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, April 25, 2010

What Has Happened to Kashmir's Share of the IMF?

Yusuf wonders what has happened to funds paid by foreign mountain expeditions in J&K to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) that are returned back to the State for promoting mountain tourism

(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.)

Scaling a New High

I.M.F. stands for the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. I.M.F. is a controlling body of Mountaineering in India. It is obligatory for every Indian or foreign team to book the particular peak with I.M.F. and seek necessary permission before launching expedition in Indian Himalayas. It is not only because of security reasons that the I.M.F. books the peaks but for avoiding jumbling of climbers of different nations on the particular peak as otherwise there could be clashes among mountaineers for choosing the climbing route and setting up base camps etc.

it is heartening that the Govt. of India has finally thrown open the mighty peaks in Ladakh Himalayas for climbing. I remember in early seventies I had to obtain permission from Superintendent of Police, Srinagar for visiting Leh. It is laudable step taken by Defence Ministry. It would certainly help promote adventure tourism in Ladakh region but what about Kashmir? We do not have lofty peaks in the valley but we have world’s best trekking routes all around which could lure thousands of foreign and domestic trekkers here. It is true that the presence of troops on the trekking routes does not permit tourist players to organize trekking expeditions freely and fearlessly for intended tourists. The most beautiful trekking routes in Kashmir we have are from Sonamarg to Gangabal and back to Kangan via Naranag or a trek from Bandipore to Gangabal and back to Sonamarg or Kangan. One can find variety of flowers and more than fifty mountain lakes on this route which include famous Gangabal, Gadsar, Krishensar and Vishensar etc. The other best trekking route we have in Kashmir is from Pahalgam to Kulun via Sunmous or Yemhar pass. Both these routes are suitable not only for trekking but for ski-touring as well. In 1984 this writer successfully led a ski-mountaineering expedition from Pahalgam to Surfrah in Sindh valley which is still a record.

We need to explore more routes for trekking and ski-touring in the valley for which we have more potential than climbing peaks in Ladakh. Mountaineers are less but trekkers are in abundance so Kashmir should take benefit of it. We can attract a large chunk of tourists to our trekking areas. The Tourism Department must make its effort to get clear all these trekking routes from the troops forthwith. It is true that besides Pirpanjal range, we have a number of small but more challenging peaks in Sindh and Lidder valleys which include Umbrella peaks, Mosquito peak, Cnf Carnedo, Innominate, Valehead, Crystal Peak, Blade/Arrow, Nichnai peak and Mount Harmukh etc in Sindh valley, while Mount. Kolahoi and Sheeshnag peak etc. in Lidder valley and Sunrise, Sunset and Tatakoti peaks etc. in Pirpanjal range.

Mr. Raouf Tramboo has well said that the tourists feel scared in mountainous regions of Kashmir due to presence of troops but his suggestion to charge fee to foreign expeditions to earn revenue for the state is not fair. He must know that the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, Delhi is already charging huge sum on account of permission fee to foreign expeditions. Charging more fees or additional fees by state Government may cause damage to adventure tourism. Money should not be consideration for our Tourism Department if we really have to boost adventure tourism in the state, instead they should pay some incentives to adventure promoters/operators. IMF was providing some share of the money earned through fee to Himalayan states but I fail to understand where this money has gone in J&K. Surely this money was not properly utilized for the purpose it was provided to our state.

I remember sometime back the Ex-Director General Tourism/Ex-President of J&K Mountaineering and Hiking Club M. Ashraf had moved a proposal to raise a sport climbing wall in the valley from the money received from I.M.F but unfortunately this artificial wall never came into existence in Kashmir till date, though there is urgent need of procuring this artificial climbing wall. This could help us promote Sport Climbing (competitive rock-climbing) and train local youth to Mountaineering.

At the moment we do not have trained manpower who could go as liaison Officer with foreign expeditions to Ladakh Himalayas. Someone else will be benefited. Pertinently Kashmir has given birth to great mountaineers like Late Master Chandra Pandit, Late Samasar Chand Koul and Late Abdul Rehman (popularly known as Rehman Nanga) who have been part and parcel of earlier expeditions to dreaded Nanga Parbat and K2. We do not have good climbers in the new generation.

On the 50th Anniversary of the GMC, Srinagar, a "Young" Doctor Remembers His Student Days

To the "evergreen" Ashraf, it was just yesterday ....

(Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg, 70, was born in Sarnal, Anantnag. He did his primary schooling at the Primary Hanfia School in Anantnag and completed his F. Sc. from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. He completed his medical degree (MBBS) from the Government Medical College Srinagar, University of Kashmir, in 1967, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pathology from the Government Medical College Jammu, University of Jammu, in 1981. He served as the Medical Director of the Civil Hospital, Pahalgam, until 1983 and subsequently held senior administrative positions in the health service system of Saudi Arabia, including participation in a joint program with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of South Florida for a United Nations project related to environmental and ecological impact of the 1991 Gulf War. He is an Executive Member of the Jammu and Kashmir Red Cross (nominated by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir), Member of General Medical Council, Jammu and Kashmir, Medical Council of India, Saudi Medical Council, and General Medical Council, London. He is proficient in Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English, Arabic.)

My Days in the Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar

Whenever I ponder on my past I see it in three phases. The first phase was from my preschool to the gates of Kashmir medical school. The second phase though brief were the intoxicating days of youth in Kashmir Medical college and third the on going journey from out of the college holding a couple of medical degrees fighting for the livelihood from one end of the world to another. Starting from east in Allopathic dispensary in Changa district Doda to the Middle East on the banks of Arabian Sea in Jubail Saudi Arabia--- and the fight goes on and on and now enjoying Saabyr my grand son to crawl and speak his first words when he calls me Daada---Alhamdulilah. Time has wings it is just half a century short by a year when I entered the gates of this place of learning called medical college Kashmir.

I am sure I was not the brightest of the bright but some how I was one of the sixty scholars who entered the prestigious medical school in Srinagar selected on merits in the year 1961. Only after a few months we were joined by a generous list of Bakshi Sahib. At the end of the day the flock proved its metal and thereby proves the wisdom of the erstwhile Prime Minster of J&K. On my first day I saw a maroon color Ambassador car parked inside the gates and a stiff well dressed gentleman in his late sixties observing the students entering the college premises. The gates were closed exactly at 10.10. Somebody pointing towards this dignified gentleman whispered in my ears this is ‘Col; Murti,’ principal of the college and we were directed to assemble in the modest assembly hall. Immediately the principal was on the dais giving us his first sermon. I was already impressed by his personality but now I was overawed by the wisdom, vocabulary and articulation in his speech. Some of his words like, ‘you have come to a profession that is full of responsibilities. It demands hard work with dedication. You will have to keep the secrets that your patients will divulge to you and to none else.’ Echo even today in my ears.

Just after principal’s sermon I was confronted with a senior female student Ms.Naseem Akhtar D/O my great teacher late Mr.Saifudin. I knew the lady during my days in Anantnag College. Accompanied by her classmate Mehmooda Jabeen who later befriended and married my friend late Shafi Shaida. Later on I discovered Jabeen is a melodious singer and Shaida a wonderful friend tried his best to become a poet in her honor. The couple was a grace to each other-- alas Shaida succumbed to the weaknesses of his heart! A novice to the coeducational system and the pranks of seniors I was ordered to pay for the tea in the college canteen or else I had to face the raging. Canteen was a single man establishment. Gani Sahib was the manager the cook and the table boy three in one. There were only three chairs and a third girl one of their seniors made herself comfortable on the window of the dark room focusing her gaze properly.

We were introduced to the formalin smelling anatomy hall where Samad Sahib a thin and frail lab attendant with a staggering gait and an innocent smile would rule the dead. Samad Sahib was an expert in differentiating between humorous and femur hence was a great help for most of us during the quiz exams! Dr.Ayer HOD an internationally recognized authority on anatomy would always say that his zero starts with fifty. Perhaps that is how I cleared anatomy! But then there were great teachers like the legendry Dr.Aslam, Makhan Lal Kaul Sahib and Dr, Safaya. Three males and a female in our groups were assigned upper and lower extremities of a cadaver and I still remember Zubaida, Vijay, Shameem, Kaiwal and Ratna working on head and neck like a bunch of roses that blossom in a cemetery.

In the physiology lab my group partner Ms. Nuzhat Yousaf a devote Muslim girl frail lean and thin with a hijab on her brainy head insisted to do the pithing on the frog. (A procedure to pass a probe in the spinal cord of the frog followed by a hit at its head). The moment she struck the frog Nuzhat was flat unconscious on the floor and was resuscitated by Dr. Shah Sahib our veteran physiology teacher. I was shocked to learn that we lost this noble soul to the deadly breast malignancy. The college annual day celebrations in September 1962 were organized in the near by Tagore hall.

The poetry of Dr. Iqbal, ‘Aiy Jazbay Dil Ghar Main Chahoon Har Cheez Muqbil Aajay----Manzil Ki Taraf Do Gham Chaloon Too Samnay Manzil Aajaye,’ sung by Dr. Bilqis Jameela are still fresh in my memories. The function was magnificent and the singer gorgeous. Late evening when the function came to an end I was honored to take the custody of a ladies bicycle as its owner with that unforgettable gaze that had bewildered me in the college canteen would get lift to her home by the college transport. I was left with no choice but to hide the machine in my hostel room lest my classmates ridicule me for my innocence. Our hostel those days was housed in the newly built shopping complex meant for fruit market located near the Lal Ded hospital. It is here I picked up the pearls of my cherished friendship Awtar Bhan, Karihaloo, Rashid Makai , Gulam Mir , Manzoor Baba, Naiku , Gulam Khan , late Gulam Nabi Lone and D.B.Sharma, C.L Gupta, Yogeshwar Mengi, Kirpal Singh from Jammu . Tasaduq Khan, Noor Mohammad Shah late Abdul Majeed Bazaz and Abdul Rashid Bhat were the day scholars of our cabinet. About twenty years back when I was invited to Noor’s house in Preston London I was delighted to see Noor was married to a nymph from Kashmir and had two brilliant sons from her. Mrs; Tassaduq is always a great host at Buffalo when ever I am on a trip to enjoy the grandeur of Niagara Falls in US. Alas Majeed Bazaz could not survive his bronchial asthma to benefit the nation through his wit and wisdom while ever green Zaffar Mehdi holds the fort of hospitality and humor at Ahdoo’s hotel in Srinagar. During the third year of our clinical training we had interaction with our seniors like Dr.Farooq Khan and Dr. Aarifa Rasool a brilliant pair that got married and settled in Long Island. Dr.Khan has been a great help to many Kashmiri doctors in shaping their career in USA. Dr. Altaf Hussain a gifted pediatrician of Srinagar was always my role model.

Medical college was shifted to the present magnificent location when we were in our third year of the cession. It was Dr. Pukhta my mentor who bailed me out of Dr. Goel’s strict evaluation standard in pathology. This friend cum teacher taught me about Mackonkis media, Agar Agar and taught me how to differentiate between a normal benign and a diseased or a malignant cell. Later on Dr.Kum Kum Sharma chiseled me in to a clinical pathologist in medical college Jammu. In DR. Gujral we had a visionary teacher despite that Dr.Fazli Sahib was a timely help otherwise Pharmacology was Greek to me. Drs; Col; Kaul, Dr. Ali Mohammad Jan, Dr. Naseer Sahib and Dr.Allaqband Sahib besides teaching medicine taught us bed side manners thoroughly. Dr.Gulam Rasool, Parmanik, Bhan Sahib, Girdhari Lal Je and Dr. Skind trained us how to sharpen the knives scrub the hands and taught the rules of a surgical operation theatre. And then we landed in the soothing hands of the expert gynecologists like Professor Girja Dhar and Dr. J.A. Naqashbandi who tried their best to make a gynecologist out of me but lucky for me it was not to happen. One fine morning I received a telegram at Sarnal saying that I have qualified to nurse the sick and my father whispered the same words in my ear that where said by principal Col; Murti on the first day from the podium of our college! Though I have left the institution almost five decades now the memories are still fresh with that unforgettable gaze in the college canteen.

Recently when I had the honor to visit the present principal a graduate of the same institution in her office chambers I was impressed by the decorum befitting to her personality she had maintained. The grandeur of the office chambers with Kashmiri crewel curtains (stitched from Islamabad-Anantnag my birth place) hanging on its windows and the zaafrani Kehwa reminded me of the personalities that have been the grace of this institution. I availed the opportunity to quietly roam around the corridors and lecture halls where I picked up the alphabets of health care system.

Our hostel was shifted to its present place at Bemina and I still remember the speech made by Prime Minster Bakhshi Sahib on its inaugural day. In response to Dr. Gujral’s speech where in the principal suggested that medical studies are only for bright students with high scores. Bakshi Sahib replied, “ My students from far flung areas of Karna, Kairan, Tangdar, Kishtwar etc; etc; have to travel hours by foot to reach to their schools. Under the circumstances how can I expect 80% or 90% marks from my underprivileged lot and that is why I have requested the services of great teachers like you that can turn my copper in to gold. And so far as scarcity of cadavers you mentioned. Never mind let the first batch pass out they will not disappoint you sir!” Despite the fact we are human doctors from this prestigious institution have been a pride of the nation at home and abroad. The long list of such luminaries includes Professors M.S Khuroo reputed gastroenterologist, Dr. Jallel Mufti an imminent hematologist in London and Dr.Muzzaffar Peerzada dean medicine Cleveland US.
I am proud and privileged to say that as medical officer Pahalgam I served as personal physician to Bakhsi sahib the founder of Kashmir medical college during his last days when he was out of power. The expertise that I received from Kashmir medical college gave me an access and a chance to interact with dignitaries like Prime minster Mrs; Indra Gandhi, Dr; Zakir Hussain, Dalip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and numerous such luminaries besides the underprivileged lot from J&K.

For those of my readers who have been a witness to my college days I have a humble request through this couplet,


Kashmir's Unique Identity

Rekha says that the sustenance of the social and political plurality is the responsibility of every citizen

(Prof. Rekha Chowdhary, 55, was born in Jammu and has been a university teacher for the past 30 years. She is currently the Professor of Political Science, University of Jammu. During her distinguished teaching career, she was the visiting Fellow under a Ford Foundation grant at the Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford, in 1992-1993; winner of the Commonwealth Award availed at the University of Oxford, 1997-1998; and the Fulbright Fellow availed at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at the Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, in 2005.)

Of diversity, divergence and identity

Diversities are so placed in this state that a complex social and political environment is generated. Firstly, there is no clear-cut context of ‘majority’ and ‘minority. Majority in one context becomes minority in another. Even when groups assert their collective strength and numbers, they claim their status of marginalization. Hence one can see a multiple context of ‘minority perceptions’ in the state. Despite being part of the largest religious group of the state, the Kashmiri Muslims perceive themselves as a minority in the context of the larger reality of India. Their perception of marginalization emanates from the context of the relationship of the state with India, especially the intrusion of the Centre in the politics of the State and disregard of the local political aspirations. The Hindus of Jammu and Buddhist of Ladakh, though majority in their respective regions, perceive themselves as minority not only in the context of the Muslim majority character of the state but also in the Kashmir-centric political and power context of the state. The sense of deprivation and minority lies deep in many other ways – the Kashmiri Pandits perceive their minority status vis-à-vis the Kashmiri Muslims, the Muslim of Jammu perceive their deprivation both vis-à-vis the Hindus of Jammu as well as Muslims of Kashmir. Similar is the situation of the Muslims of Kargil who perceive their marginalization both in the immediate context of the Buddhist domination in Ladakh as well as the power centre in Kashmir.

What is important about these multiple minority perceptions is that the status of minority and deprivation is not merely defined by the demographic factor of religion but also from other categories. Besides the religion, the factors of region, tribal or caste status as well as economic backwardness define the sense of minority. Regional backwardness and discrimination therefore remains the constant discourse in all the three regions of the state. Traditionally, the discourse of regional discrimination emanated mainly in Jammu and Ladakh. In this discourse, Kashmir was portrayed as the centre of power and other regions facing ‘neglect’ and ‘deprivation’. However, of late, in Kashmir also a discourse around regional discrimination has developed. Often political parties and intelligentsia refer to discrimination of Kashmir vis-à-vis Jammu region.

The regional context of backwardness is countered by the sub-regional context of deprivation. Whether in the Kargil belt of Ladakh, or in the Doda or the Poonch Rajouri belt of Jammu region, one can see this discourse of sub-regional deprivation and neglect. Apart from the regional and sub-regional perceptions of marginalization, there are other similar perceptions based upon the caste and tribal factors. Besides the dalits and OBCs suffering from minority perceptions, there are Gujjars and Paharis who perceive themselves as marginalized groups. Other than these, there are varieties of displaced people due to the conflict situation (the ‘Refugees’ from across the LoC or the International Border), the people living in the far flung areas and those living near the LoC who perceive themselves as neglected and deprived.

On the whole one can see an overlapping context of identities. Though a distinction on the basis of a particular category can be established, yet the social identities operate in a rather fluid manner. There is neither a singular nor a homogenous character of identities. Overlapping context makes each identity internally differentiated. How plural and complex can be the nature of identities, can be illustrated from the example of Jammu which is culturally the most diverse part of the state. The region is a cultural mosaic with Dogras, Punjabis, Patwaris, Gujjars, Kishtwaris, Siraji, Baderwahi and lot of other social groupings. Here neither the Hindus nor the Muslims form a homogenous category and are differentiated on linguistic and cultural basis. Like the Muslims, the Hindus are similarly classified as Dogras, Punjabis, Paharis, Siraji, Baderwahi, Kishtwari etc. Among both the Muslims and Hindus, the caste distinctions are quite important. The region therefore has a number of distinct social categories which are often extended into political ones.

The complex nature of diversities determines the nature of politics as well. To begin with, there is a divergence of political aspirations which leads to a multiple identity politics. As one can see, apart from the Kashmiri identity politics that informs the political movement in Kashmir, there is a range of other kinds of identity politics that makes the internal politics of the state quite vibrant. While some of these political identities operate parallel to each other, many others are located in a mutually exclusive and contradictory relationship with each other.

However, not all identity politics operates within the same paradigm. There is a layered context of the identity politics with each layer having a different context of its expression. The first layer that encompasses mainly the Kashmiri identity politics makes claims that are rooted in the nationalistic or sub-nationalistic aspirations of the people. The second layer of identity politics locates itself within the power structure of the state and operates at the regional and sub-regional levels. The third layer of identity politics situates itself in the context of collective marginalization on the basis of tribal, caste and other categories.

It is the diversity, political divergence and the multiple contexts of identity politics that make our state unique. The social and political pluralities do make us really a special state. The fact that we are living together not only despite our social and cultural differences but also with our political differences – makes us quite exceptional. In the contemporary world where there are many examples of intolerance, both of social and political nature, we have our social and political mosaic as an example of exception. We also do have our moments of tensions, but not many. We can say with confidence that we have survived as a plural and politically divergent society and have not done badly. However, there are many provocations and that is where we need to guard ourselves. The sustenance of the social and political plurality is our responsibility.

Celebrating Dal Lake's Wake on April 22

Mubashir wonders if the dying Dal deserves any celebration on the Earth Day

Kashmir: No more a paradise


We breathe polluted air, drink contaminated water, consume harmful pesticide laden vegetables! The valley once called paradise on earth is no more a paradise. The city of Srinagar, summer capital of the state, with its open overflowing manholes, blocked drains, waterlogged roads present a grim picture. With government servants on strike, city has become garbage strewn with loads of garbage staring at your face, at every nook and corner of the city.

During April and May tourists head for Kashmir to escape from scorching summer outside the valley. The main hub of the city is the historical Lal Chowk, which is being given a facelift, to utter annoyance of the commuters and general public, presents the first sight of state in shambles. The facelift could have been deferred to off season had they used a little common sense. The Ghanta Ghar, witness to slogans of azadi, to unfurling of national flag (tiranga) by Murli Manohar joshi is again being repaired. It served as a traffic hindrance but not as a clock tower. Urban redevelopment is largely as a result of our habit to look at our failures, but it would make sense to spare a thought for todays needs. Lal Chowk already was congested and bursting at its seams. Public consent and participation was necessary before initiating beautification of Historical Lal Chowk.

The secretary general of United Nations remarked, our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading towards an abyss. Earth day reminds us about our commitment to the planet earth. On this day, environment conscious world over educate people about the biggest problem confronting our planet i.e. environmental degradation. Air pollution is a major challenge. According to World Health Organisation standards of air quality should not fall below 35 micrograms per cubic meter. With temperatures rising over the past decade, global warming is threatening our existence.The valley, earlier known for its beauty with Dal Lake adorning the city, a cool breeze used to welcome those coming from hot climates, is no more the only destination for the tourists. Denuding forest cover, sharp rise in night temperatures, water bodies being neglected, the world famous lake ----Wullar lake being filled up and converted into a big parking lot speaks volumes about the apathy of State Government. Earlier, we easily blamed the circumstances for the felling of forest trees and loot of green gold, which infact has adorned the drawing rooms of many of our ministers and thick sickened babus.

The government has been very kind to establish a separate department i.e. State Pollution board to contain pollution. The department has given licenses to pollution checking centres to certify that the emission from the vehicle is within the desired levels. The certificates issued by these centres are merely receipts issued for money. There are no convictions. By far the department has miserably failed to check emission of poisonous gases from vehicles and industrial waste from factories. If you are not a golfer and obviously you do not Tee at international golf course, so you are not privileged one who inhales fresh air. If you take a walk around once famous Dal lake, Pungent smell welcomes you and you have a blurred view of The Mahadev. This is primarily due to formation of smog in the atmosphere which indicates increase in carbon monoxide level. This is called photochemical smog. This smog is caused by combustion in cars and airplane engines which produce nitric oxide and release hydrocarbons. Sunlight changes these compounds into OZONE, a chemical agent that harms rubber, injures plants, irritates lungs. The oxidized hydrocarbons give a pungent haze. Green house gases reduce the escape of heat from the planet without blocking rays coming from sun. Because of Green house effect average temperature will rise by 1.4 to 5.6 celisus degree by year 2100. It will radically effect climate patterns and crop production.

Lord May, the President of Royal Society, Britain’s leading scientific institution is not optimistic and says, “And if we do not begin effective action now, it will be much harder to stop the runaway train as it continues to gather momentum.”

With carbon emission levels increasing beyond acceptable levels, choking the air we breathe, noise pollution at its peak with pressure horns being enjoyed with impunity, municipal and industrial effluent ---lackadaisical approach on behalf of government and reluctance to take any drastic action has already damaged our ecosystem, that is why some questions need to be answered: Fortunate, as we are,we have a full fledged social forestry Division, how many plant saplings have been planted by this department in Srinagar city? How many hospitals, nursing homes slaughter houses, houseboats have been checked for tackling hospital waste and effluents, and how many have actually been fined? (Pollution Control Board) ; SMC: What is the mechanism for garbage disposal especially non degradable polythene (BANNED) which is still finding way into the city. Hoardings and advertisements will not suffice, it requires action. Forest department Dachigam, some illegal hutments are being constructed in this area, what is department doing?

No need to get alarmed! There is a group of scientists who believe in benefits of warmer climate. It includes experts from field of medicine to agriculture and most of them agree that there is something strange about climate change. Philip Scott, a biogeography professor, “ Cold is nearly always worse for everything—the economy, agriculture, disease and biodiversity.” According to him, times of historical prosperity have often been tied to unusually warm periods, the Medieval period between 1100---1300,in contrast the little Ice age between 1450—1870 was characterized by famines, pandemics and social upheaval. Another study concluded that change in land use made the risk of malaria in Britain highly unlikely. The frightening prospect of sea levels rising caused by melting of polar ice caps, we were warned. The early claim of 1.5 metre rise was falsified by new estimates which put the figure near 20 cm and a fall of 10cm. It is said that global warming affects crops. Prof. Richard Adams, an agriculture economist says if you are a farmer, you see your crops aren’t doing well because of heat, plant a more heat resistant type—human adaptability --often ignored.

Ironically some of the benefits come from Green House gases, which are causing so much of alarm. Global yields of wheat and rice are expected to rise above 18% while yields of Clover a food stuff for grazing animals is set to rise above 36%. Studies however reveal that it is far more expensive to cut greenhouse gases than to pay for adapting to a warm climate.

We will one day wake up to find that once famous Dal lake is no more and city wears a ghost look. On earth day , let us hope my post will win the ear of policy makers and they do some noise.

No Surprise: J&K is a Non-Perfomer

In a State where the government gets away with little or no financial accountability, the development always takes a back seat

J&K Third Among Non-Performing States

Syed Junaid Hashmi (Kashmir Times)

Jammu: Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has dealt an iron blow on NC-Congress coalition government’s claims of economic development and prosperity by placing Jammu and Kashmir at number 3 among worst performing states.

This ranking is based on state’s performance vis-à-vis implementation of 65 centrally sponsored developmental schemes under restructured Twenty Point Programme (TPP)–2006 which became operational from April 1, 2007. More importantly, the ranking is poorest since the restructured programme was launched from the financial year 2007-08 and lowest which the state has achieved since the year 2002.

A comparative look at the state’s performance indicates that J&K was at number 7 among worst performing states during 2007-08 and slipped to number 6 during the turbulent period of 2008-09. But a further decline and present standing at number 3, only after Bihar and Assam, in this recently concluded and relatively peaceful financial year 2009-10 indicates the state’s inability to deliver where it matters and monitor effectively where it is required.

Yet, Jammu and Kashmir has something to cheer about. It has with it West Bengal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh sharing worst performing slots and has managed to perform slightly better than Bihar and Assam, both of which are above J&K at number 1 and 2 respectively.

Interestingly, this ranking is based on monthly information provided by state official machinery in respect of 16 programmes and concerned central nodal ministries for remaining 4 programmes to the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. Thereafter, for the purpose of ranking, performance of states for these 20 identified parameters is evaluated.

Under this evaluation mechanism for the year 2009-10, Jammu and Kashmir achieved 90 percent of set targets under Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), ICDS Blocks Operational programme and Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY). State’s performance in implementing Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) scheme was above national average i.e. hovering around 50 to 55 percent.

Jammu and Kashmir performed extremely poorly while implementing 9 centrally sponsored schemes viz. Self-help groups (SHG) scheme, Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP) in rural areas, Sanitation programme in rural areas, Schedule Caste (SC) families assisted, Anganwadis Functional, Afforestation, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), electricity supplied and energizing pump sets.

Of these nine schemes, state’s performance was extremely poor in eight schemes while its performance was zero in energizing pump sets. Arithmetic calculations might not make much of a difference but larger fact remains that state machinery which is habitual of working at snail’s pace has seemingly decided not to hike up the tempo even if it means being penalised by Planning Commission of India over and over again.
Grading has also rebutted official claims of double paced development and infrastructure building. It needs no explanation that NC-Congress coalition government after taking over in January 2009 has been adjudged both incompatible and slipshod in implementing 65 schemes which are actually extensions of 20 different centrally sponsored programmes meant for human welfare and development of rural areas.

More importantly, at the centre, the progress as recorded and ranked by Union Ministry for Statistics and Programme is given due consideration while framing new policies by the departments/ministries concerned regularly. It is because of this reason that monitoring mechanism for Twenty Point Programme (TPP)-2006 was widened to include block level monitoring in addition to district, state and central level monitoring.

A peep back into history indicates that twenty point programme (TPP) was launched by government of India in the year 1975 and restructured in 1982, 1986 and again in 2006. The programme is meant to give a thrust to schemes relating to poverty alleviation, employment generation in rural areas, housing, education, family welfare and health, protection of environment and many other schemes having a bearing on the quality of life, especially in the rural areas.

The programmes and schemes under the TPP-2006 are in harmony with the priorities contained in the millennium development goals (MDGs) of the United Nations and SAARC social charter. Original nomenclature, namely the Twenty Point Programme, which has been in existence for more than three decades and carries the stamp of familiarity among the people and administrative agencies, has been retained.

Professor Majeed Kak's Passion

Dr. Kak scores a triumph for the Islamia College, Srinagar

(Dr. Abdul Majeed Kak, 63, was born and in Nowhatta, Srinagar. He received his primary education from the Government Middle School in Nowhatta and his secondary school education from Bagi Dilawar Khan Higher Secondary School in Fateh Kadal. He completed his college education at the Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar. In 1977 he was the first candidate from the University of Kashmir to be selected by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of the Government of India for a doctoral research scholarship at the university leading to a Ph.D. in Botany in 1980. He is currently the Research Coordinator in the Department of Botany at the Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar. Dr. Kak has over 35 years of teaching experience and research experience of over 25 years. He has received numerous research awards resulting in publication of 70 research papers and has authored two books on Botany. He is presently engaged in promoting and strengthening local and regional museums, a project supported by a grant from the Ministry of Culture, New Delhi.)

Ethnographic Museum: Reconstructing The Past

Arif Shafi Wani (Greater Kashmir)

Wonder, how our ancestors lived, or made a living. Do you know that they extensively used natural things to make almost everything. What if you want to imagine that life! Ethnographic Museum, in Islamia College is a reconstruction of that life.

The reconstruction of the early culture is possible only through art inscription and their evidences. With this objective, the first-of-its-kind in the State, Ethnographic Museum has been established in the Islamic College of Science and Commerce. It boasts of having a rich collection of wooden and wicker artefacts. The museum is not only limited to the display of artefacts, but under the Ethnobotany, a recently introduced branch of Botany, will try establish how plants were used in day to day life.

The Conception

The idea to establish the Museum was conceived by Dr Abdul Majeed Kak, a botanist and research coordinator of the Islamia College. Dr Kak was inspired by rich collection of artefacts of various cultures in other states. “But I was hurt not to find the Kashmiri artifacts there. I resolved to set-up one in Kashmir. Any state can be proud of its ancient past, if it is explored and preserved,” he underlined. However, it was not an easy task to set-up the Museum. To collect the artefacts Dr Kak went to far-flung areas of the Valley, including Tangdar and Machil. It was a daunting task. “The people there have developed an emotional bonding with the artefacts. I had not only to motivate but pay hefty amounts to procure the artefacts,” said Kak. Most of the artefacts collected by Kak are made up of wood, wicker and other plant material. Nature has bestowed Kashmir with variety of dense forests rich in all types of plants, so wood has been abundantly available to the locals from the early times. It was used from Kings to peasants for construction purposes, utensils and even for weapons.

The Journey

Dr Kak’s search yielded extinct, rare, outdated, wooden, hay, grass and wicker artefacts. Fortunately, the Museum was created in 2004 at the time of Accreditation of Islamia College by the NAAC Peer team of the University Grants Commission. The team was impressed by the collection and encouraged Dr Kak to develop the Museum. The Minister of Culture, GoI, also sanctioned Dr Kak’s proposal for further research and enrichment of the Museum. During past six years, Dr Kak has collected over 600 antique artefacts.

Prized Possession

Among the artefacts, Dr Kak procured, TilaVaene Wan, an extinct wooden machine used in the past by the village traders for the extraction of edible oil from seeds of Sandij or Til gogol (Brassica compestris), Doon (Juglans regia), Badum (Prunus amygdalis) and Alish (Linum usitatissimum). Driven by oxen, the machine was used to extract butter from milk on large scale. “These machines were locally called Gurus Dhoon. I have collected over a dozen such items. They have been beautifully designed, carved from a single piece of wood, decorated with beautiful small chains of wicker rings helping in vigorous churning of milk. All such items and many more are now outdated and extinct,” he said, There is also an old, larger and heavy plough (Ala Beane) in the Museum. It has been procured from the Shahnard area of Soigam, Kupwara. “It is so heavy that present day oxen being small in size and less vigorous cannot afford to pull it. All such items are on the verge of extinction.

Honey making was a hobby for many people in both urban and rural areas; bees were reared in mud mound or wooden bee hives known as Tromber. The museum has three pieces of these novelty items. Pointing towards a bee hive, Dr Kak said pieces with suitable size of the larger, medium or small trees were made hollow and closed on both sides with a small hole on one of the sides for the movement of the bees. All this is now extinct and replaced by rectangular modified double decker bee hives designed by the Apiculture Department; these being costly, cannot normally be purchased by villagers.

The museum also has many spinning wheels (Yandir) collected from remote areas. They are of different designs. Three of them are having a single plank, (wheel), with peripheral groove, compared to two planked wheel, used for spinning threads of Rafal and Pashmina for Kashmiri shawls. “This spinning wheel is antique, artistic and unique, believed to be some marriage gift from a rich family to their daughter,” Dr Kak explained.

The museum has a wooden lock, Quluf. “It was used on main gates of the houses or compounds during nights. The lock has an interesting mechanism and can become a subject of research. The doors used were heavy, of thick planks, with wooden hinges, now totally extinct.

Many herbs, shrubs and trees, wholly, or their parts, were utilized by the locals as curing, healing and medicinal agents. Many of such Ethnobotanical plants have been collected, identified and tagged with ethnobotanical and ethnomedicinal values and the methods of use. These are preserved in the form of Herbarium sheets and are hanged on the walls of Museum. There is also a rich collection of ancient wood carvings and wood work, traditionally called Zail Pinjri (lattice work). “It is amazing; how the artisans have joined the small wooden pieces and weaved them in such an architectural pattern that it does not need any nail or glue for binding,” wonders Dr Kak.

Wicker Wonders

The museum has fascinating wicker items used for catching fish. Hooks, rods or nets were not easily available and villagers could not afford them. Instead they used soft and flexible twigs of Paratiopsis or willow twigs and made a fish trap locally called Lar with a broader mouth and narrow base, so that the fish is trapped inside when water leaks out from the bucket.
There is also an antique wicker lids, locally called Surposh, used during summers for protection of eatables from insects and regulation of air flow to keep them fresh. The museum has rich collection of Wagoove, Patij and changij (matting made from rice stalks, first woven into ropes.) Once universal matting, it’s almost gone from the Kashmiri houses. Dr Kak says brooms for all specific purposes were made from the local plants; either from the twigs, inflorescences or plants as a whole. “These are also now extinct. Nobody presently uses cheri laschij (Chenopodium sp.) or kaend laschij, (Berbaris vulgaris). Same is the fate of Pulhoor, (shoe made of hay grass); khrawe and khrawe hoor (pair of wooden heavy and light shoes). “These items were till a few decades ago part and parcel of our lives. Now they are confined to this museum,” Dr Kak says in a sad tone. However, Dr Kak is optimistic about the preservation of the museum. “We are applying for the construction of a state-of-the-art museum building with modern galleries. We hope to receive a positive response from the Government; this, in the larger interest of preserving our culture to posterity,” he emphasized.


► I have not seen such an excellent botanical collection, and the articles of old craft as in Islamia College. I am sure it will maintain its lead among all the academic institutions.
Dr. Syed Raza Hashmi
Director Union Public Service Commission New Delhi

► I am glad to know that Dr Kak has strived hard to procure valuable items for the ethnographic Museum of the College and set an example for other researchers who should also come forward and take up research on the promotion of culture and heritage”
Dr. Riyaz Punjabi
Vice Chancellor Kashmir University

► I extend my best wishes to Dr. A. Majeed Kak for his best efforts in building such a monumental Museum.
A. G. Malik
Minister for Higher Education.

► Dr Kak has worked with sheer dedication to establish this unique museum. Our objective is to create awareness among students in particular and the public in general about our past customs, culture and traditions with regard to Ethno botany, till now dwindling and on the brink of total loss. We are committed to enrich our Ethnographic Museum further, so that our young generations can undertake various research projects on our culture and the past heritage.
M Saleem Khan
Principal Islamia College.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Seeking Justice and Answers in a Land Where Corruption is the name of the Game

Maroof asks a basic question regarding life in Kashmir

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

Who Represents us?

Patwaries are looting people like anything. They are charging 1000 times more for their services. I asked a patwari how he justifies his loot and he told that he has to give a share of Rs 2000 monthly to Tehsildar. Reportedly a few days back a meeting with Tehsildars was held by patwaris and hot debate ensued on the share which was finally settled on 2000/month. This share is rationalization of many employees. The question is where does the chain end? Logically it should not end until the highest one in hierarchy. But it is hard to believe this. Treasury people take some percentage on many bills according to our clerks. Who talks about this? Everybody in the legislature knows this goes on.

A few months back fuel prices fell and no reduction in fare was effected. Now after rise in fuel price its original price has been restored and there has been no real hike in it but the traffic association is forcing government to hike fare. How can fare be increased? Associations have often been using other than legal means to force their point. Now who took up the issue of reduction in fare after previous reduction in fuel price?

So many girls are suffering slow death due to late marriage and many are not even married at all. Who talks of their rights and introduces bills such as specifying maximum age of marriage for girls which could be registered. Here there is no civil society either to see into these issues or build pressure on government.

Who represents the cases of drop outs and failures whom God has given enough intelligence to clear exams but can’t because of flaws in educational system. Only the poor go to government schools for education showing it has been outcompeted by private sector. Government schools have hardly any moral right to exist if they are run on three to four times greater budget and give three to four times lesser quality education as evidenced by failure percentage and pass outs in competitive exams. But we have been successful neither in giving free quality education nor checking on mushroom growth of private schools. Private schools would have no right to exist and no demand if education in govt. schools had been up to mark. But in the end both private and public schools fail to make the need of tuition dispensable. So people are exploited by both the parties. Are there truly public schools? Who has taken up the issue of exploitation by private schools? What norms are there for determining the highest payable fee? How little of the percentage of profit minted by the company manager/capitalist in educational business goes to wage labourers (teachers).

Why are private schools allowed to function if free education is constitutional right upto age 14? It is no argument that there is an option of free education in government schools. There is an option but not a fair one. Why would people risk future of education of their children by sending children to government schools? Why should most students feel the need to go to tuitions? It means even private schools are not doing their best. Who represents the case of tuition going children and who allows tuition business to continue? Govt schools are virtually bankrupt and should be closed and privatization encouraged. Or, more wisely, all private educational institutions up to 8th should be closed to stop exploitation. But who expects our governance to be so people friendly that it can take such bold steps? People know in the heart of hearts that nobody is interested it their welfare and the government can’t afford to antagonize vote bank.

Private B Ed schools are doing simply business and offer little education. Because it is a huge business and many officials who are supposed to monitor them are getting their fee. I know a B Ed teacher who told the inspection committee that he is paid Rs 4000 less than he is forced to sign. He was dismissed by management of the institution and no help was provided by any authority. There are many such stories. I know conscientious teachers who were appointed principals and left the job in few months. You must betray your soul and God to serve in any B Ed college run on the principles of capitalism. Why are profit- minting-institutions allowed to corrupt education? Who talks of the rights of workers in these institutions who have no protection? Can’t there be any mechanism for ensuring that teachers get their dues? Can’t teachers be given salary from banks whose annual statement shall then be taken to be authentic? But the question is who will represent the case and see it get through? Another question is if there are trained teachers why they fail to impart quality education? So B Ed fails to be a training programme. Or teachers are not ready to apply their knowledge. But what for is the army of supervisors of ZRPs, ZEOs etc.?

Seminars and conferences are being organized by different academic institutions without, generally speaking, the call for papers, review of papers by a committee etc. making the whole business suspect and an instrument for promotion of mediocrity. It means these are, mostly, academic frauds. The worst corruption is academic corruption. But nobody is representing the cause of the public whose money is being used by organizers of seminars. Is there any authority to supervise? I know a professor who has read the same paper with little modification in as many as six seminars in one of the institutions of Kashmir. There are journals where no guidelines are followed for what to publish or what not to publish. If you have a rapport with the editor or serving in the same department you have better chance of getting published. No wonder most of our local journals have little impact factor and hardly count in the outside world.

Who represents RTs against whom most inhuman laws are operative? They are worse than peons and even casual labourers. When teachers are paid lower than the fourth class employees or labourers how can quality education be imparted?

Who represents the case of public who are forced to get their own transport, jam the traffic and perpetuate their slavery to suppliers of petrol and pollute environment as the public transport is overloaded, takes so much time and violates so many other laws as well. Overload is against law, waiting in the middle of the journey to collect more and more passengers is against law, travelling with tonga’s speed is against law. But where are law enforcing authorities?

Who represents the unemployed class? Private property if kept within bounds may not be considered theft but amassing a wealth of more than few lakh is surely theft in most cases as capitalism is based on exploitation. I wonder what to say about those who go to multiple Hajjs leaving their neighbours to dogs. Abu Yazid of Bistam was asked at what rate is zakat to be paid. There should be no subsidy on second hajj. There should be a welfare tax on all those who want to go to second hajj or umra. Who represents the interests of salesmen whom their owners exploit, the cause of workers in private hospitals, the cause of children working in our homes, the cause of numerous other wage labourers? The capitalist class here has all the privileges and no body speaks for labour class, not even the Marxists with the zeal they once had.

The Old man and The New Cesspool

Afshana recounts the misery experienced by an old-timer seeing his favorite lake whither away

(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.)

Down the Lake

The wrinkled face was parched and frail like a fallen Chinar leaf in autumn, which once looked green and glorious. Behind the old visage, there was more of him to see. Struggling between past and future, verve and sloth, triumphs and letdowns, warmth and seclusion—he was coldly looking at the sophisticated and expensive Finnish machines procured to speed-up Dal Lake’s restoration measures.

This old man was sitting near the railing on the banks of Dal Lake watching the slough and silt that was being lifted from the Lake.

He recollected the days of his childhood when he alongwith his friends used to quench his thirst with the shimmering sweet waters of Dal Lake. The images of nostalgia tossed around. Like an antique montage in black and white, the screen of history flashed his every memory associated with Dal Lake.

Looking back, he saw himself playing football in Malkhah for hours together, and then rushing to Naidyar Yarbal to slake their thirst with the cool, refreshing and flowing pure water of the Dal. At times, his whole group of friends swam into the water to revitalize themselves.

The old man remembered how once one of his friends got his cycle for cleansing at Yarbal and he was not allowed to do so by a local resident, giving the reason that the water was used for cooking purposes by many families.

The unique taste of Masala Roti he used to have beneath the shade of jade trees on Soth, the bridle path passing through the middle of the Dal Lake connecting Nishat and Rainawari, remained persisting. The cold breeze that tenderly moved the crystal clear waters of the Lake was embedded with the aroma of versatile lotuses.

As the Lake was bottomless near Soth, he and his friends always feared swimming there. Watching small yachts being drawn by oars and gently passing under the arched seven viaducts of Soth, they always craved to go in swimming in the deep central waters of the Lake. They incessantly desired to spend a few days in the straggling row of majestic-looking Doongas (houseboats) that flanked the Lake at various points and were rented by people to roam around the Lake for several days.

In his youth, Dal Lake was his true companion. He relished veritable solace on its banks. Looking far to the other end of Lake, he used to weave his future plans. It was his usual to prepare for his exams on the shores of Lake. Whenever he was depressed, he went to the Lake and poured his heart out. Dal always listened calmly and transpired its tranquility to him.

Sometime later he got married. He decided to holiday in the Lake alongwith his family and a small group of friends. They hired a Donga for one week and also arranged a waza (Kashmiri cook) who would accompany them on Donga and prepare food for them during the expedition.

The reminiscences of the matchless trip were sharply ingrained in his mind. He mused over the setting of their voyage from Naidyar Yarbal. For him and his friends, it was like dream coming true. The sparkling and soft waters helped the stately progress of Doonga down the Lake. They were welcomed by the breezy milieu while sailing down the watercourse through the interiors of Rainawari. The banks of waterway were spotless. Only at few places, they could see some temporary hutments and some planted vegetables.

Within the blissful vibes, the immaculate waters of the Lake were reflecting the vivid image of splendid dome of Hazratbal Shrine, where they stopped for the night. They watched scores of people performing their ablution with the fresh waters of the Lake. Interestingly, their waza also had used the Lake water for cooking during the whole journey.

While travelling towards Nishat garden, they noticed water gushing out from the bottom of the Lake at numerous locations. During night, they saw moonlight piercing through the six meter deep clear waters of the Lake and getting reflected after striking its bottom. With a bit of edginess, they went for a dip in the deep waters of the Lake, and thus conquered their fears.

Harking back, the old man remembered that the banks of the Lake had no fencing around as Nature by its own course had fenced it with the Zabarwan hills on one side and the Hari-parbat on the other. Nature had swathed the glistening waterbody with its own aura.

However today, he is stunned, the crinkled moist eyes, the crooked forehead. He fails to think of Dal Lake as “a beautiful imagination or a romantic poetry on the surface of clean water shadowed with the groves of Chinar”.

Ironically, Dal Lake has become a cesspool. A stinking abyss. A nearing gutter. The shrinking pit that has obnoxious and murky stories buried in it. The stories of Corruption; Official Fraud; Public Apathy; and General Malice.

For the old man, the cesspit, now left as Dal, depicts a broader meaning: it is a manifestation of collective mind. The degeneration is not just ecological.
He takes small steps, away from the Lake, as if a strong wind could, at any time, whisk him up into the clouds. He leaves no footprints.

The UN Report on Pakistan Also Addresses Kashmir

The UN Report on Benazir's assassination also talks about how 1989 became a turning point for Kashmir

Musharraf Regime Indicted for Benazir Killing

Kashmir Times

Jammu: In a damning report, a United Nations investigation into Benazir Bhutto's killing today concluded that the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf's government "failed" to protect the ex-premier despite being aware of the serious threats to her life.

UN-appointed independent panel report also slammed the powerful ISI and the Pakistani police, saying they "deliberately failed" to properly probe 54-year-old Bhutto's murder which could have been averted. "Bhutto's assassination could have been prevented," said the much-awaited 65-page report by a three-member panel headed by Chile's UN ambassador Heraldo Munoz.

Report has said that Pakistan's powerful spy agency ISI continues to have close links with Lashkar-e-Taiba and has used the terror group's services to foment anti-India passion in Kashmir and elsewhere. "The Pakistani military organised and supported the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan in 1996. Similar tactics were used in Kashmir against India after 1989," said the much-awaited report by UN-appointed independent panel to probe the killing of former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto.

The three-member panel concluded that such a policy of the Pakistan military to use terrorists as a tool to achieve its strategic objectives against its neighbours resulted in active linkages between elements of the military and the Establishment with radical Islamists at the expense of national secular forces.

Noting that the jihadi organisations are Sunni groups based largely in Pakistan's Punjab, the 65-page report said that members of these groups aided the Taliban effort in Afghanistan at the behest of the ISI and later cultivated ties with Al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban groups.

"The Pakistani military and ISI also used and supported some of these groups in the Kashmir insurgency after 1989. The bulk of the anti-Indian activity was and still remains the work of groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has close ties with the ISI," said the panel headed by Chile's UN ambassador Heraldo Munoz.

"A common characteristic of these jihadi groups was their adherence to the Deobandi Sunni sect of Islam, their strong anti-Shia bias, and their use by the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies in Afghanistan and Kashmir," the report said.

It said that while several Pakistani current and former intelligence officials told the Commission that their agencies no longer had such ties in 2007, but virtually all independent analysts provided information to the contrary and affirmed the ongoing nature of many such links.

The report said Qari Saifullah Akhtar, one of the founders of the extremist Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HuJI), was reportedly one of the ISI's main links to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and is believed to had cultivated ties to Osama bin Laden, who lived in Afghanistan during that period.

"Akhtar's one-time deputy Ilyas Kashmiri, who had ties with the Pakistani military during the Afghan and Kashmir campaigns, had been a senior aide to bin Laden's deputy Ayman al Zawahiri," it said. "It was such links and connections between elements in the intelligence agencies and militants, which most concerned Bhutto and many others who believed that the authorities could activate these connections to harm her. Given their clandestine nature, any such connection in an attack on her is very difficult to detect or prove," the report said.

The investigators stressed that besides passing on messages of the serious threats to Bhutto, no proactive measures were taken by the authorities to neutralise the danger. However, the report does not reveal who killed Bhutto.

"The responsibility for Bhutto's security on the day of the assassination rested with the federal government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi district police... none of these entities took the necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary fresh and urgent security risk that they knew she faced," Munoz told reporters.

"A range of government officials failed profoundly in their efforts first to protect Bhutto and second to investigate with vigour all those responsible for her murder not only in the execution of the attack but also in its conception, planning and financing," he said.

The panel pointed out that Bhutto faced a threat from several sources, including Al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, other Jihadist groups and "so called establishment in Pakistan" that consisted of elements of military commanders, intelligence agency, allied political parties and business partners.

Bhutto, the first woman to become prime minister of a Muslim country, was killed on December 27, 2007 in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital Islamabad.

The Munoz-led panel, which commenced its probe on July 1, 2009, was to have submitted its report on December 31, 2009 but its term was extended for another three months. It was tasked with establishing the facts and circumstances of the slaying and was not empowered to identify culprits.

However, the report, initially scheduled for March 30, was delayed after Pakistan made a request to the panel urging it to include input from former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Saudi Arabia. The report severely rebuked Pakistan's spy agency ISI for interfering in criminal investigations after her assassination, which subordinated law and order.

Judicial Crisis in "Azad Jammu and Kashmir"

Ershad provides a detailed analysis behind the recent news about a switch in the AJK Supreme Court Chief Justice

(Mr. Ershad Mahmud was born in Rawalakot, Azad Kashmir. He is a freelance journalist and researcher based in Islamabad, Pakistan.)

Judicial Crisis in Azad Kashmir

The removal of Azad Kashmir Supreme Court Chief Justice Riaz Akhatar Chaudhary led to a huge political crisis in the Muzaffarabad. The president of AJK Raja Zulquarnain Khan has reversed the decision and reinstated him while Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan stated that president has no legal authority to undo his decision since AJK president is merely a constitutional head. Other key members of ruling Muslim Conference including Sardar Attique Ahamd Khan also opposed the decision and stood by deposed CJ Riaz Chaudhary. It is expected that ongoing political crisis will be further deepened in days ahead can lead to no-confidence move or dissolution of the assembly.

Needless to say that constitution of AJK article 7 states that President shall act on and in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister and such advice shall be binding on him. In clear violation of constitution President of AJK reinstated dysfunctional CJ which resulted in establishment of two Supreme Courts based in Muzaffarabad and Mirpur respectively. Interestingly, People Party’s central leadership including Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani urged AJK government to relieve Justice Riaz Chaudhary while its AJK branch and Ministry of Kashmir Affairs opposed the decision.

Last week in a dramatic move the Azad Jammu and Kashmir government relieved Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Riaz Akhtar Chaudhary of his duties after filing a reference of misconduct against him in the Supreme Judicial Council in Muzaffarabad. Justice Riaz Akhtar’s appointment as Chief Justice in October 2006, had been challenged by the senior most judge of SC Justice Manzoor-ul-Hasan Gilani in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the principle of seniority. The clause 42 (8) of the AJK constitution act 1974 clearly states that Chief Justice shall be appointed on basis of seniority.

Justice Gilani has contended before the apex court that Justice Riaz Akhtar was a junior judge and thus not eligible for the CJ position. Similar petition challenging Justice Riaz’s appointment was also filed by a local lawyer in the AJK High Court which was virtually quashed on the orders of Riaz Akhtar from the High Court office. He also passed orders that no case could be filed in the High Court against SC judges which was also contradictory to the law of land.

Riaz Chaudhary’s countdown started when a three-member bench of the Supreme Court of
Pakistan had recently started hearing the Manzoor Gilani’s petition. It is expected that Justice Gilani would win the case due to solid constitutional footing of his argument. It however would be an embarrassment for Islamabad as the government of Pakistan has always said that AJK is separate and autonomous status. Initially, the federal law ministry stated that Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over AJK but subsequently it withdrew from its stand.

In the meantime, the Attorney General of Pakistan requested SC to let the government settle this case out of court. It was widely perceived that if SC of Pakistan intervenes in the internal affair of Azad Kashmir it might further erode the so-called independence of the region. Besides, it may send a negative message across the Line of Control that Pakistan is gradually integrating AJK with Pakistan after granting Gilgit-Baltistan a quasi-provincial status. The incumbent Prime Minister of AJK Raja Farooq Haider Khan has consistently been arguing for further self-rule of AJK ever since he assumed office in Muzaffarabad last October. It was a tough call for his political vision to expand the local self-rule. He did lobby hard to avoid volte face in case of SC of Pakistan verdict and argued to find mutually acceptable way out to save the local autonomous rule but justice Riaz refused to go on leave or resign.

Therefore, a 13-page long reference was sent to AJK Supreme Judicial Council to examine the Chaudhary’s misconduct. Several instances of misconduct were cited in the document. Some of them are very interesting and also indicate as to how Riaz Akhtar misused his office during the last three years. Reference says that he had formed an unconstitutional monitoring cell in the AJK SC to summon government officials and issue executive orders to advance his personal gains. Unlike SC of Pakistan, the AJK SC is only an appellate court and has no jurisdiction to entertain writ petition. Notwithstanding, Justice Riaz has not only entertained the writ petition but also extended it by issuing order to Prime Minister of Pakistan to not entertain the orders of the SC of Pakistan to replace him, if SC decides so. His orders pitched AJK government against SC of Pakistan and Prime Minster office in Islamabad.

It is very unfortunate that Azad Kashmir judiciary which was known for honest and competent judges has become now a laughing stalk in public. During 1990’s the same judiciary had made some historic and bold decisions on violation of human rights and basic principles of the constitution by the government. In 1992, the Muslim Conference government led by then Prime Minster Sardar Abdual Qayyum Khan had recruited some 200 officers in grade 17, 18 and 19, in a single week, bypassing the Public Service Commission set procedures. It was reported that a candidate who had failed to qualify for the post of a Naib Tehsildar (grade 14), was given office of 18 scale without appearing in any test or interview. It invited huge criticism from the civil society and finally the High Court nullified the backdoor appointments.

Justice Riaz Akhtar had served as Election Commissioner during 2006 AJK elections known as highly controversial in the AJK's history. Former president Pervez Musharraf allegedly engineered the elections in favour of his local protégé Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan-led Muslim Conference, says an analyst on condition of anonymity. It invited huge criticism from the opposition parties and civil society. Justice Riaz, being an election commissioner, facilitated the entire process. His sudden and mysterious elevation to the apex court was widely seen in this context. Some observers believe that he was rewarded for his services during the elections.

Contrary to the prestige of his position as CJ, Chaudhary indulged in cheap publicity. He rarely missed the front page of vernacular press. Every now and then he would be the chief guest inaugurating different projects. His critics maintain that he was running SC office like a political chair.

As a matter of fact the Azad Kashmir government never ever confronted this kind of judicial crisis in its recent history. It should learn some lessons and should avoid such crisis in future by inducting judges on merit in transparent and fair way. The Prime Minster of Azad Kashmir took the right step to undo the injustice and clean the judiciary from Musharraf’s cronies. He needs to take some more steps particularly to correct the constitutional anomalies to create a balanced and workable relationship between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad.

The Never Ending Saga of the J&K State Overdraft

The overdraft, condemned by both the NC and PDP when out of power, find its utility extremely useful while in power at the expense of Indian Taxpayers who actually underwrite most of its financial cost to the State

Overdraft From J&K Bank Touches Rs 2,290 cr

Jmmu: Abdul Rahim Rather was always critical of the increasing dependence of the state finances on overdraft raised from the J&K Bank Ltd when Mufti was chief minister.

It was a different situation that time as he was in opposition, but now he himself heads the finance ministry in the NC-led coalition government.

But the overdraft did not come down during his tenure as finance minister, it touched an all time high of Rs 2,290 cr, according to the economic survey report (ESR) released by the government in the recent past.

The ESR said the overdraft limit which stood at 944 cr in 1997-98 had risen to the level of 2290.25 cr in 2008-09.

The overdraft percentage in terms of total expenditure has, however, gradually come down over the last few years.

The overdraft limit at the outset of the 2002-03 when Mufti was in power stood at 1,241.29 cr, ie 14.43 per cent of total expenditure.

The overdraft touched the highest ever level of 18.37 per cent in 1997-98 when Farooq Abdullah was chief minister. During his regime, he was grappled with the issue of poor finances and by the time he completed his term, he was able to bring down the overdraft level to 15.44 per cent of the total expenditure.

It rose to the level of 1979.64 cr in 2005-06, ie the second highest level of 17 per cent of the total expenditure when Mufti was chief minister.

Its down journey started in 2006-07 during the tenure of Ghulam Nabi Azad who was lucky enough to receive liberal central funding.

The over draft limit in terms of percentage of total expenditure further came down to 12.89 per cent in 2007-2008 during Azad's time.

At present the overdraft level has recorded another jump and is hovering around 13.43 percent of the total expenditure.

(Early Times)

Fantasy Claims Grounded

Planning Commission has more clout than the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), and hence may prevail; but only time will tell

Planning Commission Rebukes J&K’s Development Claims

Syed Junaid Hashmi (Kashmir Times)

Jammu: Planning Commission of India has strongly rebuked developmental claims of Jammu and Kashmir government besides passing negative remarks over technical expertise of officers involved in preparing project reports of several centrally sponsored schemes including prestigious Mughal road project.

It has not minced words but plainly advised the state government to invest in capacity building in key departments. Referring to faulty Deatiled Project Reports (DPRs) of Mughal Road, Dal-Nagin project, Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) programmes and Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) projects, the Commission has said that projects have not been well conceived and required revision resulting in cost and time overrun.

These damaging remarks have been made by Secretary Planning Commission Sudha Pillai in her tour report, a copy of which is exclusively with Kashmir Times. Pillai accompanied by senior advisor state plan J&K D.S.Kalha visited Jammu on January 8, 2010 and reviewed progress made by the state on the implementation of flagship schemes and schemes included in Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Programme (PMRP).

The two member delegation had held a review meeting with Chief Secretary and other officers of the state. Later, they concluded their visit with a wrap up meeting with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Pillai in her report has sounded note of caution over implementation of Dal-Nagin lake project. “Implementation of projects such as Dal-Nagin project may suffer setback if adequate staff with requisite skills is not appointed,” says Pillai in her 50 page report.

More importantly, when Chief Secretary S.S.Kapur had been asked to explain reasons for slow pace of implementation of programmes under Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), he ascribed this to faulty DPRs that were not based on detailed ground survey. He had told the commission that executing agency discovered large number of underground utilities (water and sewage pipes) that required shifting.

Referring to various centrally sponsored schemes, Pillai has expressed dissatisfaction over physical progress in most of the schemes including Prime Minister Grameen Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan (Transmission and Distribution), Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY), Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (APDRP), Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY and Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP).

However, she has stated that marginal improvement has been observed during 2008-09 and 2009-10. Taking to task state’s inability to contribute its share in the certain key flagship schemes like Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP), secretary Planning Commission has said that it has not only affected the intended outcome of the schemes but also put brakes on the flows of additional/balance funds from union government.

The report pinpoints that default has even been observed in the NABARD schemes allocated to the state. “Arrears of Rs.187 crore towards the state share are still pending. Implementation of the scheme is bound to suffer on this account,” the report says. It has asked the state government to devise and announce a policy to attract private investment in Power sector.

It has further implored upon the state to implement reform programme required under Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to remain eligible to receive further funding from union government. The Planning Commission has appreciated state for projecting works funded out of state plan funds. This has resulted in efficient implementation and monitoring.

It has further said that an expenditure of Rs.750 crore has been incurred in transport and public health sectors in the urban areas. It has maintained that Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded projects are being implemented through Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA).

The "Dirty Ten" Among Traffic Violators

An interesting study "captures" the offending professions

Traffic Dept Catalogs Top 10 Violators

Nazir A Ganaie (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: The traffic department has cataloged top ten traffic rules violators in which businessmen lead the list followed by students and those associated with health and medicine sector.

According to the officials, the latest statistics is an outcome of survey conducted by the department to track down top ten violators from all sections of society.

“Profession-wise businesspersons top the list followed by students, medical fraternity members,” SP Traffic–Kashmir Showkat Hussain Shah told Rising Kashmir. He said the survey was conducted for three months started from January this year.

Next in the list are engineers, while lawyers and advocates fall on the fifth rank.

The list also mentions policemen in civvies who are running ahead of journalists, political parties’ workers, J&K Bank employees and finally the academicians in violating the traffic rules.

About how the categorization was done, the official said: “The number of challans registered against each individual was categorized according their profession which later brought out these figures. And the reason for violating traffic rules also have been found varying from one profession to another” he said.

According to the survey, about 30 challans are impose on the businessmen every day who are mostly found driving without insurance, talking on mobile phone while driving, wrong parking and using private cars to ferry goods.

Students are imposed with 25 challans every day who are found riding bikes without crash helmets; fail to produce necessary documents, besides for over -speeding and over-taking offences.

Five to six challans are imposed on offenders who come from medical fraternity every day. Many reasons have been found that include using mobile phones, wrong parking and failure to produce necessary documents.

Engineers of various departments who are fourth in the violators list are mainly held for wrong parking offences and about four to five challans are imposed every day against this section of society.

Lawyers are mainly found in arguing, misbehaving and failing to produce the required documents and disobeying traffic rules and signals.

This section of society faces three to four challans every day.

Police in mufti are ranked sixth according to the list and are mostly found overtaking, taking wrong turns and disobeying with the traffic cops.

Every day three challans are imposed against offenders of this group.

Journalists confront three challans every day for using mobile phones, over speeding, taking wrong turns, misbehaving. Most of the photojournalists face punishment for riding bikes without crash helmets.

Then comes the number of workers and loyalists of political parties and J&K Bank employees. Three challans are slapped against both groups every day.

The tenth group of violators is those associated with education department. This group receives two challans every day for wrong parking and driving without license.


1. Businessmen

2. Students

3. Health workers

4. Engineers,

5. Lawyers

6. Police in civvies

7. Journalists

8. Political parties’ workers

9. J&K Bank employees

10. Academicians

When J&K Bank Riches Turn Into a Curse

J&K Bank invested Rs. 3 crores to deface a pristine view of Pahalgam, now it will cost Rs. 5 crores to restore the sight

Pahalgam Amusement Park may be Shifted

Pahalgam: The government is understood to have given its green signal to the proposal of shifting the amusement park at Pahalgam to some other location which will cost more than Rs 5 crore.

The amusement park was established by the Jammu and Kashmir Bank at a cost of Rs 3 crores on 48 kanal land in the midst of dense pine forests. The park generates an income of Rs 60 lakh per annum. Now, shifting of the park to other location would cost the JK Bank some Rs 5 crore, sources said.

They said that the proposal has been approved by the Chief Minister and the amusement park would be shifted to the outskirts of the tourist resort, most probably to nearby Yaner, or Aishmuqam, 17 kilometres from Pahalgam.

Initially, establishment of the amusement park in 2003 had attracted criticism from environmentalists who were of the view that a pristine mountain resort had been spoiled.

One of the biggest concerns of ecological activists was that the dyes from an artificial stream that run into the amusement park’s pool were emptying into Lidder River. Besides, they were of the view that the park was not blending with the scenic beauty of this resort and would definitely pollute this place.

“People come here to enjoy natural beauty and not to get distracted by man-made machines. I don’t know from where the idea to set up this park came,” said an environmentalist, who claimed that even the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) was not consulted on the project.

Now the government’s plan of shifting the park is seen as a welcome move. They even suggested some urban area like Islamabad town as the new destination.

Environmentalist Dr Mubashir Jeelani said, “I am not aware about the pouring of dyes into the Lidder River and its quantity. If the quantity is low then due to its dilution effect it would not have any effect but if the quantity is large then the carcinogenic elements present in them would definitely destroy the flora and fauna and also render the water unfit for drinking.” He suggested collecting these dyes in drums and scientific disposal of other waste products.

Pertinently, the State Pollution Control Board had then directed the government to set an effluent treatment plant in the park to deal with the waste products and also called for more trees to be planted to make the park blend better with the surroundings. Though trees were planted but the effluent treatment plant was never set up.

“I will be soon seeking the status report of the amusement park and see if they are following all the guidelines,” said S Farooq Gillani, Regional Director, Kashmir, State Pollution Control Board.

Despite environmentalists’ concerns, the project has been embraced by common Kashmiris longing for some entertainment. The locals also welcomed the move but now the proposal of shifting the park has let them down and they term it as politically motivated rather than an attempt to save Pahalgam.

“If they are so concerned about the beauty of Pahalgam then they should first stop the construction of illegal huts and hotels and also stop the pouring of waste into the Lidder by big hotels and restaurants,” said a local resident, Mushtaq Ahmad, adding that the step was aimed to benefit the cohorts of some local politicians.

“Aishmuqam and Yaner where the government is planning to shift the park are in no way urban areas. Lidder River passes from these two places too and would disturb the environs there too,” he said, adding that the J&K Bank had planted many trees around the area and is taking care of the wastes scientifically.

(Greater Kashmir)

Shrinking Wetlands

An Editorial in the Kashmir Images reiterates a well known, but sad, fact

Shrinking Wetlands

As the entire world becomes more and more conscious towards environment and global warming is being viewed as a serious threat all over, Kashmir continues to remain insensitive as its water bodies shrink at an alarming pace. Though the concerned authorities talk about the issue in seminars and debates but no concern has ever been shown towards the wetlands of the state particularly those of Kashmir Valley. Be it Hokersar, Haigam, Shalbugh – all the wetlands are shrinking at an alarming pace and even in certain cases the human greed has turned one time wetlands into horticulture orchards or agricultural fields.

The concerned department seems clueless as how to ensure the safety of these wetlands. Inertia on the part of the government, human greed and lack of awareness among the masses is resulting into the death of these wetlands. The migratory birds, for whom Kashmir’s wetlands used to be the greatest attraction have started looking for other destinations. Wildlife Department that is the custodian of these wetlands has failed miserably to save these water bodies and interestingly is clueless about several wetlands including Wullar, Narkara and Satnam as the department has no data available with it about these wetlands.

Kashmir is witnessing disastrous weather changes from past several years, this year being no different as Valley witnessed negligible snowfall this winter. And the temperatures now are showing an above normal trend. These changes in weather patterns are enough to alert conscientious citizen to ponder why this all is happening. Our wetlands are shrinking; forest cover is shrinking; lakes and rivers are drying up and; we are heading towards ecological and environmental disaster.

Ironically neither the government or civil society nor the common public seems concerned about the dangers looming large. The wetlands have started vanishing and no steps are being taken to save these. Dal lake is dying and despite huge amounts of money being pumped into save Dal project, there seems no improvement in the health of the lake. It is heartening to note that the Centre has sanctioned Rs 350 crore and Rs 300 crore for conservation of Wular and Dal lakes respectively. It is a welcome decision but the point is that is there any accountability to see whether the money is being spent properly. Fact of the matter is that money has never been a problem as for as conservation of Dal lake is concerned but the fault lies with execution of schemes. Government needs to be serious if it is interested in saving Kashmir’s water bodies and the public too need to be proactive. They need to maintain a constant pressure on the government so that it is forced to prioritize the preservation of wetlands and other water bodies.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Children of the Almighty

Javid translates the common DNA in mortal words

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 63, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)

Iqbal and Vishwa Mitr

Allama Iqbal’s spiritual odyssey ‘Javid Namah’ a colossal poetic treatise in Persian is known to all Iqbal lovers, at least in name, if not in content and context, even in this age of fast declining Persian literary influence in the subcontinent. What is not known, except to those who dig deep in Iqbaliyat, the life and works of Iqbal that the odyssey starts with meeting the Indian sage; Vishwa Mitr in the lunar planet. Vishwa Mitr is a significant figure in highly spiritualised Indian mythological lore. Call it mythological lore, philosophical venture, spiritual odyssey; the fact stands that it constitutes the faith of millions in India. Iqbal was well versed with what constituted Indian thought and how it shaped up from times immemorial. He knew the seers and sages, being thoroughly versed with their philosophy and as a great spiritualist and he became a part of the lore. As is apparent in his poetry, he was proud of his Brahmin ancestry. Sheikh Mohammad Iqbal’s forefathers were Saprus, Kashmiri Brahmins, before they became Sheikhs on conversion. Sheikh in fact was the common family name of recent converts.

The account starts with the trademark ‘Shikwa-e-Iqbal’ a complaint, a note of distress on the stresses that humanity is subjected to. Iqbal expresses his distrust of the happenings of past and of past generations too. As it runs through Iqbaliyat, in a similar vein, Iqbal at the very start of ‘Javid Namah’ while shelving the past, which he says turned dark in East, due to listlessness of Easterners, pins his hopes on the younger generations. He prays earnestly for them to develop his vision. Next in focus is what the sky tells the planet Earth and how the planet we live on answers. The sky taunts the Earth, made of clay:

Clay may add up to be an Everest

Grandeur a la sky remains a quest!!

Planet Earth, upset over the taunt looks up to heavens to soothe the hurt. The relief comes quick and fast! Entrusted with the sacred possession of the supreme beings… the humans, what is there to be ashamed of! Endowed with reason and capacity to plan, the children of Adam could have had the universe, as their domain. To answer to the taunt, two great sons of Adam set out on an expedition skywards. It is in the context of East/West relations that in the ‘Lunar Planet’ nearest to ‘Planet Earth’ Iqbal and his Guru meet Vishwa Mitr. Amusingly Iqbal calls him Jehan Dost, the Persian version of his name… Vishwa (Jehan) and Mitr (Dost). The interaction at the very start of the monumental spiritual quest denotes the esteem, which Iqbal had for Indian seers. The spirit of kinship is amazing. It is in the context of East/West relations that in the ‘Lunar Planet’ nearest to ‘Planet Earth’ Iqbal and his Guru meet Vishwa Mitr. Amusingly Iqbal calls him Jehan Dost, the Persian version of his name; Vishwa (Jehan) and Mitr (Dost). The interaction at the very start of the monumental spiritual quest denotes the esteem, which Iqbal had for Indian seers. The spirit of kinship is amazing. Vishwa Mitr had an added qualification, apart from his high spiritual status in Indian mythology. The sage is believed to have taught Sri Ram Chander ji not only matters of spirit; but whatever pertains to matter, the secular education, as we call it in modern terms. Hence he finds a mention in Ramayana. The adoration in which Iqbal held Shri. Ram could be had from the couplet originally in Urdu:

Ram in essence is pride of Hind

Visionaries call him Imam-ul–Hind!

‘Imam’ is supposed to provide the lead, not only in a prayer and piety, but act as a guide too, in worldly matters. Shri. Ram Chander ji apart from providing the spiritual lead, established ‘Ram Raj’ya’ which is its essence denotes morality in statecraft, contrary to ‘Chankya-neti’ laid down in ‘Arth-Shastra’; a political treatise. In ‘Ram Raj’ya’ means are as important as the ends they lead to, while as in ‘Chankya-neti’ means do not matter, as long the ends, the desired objectives are attained. Means could be fair or foul. Your enemy’s enemy could be your friend, says Chanakya. ‘Arth Shastra’ became the forerunner of Machiavelli’s; ‘Prince’ which literally became the bible of later day politicians. The political art of Chankya and Machiavelli is widely practised.

Vishwa Mitr, though a Khishtary, the caste inferior to Brahmins, could hold his own against the most reputed Brahmins, in a debate. Vi’shast was one such Brahmin-Raj Guru of Raja Sur Das. Having attained the Brahminical status, though not a born Brahmin, Vishwa Mitr also became Raj Guru of Sur Das. Vi’shast and Vishwa Mitr engaged in debates to score points. These debates form a part of Rig Veda. Eventually Raja Inder feared; Vishwa Mitr by his Tapasaya might score over heavenly beings in ‘Dev Lok’. He sends two Damsels- Rambha Devi and Menaka Devi to disturb his devotional state. Though Rambha was more beautiful, Menaka was more enticing. It is to her wiles, that Vishwa Mitr ultimately fell and in his dazed state entered in to conjugal relationship. The result of the union after nine months was Shukuntula.

Vishwa Mitr emerges from a cave in the lunar planet and asks Rumi “who is accompanying you”? 1n Rumis answer the Iqbalian quest is laid bare. Rumi tells him, that the person with him is firm in knowing the truth, hence someone who cannot be moved from his stand. However in his search for truth, he is a relentless pursuer. These lines exhibit the deft shades of Iqbal’s art. Firm and unmovable in what is the proven truth, nevertheless ever on the move in getting to truth! Having known, who is he interacting with Vishwa Mitr/Jehan Dost takes a good look around and comments on the CREATION and the CREATOR (HAQ in Islamic lore). He calls the ‘Creation’ colourful with everything apparent in its assigned place. ‘HAQ’ on the contrary has no apparent form, hence invisible and indefinable. In the evolving interaction, Vishwa Mitr/Jehan Dost asks Rumi to comment on the shaping of Universe, the role of human beings and on the ultimate reality ‘HAQ’. Rumi says Admi (human being) is ‘Shamsher’ (sword) ‘HAQ!’(Ultimate reality/universal truth) is the fencer (sword wielder/ Shamsher’ Zan in Persian) and ‘Aalam’ (universe) is ‘Sang Fasan’ (Persian for the stone on which the sword is sharpened). What Rumi wants to emphasise is that ‘Admi’ (sword/shamsher) retains its value in the hand of wielder (Shamsher’ Zan) ‘Haq’ hence salvation lies in obedience, at the same time to sharpen his instincts he has to explore the universe (sword sharpening on the sang fasn).

Expounding this in the realm of East/West diversity; Rumi says East got lost in exploring what constitutes right and wrong, leaving the universe un-explored. West on the contrary concentrated on the universe, sharpening instincts to explore it to gain material advantage. In the process the means did not matter, hence lost touch with ‘HAQ’. Vishwa Mitr/Jehan Dost attests, what Rumi states, commenting that East lost its bearing in an avoidable debate, which resulted in pessimism and loss of initiative. However, counsels Vishwa Mitr/Jehan Dost there is no need to loose hope. He relates what he had heard from an angel, whom he noticed with his gaze set on East. The angel related that he could see a new dawn, the dawn of Eastern resurgence clearly. And when it does come about, it would spell ‘IDD’, the day of festivity and rejoicing for the heavens dwellers, of which he is one! What Vishwa Mitr predicted is coming true in a resurgent China and India and earlier Japan. Iqbal relates in another Urdu couplet:

China awakes from a slumber deep

Himalayan streams; a date to keep!

We shall, God willing continue this philosophical dialogue next Friday

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi

[Reunion is subordinate to survival]