there is no solution to the Kashmir imbroglio.’

For this, he suggested that all commentators while writing on Kashmir should mobilize the warring sides to step forward to talk about peace. ‘When a house is on fire, you have to extinguish the fire rather than seeing why it occurred. That is my opinion,’ he concluded the discussion on Kashmir problem. And that is true - unless peace prevails, no problem can be solved. Precisely, I would say that during my brief meetings with him, I found him straightforward in his approach, particularly in his profession. He always referred his newspaper as a family newspaper. May Allah rest his soul in peace and give courage to all warring factions here to promote peace.

World Heritage Week

Saleem provides a historical on Srinagar and discusses an era when heritage meant something

(Mr. Mohammad Saleem Beg, 58, was born and raised in Srinagar. He was educated at the S.P. College and the Gandhi Memorial College, receiving his Bachelor's degree from the latter. He was awarded a EEC fellowship in 1998 which allowed him to attend study courses at Universities of Luven, Belgium, and Trinity College, Dublin. Mr. Beg entered the State government service in 1975 and retired in 2006 as the Director General of Tourism. In the 31 years of public service (which included two deputation assignments in New Delhi), Mr. Beg promoted local arts and crafts, and raised public awareness of Kashmir's rich heritage and architecture. He was a leading figure in getting Srinagar listed as one of the 100 most threatened heritage cities by the World Monument Fund in 2008. Mr. Beg has traveled extensively and has attended numerous conferences, including the 1997 UN Special Session on Environment in New York, and the 1997 Kyoto Convention on Climate Change in Japan. His articles and essays have been published in various publications. Since retirement, he has remained active as the Convener of the J&K Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage - INTACH.)

INTACH decries City settlement pattern

Srinagar: The Convener of INTACH’s J&K Chapter, Muhammad Saleem Beg, Wednesday, said urbanization had disturbed the settlement pattern of the City and its casualty had been educational and social institutions.

“The urban and social challenges went unanswered since ’50s and the rich cultural heritage of the City is being lost with every passing day. The government should introduce stringent laws to protect the heritage. In absence of law, vandalism of our heritage is happening,” Beg, said in a presentation while inaugurating The World Heritage Week at Green Valley Educational Institute.

“The aim of organising the week at GVEI was to aware the children about our rich cultural heritage. We have a four thousand year old documented history,” he added.

While divulging the history of the Srinagar City, he gave detailed presentation from Gupta Period to Dogra rule.

“Till 14th century the City was confined on right side of the river Jehlum. With the advent of Islam, it gave new impetus to the physical and cultural development of the City due to influx of missionaries, scholars and craftsmen from Persia and Central Asia, it expanded. The City was known as Shahr-e-Kashmir during Muslim rule,” he divulged.

The presentation depicted the unique built and natural heritage of Srinagar City. But the vandalisation and impact of factors like haphazard growth and depleting civic infrastructure were also revealed.

The presentation traced the heritage of Srinagar documented by the INTACH 3-years back.

The archaeological and architecture from Harwan to Khankahs, vernacular houses and other landmarks of the past were shown in the presentation.

It was emphasized that there was a need to create awareness among the City youth and other urban centres of Kashmir about the vandalisation threat to the heritage sites.

It was followed by another presentation on the conservation and management of world famed Dal Lake. The students were shown satellite images of the lake, which depicted large-scale encroachments within the water body.

The details of conservation plan presently under implementation were also given.

The Director Doordarshan, Dr Rafiq Masoodi, who was the Chief Guest on the occasion, appreciated the efforts of INTACH in its campaign for creating awareness about the rich cultural heritage of Kashmir.

“We have nothing to show to the world except cultural heritage and there is immediate need to have strict laws to preserve it,” he added.

On the occasion, the INTACH Heritage Club was also inaugurated.

The club comprises of 30 young Lead Members who work under the guidance of Club Conveners. The membership passports and badges were also presented to the members.

The other highlight of the programme was the announcement of the essay competition MY City My History. The competition is sponsored by Fox History Channel in collaboration with INTACH.

The winners of the competition will be invited to present their essay on Fox History Channel.

The other events for the week include Heritage Walks in Shahr-e-Khaas and visit to the museum.

The principal of the host school, G N Aali said vandalisation of worst order has spoiled the beauty of the City.

“We all are responsible for it. Everyone has to play his role to save it and there is an immediate need for an awareness campaign,” he said.

Besides, other guests, the chairman GVEI, Muhammad Yosuf was also present on the occasion.
(Greater Kashmir)

Illicit Drug Trade

What next? Afghanistan or Mexico style "private armies"?

Drug trade flourishing in Kashmir

Wasim Khalid (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Signifying the flourishing of drug trade in Kashmir valley, police said it recovered drugs worth 69 lakh from peddlers in 2009 and arrested 36 people after recovering huge quantities of cannabis, poppy, poppy straw from them. Besides, this year, police also destroyed Bhang cultivated over 20,000 kanal of land.

According to police statistics, Bhang is being cultivated over more than 21,000 kanal of land, especially in south Kashmir’s Islamabad and Pulwama districts. A small portion of this was destroyed in Budgam district.

Apart from that, police claimed to have recovered 40 bags, 23 quintals and 23 kg of poppy this year while 11 accused, involved in the trade, were also arrested.

Police seized 17 kg cannabis, 42 charas sticks and arrested 14 accused involved in the trade from various locations. Police also seized vehicles used by drug peddlers to smuggle the cannabis.

Approximately, 688 kg and 90 bags of poppy straw were recovered from different persons this year. Police arrested 11 persons and seized a truck and a Tata Sumo vehicle used by the peddlers to transport the addictive substance.

Besides, police recovered 74 bottles of illegal liquor and arrested one person. “The grass and liqor seized thus amounts to worth 69 lakh,” a police official said. Meanwhile, police said they would continue with their drive against the drug trade.

“We would continue to pursue the people who cultivate or are involved in any trade related to cannabis and poppy,” Inspector General of Police Kashmir, Farooq Ahmad told Rising Kashmir. “We want to make our society drug-free.”

He said after they destroyed the cannabis and poppy fields, the residents of Pulwama also joined the drive.

“We started awareness campaign, roped in Imams in Pulwama. They informed people about the ill-effects of drugs,” Ahmad said. “They joined police and destroyed thousands of kanal of land used for Bhang cultivation. For us it was a really significant development.”

However, he said, people in Bijbehara and adjoining areas were not cooperating. “We are following a strategy of chasing peddlers and arresting them under NDPS act,” Ahmad said.

He said people get in drug trade as they mint huge money from it.

“Apart from trading cannabis and poppy here, peddlers are also sending it outside the state,” the IG said. “We are tightening the noose on them.”

Ahmad rued that there were no drug addiction centres in the Valley to cure addicts. “Police have one drug-de-addiction centre. It can accommodate limited patients,” he said. “The government should set up a 20-bed drug de-addiction centre in every district to treat these patients.”

Kashmir's Entry Into the Hall of Shame

Editorial in the Rising Kashmir highlights growing addiction of the State to rampant corruption

Hall of Shame

Transparency International India (TII) in its latest survey has placed India in the 84th place in the list of corrupt nations. Instead of bettering its record, Pakistan has further slipped in the list to find itself in the 42nd place as the most corrupt country in 2009. Bangladesh was named as the most corrupt country in 2001, 2002 and 2003.The sub-continent countries have been battling corruption for long now. Kashmir has also had its fair share of notoriety. Jammu and Kashmir was named as India's second-most corrupt state only second to Bihar according to a 2005 Transparency International survey. There may be a whole lot of reasons for the State stooping so low. However, it does not absolve any one of us from the crime. The failure of successive government’s to tackle rampant corruption has only made the matters worse. Bribery has become a norm in the society. It has almost become a requisite for getting a piece of work done in government offices. Even though they get paid for serving people, the corrupt officials remain unmoved unless you grease their palms. Right from his/her student days, a person is made conscious how important is it to bribe people to get the work done. Pay some bucks to laboratory assistant and he assures you he would give you good marks.

Then if your case is somewhere struck in the college or university, bribery again comes in handy. You don’t reach to your pocket, you will never get the case through. There is a sort of inertia that has crept into the offices where nothing moves till there are some illegal gratifications to be made. Corruption flows either way, from top-bottom and bottom-up so much so that in many cases people have to empty more money than what they actually gain. In the broader sense also, there is more loss than gain with such a practice in vogue. Back to Transparency International survey, the nations who have scored well are New Zealand at 9.4, Denmark at 9.3, Singapore and Sweden tied at 9.2 and Switzerland at 9.0. These scores, as per the TI, reflect political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid functioning public institutions. These are the very factors which Kashmir has been unfortunately lacking very badly. The daily struggle of people with petty bribery with no anti-corruption efforts from government tells upon the public trust on the administration and governance. The chief minister seems very conscious of the rampant corruption. “I don’t want to comment on the authenticity of the survey that rated J&K as the second most corrupt state in India, but it is a fact that every sphere of public life has degenerated because of corruption here,” Omar admitted at a function on Tuesday. Indeed much damage has been done. It will only take a full-fledged war now to root out the corruption from the state.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yes, We Can

Farooq shows how a conscientious and professional civil servant can make a big difference. A few more like him and Kashmir would become a destination of choice for all

(Dr. Farooq Ahmad Lone, 46, was born in Anantnag. After completing his initial schooling in his native village of Khargund, Chowgam, he graduated in first class from Government Degree College Anantnag. He passed M.Sc. Botany from the University of Kashmir with distinction securing first class first position followed by M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees. Receipent of young scientist award of J&K and the best paper award from the Muslim Association for the Advancement of Sciences (MAAS) based in Aligarh. He has to credit one book titled palaeoethnobotany plants and ancient man in Kashmir published by A A Balkema (Rotterdan),Oxford Press and IBH (New Delhi), and others. He has published more than 30 resarch paper and scientific articles. With a varied experience in teaching, research, science managment and administration he has worked in Education, Science and Technology, Information and Public Relations, Tourisim, Health and Medical Education and Estates Departments of Jammu and Kashmir Government.)

We Need Capacity Building

Till recently I was posted as Chief Executive Officer, Gulmarg Development Authority stationed at Gulmarg. It gave an excellent opportunity to interact with people from different regions of the country and globe who used to throng this world famous tourist resort round the year. It was a great learning experience. There is no denying the fact that tourism has the potential of becoming backbone of our economy. We have to make all out efforts to be ready for the large scale, high-end tourism not only by way of developing required infrastructure but also by way of developing the required human skills. The persons who have direct interface with the tourists need to be given proper training and orientation so that they are able to deal with the tourists in a desired manner. Minor mishandlings can cause huge damages. For the benefit of those working in the tourism industry and related departments, I want to share my experiences.

On 20 June 2009 at 6.p.m while on my way from Gulmarg to Srinagar I received the following message on my cell phone. It read exactly this. “Respected Sir, I am Sanjay Sethi… I am a tourist who has reached there with difficulty. I had 2 experience strikes, blockouts, jams, threats and what not 2 reach here KASHMIR…The most discourteous n inhumane people without any heart, have spoilt our day… I have registered a formal complaint at the Gondola Base Station… please give a better message 2 this world about Kashmir. It’s your duty Sir.”

I called on the cell number from which the message had been flashed +919823014775 +919823014775. An evidently angry voice responded after several seconds and a pause. I politely enquired from Mr. Sanjay the reason for his outburst. He told that he was member of a group of friends numbering around 30 who, on his insistence, had chosen to come to Kashmir on a holiday in preference to Europe. However they were not allowed to proceed for the second phase of Gondola by the officials of Cable Car Corporation because of some unexplained technical problems.

Having not been able to spend time in the snow clad mountains the fellow friends had ridiculed his decision of insisting on visiting Kashmir. Back to his hotel room in Highlands Park he gave vent to his emotions through this furious message on my number. I apologized for the inconvenience caused and ensured him to get back after getting the facts verified. I enquired from him whether they shall be in Gulmarg the next day to which he replied in affirmative. I assured him of the best possible services during their stay in Jammu and Kashmir State and forcefully argued that his experience is just an aberration.

Before I could call back, another message flashed on my phone screen.“I thank you for the kind courtesy extended by answering my concern… I hope his does not end there sir n every tourist feels good n comfortable at least emotionally..Regards..Sanjay Sethi.”

I called up in-charge of Gondola at Gulmarg and enquired about the incident. He informed that because of high wind velocity at the Apharwat Mountain Top they had to stop the operation of second phase of Gondola on technical grounds in the afternoon. Somehow the tourists had not been communicated in a proper way by the officials at the ground level. I advised the official to personally receive the group at the Gondola Station the next day, extend the courtesy of preferential ticket booking to them, if possible and explain the technical difficulties due to which operation of the second phase was stopped in the afternoon the other day.

Next I called Mr. Sanjay, informed him about the technical difficulties and asked him to go for Gondola ride next morning. I also gave him phone number of the official to be contacted in case of any difficulty. He was apparently satisfied with my response.

Next day I had to remain in Srinagar to attend the marriage ceremony of son of a friend who incidentally happened to be posted as Managing Director of the Cable Car Corporation controlling the Gulmarg Gondola. While we were chatting and waiting for the lunch to be served in the late afternoon I received yet another message on my phone: “I really thank you for all.. we all had a great trip 2 d snow slopes today.. I wish d whole world comes 2 Kashmir and it prospers and flourishes…one last wish which Insha Allah only d Almighty can fulfill… Helicopter travel 2 AMARNATH 2morrow… Ready to bear all costs…if u can make it happen sir… but thanks in all cases…”

Mr. Farooq Shah Director Tourism was sitting beside me. We talked about the whole story. He said that he will try to help through the operators of the helicopter service, if possible. I accordingly , informed Mr. Sanjay to contact Mr. Shah on his phone number which I communicated.

I don’t know whether he required any assistance for helicopter service or not but on 23rd he flashed another message “Leaving for Delhi … thanx for all… Sanjay Sethi.. Nagpur..”

A small courteous gesture on my part could change the perception of a person from “most discourteous inhuman people without any heart” to “ I wish the whole world comes to Kashmir and it flourishes and prospers…”

My purpose to narrate this experience is that we need to work a lot on the capacity building front to give basic training to our field workers and tourist guides on how to deal with the tourists in a courteous manner if we have to sustain our tourism industry. Word of mouth is a great instrument in popularizing tourist destinations. Perhaps much more powerful than any other publicity strategy.

Dying Dal - Victim of Brazen Mismanagement

Mohammad Kundangar blames it all on sheer mismanagement

(Dr. Mohammad Rashid-ud-din Kundangar, 62, was born in Srinagar. He completed his Masters degree in Botany, and Doctoral/Postdoctoral degree in Hydrobiology through the University of Kashmir. He served as a lecturer in Botany and Head of the Hydrobiology Research laboratory or about 25 years. Prof. Kundangar has about hundred research publications to his credit and has been actively involved in environmental studies with special reference to aquatic resources of the J&K State. He is the approved research guide of University of Kashmir, Barkatullah University, Bhopal, University of Roorkee and has supervised a number of M Phil candidates and PhD scholars. He has been the Chief Investigator of various state and centrally sponsored minor and major research projects. He was a founder Director Research & Development, J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, and preceding retirement from the government service served as Principal of the Degree College. Dr Kundangar is the author of a number of books and is the Dean of Academics and the Head of the Department of Lake Sciences and Water Management in the SSM College of Engineering, the only privately run engineering institute in the valley. Dr Kundangar has been the consultant ecologist for various J&K government departments and a member of the Wetland Committee set up by Government of India. He has attended number of National and International conferences and toured various Asian and European countries.)

Dal Crisis

The article captioned ‘Dal Lake -Breathing its Last’ in GK’s publication dated 13 November 2009 by Dr Sabah Ul Solim (Scientist LAWDA) speaks volumes about the malfunctioning of LAWDA and their helplessness in managing the Dal lake. The circumstantial evidences reveal that as usual whenever, there are certain crises in LAWDA they push forward their scientists in the forefront and remain hiding behind the scene. What one can infer from the article is that the Dal Lake is facing the crisis due to water abstraction and use scenarios. The LAWDA helplessly avoiding their legitimate responsibility are seeking help from the people by asking, “CAN ANY BODY SAVE IT?”

One fails to understand that there are two full-fledged wings of civil engineering departments with battery of skilled engineers and it was their basic job to calculate the annual water budget of the lake on the basis of daily recorded water discharges and then allow PHE department to harness the raw waters of Dal lake. Instead the engineers of LAWDA are busy in floating tenders for beautification of NFR road and other engineering works; rightly so because the politicians have directed them to do it on fast track or face the wrath which is evident by recent bizarre advertisement with beautiful faces of two politicians appearing in the local dailies where under the custodians of the lake wanted to convey the masses that ski scooters, motor boats etc are being purchased for restoring the pristine glory of the lake. Remember regattas or ‘360’ like gimmicks cannot anyway help in conservation of lake. It is action and effective remedial scientific measures within the periphery and lake itself which can help the lake restoration.

The article refers the condition similar to 1998 which is not true at all. During 1998 the water crisis for the Dal Lake was due to prevailing draught conditions for consecutive three years when Telbal Nallah had recorded zero discharge during the summer months but in the present case the snowfall was as usual if not heavy. It was in 1998 that myself along with other scientists had surveyed the lake catchment and identified about seventy one (71) freshwater springs in the immediate catchment of Dal Lake and suggested to divert all the waters of these freshwater springs to Dal lake, of course assessing their physic-chemical and biological characteristics. This was purposely done to increase the water budgets of the lake but unfortunately the executing agencies of LAWDA in the name of treating and cleansing of these springs exhausted all the allocated funds just treating hardly two or three springs at Habak site and thwart the entire scheme. Had waters of these freshwater springs diverted to the lake the present water crisis would not have been there and one would not have called a spade a spade.

The article directs towards the scarcity of water in Dal Lake and wrongly attributed to climate change and drought. Acknowledging this fact that lakes are good sentinels of climate change because they are sensitive to environmental changes like water level (which is a good indicator of climate change) because it reflects the dynamic balance between water input (precipitation, runoff) and water loss (evaporation) in non-regulated lakes (Adrian et al, 2009) and thus cannot hold good to Dal Lake whose hydrology is largely anthropogenically controlled, and thus its climate-related responses are influenced by other factors. Therefore, the present crisis is clearly a problem of Lake Management.

I have been given to understand that the present chief executive of LAWDA is a student of management studies and if he is not able to manage the lake particularly in terms of water budgeting-Water distribution-diversion of spring waters, who else could do it?

The consultants of Roorkee or the so called experts and advisors of LAWDA --- certainly not.

Lastly LAWDA should have focused on perpetual existence of the deadly MICROCYSTIS bloom in the Nishat basin of Dal lake and the consequences of supplying such infested waters to the consumers for drinking purposes. They must be also well acquainted with the quality of water at Pokhribal and Nishat particularly during stagnation and should have cautioned PHE Deptt. about the negative impacts of such contaminated waters especially when PHE people do not have proper treatment methods to do away with Phosphates and Nitrates. If one goes by LAWDA myth that the so called FAB based STPS are working effectively then the treated waters discharged into the lake should not be a worrying factor.

Suggestive measures to overcome water crisis:

i) Concentrate on watersheds and micro watersheds in the catchment with particular reference to Dhara, Dhnaihama, Dachigam and Zethyar
ii) Divert waters of natural freshwater springs lying in the immediate catchment of Dal lake
iii) Identify chocked springs within the lake body and their reclamation
iv) Measure snow to forecast water supplies after snow surveys coupled with runoff forecasts
v) Check seepages, illegal diversion of feeding streams and inflow channels

Tackling Corruption in Kashmir is Like Stopping Lava Flow From a Volcano

The related stories - editorial on institutionalized corruption, corruption in stealing electricity by common citizens, and finally an award for top performance as a one of the most corrupt states

Tackling Corruption (Editorial in the Kashmir Images)

Few years back the Court of Special Judge Anti-Corruption Kashmir convicted a former Executive Engineer in a disproportionate assets case. The accused was convicted to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of three years with a fine of Rs 5 lakhs while Rs 6.92 lakhs seized during the search of his house, were also confiscated.

But what happened to the case then, nobody has heard anything since. This particular case is beyond the point here. What is, however, important is that this is the way to go about dealing with the corruption which has been so rampant here that Jammu and Kashmir is continuously maintaining itself among the top ranking corrupt states according to the Transparency International.

Taking the corrupt government officials to task under law and confiscating their ill-gotten wealth and other assets has certainly the potential to set a good precedent for others to understand that they can’t indulge in corrupt practices. Even as every now and then the State Vigilance Organization comes up with press statements about its action against the corrupt officials, but then the inordinate delay in settling these cases in courts, is not at all a very healthy and encouraging trend. Of course the Vigilance Organisation and other concerned agencies need to pull up their socks to expedite cases against the corrupt and come up with concrete evidence to nail them.

Governments in the state have all along been very loud and vocal about their so-called resolve to fight the corruption. But unfortunately, much of this resolve remains confined to verbal gymnastics alone while the actual action very rarely follows to affect any visible change in the situation on ground. The government has to catalyze its efforts by infusing the investigative agencies with more and more honest and sincere officers and of course they too need to be kept on heels as for the action against the corrupt officials and their practices is concerned. In the past several months since the new government took over, one wonders how many cases are wherein the government can claim of having initiated real action against the corrupt. Certainly the present government does not have a very satisfactory record on this front if the actions taken against the corrupt officials are weighed against the amount and extent of corruption that is prevalent.

As for as the fight against corruption is concerned, besides hunting for the corrupt officials, it’s of vital importance that the common people too are made aware about the rules and regulations, laws and norms they can bank on for reporting about the corruption. They must also be educated about their rights and privileges as consumers and users of various services. For instance, they need to be told that it is their right to seek redressal of their grievances from the various government agencies and officials and for this they need not to pay anyone anything.

The corruption has over the years been institutionalized here so much so that people are forced to pay at each and every step. Those who claim bribes do so not only with impunity but also with such an air of self-satisfaction as if it is their ‘birth-right’. Similarly, those who pay bribes too do so without feeling any regret and remorse. They do it because this is what they think they are supposed to do and the unfortunate reality is that if they don’t pay, nobody is going to do their work or address their grievances. There is a serious need to put an end to this kind of culture. By initiating action against the ‘big fish’ government will certainly encourage a better culture free of corruption in Jammu and Kashmir.

PDD fails to check power thefts

Rashid Paul (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: An impotent vigil on electricity misuse causes a daily loss of approximately Rs 1.20 Cr to the state, as the energy consumption has increased at an incredulous average of 20 percent sans revenue since October 15 this year.

With the onset of winter, the energy consumption has amplified by 20 percent since the middle of last month than the corresponding period in the preceding year.

An average of 25 lakh units (Lus) of energy is used additionally every day this year, accumulating a burden of Rs 1.25 Cr to the State. The credit goes to the ineffective vigil system to check energy abuse, especially in the domestic sector.

However, an increase in power use by five percent is considered normal, say the experts.

As per the data available from the Power Development Department (PDD), 122.40 Lus were used up on October 15, 2008 as against 147.57 Lus this year on the same day, an increase of 20.56 percent.

The surge was remarkable on October 23 when the consumption touched an alarming level of 170.90 Lus, which was 50.40 Lus more than the power used the same day of the previous year.

Furthermore, some 4056.73 Lus were used during October 2008 while as 4656.73 Lus were exploited by the consumers here during the last month this year. Similarly, 1714 Lus from November 1-12, 2008 and 1935.07 Lus during the same period in the current year were consumed.

Around 50-60 percent of the abuse occurs in Srinagar, especially in the domestic sector. "The indiscipline is rampant in the high society people who have developed meanest tricks of pilferage," a PDD official said, adding in most of the areas consumers having an agreement of one kilowatt ingest five-10 kilowatts of energy. "Blowers, heaters, geysers and all types of electricity consuming appliances are wildly used by these people without the equivalent payments," he said.

The revenue mismatches the swelled consumption. Rupees 36 Cr only were realized from domestic consumers till ending October, as against a total revenue of Rs 121 Cr recovered from the Valley during the same time.

Admitting an ineffective monitoring mechanism to avoid power misuse, an official of the PDD said, "Instead of an enforcement wing, the department has an eight-member squad operating with minimum facilities. They, despite realizing a fine of Rs 2.50 Cr, were never appreciated but had to take cudgels with the people and bear the brunt of bureaucrats," the official said.

India ranks 85th in corruption, J&K retains its second slot

Jammu: While India has attained a dubious distinction with a step up in the ranking of most corrupt countries as it figured at 85th spot in a survey of 180 countries by Transparency International, J&K continues to maintain its position of being the second most corrupt state in the country following Bihar.

Transparency International, the Berlin based watchdog, threw up few surprises in its annual Corruption Perception Index released yesterday. The usual suspects were in more or less their usual places, though New Zealand overtook last year's leader Denmark for the top post, the latter slipping to second position.

India languished at number 84 in a survey of 180 countries carried out by 13 independent organisations. India's 'integrity score' stands at 3.4, an indication that in terms of public sector corruption, the country continues to be perceived as highly corrupt by experts and business surveys. The integrity score is on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being the most corrupt and 10 the least.

India's ranking was a step up from last year, when it was 85th. But still it was considerably lower than its 72nd ranking in 2007. Scams like the Madhu Koda case have not helped India's cause - in five years as chief minister of the neglected but mineral-rich state of Jharkhand, Koda is said to have siphoned off Rs3,000 crore for himself and his cronies.

Transparency says the situation is worsening, with other corporate and political frauds coming to light recently. Its report said, "Corruption in India is due to many factors, most important being the activities of politicians."

"It is commonly perceived that politicians are spending too much on elections and that corruption prevails. India's performance for this year is not a flattering one and one can only draw comfort from the fact that it has not fared worse than last year," Transparency International India chairman R H Tahliani said.

Out of the various departments analysed, India's police department fares the worst in terms of corruption. The most corrupt state is Bihar, followed by Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh Politicians and other optimists can continue to take heart from the fact that India is still the 'best' among its South Asian neighbours - apart of course from Bhutan, which famously measures its progress in terms of 'gross domestic happiness' rather than gross domestic production or GDP.

But India should be more worried by the fact that while its credibility has slipped a notch, Bangladesh, its 'beggarly' neighbour, has improved its standing by eight places, from 147th to 139th. According to the report, Bangladesh has made a significant progress in curbing corruption, raising its score to 2.4 compared to last year's 2.1.

"However, with the score remaining below the threshold of 3, the country continues to be in the league of those where corruption continues to be pervasive," said Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman while presenting the CPI in Dhaka.

Bangladesh is one of the nine countries that performed the best. The other countries are Belarus, Guatemala, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Syria and Tonga. The worst performers are Bahrain, Greece, Iran, Malaysia, Malta and Slovakia.

China too has stormed ahead by seven places. Ranked a joint 72nd with India in 2007, it has improved its corruption perception. It is now ranked 79th and its integrity score is 3.6. However, with China's tight control on information, it is hard to know how Transparency arrived at this score. Bloggers say it is usual for the organisation to give it a median score.

Sadly Nepal, the mountain state with which India has many cultural affinities, has slipped 22 notches from last year to 143rd. Although this year was relatively peaceful in Nepal, corruption has increased as the law implementing agency has become weaker due to various issues related to government transitions, says Transparency.

Nepal had ranked 121st in the anti-corruption scale last year. According to the scale, Nepal is the second-most corrupt country in South Asia, only after Afghanistan which itself is the second-most corrupt country in the world.

Sri Lanka has slipped, as might be expected after its recent activities over the separatist Tamil Tigers. It has been ranked 97th, with a score of at a low 3.1 as against 3.2 last year. Its score has continuously declined since 2002 when it was at 3.7.

Transparency International mainly measures corruption in government, bureaucracy and public institutions. It has always found a strong correlation between corruption and poverty.

Countries at the bottom of the table were those which are unstable or impacted by war and ongoing conflicts that have affected the public sector and torn apart governance infrastructure.

"Stemming corruption requires strong oversight by parliaments, a well-performing judiciary, independent and properly resourced audit and anti-corruption agencies, vigorous law enforcement, transparency in public budgets, revenue and aid flows, as well as space for independent media and a vibrant civil society," said Huguette Labelle, chairwoman of Transparency International.

Pakistan accordingly slumped five places from 47th last year to number 42 in the 2009 list. Pakistan's 2009 CPI score is 2.4. Transparency's Pakistan chairman Syed Adil Gilani said terrorism was the direct result of poverty, which had resulted from corruption - especially the illegal direct or indirect rule of armed forces in
Pakistan from 1951 to 2007.

A fact worth noting is that some of the worst-performing countries - Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan - are those that have received massive US aid over the years.

Transparency International defines corruption as being the "abuse of entrusted power for private gain". The organisation believes that if corruption is successfully fought, it will help in the larger fight against global poverty.

The report points out that the lowest scoring countries are those which have ongoing internal conflicts, which negate the rule of law. Sadly for humanity, this covers half the countries surveyed.

Trouble in the Ranks

Wasim believes a divided party is no party at all

(Mr. Wasim Hussain, 29, was born in Srinagar. He attended Government High School and the Gandhi Memorial College, both in Srinagar. He has completed graduation and is pursuing his Master's degree in political science through Distance Mode of Learning. He took an English speaking course through the Islamia College of Science and Commerce and an advanced diploma in Information Technology. He has completed diplomas in web design and software design. Wasim has worked at the University of Kashmir since 2000, and is presently in the Directorate of Internal Quality Assurance (DIQA) as a senior computer assistant. He has received awards both as a student and as an employee for his performance. He enjoys writing and reading books. Wasim writes under the pen name of Wasim Ali.)

Hurriyat - a confused house

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram announced that New Delhi will adopt "quiet diplomacy" to find a solution to the problem of Kashmir issue. According to him India is "not afraid of dialogue" and is "willing to talk to all shades of opinion in the state for a solution." Home Minister stressed upon the “quiet diplomacy” formula to find out any political solution. His announcement was appreciated by various political quarters even Hurriyat itself were agreed to share the table with the centre to find out any solution. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) welcomed the statement and agreed to join the talks. In the meanwhile he framed a two member committee to create any consensus among all the amalgams of Hurriyat (M), Hurriyat (G) and other senior leaders.

But as the time passes, there were so many statements which created a lot of confusion among the masses even Hurriyat itself is confused as to whether they are joining talks or not. If they are joining the dialogue what would be the agenda for the discussions. Mirwaiz in his first statement welcomed the Centers offer then he gave several statements which are quite confusing.

Facing certain allegations of holding secret parleys with New Delhi and teaming up with mainstream political parties, the Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Saturday 14th of November decided to reject Home Minister P Chidambaram’s 'quiet diplomacy plan', the statement was contradictory with earlier statements he made in this regard.

The senior Hurriyat Leader Shabir Ahmad Shah also made it clear that “Hurriyat rejects any quiet diplomacy on Kashmir. We are bound by the constitution of the Hurriyat Conference that stands for right to self determination. We are not going to have any sell-out on Kashmir. Any solution within Indian constitution is unacceptable to the Hurriyat Conference,” while speaking at a conference on ‘Global discourse on resolution of Kashmir dispute’ organized by the High Court Bar Association in Srinagar he said that India does not want to talk with the Hurriyat leaders they just want to talk with the mainstream parties.

There are so many leaders within the Huriayt who gave their different opinion on the dialogue with New Delhi, but there is no clear picture whether Hurriyat is being participating in the dialogue process or not.

Many other Hurriyat leaders are accusing Hurriyat (M) for entering into a dialogue with New Delhi for a sell out on Kashmir and cozying up to the mainstream People’s Democratic Party and National Conference.

“We know who is meeting whom in New Delhi. But let me assure you that no compromise will be allowed on Kashmir. Nobody will be allowed to sell the sacrifices of people of Kashmir,” said Asiya Andrabi.

Reacting to unification of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, said: “Any unification has to be on principles. You can judge yourself who is moving away from principles.” According to Syed Ali Shah Geeelani Hurriyat Conference (G) will not be part of any “futile dialogue exercise”. The dialogue with India is only possible when “India accepts Kashmir a dispute, repeal black laws, release prisoners and withdraw Disturbed Area Act. Then hold an unconditional tripartite dialogue to hold plebiscite in Kashmir.”

The opinions about dialogue have no end every leader gives its opinion and speaks out. There is a clear confusion among the masses about the dialogue process; people are yet to be aware what actually is going on where our leaders are leading us. Is there any chance to get rid of this confusion or still we have to wait?

I think our leaders have forgotten the past. Due to this confusion the Kashmir issue remains always unresolved, our leaders remain busy to make their contradictory statements and the issue remains pending since so many decades. This is what actually the Govt. of India wants to get from the pro-freedom leadership. Indian policy is now clear that they want to make it open to the world that we are ready for talks but the pro-freedom leaders are yet to be prepared and are engaged with their differences.

There is a dire need to frame a coordination committee on the same lines as it was constituted during the Amarnath Land Row, the coordination committee may create consensus among all the amalgams of Hurriyat (M) and Hurriyat (G). The main objective of the coordination committee should be to avoid any confusion created due to the different statement given by different Pro-freedom leaders regarding the “quiet diplomacy” formula of New Delhi. There must be one spokesperson who will face the media and all other leaders should be restricted to make any comment.

They will have to be united in their stand, if they want to take us out of the trouble we are in. But the way things are shaping up, we see discord around.

Medical Care is Lousy, but Would the Civil Society Care?

If NGO's dealing with social and human development would worry less about politics and more about their civic charter, may be the life would be better for sick Kashmiris needing hospital care

In Kashmir Hospital Labs go Defunct

Ishfaq Mir (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Diagnostic equipment worth crores is lying defunct in Valley’s three tertiary-care hospitals for want of reagents costing just few thousand rupees.

Sources in the Health department told Rising Kashmir that the three principal hospitals - SMHS, G B Pant (Children's Hospital) and Lal Ded Hospital - crave for chemical reagents needed for diagnostic tests, thereby compelling doctors to ask patients to approach private testing labs.

Sources said the hospital authorities have themselves rendered the equipment useless, as part of their ‘agreement’ with the private testing labs.

Defunct Healthcare in SMHS:

According to sources, the hi-tech machines meant for endoscopy tests in the hospital are lying defunct for the past year-and-half for want of reagents. Similarly, no test has been conducted in the neurophysiology lab for the past three months.

“There is no arrangement for the vital Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV) test in this lab. Although the equipment is available, there are no reagents. We are also not able to conduct electromyography and neurography tests. The reagents cost just Rs 3000-4000 but we fail to understand why the hospital administration is so reluctant to buy these,” said a technician working in SMHS hospital, on condition of anonymity. "We are compelled to refer the patients to private labs, who charge hefty amounts. We have no choice,” he added.

There is only one USG machine in the hospital, and available only till 8 pm. “In case of emergency, we have to send a vehicle to the concerned doctor to get his services,” the hospital employees said.

G B Pant Hospital, no different:

Even though the Medical Council of India recently granted recognition to the paediatric department of GMC Srinagar and its associated hospitals, no blood test has been done in the hospital for the last two months. Despite having a full-fledged lab, the patients are sent to SMHS hospital in the ambulance and a doctor has to accompany them to get the blood tests done.

Sources inside the hospital said even urine examination is denied by the technicians, citing lack of reagents as reason.

The Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) Analyzer machine donated to the hospital and costing Rs 5 lakh, is not working since October 2008.

The USG Lab closes at 4 pm. Once the doctor leaves, nobody takes the charge of the lab thereafter. All the required tests after 4 pm are done outside the hospital.
Of the six ventilators donated by renowned doctors of Valley working outside, two have developed minor technical snag but the government has not even been able to get them rectified.

Lal Ded Hospital:

Despite being the lone maternity hospital of tertiary care nature, there is no Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the hospital, while the USG lab - like that of SMHS hospital - closes at 4 pm, causing the patients to suffer.

Like SMHS, B&J Hospital Barzulla does not have any Post Operative Ward.

Admitting the problems in Valley hospitals, Minister for Health and Medical Education, R S Chib said, “Although there is an improvement but the hospitals continue to be overloaded. We are not absolutely self-sufficient in equipment but lack of reagents shouldn’t be an excuse. I will look into the matter and straightaway direct my officers to take immediate steps in this regard.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Amorphous Character

Afshana comments on changes that have set in Kashmir during the last 20 years

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 35, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women's College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

Kashmir in Transition

Any society develops because of certain intrinsic traits. However, the external factors also contribute in the cerebral growth of individuals in a society. And, if a society is going through an abnormal situation, then the reasons for growth are ample. The population grappling with a conflict has many more chances to evolve. Being in the state of continuous tussle, they look out for gateways to sustain themselves intellectually and meaningfully. It turns mandatory for them to create a breathing space for rearranging or reminding their commitments. Otherwise, they may get stifled and start stinking.

Kashmir makes an interesting study in this backdrop. The people’s capacity of living through a gory conflict has become its hallmark. Some of the inherent behavioral qualities supplied the people of this place with the peculiar staying power. Their grit and guts to face the worst, and survive the rough weather cannot be overlooked. Events that were not predictable and yet happened, made a greater impact and called for major re-orientation without advance preparation. As people here may look back upon the past wistful 20 years, they can recall some of the horrible losses which they experienced with a sense of strength.

Today, Kashmir has reached a point where the thinking is on how much the present circumstances can influence the pervasive nostalgia of last 20 years and the anticipation of future crises or transitions. There are some surprises in response.

First, with a kind of current political dispensation in Kashmir, where politicians from both mainstream and separatist camps are trying to locate their positions and stakes, by a round of interactions or conversations, the approaching departure from the earlier stands suggests the shift of emphasis. Of course, all this is going to constitute a difficult time for all of them. Already many of them are in a mood of desperation. Through their doublespeak at various talking shops, it has become quite evident.

As such, the expectations, influences, and roles available to present youth of Kashmir vary enormously with its political and social history and the pace and nature of change set in during last 20 years. The current history has moved faster, throwing up the huge differences between the role-models offered by political and intellectual leaders and those valued by the rest of the people.

Nonetheless, this kind of situation can make our youth learn about consistency and inconsistency of personalities and personal styles, and about stagnation and regression of minds. This can be one of the ways to transition. Getting into the mode of cerebral growth, where self-concepts get framed by outer events.

Second, there is a truism, more often applied to our institutions, as getting more transformed into just talking shops. Another transition. Contemporary Kashmir is witness to no-holds-barred verbomania. The chatty culture has engaged thinkers in a rambling discourse. From endless conferences, seminars to workshops, the deliberations are usually directionless and the results are regretful. Had talking shops succored any nation, this hapless land would have been salvaged so far. Perhaps, peace cannot be sought in conference halls, swathed in repetitive research, and delinked and detached from grassroots action. It may be dubbed as cynical but the fact is that such exercises, at the end of the day, foster only individual or group interest.

Third, the talking shops have started showing spillover effect. This verbal overrun is seeping in social circles as well. People are heard talking preposterous plans and theories about the conflict resolution. Weaving odd and strange comparison and conspiracy logics, they are unwittingly turning into self-styled experts and analysts. This in a way is a good sign of Kashmir Mind being alive at least, but that it is a fatigue reaction to a deadly deadlock in which the Kashmir Mind finds itself, cannot also be ignored.

Fourth, the Kashmiri writer or commentator on Kashmir, has become a colorless creature. He has lost his effective say on the matters because of his ever-changing tones. His inability to recognize conflicting messages from his inner-self and the outer world, and between the two, is the first indicator of his being complex and contradictory. That’s why he feels like caught up between the devil and the deep sea, while in actuality he is meshed up in his own ambiguity. Intelligentsia in Kashmir was never as contradictory as it is now. It appears distracted and unsettled. It is criminally contributing in the prolongation of the problem by being ambiguous, hypocritical, and painfully, saleable. What else can be a big misfortune than this?!!

As Kashmir is known for beautifully getting modified to seasonal colors, from white snow to amber leaves, the same cannot be claimed in terms of its political landscape. The color riot in this area remains unpredictable as well as unpleasant. The intrinsic histrionics mixed with a bit of historical hysteria, cannot spare it.

There is more to see. There is lot in store. Kashmir continues to change. For good or bad? There can be no painless answers.

Is it not Already Too Late?

Fida pleads (once again) to fellow Kashmiris to save dying lakes or else be prepared for a disaster

(Mr. Fida Iqbal, 47, was born in Sopore. He attended the D.A.V. School in Nayadyaar, Rainawari, and the Government Higher Secondary School in Sopore. He obtained his Bachelor's degree in Agriculture/Floriculture and Landscaping from Chowdhry Chottu Ram College at Muzaffarabad Nagar in Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Iqbal works with the Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Department as a landscape architect. He enjoys kitchen gardening, reading writing, and is very a passionate and dedicated golf player.)

Kashmir’s Dying Water Bodies

On the occasion of Ambassador’s golf cup at Royal Springs Golf Course (RSGC) Srinagar on 31st of October one of the visiting Ambassadors’ while describing beauty of Kashmir said,’ I had a notion, that to be in heaven you have to make an ascend, but when our plane approached Kashmir valley from mighty mountains, I experienced even a descend can land you in heaven’.
Valley of Kashmir is bestowed with many features and characteristics of enormous beauty; there is no doubt about it. Lofty mountain ranges with dense forests, snow covered peaks, bubbling springs, fresh water lakes, roaring streams, winding rivers, lush green meadows and diverse flora and fauna are the major attributions of this charming vale. These characteristic provide a unique status to Kashmir valley as one of the beautiful places on earth. Its pleasant climate spread over four seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter give a distinctive status to Kashmir. All these four seasons contribute in sustenance of beauty of Kashmir and particularly provide life to its waterways and water bodies. Detailed study of climatic cycle in this region will reveal how water bodies get charged and sustain by the influence of climatic diversity within a scheduled year. Nature controls and manages our water cycle as per our requirements, by pouring it; storing it on top of our surrounding peaks as glaciers; releasing it at proper time and circulating it through streams and rivers, the life line of our survival. This whole ‘water drama’ being enacted by nature on such great heights (altitude) is beyond the imagination of preset day advance scientific conception. Forest and other valuable ground cover also play vital role in conserving and harvesting the water bestowed by nature through these climatic settings. Every feature of Kashmir as a whole works in tandem to shape and sustain our precious water bodies and ultimately guarantee and safeguards our survival.

If we go through the documented history of Kashmir spread over many thousand years, there is no mention of worsening state of our water bodies in earlier times. Instead at many occasions the beauty of our rivers and lakes has been mentioned in a way as if these are the major attributes of attraction and charm in the valley. One of the great chronicler Kalhana while describing the grandeur of Pravarapura the city founded by king Pravarasen II near the Hari Parbat hill in close proximity to old city Srinagari, mentions in Rajatarangini about Dal Lake, river Jhelum, and the numerous canals which once intersected the historic city of Srinagar, ‘the streams meeting, pure and lovely, at pleasure-residences and near market-streets’. Kalhana especially mentions about the cool waters of Vitasta (river Jhelum). Many travelers in their travelogues have mentioned about the beauty and charm of river Jhelum and Dal Lake in particular and given a mesmerizing image of these two vital water bodies of Kashmir. Mention of Jhelum with religious sacredness attached to it remains part of every creditable work of history on Kashmir.

Now the situation is quite different! For last more than six decades we Kashmiris are appreciating the freedom attained after centuries of suppression and autocracy. This long cherished liberty has bestowed us with dignity and authority but at a bigger cost of diminishing values, lack of responsibility and collective efforts to preserve our art, culture, language and heritage. We have let loose our greed and brought destruction to our prized possession bestowed by nature, particularly water ways and water bodies. If Kalhana will rise from his grave, or for that matter Mughals will dare to venture out and pay a visit to Kashmir, they will be surprised to see a different, vandalized valley with polluted waterways and encroached water bodies, inhabited by emancipated but materialistic and selfish populace.

Kalhan’s account of Dal, Jhelum and other water ways in the city of Srinagar are self explanatory descriptions of magnificence and beauty of these water structures but now in this era of emancipation these iconic structures are facing cruelty of mankind. These water ways and bodies are being chocked with the enormous dirt and filth accumulated by the people after their liberation from the clutches of dictatorship. These blessed lakes and marshes which were mainly contributing in maintaining the precious water table of the valley and draining extra water, have turned into cesspools and at places into mass of land by encroachers.

During the democratic system of governance, in place for last more than six decades much damage has been done to the water bodies of the valley both by the common people and the establishment. It will be wastage of time and precious space of this newspaper to rewind the brutal events enacted while ruining the historic Nalla Mar by so-called popular governments of Kashmir, thus chocking almost whole labyrinth of water channels within the city of Srinagar. It was a fact that Nalla Mar once hosting many historical bridges of Srinagar was loosing its charm but killing an ailing patient instead of treating it is the most unwise and cruel decision. This was never expected of a leadership claiming to be the savior of Kashmiri people and custodian of their art, culture and heritage. The enormous damage caused to water system of this historic city by filling heritage Nalla Mar (Snake canal) and dismantling its historical bridges namelyNyid Kadal, Bhuri Kadal, Saraf Kadal, Kadi Kadal, Raza Ver Kadal ( now Rajori Kadal), Khwador (Kawdara) and Sekkidafar is the most unpardonable act of our popular leadership. Boulevard, on the periphery of Dal Lake along Zabarwan range, once was the best dividing line between the Lake and the materialistic populace but our shady popular leaders did not spare even this beautiful avenue and blemished it with concrete jungle of hotels. It appears as if it was part of ‘Naya Kashmir’. This brazen violation of ecological norms is indefensible. No mind was applied regarding disposal of waste management at the time of commissioning these hotels and now huge money is being pumped to handle the foul misfortune discharged out of these structures of shame.

Dal is shrinking and its waters turning murkier with every passing day by intrusion in to the eco-system; greed of inhabitants in its vicinity; and above all administration’s lack of concern. Same is the case with Nigeen Lake, Anchar Lake, and Khushaal Sar. These water bodies have turned into soakage pits of Srinagar city where every sort of dirt is dumped under the senseless nose of indifferent administration. As earlier mentioned there is no trace of Nalla Marnow, Tsunth Kul looks like a filthy drain, Rainawari canal flowing under heritageNaid Yar bridge is disappearing, water structure once passing under Jogi Lankar bridge is no more, Brari Nambal lagoon is almost dying. The Dal along the Miskeen bagh complex (once known as Haart meem hund bunglea) has lost its charm. In early seventies when this beautiful garden with a heritage bungalow, well designed lawns and a spacious gazebo was not vandalized in the name of destitute, fresh water of the lake would touch its edges giving an exclusive feeling. The other prominent water bodies in the valley, like Waular and Manasbal Lake are bearing the brunt of human intervention and tampering with the eco-system and are proceeding towards gradual extinction.

We as individuals and society have to make honest efforts in saving these water structures from further degradation, so that survival of our future generations is guaranteed. Other wise such an ecological disaster will confront this heavenly place, where again a Kashyap Reshi or Soya has to come to our rescue, and in the following legends we will be passed on as reincarnation of Jaldeo (Jalodbhava) the demon, in the annals of history.

The Glorious History of Devsar Village in South Kashmir

Iqbal says that while Devsar may be a village today, but once it was the center of Buddhist art

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 48, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numismatics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. He is employed by the Jammu and Kashmir State Government. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Ancient Kashmir’s Bronze Art

Devsar, ancient Devesarsa, which today enjoys the status of only a large village
has in the past witnessed several historical events and cultural developments. It once used to be a centre of Buddhist art. There are several curious events and legends associated with this village. Many of these events are well documented in the annuals of Kashmir history.

The village situated on the foothill of South Kashmir, in the medieval periods had been a learning centre for casting of Bronze images. Several bronze sculptures are being reported to have been found in Devsar in past, but unfortunately most of such images had gone unrecorded. Either those artifacts had been destroyed or taken to other places, reveal the reports

Devsar’s cultural significance got revealed in year 1931 when a master archaeological find in shape of a bronze frame incidentally made its appearance in one of the plateaus of the village. It depicted various images of a Hindu deity and is dated to the period of Shankar Varman. The king in 10th Century AD is said to have constructed many royal places in Devsar besides few Hindu temples. However of its antiquities the place besides revealing few artifacts and coins has only preserved the basement of a temple identified as Narisema temple.

There had been some unofficial reports in the past that at few spots of the village the debris of few old places had made their appearance but such materials have more or less have got either unrecorded or to had been used for other purposes. Of all the Devsar finds what is being preserved in the state’s museum at Lalmandi Srinager are few coins, a rare bronze sculpture of Lord Buddha and the bronze frame.

The bronze sculpture and the frame which depicts several incarnations lord Vishnow are the masterpieces of Kashmir’s ancient metal art. These figures had been brilliantly casted and the eyes in these sculptures are inlaid with silver lines. The sculpture of Buddha is also recorded as the earliest bronze sculpture of Kashmir and it also depicts the strong influence of Gandhara art.

The bronze frame which besides other incarnations also carries the wonderful incarnation of Surya (the sun God) measures 6’ 2” ft. long 4’ 4” ft. broad about 1’ 2” ft. thick and 3 mounds and four seers in weight. It is oval shaped with its bottom end flattered on its borders it carriers images of Hindu deities. The images are brilliantly cast.

This is the only find of this kind know from Kashmir and described in various leading archaeological books of the world it is on the basic of this find that Devsar’s artistic activities of Shankar Varma’s period are established. During the times the Kashmiri bronze sculpture art attained a high degree of craftsmanship which continued for decades together.

The Sultans and Mughal emperor also has visited the site and made it as an important Pargana of their empire. There is the mention of Devsar in various chronicles and provide description of several events, which took place in its hills. One of such event recorded in history says that Zawalchu the tyrant invades who entered Kashmir during the period of Raja Suhadeva and had spread terrorism finally got killed in the hills of Devsar.

The event adds that Zawalchi who had killed numerous people and made thousands as prisoners once asked form them about the way leading then asked from them about the way leading then to Hindustan. He was shown the Devsar way. The season was winter and the Panchal Mountains had been experiencing heavy snowfall. Zawalchu who had reached on the top of Devsar hill the snow capped and the came under it thus lost his way. He could not bear the ice cold and got killed along with his forces somewhere in Devsar Mountains.

Devsar’s historical significance is well established besides its artistic activities. Historians claim that they have got ample evidences to believe that in the ancient times a rich urban civilization flourished at Devesar. Several archaeologists had also visited it. R C Kak the veteran archaeologists made extensive surveys of the area. John Siudmak who has been working on Kashmir archaeology speaks of the Devsar’s as most significant archaeological site.

Earlier there was some agency looking after the Devsar ruins but for lost several years the site has been neglected claim the locals. Today there is no body for its care and it is yet to be brought under the ancient monument preservation act. The site, which possesses ancient ruins and debris and had given a masterpiece to the state’s archaeological treasure, requires the attention of archaeologists. It is expected that the archaeological survey of India, which the pioneer archaeological organization agency would initiate some concrete step for the protection of the site and its finds.

The Toothless SVO

Let us be frank - the State Vigilance Organization (SVO) is a disgrace

Delayed Probe: Half of tainted officers retire

Sanjeev Pargal (Daily Excelsior)

Jammu: Strange it may sound that close to half of the Government officers, booked by the State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) and Crime Branch across the State, have retired or passed away during investigations while other half, barring very few, have managed to get promotions.

Data of the Government officers against whom FIRs have been registered in the Vigilance Organisation and Crime Branch wings at both Jammu and Kashmir revealed that out of 103 officers booked by the two premier investigating agencies of the State, 42 have retired while one of them has died during prolonged investigations and trial of the case.

Only three of them were under suspension while the rest have got back their posts and have even been promoted.

Out of 70 officers being investigated by the SVO, 28 have retired and one of them has died while 23 officers are being investigated by the Crime Branch and 14 of them have superannuated.

Thirty four officers have been booked by the Vigilance Organisation’s, Jammu wing. Among them 14 have retired during investigations, one of them has died and only one has been placed under suspension by the Government. Remaining 18 have either managed to retain their posts or even got promotions.

Similarly, Kashmir wing of the Vigilance Organisation has registered cases against 36 Government officers, of whom, 14 have superannuated. Only two of them were currently under suspension.

Quite significant is the data of Crime Branch, Srinagar, which has registered cases against 14 Government officers. As many as 10 of them have retired from services during investigations while four others have been holding posts as none of them was under suspension.

Crime Branch, Jammu has booked nine Government officers and four of them have retired.

All four Executive Engineers booked by the SVO under FIR No. 25/2006 have retired. They include Abdul Hamid Sheikh, PK Samnotra, SP Pandoh and KK Arora. Out of three Engineers being investigated by the Vigilance under FIR No. 2/2007, Hari Krishan Koul, SE has superannuated.

In FIR No. 63/2003 registered with Crime Branch, Srinagar against 11 officers for fraudulent appointment of daily wagers and helpers in Rural Development Department, Kashmir, nine have since retired from the Government services while two of them were holding posts of BDO and Additional Secretary.

Gopal Dass, an Assistant Director of CAPD booked in FIR No. 14/2006, has died during investigations while SKS Ulfat, AEE (FIR 48/1994), Syed Muzaffar H Shah, SE (FIR No. 23/2006), Yoginder Saproo, X-En (FIR 30/2006), D K Sharma, X-En (FIR 3/2007), B D Khajuria, X-En (FIR 23/2007), Janak Singh, Tehsildar (FIR 4/2008), Mushtaq Ahmed Dar, Chief Engineer (FIR 12/2008), Narinder Singh, AD CAPD (FIR 1/2009) and Som Raj Majotra, Deputy Director, Accounts and Treasuries (FIR 5/2009) have since retired.

Abdul Aziz Kashmiri, Badar Mohidin, Parvaz Ahmad Naqash, Mohammad Sultan Sheikh, Mangat Singh, Abdul Karim Dagga and Ghulam Nabi Gami are other Executive Engineers, who have retired during investigations of the case.

As reported by the Excelsior earlier, an IAS officer booked by the SVO under FIR No. 8/2009 has been posted as a Commissioner/Secretary while another officer, who was AC Revenue and booked in the same FIR has been posted as Special Assistant to a Cabinet Minister. Another officer in the same FIR has been posted as Vice Chairman, Srinagar Development Authority while yet another officer has been appointed as a PSC member.

TR Bhagat, an Executive Engineer booked under FIR No. 14/2008 by the SVO for making purchases on exhorbitant rates, has also been promoted as Superintending Engineer while TR Salgotra, X-En R&B PMGSY, Rajouri being investigated under FIR 4/2009 for fraudulent allotments too has been elevated as SE. Javid Ahmed, AE PHE Ramban, booked under FIR 5/2008 for Disproportionate Assets has been promoted as AEE. Fayaz Hussain, ACD Srinagar when booked by the SVO in FIR No. 19/2003 for fraudulent drawal of money has since been promoted as Additional Secretary. Abdul Hamid Shawal, then X-En, PDD Bijbehara, Anantnag when booked by the SVO in FIR No. 34/2006 for possession of Disproportionate Assets has also been promoted as SE.

In Afghanistan it was Taliban, in Kashmir it is the State Government

Will the Buddha Statue in Sanko (Zanskar) go the Bamiyaan way?

Tallest Buddha sculpture at Sanko crying for attention

Irfan Naveed (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: The tallest statues of Buddha at Bamiyan in the Hazara province of Afghanistan have been lost forever, but Jammu and Kashmir can still pride itself for having a really tall statue of Buddha carved out of a rock in Sanko in Zanskar sub-division of Ladakh region.

It is a crowned Buddha which has been carved from a high rock. It measures 25ft in length and symbolizes the ancient Buddhist art of Kashmir.

Experts say that the 7th century AD statue has been the tallest Buddha sculpture of Kashmir and may be the only of its kind found in the entire South Asia region.
“It is interesting to note that the early sculptures of Buddha found in Kashmir are very much influenced by the local art,” experts say, adding “the sculpture found at Sanko is one such sculpture which bears a strong Kashmir influence.”

The Buddha in this sculpture has been shown wearing three peaked crown which is adorned with beads of stone jewellery. This tradition was earlier cultivated in the sculpture art of the Valley, Says Iqbal Ahmed, an expert.

“These traditions later on influenced the sculpture of other countries particularly at places wherever Kashmiri craftsmen went.

However, as has been the unfortunate story of most of other archeological sites and artifacts, the Buddha’s sculpture at Sanko too is in utter neglect and experts warn that if steps for its conservation are not taken at an earliest “we too may lose this highest sculpture of Ladakh, and with it the world would lose a remnant of the type of Buddha statues we have already lost in 2001 in Bamiyaan.”

It may be mentioned here that in March 2001, the Taliban, who that time ruled Afghanistan, destroyed the two massive Buddha statues in Bamiyan with dynamite despite strong condemnation by the world and even Muslim countries.

The statues were destroyed on 8th and 9th of March, 2001 and ironically the demolition saw the beginning of Taliban fall in Afghanistan.

This crime against culture was committed while all the world's voices were raised to prevent it. The Taliban paid no attention to the unprecedented international protests, nor of the conflicting views expressed by the highest religious authorities of Islam.

A Urban-Rural Divide

Two reports in the Rising Kashmir appear to bring out the chasm between city dwellers and villagers - while rich city folks are shunning "Bukharis" in favor of gas heaters and central heating systems, the sale of "Kangris" is at an all time high among poor villagers

Bukharies no more warm Kashmir winter chill

Srinagar: With Valley experiencing a sudden drop in temperature and summer heat fading our memories, offices and households are trying to reach for heating systems. One of the oldest heating devices, the hard coke Bukhari is witnessing lowest ever demand this winter season. The makers of Bukhari are facing tough times as offices and homes are switching over to new heating systems.

The presence of Gas heaters and Central heating systems for past few years has taken a serious toll on the Bukhari business in the valley. According to its manufacturers and dealers, the business has gone down by 75 per cent and it is believed that in the coming two to three years, these traditional warming systems will be part of history.

“The business has nosedived ever since gas heaters and central heating systems were introduced in Kashmir market,” said Mohammad Sarwar, a wholesale Bukhari dealer in Srinagar. He added, “The use of Bukhari at homes is almost over and in the offices it is about to vanish.”

Sarwar who is a Bukhari manufacturer as well said that in the past he used to do business worth Rs 2 lakh per season, which lasts for three months but now a meager amount of Rs 10000 to 20000 per season is realized. “The material used for making these Bukharis has also witnessed a price hike. This has also dented our business,” he added.

The manufacturers admit that Bukhari acts as polluting agent and is harmful to health but they claim there are methods available now that can make them safer.
“The use of coal is dangerous to health but then kerosene Bukharis are not only safe but cheap as well,” said Mohammad Amin, another Bukhari manufacturer and dealer.
Asking for government help Amin said, “We don’t want financial aid from the government, however they should provide us infrastructure for making gas and kerosene Bukharis as is the case in some countries.”

He informed that they have shifted from Bukhari making to other trades to make a living but are facing the same fate there as well. “After Bukharis we shifted to Gate making but now Gates also come readymade from outside the State,” Amin said.
Meanwhile experts say that modern systems are not only safe but also research based and cater to thermal needs of people and their settings.

Electrical Engineer, Zahoor Ahmad Batoo also a consultant with Eco-tech engineers, a Central heating system firm here said, “The traditional heating systems be it coal Bukharis, heat blowers or the gas heaters warm the air around which is not in accordance with the thermal comforts of people.”

On the other hand, the central heating systems are made according to the temperature profile of the floor, which is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), Batoo said.

“There is no threat of oxygen consumption and carbon monoxide emission in the modern gadgetry but the case is reverse with Bukharis,” Batoo added. No manual intervention is needed in modern systems and everything happens with just a push of a button, he added.

Demand for Kashmir kangri (fire pot) increases as temperature falls

Bandipora: With cold wave conditions in the Valley intensifying, the demand for the Kangri (an earthen fire pot) has increased manifold. The kangri has withstood the flood of modern electronic heating appliances in the market and continues to be the preferred choice among Kashmiris.

Kangri is the proud possession of Kashmirs during winters. It keeps them warm in hostile weather conditions when even electricity supply remains disrupted. The kangris produced in Bandipora and Chrar-e-Sharif in central Kashmir are considered aesthetically best and durable.

A 60-year-old wicker weaver Saifudin Ganai of Kaloosa, Bandipora said the sale of kangri is increasing with passage of time. “People still prefer kangri over electric heaters, blowers and LPG heating devices as it is cheap and inexpensive,” he said.

Ganai said he used to sell 300 kangris in a season (from August to January) 20 years back. “The demand has increased to 600 in last decade and witnessed further rise from past two years,” he said.

Ganai has set a mini kangri manufacturing workshop at his home. “I have hired services of seven persons at my home to weave the required number of kangris.”

Kangiri weaving is an age old artisan trade of the Valley and hundreds of people are associated with the trade in Batingoo, Bandipora, Kaloosa, Gund Kaisar, Ajas and Saderkoot areas in North Kashmir.

“Kangri is light, in-expansible and easy to handle. It is being used since ages. People prefer Kangri over the electronic and gas heaters because of its cost-effectiveness,” said a group of elderly persons in Sopore.

A kangri weaver Mohammad Ismail Sheikh of Botingoo, Sopore said they are producing and selling kangirs in large quantity. “The demand for the kangri has not gone down. I have sold two truck-loads of kangris in previous three months and one more truck load is ready. We are selling hundreds of kangris in the locality every day,” he said, adding, “kangris are selling like hot cakes”.

Maintaining that heating gadgets have a negligible effect on the sale of kangris, Ismail said, “Since kangri is not dependent on electricity and gas, people prefer to use it even in this modern technological era”.

However, one of the kangri weaver, Mohammad Shafi of Gund Kaiser Bandipora said the deforestation and callous attitude of government towards the poor wicker weavers has led to slight decline of the trade in the Valley.

“Owing to growing deforestation, a weaver has to pay Rs 400-500 per five kilograms of wicks, which were once freely available in the nearby forests,” he said adding, “Now a weaver has to spend thousands of rupees for procuring wicks”.

The Kangiri artisans use wicks of plant species: Parrotia jacquemantiana (Vrn Pohu) Indigoferra pulchalla (Vrn kecch) and Cotoneaster bacillaris (Vrn linn). They say these species are perpetually becoming extinct.

Shafi urged the government to give subsidized loans to the weavers so that they can continue to follow their age old profession.

Meanwhile, a noted ethno-botanist and retired Deputy Conservator of Forests Barkat Ali Qureshi said the business of kangri weavers has been affected not because of shrinking forests but due to the improper technique used by them in extracting the material.

He said the kangri weavers extract these plants in an improper manner causing retrogressive succession, which leads to the extinction of this genius.

From Sublime to the Ridiculous!

A hard core Islamist sweeps through the campus of the Kashmir University at the same time that a conference on the "composite cultures" is underway . While ignoring that travesty, the Conference demands a medium of IAS examinations in Kashmiri

Seminar on Kashmir Culture Concludes in KU

Srinagar: Experts on Thursday demanded inclusion of Kashmir language as a medium of examination in Indian Administrative Services (IAS) examinations and retrieval of artifacts from outside State.

The demands were raised on the concluding day of three-day workshop ‘Kashmir Culture: Change and Continuity’ organized by Institute of Kashmir Studies, University of Kashmir.

Various issues and problems concerning the dynamics of cultures, shifting paradigms and need for preservation of most important expressions of Kashmir culture – the language and the concerns of the humanity were discussed at length throughout the workshop.

The workshop was also attended by galaxy of historians, Kashmir study experts, intellectuals; university faculty who unanimously recommended inclusion of Kashmir language as a medium of examination in Indian administrative services examinations.
The participants also recommended bringing back the artifacts and establishment of a museum in the university campus for their safe custody and display.
Speakers were unanimous in their appreciation of the efforts made by of varsity to promote cultural studies and development the fund of knowledge for the benefit of its users.

They praised the present academic atmosphere of the varsity which they said helps share and consolidate experiences.

The main speakers at the concluding event included noted writers Ghulam Nabi Gowhar , Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Prem Nath Shad , noted historians , Prof Fida Hasnain, A R Fatihi from Aligarah Muslim University(AMU) , Prof Phool Bhadan , from Jawahar LaL Nehru University , Prof Mohammad Ashraf Wani, Dr Ravinder Kour ,Dr Farooq Fayaz, Saima Farhad of University of Kashmir and Mushtaq Muntazir(AMU).

Earlier a significant session on customs and rituals and cultural institutions was held which was chaired by Prof Gulshan Majeed who also presented vote at thanks at the end of the seminar.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Unrealized Expectations

Khayal's heart is in the right place, but it seems that his head is full of ideas still evolving. Otherwise, why would he equate terrorism with "discomfort?"

(Mr. Ghulam Nabi Khayal, 70, was born in Srinagar. He received his schooling and college education in Srinagar, and completed his Masters degree in English. Mr. Khayal is considered a doyen among Kashmiiri journalists, having worked for both Indian and international newspapers like the Statesman, India Today, the Guardian, Voice of America, and others. He is also a topnotch Kashmiri writer having bagged numerous awards at local, national and international levels, including the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 1975. Mr. Khayal has published 24 books in Kashmiri, Urdu and English languages. He is the owner of a journal, Voice of Kashmir, published weekly from Srinagar.)


Kashmir is one of the few states in this region which has in abundance natural resources pretty enough to make it a self sufficient and prosperous area.

A conservative survey done a few years ago by some private economic researched revealed, that the fully developed sectors of agriculture, horticulture, tourism, floriculture and, more over, tremendous scope of generation of 16,000 Mega watts of hydro-electricity, shall make Kashmir economically surplus and it wouldn’t be in need of any funding from outside.

Unfortunately all these sectors, the back bone our progress and prosperity have not been developed due to an unabated corrupt system which has taken deep roots in our social set up, particularly with the state administration. The successive governments have always been at the doors of New Delhi with a begging bowl without striving honestly for a significant progress also in the sectors which can earn foreign exchange of billions of rupees for Kashmir.

In this context whenever Kashmir is brought into focus on national level, the Central government glorifies its exorbitant financial assistance provided to the State during the last 62 years. No doubt, New Delhi has been very gracious in giving huge sums of money to this State, but no serious or meaningful thought has ever been given to eradicate the root cause which has plunged the State into the darkness of political instability, uncertainty and the devil of insecurity haunting every human soul across the Valley.

Omar Abdullah, who seems to have become a seasoned politician in a very short period of time, well versed with the ground realities, therefore categorically stressed the need, at a rally addressed by prime minister Manmohan Singh in south Kashmir 28 October that a permanent political solution of the Kashmir is essential for the people to get rid form the shadow of the gun. He also asserted that 21 years ago Kashmiri youth didn’t pick up gun for money but for political reasons.
his expression of the bitter truth needs to be appreciated.

One Cannot question the sincerity of both Manmohan Singh and Omar Abdullah as far as their humane intentions for the uplift of the people of Kashmir are concerned, but as Omar said rightly unless the Kashmir problem is not resolved once and for all, these intensions shall necessarily be sidelined and the political upheaval shall always get better of every good and reasonable thinking.

As far as the permanent resolution of the dispute is concerned, there are numerous ifs and buts which make the problem more complicated and also confusing. On one side, prime minister offers olive branch to Pakistan. On the other, the most affected Kashmir Valley observes a total shutdown in protest against his Kashmir visit.

India’s pre condition for reopening of a dialogue is subject to curbing of terrorism in Pakistan which directly or indirectly causes discomfort to India. Pakistan repeats its stand that terrorism should not be bracketed with Indo-Pak talks.

The people of frontier region of Ladakh over here ask for a union territory status, and there are voices raised in Jammu demanding a separate statehood. Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq of the now Ineffective Hurriyat Conference strongly plead for continuance of militancy and constant use of gun in Kashmir, but for Pakistan, Geelani forgets his own diktat when he asks Taliban to shun the gun and violence and strive peacefully to achieve their goal. The Hurriyat claims to be the sole representative body of Kashmir hypocritically brushing aside the political existence of the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, the Congress, the Ladakh Hill development Council, Jammu, and scores of smaller pro-India groups. So, who represents Kashmir and where is the meeting point?

The APHC now thrives on routine statements given casually by some foreign powers or personalities including a non-entity like Muammar Al-Gaddafi and the Turkish authorities forgetting that they have their own agenda and don’t want to offend a mighty India or cause any embarrassment to their well established diplomatic relationship with New Delhi. On its own, the Hurriyat is groping in dark in its divided house along with those of its “senior” leaders whom not even their neighbours knew till 20 years go. Are they going to be the political leaders of tomorrow’s Kashmir. Impossible. Whatever brunt of agonies and unprecedented miseries the Kashmiri nation has borne during the last four centuries and especially for the past 20 years in particular, it has never compromised with any local nuisance or foreign dominance.

As of now, if an impartial plebiscite is held in Jammu & Kashmir, which seems a far off dream not to come true, the majority of the Kashmiris might opt for an independent status, Jammu and Ladakh shall prefer to remain in India. Pakistan Administered Kashmir (POK) shall like to be independent and Gilgit-Baltistan also going the same way. But who will accept this solution wholeheartedly. It has been proved beyond any doubt that the estranged India and Pakistan who have turned bitterest foes for each other, are surprisingly, most united on one point; to oppose the demand for an independent Kashmir.

On the Indian side, it is futile to reiterate that POK and the people in Gilgit-Baltistan shall choose to accede with India. Pakistan is never going to part with these strategic regions and it is in this background that Islamabad has almost annexed its Northern areas gradually making them into the fifth province of that country. Similarly, Pakistan’s repeatedly shouting on top of its voice that Kashmir is its jugular vein and that Pakistan would remain incomplete without this State, both these claims are political jugglery and nothing else. New Delhi shall also have to demonstrate great amount of flexibility while asserting that Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian union.

The Hurriyat shall have to be recast itself with a batch of effective, educated and dedicated workers, not leaders, to ponder over a solution for Kashmir which shall not cause any sense of victory or defeat to India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris. How long will their meaningless press statements and calls for illogical strikes allure the humiliated people of Kashmir whom they are still treating as dumb driven cattle preventing them from speaking out the truth with threats posed to them from time to time.

Finally, it is the say of the people which prevails; it is their desire which is persistent and it is their desire which lasts much longer than any other disposition of the complex issues. History might forgive perpetrators, but it doesn’t forget them and, as Goethe has said “history digests every thing but at appropriate time it vomits all those things out.”