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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer of Anarchy - 4

A collage of stories capturing chaos and hope as law and order situation deteriorates in the valley

Frequent strikes hit Valley’s economy hard

Tejinder Singh Sodhi (Tribune)

Srinagar: The ongoing strikes and curfew in the Valley are making a severe dent in the economy of the state. The state is incurring a loss of around Rs 161crore on each day of strike.

In the current year, as per the figures available from the Finance Ministry, the state has lost Rs 6,762 crore so far due to strikes, with tourism, trade and business being the worst-hit sectors.

“In the current year, there have been 37 days of strike and five days of curfew in the Valley and the state has suffered a loss of more than Rs 6,762 crore,” an officer said.

In the two decades of turmoil, the state has lost 1,582 mandays of work thus suffering a whooping Rs 2,54,702 crore loss, besides other damage to public property and infrastructure as a large number of bridges, schools and other government buildings were damaged. The Valley has lost more than four years of period to strikes and shutdowns during the same period.

The tourism industry, considered to be the backbone of the state economy, too has suffered a serious blow due to the ongoing turmoil. The Valley this year has been expecting around 15 to 16 lakh tourists, most of whom have cancelled their bookings due to the prevailing tension.

“The Valley’s loss is Shimla’s gain. Tourists, who were expected here, are now heading towards Shimla and other hill stations,” said Nazir Ahmed, a tour operator.
The Amarnath pilgrims, whose number in the first 13 days of the yatra surpassed 1,50,000, too are giving the tourist places in the Valley a miss due to the strikes and the turmoil.

Another sector hit hard by the continuous strikes is business as a majority of the employees and dealers of the private companies in the Valley are unable to fulfil the targets set by their companies.

“A company has to constantly review its targets for Kashmir, which not only hampers the growth of the company but also the employees’ as they are deprived of incentives and other benefits,” said a senior executive of an electronic company.

Even the ongoing strikes would be rendering a large number of educated youths unemployed as some companies are planning to hand pink slips to employees in the Valley owing to losses incurred by them.

Half-day normalcy fetches Rs 200 cr to 3.5 lakh retailers in Kashmir

Bilal Hussain (Kashmir Times)

Srinagar: As Kashmir witnessed half day ‘normalcy’ on Saturday, the sales volume of over 3.5 lakh retailers touched Rs 200 crores. While Rs 20 crores was disbursed through 155 ATMs of JK Bank installed involving 58,000 transactions and Rs 106 crores were withdrawn from over 250 bank branches on Saturday across the valley.

Massive sale of commodities was observed as people from all walks of life thronged the main markets here. Huge rush was seen in the banks and ATMs also.

It was after 13 days siege and protests that markets reopened here after a call by Hurriyat Conference (G) on Friday to resume routine work for half a day till 2 pm.

The shoppers flooded the markets to stockpile supplies ahead of a general strike set for coming days. “I witnessed enormous rush of customers in my retail store today and most of them made purchases of edible items,” said Nissar Ahmad, a local retailer.

President, Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers' Federation (KTMF), Mohammad Sadiq Baqal told Kashmir Times that over 3.5 lakh shops from all districts of Kashmir today managed sale of Rs 200 crores. “Most of the purchases made by people were of edibles which accounts 70 per cent of total sales volume,” Baqal added.

Reliable sources in Jammu and Kashmir Bank told Kashmir Times that over Rs 20 crores was withdrawn from the bank’s ATMs across valley through 58,000 transactions. “Rs 106 crores disbursement was made through over 250 bank branches,” he added.

The branch offices of various banks operating in the Valley today witnessed a huge customer rush. Throughout the day while the bankers were busy in disbursing the cash, the customers in large numbers could also be seen withdrawing amounts at the ATMs spread across the Valley. Most of the customers throughout the day were seen in long queues waiting for their turn at different ATMs in Srinagar. “I am waiting for about 15 minutes for my turn and I think it is going to take some more minutes,” said Bashrat Ahmad at an ATM at MS Mall, here.

Most of the shopkeepers in the city told Kashmir Times that the rush for the entire day was overwhelming. “We remained busy for the entire day as there was huge rush of customers,” said Abdual Majeed Ahmad, a shopkeeper in Khanyar in the Shahr-e-Khaas here.

Huge rush could also be seen at the shops of vegetable vendors, bakers, and meat shops across the Valley. “It took me half an hour to get a kilogram of mutton from a local meat shop,” said Adil Hussain of Qamarwari.

“The rush was expected as people could not purchase anything, and even the essential commodities, during the curfew and protests period,” said Abid Wani, a shopkeeper in Safakadal.

Many people could be seen purchasing daily-use items including food articles in large quantities fearing that situation may again take an untoward turn, which could lead to further strikes or curfew. "I bought rice which could suffice for three months to my family," said a customer.

However, the high-end products and services found few takers today. Jewellery, readymade garments, shoes, and other non-essential items were almost negligible.

"Many construction works had come to a halt for want of necessary material. But today those works were resumed and people purchased the goods," said Jahangir, a local from Soura.

Stone-throwers Target Policemen in Mufti

Srinagar: Usually it is the police which chases the criminals, but in Kashmir for the past few days stone-throwers are chasing and targeting policemen.

Police personnel, who proceed on leave to their hometown or are travelling in mufti, are these days being targeted by stone-throwers. They stop passenger vehicles at certain places and check the identity cards of the passengers. If they find any policeman among the passengers, they make him alight from the vehicle and thrash him mercilessly.

The stone-throwers not only check the identity cards of the passengers but have also at certain places set up nakas to check the identity cards of the passersby. On finding a policeman they attack him. (Tribune)

Nepali Credit Cards Being Used in J&K

Against the backdrop of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's concern over checking illegal foreign funds flow into the valley, the Income Tax department has stumbled upon instances of usage of Nepal-based credit cards to withdraw huge sums of money from ATMs in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to top sources in the I-T department, it has found usage of credit cards issued from Nepal across the valley to draw cash running into crores of rupees.
The department has also contacted banking regulator RBI to ascertain the identity of banks and their affiliated ATMs being used by individuals or groups to draw this huge sum.

Sources say the department will probe to ascertain the total amount of money withdrawn through these channels and forward the suspicious transactions to enforcement agencies like the Intelligence Bureau, CBI and DRI for further action.
Omar had said in the national capital on Saturday that his government is contemplating putting in place a more concrete mechanism to check inflow of foreign funds to protestors in the state.

“Yes, money is coming through various channels in the state. We are going to put in place some more concrete steps to stop the flow of funds," Omar had said.
According to sources in the Finance Ministry, during the probe, agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and the Financial Intelligence Unit will also be brought in the loop to check violation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

"This could lead to a conclusion where it could be ascertained if the money was used for illegal purposes. The probe is on," a senior Revenue Department officer said.
The I-T department has also found that international monetary gateways are being used by the internet servers in the Kashmir valley to obtain money.

Sources say while withdrawing money by credit cards by swiping them in ATM machines the interest on the card starts getting levied from day one but an individual can draw any amount of money through this way.

In Tense Anantnag, KPs Perform Yagya for Peace

Kashmiri Pandits performed a night-long yagya in the tense Anantnag district of Kashmir for the return of peace and tranquility in the state and South Asian region.

The yagya, which started on 21 July in the temple of Goddess Sidhlakshmi at Anantnag, concluded on 22 July with 'purna aahuti'. "We prayed for return of peace and tranquillity to Jammu and Kashmir, and South Asian region during the night-long yagya," organisers said.

Nearly 250 Kashmiri Pandits, including women, participated in the yagya organised by Dooru Shahabad Migrant Coordination Committee in collaboration with All Parties Migrant Coordination Committee (APMCC). Despite restrictions on the movement of people in the valley in the wake of ongoing unrest, local Muslims helped in organising the yagya at Lukbhavan in Dooru, 70 kms from Srinagar, Chairman of APMCC Vinod Pandit said.

He said the yagya was being organised every year at Lukbhavan, abode of four other temples of Lord Shiva, Sita-Ram-Laxman, Maa Durga temple and Laxmi Narayan.

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