Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

City of Shame

Abdul Rashid recalls that Srinagar was not so dirty a couple of decades back and suggests measures to improve the city's ambiance

(Mr. Abdul Rashid Khan, 62, was born in Magarmal Bagh, Srinagar. He matriculated from the Khalsa High School, Srinagar, and completed his Bachelor's degree from Sri Pratap College, Srinagar. He received his M.A. in Economics from the University of Kashmir, and completed his research work at the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi. Mr. Khan subsequently joined the state police force, retiring as the Inspector General of Police (IGP). He received President's police medal for meritorious services, and two Sher-e-Kashmir medals for meritorious services and gallantry, respectively. Mr. Khan is presently a member of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC). In his leisure time, Mr. Khan enjoys, writing and gardening.)


The Fourth Dirtiest City

Srinagar City once known as the Venice of the East, ranks at 420 among the 423 cities of the country, in sanitation, thereby achieving the distinction of being the 4th dirtiest City of India, as per the recent survey conducted by the Urban development ministry.

This should not surprise us as our state has already made a mark in corruption by gaining a top slot in ranking. If these are the real pointers, for becoming a model state, then we have obtained the target.

In early 70’s and 80’s , the situation of sanitation in Srinagar city was not so bad as we see it today. Despite of the meager resources of manpower and having little infrastructure, the SMC now known as Srinagar Municipal corporation (SMC), would make all efforts to manage the sanitation in better way and used to keep the city clean.

In those days, even the government employees would imbibe a lot of sense of discipline and work with commitment and dedication, which is now-a-days missing.

During summer season, though having poor infrastructure, the Mushkies would sprinkle the water on roads manually to get the dust settled and make the atmosphere cool and soothing.

The SMC has a definite role to play in managing the sanitation and keeping the City clean. In recent times we have seen the already installed dustbins, disappearing from its places. The reasons behind shifting these bins may be known to the SMC, but it is surprising that no alternative arrangement have been made at these places and instead the heaps of garbage’s, filth and waste are found on the roadside, which become the breeding ground for various diseases, particularly in hot summer.

We may not blame the SMC only, but it is the residents of the City of summer capital, who are also responsible for this mess.

As we lack traffic sense, similarly we are very poor in exhibiting the civic sense, the two important basic indicators of a civilized society.

We are keen to keep our households and premises clean and take pleasure in throwing waste and filth on the roads and these small dumps become exposed to flies and insects. The huge dumps of filth and waste are seen on roadsides at various places in uptown and to name a few, these are Rawalpora, opposite Government high school, Barzullah, Magarmal Bagh, police station Rajbagh crossing, Residency road near Polo-view opposite Mughal Darbar and the biggest dump on Boulevard, near, Buchwara link road. These dumps are not only in abundance with filth but also gives such a foul smell that tourists who happen to pass by these places particularly the Boulevard and Polo-view, will never bother to visit Srinagar city again. These dumps are not cleared by the concerned agency in the early mornings or before sunrise but are mostly seen being lifted during peak hours when the business activity starts. The situation becomes worst, when the dumps of garbage get accumulated to an un imaginable extent due to Hartals and Bandhs, which are frequent in the Srinagar City. It is not only the SMC, but other departments like UEED and LAWDA, which are also responsible for maintenance of the Srinagar city particularly the tourist areas located on the right side of Boulevard road from Dalgate to Harwan including the famous Dal Lake on its left side.

The Srinagar City, was once rightly known as an important tourist destination and would attract number of domestic and foreign tourists. The security situation in Kashmir was no doubt an important factor responsible for downward trend in the inflow of tourist graph during recent past but the lack of infrastructure which include, the sanitation and the cleanliness of the City is becoming a major impediment in attracting the large number of tourists particularly the foreigners, to visit Kashmir. The J&K tourism department no doubt is making all out efforts, including incurring expenditure of millions of rupees on advertisement, for growth and promotion of tourism but have not obtained the desired results for giving maximum fillip to tourist industry. Despite the fact that there is dearth of basic tourist infrastructure like five star hotels, expressways and other amenities required to attract the foreign and rich domestic tourists but even then they are curious to visit Srinagar because it is gifted with natural beauty, guarded by high mountains like Mahadev, Zabarwan , famous for Mughal gardens, Dal lake and blessed with shrines. The tourists enjoy and prefer to stay in houseboats as it is a unique experience to know closely the people and their culture. The tourists also like to visit Hazratbal and Makdoom Sahib (RA) shrines besides having a trip to the Shankeracharya Temple.

It is not only the heaps of garbage’s that make the City dirty but also the absence of drainage sin some areas and existence of the poor and faulty drainage system in other areas, which are responsible for turning Srinagar into the filthiest city particularly during rainy days. The faulty drainage system is not due to bad engineering only but also the residents of the capital city do contribute the maximum, for choking the drains, by throwing polythene and other substantial material. The natural waterbodies of Nadurgund near PeerBagh, Tengapora, Bemina and AcharLake which in earlier time would absorb the excessive rain water during rainy season, now hardly appear on the map of Srinagar as these have been filled and big mansions and residential houses have been constructed. The filling of Nallah Mar, which used to serve as a traditional drainage for old and historical city besides as a means of river transport, was a big engineering blunder. I personally feel that the future generation will never forgive those engineering experts who approved and implemented this project in compliance to their political mentors and did not have guts to oppose this proposal, in the larger interest of public of Srinagar City. We must also learn from the people of Leh and leaders of HDCL who have contributed lot in making Leh as a hot tourist destination especially for foreign tourists. The fast inflow of tourist rush to Leh is also responsible for increasing their per capita income besides opening new avenues of employment. One can find Leh as clean as the City of Shimla. The tourist industry ,being the major industry of J&K state, it is high time for the political leadership and the public to rise to occasion, to create a healthy environment to strengthen the basic infrastructure and to keep Srinagar City and other tourist areas clean, for promotion and growth of this industry. To make our City pollution free, the men in power must pass a legislation to ban the import and production of polythene carry bags in J&K state and enforce the law, right at Lakhanpur and Lower- Munda Toll posts instead of making futile efforts in City. The unabated increase in the vehicular traffic and its congestion, has increased the pollution level in City and made the situation worst.

It is also earnestly suggested that the banks must stop lending of car loans temporarily till the situation improves. Even the winter capital of Jammu city is experiencing high level pollution due to presence of suspended particles in the atmosphere having exceeded the limit considered as safe for breathing. We have to sacrifice our individual interests for the welfare of community interest. It is still never late then ever, for all concerned agencies to be honest and sincere in their efforts to keep Srinagar City clean with the cooperation of public and make its environment pollution free.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kashmir's Future Direction Rests on the Fate of its Minorities

Syeda comes in the defense of logic and sane politics

(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.)

Insane Politics

Turning point. Defining moment. Watershed. It slips in the realm just subtly, adroitly. However, the manifestation is slow and gradual. Partition in the subcontinent was the product of an idea that was born in split second but fostered over a certain span of time. A paradigm move that changed the chronicle of events impetuously, partition remains a kicking ghost, destined to be exhumed and dissected over and again. The autopsy is yet incomplete. The cremation still unfinished. Gory scuffles and gashing sagas keep it up in the air.

Partition as a process led to many a makings. Widespread loss and agony apart, it carved out a few immutable historical specifics: Gandhi as a bolshie saint is an astute politician; Nehru a larger-than-size vibrant personification of Progressive India but a pampered young man; and Jinnah as a suave gentleman who became a pushy leader out of sheer situations.

Lines drawn and boundaries lugged, theater of division was enacted, and rest followed. Bisham Sahni’s Tamas, Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan, Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice Candy Man, Attia Hussein’s Sunlight on a Broken Column, Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children or Jaswant Singh’s contentious Jinnah: India-Partition Independence , the trauma reached beyond famed treatises. The characters weren’t confined to prose; prosaic realities smeared with blood percolated along the generations. Of course, people dwindled into symbols, and stories were fashioned out of continuing horrors, communal frenzy and the rising obscurantism.

More than 60 years down the line, today the fate of minority in India smacks of an abhorring nostalgia. The Ahmadabad, Aligarh, Meerut, Bhagalpur, Gujarat, and Kandhamal of yesteryears, seems a minor hitch in the bandwagon of ‘diversity’ that India typifies. It is perhaps all explain¬able with reference to changing mindset of majority population. The pattern of hatred seems changed ever since. Today, it is determined and planned, carrying no parallels.

No melting pot, India as a unique collage of unwanted and untamed hate appears emerging cogently. The marked reluctance to proceed at law and a cynically manipulated demonization of minority religions, is nurturing the climate of spiraling violence and rampage. In the grip of unending nightmare since Gujarat carnage, the crazed goon squads have been stalking the landscape, leaving behind trails of blood, destruction and devastation. The bigotry and ugly intolerance have highlighted the collapse of political authority and the revanchist illogicalities budding in the name of some savage god of perverted patriotism or demonic faith.
Using terror as a strategy to seize the high ground ideologically and ensure a constant setting and resetting for a political gain, is fast turning the binding indicator of mainstream politics in India. The men ala Narendra Modi, Bal Thackeray, Advani or anyone of their ilk are only taking the dictates flatly. That did they ever had a brush with Mao Zedong’s idiolect of brute force (power flows from the barrel of gun) is an educated guess since the logistics of their ruling exercises reek a close veneer. The only difference lies in camouflaging of the same, which perhaps outspoken Mao and his Gang of Four was not cognizant of. Even intrigues of Nazi’s and their anti-Semitic pogroms lacked a mitigating approach. Goebbels’s mills couldn’t churn eternally convincing propaganda. Though the most vigorous its influence was, it could not hide a flagrant injustice or induce the masses to reconcile obvious inconsistencies. The reason was plain: skillfully manipulated, the credulity of the public on minor matters seemed almost inexhaustible, but on major issues like war, subjugation and rights, the limits of credulity were soon
reached. No doubt, multitude of people died and the expansionist design of politics made deep inroads into history, but the dictators masquerading as visionaries were damned to deprecation.

Contemporary unstable political scenarios in the world and aftermath, is receding to barbaric etiology but with a small change: the disquieting injustice and criminal insolvency are getting institutionalized. They are no longer debated, still less discussed. The calculated patronage is the unusual point. In this backdrop, the saga of Partition and its long drawn corollary in India stands as a blatant vindication.

They say world has not gone to dogs yet. Right. But that dogs in human frame have gone nuts is also true. When minorities in any society become the victim of insane politics, it’s the beginning of decline for the society itself. The hooliganism that minorities face remains the last comment and the ensuing fate of any nation the very last presentiment.

MEANWHILE, A TRULY INSANE DECLARATION REFLECTING THE MAFIA LIKE ROLE OF RADICAL ISLAMISTS IN THE VALLEY .....

Hurriyat (G) Lauds Traders For Sacrifices

Srinagar: The acting general secretary of the Hurriyat (G), Masarat Aalam, has lauded the traders’ community in Kashmir for its resolve, saying that the Rs 65 crore it lost every day was its contribution to the ongoing movement.

“This is proof of a living people who sacrifice their today for their tomorrow, as great causes require great sacrifices,” Aalam said.

“Every individual in Kashmir is insecure because of the occupation by the Indian forces, and the masses are engaged in a resistance to secure their future, and this has sent tremors through India’s highest councils,” he said.

Aalam asked government employees to contribute Rs 100 each to local public funds for the assiatnce of the needy, and said that sanitation work would be undertaken on an urgent and voluntary basis on Sunday, besides distributing relief and dispatching supplies to the urban areas.

The Seasonal Weapon of Choice

Ashraf analyses the power of kangri over shoe


(Mr. Mohammad Ashraf, 67, was born and raised in Srinagar. He attended the S.P. High School and the S.P College before joining the Regional Engineering College at Naseem Bagh in Civil Engineering. However, he changed his career to adventure sports like mountaineering and skiing, completing his training at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling and Gulmarg. He also completed a diploma in French language from the Alliance Fran├žaise in New Delhi. He joined the J&K Tourism Department in 1973, rose to become its Director-General in 1996, and retired in 2003 after 30 years of service. He has been associated with the Adventure Sports at the national level and was recently re-elected as the Vice-President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, the apex body of adventure sports in India, for two years. To commend his efforts in introducing rescue measures in Kashmir Mountains, he was awarded “Merite-Alpin” by Swiss in a special function in Les Diablerets in 1993. He continues to be a member of the Governing Council of IMF and is also the President of Jammu & Kashmir Mountaineering & Hiking Club.)

Of Kangris and Shoes!

Recently a senior columnist while commenting on the Independence Day shoe-gate in Kashmir related the story of the throwing of a Kangri (wicker covered earthen pot filled with burning charcoal traditionally used in winter under the locally worn robe for warming) in 1963 on a political leader which resulted in a major change in the political set up of the state in mid sixties.

The incident had virtually wiped out a dynasty from the political scene. The prominent members of the clan went into hiding for quite sometime. The upheaval had resulted from the removal of the holy relic from its place in the Hazratbal shrine. The eleven year long suppression under Bakshi’s rule found a readymade outlet through the holy relic agitation. The upsurge was spontaneous and throughout the valley. The kangri incident on the old Amira Kadal Bridge resulted in the burning down of the vehicle of Rashid Bakshi, a cousin of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. The vehicle was thrown into the river Jhelum. Same day Radio Station, Regal Cinema, and a number of other vehicles were burnt down by the mobs. However, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ordered that the peoples’ fury should not be restricted and they should be allowed to vent their emotions through processions and public meetings. People sat down in almost all major road crossings and lit huge log fires to escape the winter chill. They were round the clock reciting holy Quran. Community kitchens were set up and everybody was getting meals on the roadside. The agitation continued almost for a month till the holy relic was mysteriously placed back in its original location. The loss and recovery of the holy relic is probably the biggest mystery of the twentieth century? The movement kick started by the loss of holy relic was very intelligently channelled by Lal Bahadur Shastri, who had been deputed by Panditji to handle it, in collaboration with Maulana Masoodi towards the demand for the release of Sheikh Abdullah and the restoration of the right of self-determination. The movement also threw up Moulvi Farooq as a new leader heading the Action Committee. A new youth leadership was also thrown up due to the participation of a large number of students. This leadership was subsequently decimated by Sheikh Abdullah by labelling them as Intelligence Bureau agents! He was scared of losing his hold on the masses. The State got a new political set up headed by G M Sadiq, an honest, upright politician with strong communist leanings. It was probably the only clean government Kashmir has seen in the recent history? He was totally liberal and progressive and very much respected the educated and the intellectuals. Pandit Nehru had also realised his mistake of betraying his friend Sheikh Abdullah and sent him as an emissary to meet General Ayub Khan the then President of Pakistan to work out a settlement of the Kashmir problem. Unfortunately, Panditji’s demise disrupted the initiative. Pakistan tried to take advantage of the mass upsurge in Kashmir and sent its commandos to start an armed uprising. This venture failed as Kashmiris were not mentally prepared for an armed struggle. The infiltration resulted in an all out war. However, Kashmir tangle after a destructive war still remained unresolved! Kangri which had been used in this agitation has remained a weapon of choice for Kashmiri agitators in winter. It is an equivalent of a Molotov cocktail easily hidden under pheran (Kashmir robe)!

In contrast to Kangri, which according to the senior columnist is a Kashmiri WMD, Shoe is symbolic of all types of disgrace in Kashmiri parlance. Shoe called Pozar in Kashmiri is associated with the worst form of insult and rebuke. Pozar wassin or pozar wallin in Kashmiri means to be disgraced or to disgrace. If a person wants to disgrace someone, he picks up a shoe and thrashes him with it. This method is used often to express anger against someone by disgracing him with a lowly shoe and is not meant so much to give physical harm. It is more symbolic than substantive. In the present case of the shoe hurling on the chief minister during the Indian Independence Day parade it was not so much to insult and disgrace the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah but has been an attempt to highlight the mass unrest against India. There could not have been a better opportunity than this to project the event worldwide through the electronic media. In fact, that is exactly what happened. The most important annual address of the prime minister from the ramparts of the Red Fort went into background and the shoe hurling on Omar Abdullah by a policeman shouting slogans for freedom grabbed all the headlines. The event was more significant as it represented a peaceful attempt to highlight the plight of Kashmiris than some earlier attempts during the peak of militancy when rockets were regularly fired against the parade from the neighbouring houses and lanes into the stadium. Those incidents represented the militant phase of the Kashmir’s uprising and the shoe hurling, which was in a lighter vein praised by the chief minister himself, symbolises the new form of peaceful protest. However, keeping in view some personal qualities of Omar Abdullah one feels that he did not deserve to be disgraced. Anger is right and one could direct it against him but not disgrace! He had started with a clean slate as a young, upright, and honest leader. People had great expectations from him. He had made many promises during the election campaign. But he failed to fulfil most of those promises especially the ones regarding the harrowing behaviour of the security forces. He seemed to be caught in the cobwebs of a coterie of mafia dons and his advisors did not give him the correct advice! Delhi very cleverly used him to face all the brunt which was actually directed against it.

There is a difference in the kangri hurling of early sixties and the shoe hurling of August 15 this year. In the earlier case, the person concerned was a bully and totally uncouth. The kangri was hurled at the start of the revolution and swept away the whole lot. In the present shoe hurling, the person is not so bad but what he has come to represent is reprehensible to the common Kashmiri! Again the shoe was hurled in the present case when the revolution is already at its peak and the government has already been in a literal sense swept away and exists in name only! There is an astonishing aspect. One is at a loss to differentiate between the person who had an emotional outburst in the assembly merely on a moral allegation and the present one coming on TV off and on during the ongoing massacre of the Kashmiri youth. Are these two faces of the same person? Difficult to imagine!

Breaching the Controlled Narrative in Kashmir

Saleem breaches the mafia style nexus between separatist and official government machinery by exposing a breaking news story contrary to the set narrative

(Mr. Mohammad Saleem Pandit, 45, was born in Srinagar. He completed his schooling from the Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School, and his B.A. from the Sri Pratap College, Srinagar. He subsequently completed the L.L.B. degree from the University of Kashmir. He ventured into journalism by starting a new fortnightly magazine called, "Submission." Later he joined the Indian Express Srinagar Bureau, and since 2000, has been the Srinagar Bureau chief of the Times News Network, TNN.)

Embrace Islam or leave Valley, Sikhs threatened

SRINAGAR: Sikhs in the Kashmir Valley have received anonymous letters from Islamic militants asking them to either embrace Islam and join the protests against civilian killings or pack up and leave the Valley. The 60,000-strong Sikh community is the single largest minority group in the Valley.

An organisation of Kashmiri Sikhs said that several community members have received these letters. "Community members have received unsigned letters at various places," said All Party Sikh Coordination Committee (ASCC) coordinator Jagmohan Singh Raina. He said the community has decided to stay put and fight these "evil designs" at a meeting in Srinagar on Thursday.

Raina quoted a letter as saying: "When you are enjoying the joys here, why can't you share the grief and sorrow of Kashmiris as well? We know you are afraid of bullets... Hold protests inside gurdwaras or leave Kashmir." He added, "Some letters have asked Sikhs to embrace Islam."

Raina urged both factions of the Hurriyat, JKLF and PoK-based United Jihad Council to take serious note of the threats to maintain amity and brotherhood in the Valley.

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has reassured the Sikhs saying they shouldn't feel threatened and should ignore the "fake letters". He assured the community that nobody would force them to join the protests.

Earlier, Geelani has made an emotional appeal against forcing minorities to join the protests and said harming them would be like "inflicting a wound on his (Geelani's) body".

The state unit of Akali Dal (Badal) president Ajeet Singh Mastana described the threats as acts by anti-social elements. "The threats can't break us and reduce our love for our motherland," he said.

IMMEDIATE REACTION OF J&K GOVERNMENT

Govt denies harassment of Sikhs

Terms it propaganda, conspiracy

Rising Kashmir News

Srinagar: Government has strongly denied the report published in a national daily regarding harassment of a particular community in Kashmir by a majority community by way of letters. A government spokesman termed the report as a deliberate attempt to malign a strong secular image of people of Kashmir outside the state. He said that letters written by any one mischievous person can’t be projected as view of majority.

The spokesman said that all the communities are living amicably in the valley and cited the instance of a group of people, who performed last rites of their brother belonging to other community just the other day, which was hailed by entire media.

The spokesman while terming the story of the national newspaper as a figment of imagination and falsehood said that the valley of Kashmir is the bedrock of strong, secular ideology, which has been established by it during all the testing times. He further said that news report is aimed at creating confusion at a time when the situation is slowly moving towards normalcy.

He said it seems handiwork of those elements, who are bent on creating wedge between various communities to foment trouble. He said that recently three weeks before one isolated ugly incident which occurred at Tral was unanimously condemned openly by entire population. Even the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah intervened in the matter and all delegation who met him gave assurance for strengthening of mutual relationship and brotherhood.

Meanwhile, the spokesman appreciated the other sections of the media who have always supported the government and the people of Kashmir in projecting the secular image. He said the clear example of this is the successful Amarnath Yatra, where lakhs of devotees paid obeisance at holy cave and the people of Kashmir warmly facilitated their pilgrimage.

Likewise, the spokesman said that the Muslim and Sikh communities in the valley have century old relationship based on mutual respect and love for each other.


TALIBANIZATION OF KASHMIR - A REALITY OR MYTH?

Check out the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvQEE9lEFo8

What Went Wrong?

Fayyaz, "the surgeon", dissects the chief ministership of Mr. Omar Abdullah

(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

What went wrong with Omar’s Kashmir?

SRINAGAR: Phenomenal success of the Assembly elections of 2008 set in a wave of jubilation and euphoria in the mainstream political circles and establishment from Srinagar to New Delhi. A little over 61% of the electorate had exercised their franchise---over 1700,000 of them in Kashmir valley alone---without any sort of coercion, fist time since 1987. Few among the political analysts and very senior politicians had expected this historic turnout in an Indian democratic exercise held in weeks of a mass street agitation in the Valley.

Most of the people, who participated in the election, as well as many of those who did not, for varied reasons, seemed to have reasons behind their relief. The elections reversed the situation of an unprecedented regional and communal divide witnessed in the middle of 2008. There was a lot of jubilation over Omar Abdullah becoming the country's youngest Chief Minister. They thought the young Chief Minister understood the importance of blending employment opportunities, development and political resolution of the Kashmir issue by strengthening dialogue between India and Pakistan.

In most of his statements during the election campaign, Omar had underscored the need of responsive governance and specified “better roads, power supplies, drinking water, healthcare and qualitative education” as the major indicators of the government's performance.

Suffering from the disadvantage of being a non-resident politician, whose importance stemmed from his dynastic background, Omar demonstrated his lack of political understanding and administrative acumen from his day one in office. While bargaining partnership with Congress and later making two selections of his Council of Ministers, he made blatant mistakes.

Obviously, in lieu of his full six-year term as Chief Minister, he handed almost all of his flagship portfolios---roads, water, health, education---to the coalition partner, Congress. He lacked numerical strength to form the government of his own but still had nearly double the seats Mufti Mohammad Sayeed possessed in November 2002. Shepherd of the thin herd of 16 in a House of 87, Mufti did not budge an inch from his cardinal demand of holding the first half of his coalition government’s term. He made Congress bow with his obduracy for a full month after declaration of the results.

Omar also humiliated the most influential of his party colleagues, including the one who had secured highest number of votes among more than 2,000 contestants in Kashmir, by keeping them out of his Cabinet. Those inducted were no less disappointed over their 'insignificant' portfolios. Bureaucrats and officials, known for their rank opportunism, political loyalty and proximity to the Opposition, managed to retain key positions in Omar-led coalition government.

Omar’s father, Dr Farooq Abdullah, who shifted to the national platform, was also appointed NC's President. Party’s organizational structure passed through a fresh membership drive but the key office bearers were never appointed. Omar’s predicament became public last month when, during the course of a television interview, he said that he had more time than his father to operate as the NC’s President.

Consequently, an effective delivery system, consistent with NC's election manifesto, vision document and political ideology, failed to be in place. CM never seemed to be having liaison with his party rank and file, including the seniormost legislators and Ministers of his government. Like total inertia during the days of pandemonium over Shopian in 2008, NC’s leaders, legislators and Ministers seldom held a deliberation over the current spate of street turmoil until it blew into a catastrophe two months ago.

Within weeks of his taking over in January 2009, complacency and nonchalance was abundantly in evidence. Chief Minister attended little business in the maiden session of the legislature. He enjoyed alpine skiing over Afarwat on the day of his first reply on the Governor’s address. His notes had been saved meticulously by his officials and aides and the speech was pretty emphatic but his absence from the House was marked with disdain by the Opposition and with concern by the Treasury Benches.

Over the months, Omar seemed to believe that connections with New Delhi were more important than the liaison with his electors in the state. This led almost to a political vacuum and system failure in governance. Ignominiously marginalized by the elections, Valley’s separatist leadership found it easier to stage a comeback. Growing disillusionment among the masses came handy to hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani who literally wept over the Kashmiris’ infidelity of participating in the 2008 elections at a news conference after his release from jail and seemed to be desperately looking for issues until as recently as in May 2010.

Geelani, who was seen using his elbow to grab a bit of the political space with the vegetarian issue of restricting Amarnath pilgrimage to 15 days, with the real concern on ecology, has filled up the vacuum with aplomb and grown as an undisputed king of Kashmir’s secessionist politics in the last two months. He is now deciding on what days Omar and his Cabinet Ministers can move on the roads in Kashmir and when the government’s offices should open and close.

Hardliner Geelani flourished only after 2002

It was more than on one occasion that New Delhi attempted to neutralize Paklistan’s plebiscite argument on the international diplomacy front with the participation of the Kashmiris in Assembly elections of 2008. Diminishing militancy was simultaneously celebrated as an achievement. Having meticulously bargained power with National Conference (NC), Congress refused to come out of its complacency. Rather than taking political initiatives from the commanding position it enjoyed first time in the last several years, Congress-led UPA government made hardly any attempt to perceive the back swing in Omar Abdullah’s popularity in the Valley.

Omar alone was never to blame for the reverse. For months, he was beguiled into the uncouth romanticism by the Centre. The attribute of the “youngest Chief Minister’ did not go till the poor politician’s hair turned grey a year later. As lately as on June 7th this year, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, disappointed many in the Valley by restricting his offer of dialogue to only those sections “who are against violence and bloodshed”. During his visit in Srinagar next day, he described Omar “not only the youngest but also the most competent Chief Minister”. Men like Narendra Modi and even women like Shiela Dixit may not have taken ill of the appreciation as they knew that the Prime Minister’s assessment was based on a PowerPoint presentation---powerful indeed---but not on the real parameters of governance and development.

Earlier, these days last year, Manmohan Singh’s Minister of Home Affairs, P Chidambaram, had set off the balloon of “quiet diplomacy” in Srinagar. That whole drama of “quiet diplomacy” ended with anti-climax when unidentified persons attacked Hurriyat dove, Fazal Haq Qureishi, in vicinity of his residence in Soura.

Sustained marginalization of so-called moderates in the Valley’s separatist camp led to proportionate swelling of hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s influence. Octogenarian Geelani knew that New Delhi’s permissiveness of the hate-India sentiment in Jammu & Kashmir was to the best of his advantage. He also perceived weakness of the rulers in Srinagar to showcase soft corner for the hardliners. It took him just months to realize that the youngest Chief Minister was well on Mufti Sayeed’s track of velvet fist rather than Farooq Abdullah’s iron gloves.

Watching Omar forward PDP’s healing touch policy to the extent of issuing Passports to the most persecuted sections of the separatists and militants and, in fact, beginning his work after expansion of his Cabinet with recruiting over 300 of the Jamaat-e-Islami activists as teachers, Geelani began to assert afresh.

Geelani, indeed, stands out in the crowd of Kashmiri politicians in professing the art of building his strength over the weaknesses of the Indian democratic system. In certain areas, he has indisputably outclassed even the towering Sheikh Abdullah. Contrary to Abdullah, Geelani’s base of influence was for decades limited to just a section of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Even when Sheikh was in jail, Geelani was among the five Jamaat-e-Islami candidates whose victory was dubiously facilitated by Mrs Indira Gandhi’s Congress party in the fraudulently conducted Assembly elections of 1972. It happened years before Bhindranwale was picked up for a role in the SGPC elections in Punjab. By the time a secessionist guerrilla movement erupted in Kashmir in 1989 and the Jamaat firebrand resigned as a MUF MLA, he had represented his constituency of Sopore for three terms and contested more elections than any of the state’s Chief Ministers and their family members.

Geelani’s influence in the separatist camp was penuriously limited till 2002, notwithstanding his acting as Hurriyat’s chairman for a term. Then a Jamaat ideologue, he was harshly pushed out of a condolence meeting over the assassination of People Conference founder Abdul Gani Lone. Many in the PC suspected him of being friendly with Lone’s assassins. They had no hesitation in asserting publicly.

When Mufti Sayeed engineered Hurriyat’s first split in 2003 after 10 years of its existence by inducting Lone’s confidante and PC’s proxy MLA from Handwara, Mohiuddin Sofi, as a Minister, none of the constituents sided with Geelani. Diving in controversy after controversy, Geelani was expelled even from the Jamaat he had served for over 40 years. He was reprimanded by then Pakistani President, Gen Musharraf, for his lack of reconciliation. Then came his real defining moments. He not only launched his own, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, but also projected an alliance of nondescript separatist groups as the “real” Hurriyat. This is the alliance that is calling the shots in Kashmir today and has, for the first time, brought New Delhi to its knees. Much of its credit unmistakably goes to Mufti, followed by Omar.

Omar fumbled and faltered from day one in office

New Delhi’s policy of having no Kashmir policy proved to be disastrous in the current turbulence. Even as Congress became NC’s coalition partner both at the Central as well as the state level, Kashmir continued to be handled by intelligence and security agencies. Perhaps this would not have been the position with men like Rajesh Pilot in Sonia Gandhi’s Congress and UPA. Left to bureaucracy and the intelligence and security agencies, Kashmir was turned into a political laboratory. In the last several years, Farooq Abdullah’s politics of jingoism—that was perceived to be turning dangerous with NC’s insistence on autonomy---was replaced by Mufi Sayeed’s politics of appeasement.

Enjoying a riding on the tiger for several years, New Delhi found itself in a whirlpool in 2008 when it realized that the Valley’s radical sections were the real beneficiaries of Mufti’s healing touch policy. That they had regrouped and expanded their base substantially became clear when Geelani emerged as the hero of Amarnath land row turmoil and Mufti’s PDP became completely irrelevant. Assembly elections turned the tables soon and an anti-incumbency factor favoured Dr Abdullah’s party. All but one of Mufti’s Cabinet Ministers were defeated by the NC candidates.

Hate-India sentiment was publicly promoted by Mufti and his party to the extent that nobody questioned one of Mufti’s senior Cabinet Ministers as to how Lashkar-e-Toiba militants had stayed at his residence for several weeks before setting out for Ahmedabad in Gujarat to launch a Fidayeen attack on Akshardhaam temple. The Minister resigned when the story appeared in media but Mufti advised him not to quit on “such small matters”.

One of the PDP Ministers lately revealed in a television interview that New Delhi had sent a lot of money to J&K, which Mufti filled in envelops and sent it to the families of the militants dying in encounters with the Special Operations Group and the Indian

security forces. None of the civilian killings, suspected to be done by militants, was ever condemned by then Chief Minister or any of his Ministerial colleagues.

Dangers of leaving the hardline politics uncontested politically became evident in the worst form in the middle of current year when New Delhi failed to get a single politician, with the exception of J&K PCC President, Saif-ud-din Soz, to say a word in entire J&K state against the separatist hardliners grabbing entire space in the Valley. Everybody seemed to be talking of the need to reach out to 500-odd stone pelters and nobody even consoled hundreds of thousands of the shopkeepers, a substantial chunk of the population associated with tourism and equal number of students losing their months due to continued shutdown and clashes.

Congress leader and Minister of Medical Education, R S Chib, visited SKIMS but not to call on the people injured in different incidents of violence. He enquired about a single patient---Syed Ali Shah Geelani---and directed Director of the hospital to provide best possible treatment to the separatist leader. On occasion of the assassination anniversary of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s father in May, another Congress leader and Minister of Health, Sham Lal Sharma, organized a blood donation camp at SKIMS and marked attendance of all of his senior and junior officials at the separatist show.

Without bearing in mind that NC could never take PDP’s position in the Valley’s separatist camp, Omar Abdullah picked up the threads of his job where these had been left by Mufti in November 2005. Even after becoming Chief Minister, he did little to enquire about the condition of the families of nearly 3,000 NC workers and leaders killed by militants for their association with Sheikh Abdullah’s party they held responsible for J&K’s accession to India.

During the first test of his confidence, Omar blindly toed the “popular” line in Shopian in June-September 2009. He and his Ministers attempted to outsmart everybody from PDP to Hurriyat in presenting themselves as “anti-Police”. On one fine morning, Government’s Advocate General, senior separatist advocates and a specially engaged Supreme Court lawyer were seen drafting charges and evidences against four Police officials on a shared table. Even as the CBI investigation later came as an embarrassment for the government, the NC politicians’ public trial of the accused officials demoralized middle and lower rungs of J&K Police.

While demonstrating lack of self confidence, Chief Minister also seemed to be living under serious inferiority complexes. Finding himself at the receiving end of his detractors’ canard, Omar began presenting himself as a Kashmiri Muslim, no inferior to Mufti and Mehbooba. He was shown on official media occasionally performing his prayers in the lead row at Hazratbal. Many here believe that the Khatam-e-Sharief at his residence has become a bolder feature than Cabinet meetings. Analysts insist that religious affiliation of some members of his family has grown as a complex for the young Chief Minister.

The Lasting Legacy of the Shia Faith in Kashmir

Sajjad presents a comprehensive history of Shia faith in Kashmir, noting that it too has suffered as a minority

(Mr. Sajjad Haider, 45, was born in Srinagar. He completed his high school and college education in Srinagar, graduating from the Sri Pratap College. He received his engineering degree from the University of Tamilnadu, and subsequently studied journalism at the Tehran University. During the gulf war, he was partly stationed in Iraq as a correspondent for the Tehran Times. He subsequently took up an assignment for the Iranian news agency in New Delhi and moved back to Kashmir in 1994. Two years later, he co-founded the daily Kashmir Observer of which he became the chief editor. As an expert on south asian and middle eastern affairs, his views have been aired by the BBC, Al-Jazeera, VOA, and the CBS. He rejoined the Iranian news agency as the head of J&K bureau in 2003. In 2006, Mr. Haider was awarded the prestigious Chevening Fellowship by Great Britain.)


Shias of Kashmir: Socio-Political Dilemmas

Come Muharram, the month of mourning, Kashmir’s Shia-dominated areas come alive with black banners, and now increasingly, with portraits of religio-political revolutionary leaders from Iran and beyond.

The banners of modern day Shia icons from Iran to Lebanon in Kashmir illustrate how the Shia* resurgence has spilled over borders, into places like Kashmir with small Shia populations with their own troubled history.

This new assertiveness from a community which till recently would observe Taqyah(1), or dissimulation, for fear of being persecuted merely for observing rituals like in Muharram, is demonstrative of the urge of the new generation Shia to assert as a community.

They see in the victory of the Shia in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Iran their own triumph. Relief after 1500 years of subjugation, denial of what they see as their fundamental right to mourn their greatest loss, their heroes in the deserts of Kerbala. The urge to overcome the fear psychosis they have been living with as a community ever since.

An attempt to put up a bold face amidst the shadows of lurking fears.

Driven from one place to another. Minority within a minority. Devoid of heroes in their own midst they look beyond borders. The Shia awakening elsewhere is infusing new vigour, new enthusiasm in the youth in Srinagar, Baramulla, Budgam and even in far flung places like Kargil.

There is a bold statement. ‘Big brother’ you can cow us down or take us for granted at your own peril!

SHIAS OF KASHMIR:
Although there has been no official census on sectarian lines in Kashmir, a conservative estimate puts the Shia population of the whole of erstwhile Kashmir state at around 1.5 million.

A rough estimate puts the Shia population of Indian controlled Jammu and Kashmir state at around one million, 10 percent of the total population. Shias are a majority in the northern areas of Gilgit-Baltistan currently under Pakistani federal control.

Ninety- eight percent in Baltistan and 60 percent in Gilgit and adjoining areas are Shia even though successive governments in Islamabad have attempted to alter the demographic composition of the region to suit their long term political interests.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the community is chiefly concentrated in Srinagar, central district of Budgam, Baramulla, parts of Bandipur and Ladakh region.

Very few Shia Muslim habitations can be found in southern parts of Kashmir and they virtually do not exist in the Chinab valley where as in other frontier and mountainous belts situated on the approach roads to Kashmir, the community was virtually decimated by the marauding Moghal and Pathan invaders during 16th -18th century.

HISTORICAL GLIMPSE:
History tells us that Moghal governor Mirza Haider Dughlat Kashgari (1540-51-)in order to stem the Kashmiri resistance and to perpetuate his rule brazenly adopted the policy of divide and rule and let loose a reign of terror upon the restive Shia population.

Though the brief period of Shia glory in Kashmir ended after the Mughal treachery that led to the fall of the Chak dynasty, (The last Kashmiri sultanate 1561-1587) the community’s aversion to foreign rule ran supreme.

It had been during the mid 16th century when the Moghal power was at its zenith in India, that a few Kashmiri nobles had invited the army from Delhi to get rid of the local Chak rulers.

And when in middle of the 18th century, the Mughal Empire had begun its decline, a few Sunni Muslim Kashmiri nobles invited Ahmed Shah Abdali, the brutal ruler of Afghanistan, to 'liberate' their country. Pathans, like Moghals obliged and over ran Kashmir in 1752. In order to maintain their stranglehold over Kashmir Abdali’s satraps not only doubled taxes of their impoverished subjects but persecuted the Shia minority with a fanatical vigour as they, like Moghuls, saw in them a perpetual threat for their stubborn beliefs. Fifty years of Afghan rule were rife with suppression of Shia Muslims.

With Kashgari sowing the seeds of hatred among the Muslim community for political ends Shia’s in Kashmir in subsequent years had to pass through the most atrocious period of their history. Plunder, loot and massacres which came to be known as ‘Taarajs’ virtually devastated the community.

History records 10 such Taarajs also known as ‘Taraj-e-Shia’ in 1548, 1585, 1635, 1686, 1719, 1741, 1762, 1801, 1830, 1872 during which the Shia habitations were plundered, people slaughtered, libraries burnt and their sacred sites desecrated. (2)
Such was the reign of terror during this period that the community widely went into the practice of Taqya in order to preserve their lives and the honour of their womenfolk. Village after village disappeared, with community members either migrating to safety further north or dissolving in the majority faith.

The community has yet to recover fully from the shocks of these Taarajs, the last one suffered more than a century ago, and the fear of hidden lurking dangers continues to haunt it to date.

GHETOISATION:
The revival of sectarian based politics in Pakistan during mid eighties and dramatic resurgence of anti-Shia forces there reinforced the fears of the community. The fears actually worsened after the outbreak of the armed uprising in Kashmir in the late eighties with some militant groups, actively supported by the Pakistani state and perceived by the community to be influenced by anti-Shia hate propaganda that was tearing Pakistan of their dreams apart, at the fore front.

This perhaps can explain the reluctance of the community to actively throw in their lot with the separatist movement. This was unlike in the past when the community was in the vanguard of the pro-Pakistan movement in Kashmir.

It was because of this fear that during the past two decades Kashmir, particularly Srinagar, saw emergence of Shia enclaves, now increasingly taking the shape of ghettos.

Zadibal, Bagwanpur, Shalimar and Bemina, the Shia dominated areas of the city absorbed a heavy influx of community members from smaller pockets of downtown Srinagar like Kamangarpora, Shamswari, Fateh Kadal, Chinkral Mohalla, Habba Kadal, Rainawari, Khanyar, Nowpura, Khankah-e-Sokhta, Chattabal etc where Shias alongside Sunni Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits, had been living for centuries, creating a composite setting. This relocation, which had brought them temporary security, has spawned complications of its own, with dangers of breakdown of established social order.

And with this the small Shia pockets spread out in predominantly Sunni areas of the city are gradually disappearing.

The persecution suffered by Shias in Kashmir during the successive foreign rules was not new for the community. Many of the standard bearers of Shia’ism, like Sa’adaat or the descendents of the Prophet (pbuh) and other missionaries who played a key role in spread of the faith in Kashmir, had left their home lands forced by similar situations.
IRAN CONNECTION: During the reign of the Umayads and Abbasids (661-1258) the persecution of the Shia was so severe that they continued to migrate from one place to another in search of a peaceful habitat.(3)

Many later-age Sa’adat and other Shia missionaries, either to escape persecution at the hands of rulers of their time or for the purpose of spreading their faith, traveled to distant lands. Kashmir embraced them in her bosom and the valley soon became one of their favourite destinations.

First to arrive was Syed Sharafudin alias Bul Bul Shah from Ardebil followed by Mir Syed Ali from Hamedan.

Shrines of these missionaries, revered by people irrespective of their religious or sectarian allegiance, dot every part of the Kashmir state.

Thus the families who still post-fix their names with the city of their forefathers’ origin can be found in abundance across Kashmir.

Hamadani, Semnani, Kashani, Kirmani, Geelani, Mazandarani, Shirazi, Isfahani, Qazvini, Araki they came from all parts of Iran and made Kashmir their home. Interestingly overwhelming majority of those who arrived in Kashmir either for missionary activity or for refuge where from Shia Iran and rarely do we find any missionary of Arab origin buried in Kashmir.

Noted Shia families like Ansari, Safavi, Jalali, Razavi, Hakim all trace their roots to Iran.

They till date hold sway over politico-religious life of the Shia community.
Even artisans, craftsmen, physicians (Hakims) and scholars who accompanied the missionaries or came later on bore the Persian surnames. This is cited as one of the reasons for monopoly over arts trade by the Shia community until recently.

SHIA POLITICS:
As the Indian awakening movement began in the early 19th century, Shia nobles like Mir Syed Hussain Shah Jalali were championing the cause of the community at the forums in and outside of the state.

In 1885, he established the Anjuman-e-Imamiya, first politico-religious organization of Shias of Kashmir and subsequently founded the first ever educational institution alongside that of Mirwaiz Rasool Shah, by name of Imamiya High School where students from all sects including Kashmiri Pandits studied.

Jalali, who was a landlord and later was nominated to the legislative assembly by Maharaja Hari Singh, strived tirelessly for the cause of the community and it was due to his efforts that Shias for the first time in 300 years (after the Chak era) took out the Muharram procession during daytime.

Jalali family’s influence however waned with the death of Syed Muhammad Jalali, son of Mir Hussain Shah Jalali, who was the first Muslim from Kashmir to be nominated to the upper house of the Indian parliament as a Muslim representative.

Short lived was the influence of Mir’s cotemporary in politics Munshi Muhammad Ishaq who rose to prominence in the early stages of the plebiscite movement. He was one of the founding members of the Plebiscite Front.

However two families who have left a profound impact on the community in religio-political and social spheres and continue to do so are the Safavi dynasty of Budgam and the Ansari family of Srinagar. Both had produced some outstanding ulema in the past and since the clergy exerts enormous authority in the Shi'a communities the world over, Kashmir was no exception.

Such was the widespread devotion towards these two families that the Shia community of Kashmir had a vertical split with the community divided between two new groups which came to be known as Firqas or sub-sects.

Those following the Ansari family came to be known as Firqa-e-Qadimi (The older sect) while those following the Safavi family of Budgam are known as Firqa-e-Jadidor the new sect.

For many, this dominance of the two select clans has been the bane of the Shia community in Kashmir, as successive governments have cultivated the top figures in order to suborn the entire community. This has not only perpetuated the influence of the clans but also made it near impossible for a common Shia to make his mark on the political stage.

QADIMIS:
Ever since Mulla Aalim Ansari, a scholar of repute and the founder of the Ansari dynasty here, arrived in Kashmir accompanying Mir Syed Hussain Razavi Qumi during the reign of Sultan Zainul Aabidin Budshah (1420-1470) Ansaris have wielded enormous influence over the vast majority of Shias of Kashmir.

Ansari dynasty which has produced outstanding scholars and theologians, most of them alumni of the great seat of Shia learning at Najaf in Iraq faced a major split in 1962 when some influential members of the community chose teenager Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari as the successor of his father and the then head of the Ansari family, Moulvi Muhammad Jawad, on his death instead of Moulvi Muhammad Abbas Ansari, grandson of his brother the noted theologian Moulvi Fazal Ali Ansari.

Abbas who had said goodbye some six years earlier to Kashmir and settled in Najaf was made to reconsider his decision by a stream of letters urging him to return and lead the community, the invite he later accepted in 1961 albeit reluctantly.(4)
A bitter feud ensued and it continues to dog the community till date.

The Qadimis were split between Abbasis and Iftikharis both sides taking up diametrically opposite sides in the Kashmir politics. Iftikhar was anointed as heir to Maulvi Muhammd Jawad and took over not only the reigns of his party the Shia Association including powerful endowment (Auqaf) that controlled Qadimi Imambargahs and allied assets but whole of the ancestral property. It is widely believed that Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad, Sheikh Abdullah’s bete noire, played a key role in Iftikhar’s succession.

Abbas who found himself ditched took shelter in mainstream movement for plebiscite, then led by Sheikh Abdullah, where he quickly rose to a star position thanks to his oratory skills and Najaf background.

This followed the formation of Anjuman-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimin which he aimed as a platform of all Muslims, but the party remained confined within the Shia community despite his strenuous efforts to make it otherwise.

Both parties have ever since remained on the opposing sides in Kashmir politics with Ittehadul Muslimin in the camp advocating Right of Self Determination for Kashmiris and Shia Association toeing a pro-establishment line.

Be it voting in elections or holding of frequent religious services or grand Muharram processions, both parties maintain their separate identity.

Since the Abbas faction had lost Auqaf assets early to Iftikhar, it strived to establish their own institutions.

The Ittehadul Muslimin established a trust by name Al-Abbas Trust in mid-nineties which runs a dozen government recognized English medium schools including one of the level of higher secondary in different impoverished Shia villages.

Safeena, the organ of Ittehadul Muslim remained in print till the mid-seventies, and later resumed publication in 2002 only to close down again in 2007.

The writer of repute Ansari dynasty ever produced preferred seclusion to the lure of dynasty politics. After a brief stint, when he had been chosen as a candidate by the Muslim United Front in 1987, Maulana Mustafa Ansari, till his death in 2006, devoted his time to research and learning leaving behind 31 monumental books, including Urdu and Kashmiri commentary of the Qur’an, thus upholding the family legacy and reviving the dying tradition of scholarship.

The journal Sadaqat, published by the Shia Association, closed down in the early seventies. The Association, however, continues to run scores of Madrasas named Muarif al-Uloom in various Shia dominated villages.

While the Ittehadul Muslimin has a party structure with an elected president and secretary general, hereditary rule still prevails in the Shia Association.

Maulvi Iftikhar continues to be the lifelong president of the Shia Association, and his younger brother is its vice-president.

Both Abbas and Iftikhar run parallel Sharia courts to provide quick justice to their petitioners in the matters of personal law in accordance with the Sharia.
Iftikhar, however, has gradually pulled himself away from his clerical duties and rarely dons the religious robes. He is a sitting member of the state Legislative Assembly, and belongs to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed which he joined after quitting NC following formers rise to power.

Abbas who was forced to quit as chairman of the multi party combine, the Hurriyat Conference, after Pakistan backed his rival Syed Ali Geelani in 2004 following his decision to enter into talks with New Delhi on the Kashmir issue, too, is apparently withdrawing from active politics after a long innings of more than 45 years. He remains the only surviving separatist politician of the Sheikh Abdullah era who has stayed away from the lure of election politics.

Yet he became the first separatist leader whose effigy was torched in Kashmir in 2009 for stating that the Hurriyat should stay away from electoral politics, and neither support nor oppose the exercise.

Since his colleagues backtracked on the collective decision following hardliners’ pressure, he was marginalized in the multi party forum. Abbas has since nominated his son, Masroor, an alumnus of famous Qum Seminary, as his replacement in the Hurriyat.
JADIDIS: Jadidis or the followers of Agha family of Budgam became the largest of Shia sub sect following the split in the Qadimis.

Aghas, unlike Ansaris are Syeds, a title they flaunt by wearing black turbans. They are the descendants of Mir Shamsudin Araki (1481-1526) a highly revered Sufi saint of Noorbakhshia order who arrived in Kashmir from an Iranian town called Arak and was instrumental in spreading the Shia faith in most parts of Kashmir notably Baltistan.

The patriarch of the Agha family, Agha Syed Yusuf al-Mosavi al Safvi, popularly known as Agha Sahab of Budgam, held the reigns of family firmly in his hands till his death in 1982.

Agha sahab was renowned for his charisma and he enjoyed fanatical following among a section of Shia community. His Sharie Adalat or Sharia Court was popular with even non-Muslims who would take their cases to him for speedy justice.

Following the death of Agha Syed Yusuf, a bitter feud erupted in the Safvi dynasty with his son Agha Fazlulah staking claim on the mantle. The claim was rejected by Yusuf’s deputy, cousin and son-in-law, Agha Syed Mustafa, with a majority of followers declaring him as the legitimate leader of the Jadidis. Congress and NC both played key role in the split with the former backing Mustafa faction and National Conference supporting Fazlullah.(5)

Anjuman-e-Sharie Shiayan, the party primarily formed to provide speedy justice based on the principles of Sharia to followers, also got split.

Divided families began running the parallel factions of the Anjuman, and both claim to be its rightful masters.

Further divisions soon surfaced in the party after Agha Mustafa’s two sons joined opposite political camps, with elder son Agha Syed Hassan becoming part of separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference, and the younger son, Agha Mehdi, jumping in the poll bandwagon on the ticket of Congress party in 1996.

Agha Hassan himself had earlier unsuccessfully contested elections on Janata Party ticket in 1977.

Syed Mehdi contested several Assembly and Lok Sabha election as a Congress nominee and as an Independent candidate but lost every time. He was killed by militants in a landmine blast in November 2000 near Magam town sending the party rank and file in to grief. The then chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, upon his visit to the family to pay condolences, offered the NC membership to Mehdi’s teenage son, Ruhullah, now a minister in Omar Abdullah cabinet.

Fazlullah, who himself stayed away from electoral politics, left the job to his younger brother, Mehmood who was minister twice in the National Conference government and later joined the PDP. He quit the party after being denied the election ticket, and is now back in the NC.

Anjuman-e-Sharie weakened after the split, but continues to wield influence among a major section of the community. It runs a number of schools, the major one being the Babul-Ilm at Budgam.

One person who still upholds the intellectual legacy of the dynasty is Agha Syed Baqir. Baqir shuns publicity and confines himself to the spiritual pursuits. He rarely leads traditional services in Imambargahs, even though many of Jadids look to him for guidance in the matters of religion.

SHIA KARGIL:
The profound influence the clergy wields over the community is more starkly visible in Shia dominated Kargil, a geographically isolated area , 205 Kms north of Srinagar.
Here clergy continues to shape the destiny of people.

The spectacular rise of the Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust (IKMT), a voluntary organisation comprising mostly youth had created an upheaval of sorts for the socio-political order of the desolate and impoverished district of Kashmir nestled in Himalayas.

Influenced by the Islamic Revolution of Iran, IKMT embarked on an ambitious plan to intervene in the socio- economic life of the people by introducing variety of programmes ranging from water shed management to modern education and even an Islamic bank.

It also became active in the local politics.

2001 census threw up a new reality. Ladakh known as Buddhist land the world over suddenly was transformed into a Muslim majority area with 52 percent population subscribing to Islam. With eighty five percent of Muslims in Kargil adhering to the Shia faith, the community now had a decisive say in the political affairs of the whole of Ladakh region.

The rise of Buddhist movement in Leh and adjoining areas demanding separation from Muslim Kashmir kindled a political awakening in an otherwise docile population of Kargil further strengthening the support base for the IKMT. IKMT dominated the first Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Council created by the government for running the regions affairs.

The traditional clergy, increasingly marginalised by this new and seemingly revolutionary fervor gripping the local youth, saw it as a challenge to its established hegemony over the community and began opposing it.

Their hold over the populace to steer it in a particular direction, for example at an election time, began to slip and the course of events began increasingly to be determined by the youth influenced by the revolution.

This signified a major divide in the Shia community in Kargil already deeply entrenched over doctrinal matters like on the issue of Taqleed (6). While Imam Khomeini Trust, comprising of Iranian educated young clerics, followed Ayatullah Ruhullah Khomeini on the issue of jurisprudence, 40 year old Islamia School Trust followed Iraq based Ayatollah Abol Kasim al Khoe, Khomeni’s contemporary who opposed the concept of Vilayat-e-Faqih, (Rule of Islamic Jurists) as propounded by the latter.

There have been consistent efforts from well meaning people to bring the warring factions together but only with limited success.

The divisions on religio-political basis are exploited to the hilt by interested national and regional political parties, negating the benefits of new demographic realities.

The district’s proximity to the Line of Control that divides Kargil from its parent region, Baltistan now in Pakistani control, is another major reason for the regions backwardness.

The population is outnumbered by the military as the district lies on the strategic fault line between India and Pakistan thus mired in political uncertainty.

CONCLUSION:
As it is, the Shia community in Kashmir had been suffering discrimination on innumerable counts including on account of its pro-Pakistan leanings in the post 1947 period.

Any advances made by the community can be attributed to universalizing of state-sponsored education, a less discriminatory recruitment system to government services, and the individual efforts of artisans and craftsmen who have struggled hard for a semblance of economic well-being.

The socio-economic condition of the community can best be gauged by the backwardness and misery in Bemina and around the Dal Lake, predominantly Shia areas in the middle of a bustling growing city.

Though a gradual change is discernable now, the residue of the past, where the community, particularly in the rural areas, bore the brunt of government neglect, is still starkly visible.

FOOTNOTES:
(1) Taqiyah means to hide your real belief for the sake of your safety.
An eminent Shia authority, Ayatollah Hussain Ali Sistani describes the concept of Taqiyah as follows:
a)Taqiyah is done for safety reasons. For example, a person fears that he might be killed or harmed, if he does not observe Taqiyah. In this case, it is obligatory to observe Taqiyah.
b) Reconciliatory Taqiyah. This type of Taqiyah is done when a person intends to reconcile with the other side or when he intends to soften their hearts. This kind of Taqiyah is permissible but not obligatory.
c) Sometimes, Taqiyah may cause a more important obligation to be lost or missed, if so it is forbidden. For example, when I know that silence would cause oppression and
infidelity to spread and will make people go astray, in such a situation it is not permissible to be silent and to dissimulate.
d) Sometimes, Taqiyah may lead to the death of an innocent person. If so, it is not permissible. It is therefore haram (forbidden) to kill a human being to save your own life.-- Tarikhush Shi’ah, p.230
According to the Shia scholar Muhammad Husain Jafari, Shi'ism would not have spread if it wasn't forTaqiyah.
(*) In Islam there are five recognized schools of Divine Law: 1) Hanafi; 2) Shafi; 3) Maliki; 4) Hambali and 5) Jafari all named after their Imams.
The first four are called Sunni, and the fifth one is known as Shia.
The first four schools have many major theological differences among themselves as well as with Jafaris.
Jafar-as-Sadiq was the sixth in lineage of Shia Imams and founder of Shia fiqh or Jafari jurisprudence.
Imam Jafar happened to be teacher of Imam Abu Hanifa, founder of the Hanafi school, dominant among the Sunni sects worldwide including in Kashmir.
(2) Hassan Koihami: Tarikh-e-Hassan, Vol 1; Syed Baqir Shah, Subh-e-Taleh (2008)
(3) A careful study of Islam takes us through its blood soaked history. The day noble Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) departed from this world political feuds surfaced in the newly born Islamic state resulting in many fratricidal wars.
The tragic events began unfolding one after other in quick succession, instigators chiefly being the neo-Muslims of Mecca who had embraced the new faith following their defeats in the battle fields and not by its appeal.
When Ali, the trustworthy lieutenant of Prophet was chosen for the post of Caliph in the most anarchic situation following the murder of third caliph Usman he chose to migrate from the Prophets city, Medina, which by now had become a centre of intrigue and conspiracy.
He had kept a low profile eversince the demise of Prophet and despised the pomp of the world and submitted to the will of God. He was Imam for his followers some of them renowned companions of Prophret like Salman al Farsi and Abu Zar Ghafari.
He however accepted the position albeit reluctantly in order to save the fledgling state from extinction.
But Muawiyah, son of Abu Sufyan, a Meccan chieftain, who was posted as governor of Damascus by the third caliph, revolted and refused to accept Ali as Caliph of Muslims.
In 660 CE most heroic chapter in the early history of Islam came to an end when most notable of the Prophets clan, Ali, husband of his beloved daughter, Fatima and father of Hassan and Hussain was murdered inside the mosque of his capital city Kufa while in prayer.
Twenty years later Prophets entire family some as young as 6 months, were butchered in the most gruesome manner in the plains of Kerbala (680 CE) not far from Kufa. Noble women of the Prophets family, including his grand daughter Zainab, were imprisoned, paraded in chains and taken to the Omayad court in Damascus. Damascus was ruled by the son of Muawya, Yazeed (645--683) the architect of the tragedy.
If this was the fate of Prophets kin one can imagine that of their followers who call
themselves Shia, during those times.
Shia’s never really recuperated since.
Lone male survivor of the Karbala massacre, young and ailing son of Hussain, Zainul Aabideen became the new Imam, fourth in the lineage (680 CE).
It was grandson of Zainul Aabideen, Imam Jafar Sadeq (702-765 C.E.), 6th in the lineage, who founded the Shia fiqh or Jafari Jurisprudence
(4) Moulvi Abbas Ansari: Ayena-e-Haq Numa (1961)
(5) After the Founder-president of Anjuman-e-Sharee Shia’an, Aga Syed Yusuf Al-Moosavi Al-Safavi, passed away in August 1982, the Aga family of Budgam got divided into two factions. The pro-Congress faction installed Aga Syed Yusuf’’s deputy, cousin and son-in-law, Aga Syed Mustafa, as the president of Anjuman-e-Sharee Shia’an in presence of then Prime Minister of India Mrs Indira Gandhi. The pro-NC faction broke away and accepted Aga Syed Yusuf’s eldest son, Aga Syed Mohammad Fazalullah as the president of the Anjuman. Daily Excelsior, Jammu August 23, 2002
(6) Taqleed means following an acknowledged religious authority, a Mujtahid or Marj’a, in matters of religious laws and commandments. Shias believe Imamate followed Prophethood as Ummah can not be without an Imam at any point of time. So in absence of an Imam as 12th (Imam Mehdi), last in the line of Imam’s, went into occultation his successor is the most learned of Marj’a, or Mujtahid. Clergy acts as the representatives of Marj’a in their respective places.

This article was originally published in the Border Affairs, New Delhi, Vol X No IV-Oct-Dec 2009

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In the Tug Between Anarchy and Autocracy, People are Suffering

Three perspectives on the toll that current turmoil is taking on Kashmiris and Kashmir


Education in Danger (Editorial in the Rising Kashmir)

So far, the official as well as separatist response to the need of sustaining education has lacked both reason and commitment. The state authorities as well as the separatist leadership must understand the consequences of a constant halt in our education system.

While the separatist leaders should immediately allow school busses to ply on roads and ask the children to resume studies, the authorities should stop the unashamed policy of enforcing these halts through rampant restrictions and curfews, often undeclared. The masses are too weighed down by sufferings and huge sacrifices; they need leaders who would empower them. Halting education is a tool of disempowerment.

In past centuries, Kashmir’s tormentors have used this tool to subjugate people. This movement should hold the promise of empowerment rather than the dread of disempowerment. But, as of now, people feel sick of a two-way problem. The separatists want people to run community schools and the government ‘threatens’ the students of a rigorous exam policy in which no conflict concession would be granted and the students would be forced to prepare the whole curricula. From the government, people expect facilitation rather than the threat. Minister for Education Peerzada Syed’s announcement that the education was an essential service was commendable. But he could not keep his word. When a government declares something essential for public interest it musters all the available resources to ensure that particular service. But, sadly, what followed this positive thought was a threat. Peerzada ruled out any special relaxation to tenth and twelfth standard students and announced that exams would be held as per schedule; funnily this was without a word on curfews and curbs.

On the other hand the separatists have borrowed a leaf from Gandhi’s Satyagrah and launched what they describe as ‘civil disobedience’ movement. It must be remembered that Gandhi had called for a boycott of state institutions but at the same time had ensured that the society came up with the parallels. He would himself oversee several parallel schools, which would be run by volunteers. Products of such schools were to lead India in its post-independence years. Geelani too had called for such community schooling but without the parallels being ready. The separatist institutions seem unwilling to be part of such a project. We have two visible and strong separatist institutions in Kashmir Valley. Jama’at-e-Islami, of which Geelani is still a part, and Anjuman-e-Nusrat-ul-Islam, that is being patronized by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Both run schools in almost all parts of Kashmir. In fact Jama’at’s Falah-e-Aam Trust or FAT is more organized and resourceful and is believed to run at least four hundred schools under a virtually parallel bureaucratic control. Ironically, these organizations have been found wanting in this hour of difficulty.

The fact of the matter is that Jammu and Kashmir still enjoys a semblance of distinction from India. We have a separate education board and most of the schools have now introduced Kashmiri as a compulsory subject. This distinction is a small constitutional space which the separatist leadership should utilize to empower the masses. Geelani, Mirwaiz and others are the twenty-first century leaders. They should resist medieval suggestions and ensure that the next generation does not rank them among the twelfth century clergymen who saw their relevance only in the mass ignorance of their supporters.


Please Think (Editorial in the Kashmir Images)

For the past couple of months, continued shutdowns, curfews and other restrictions have brought life in Kashmir to a grinding halt while the renewed cycle of violence has so far claimed over sixty lives. With the government showing little will and control over restraining its armed forces, whose fatalistic mob control tactics are doing more damage than good, the people too are in a defiant mood, belligerently fighting anything and everything that could break the current impasse.

And fishing in these troubled waters is the Hurriyat-G that is issuing week-long protest calendars week after week to try and signal that it is in complete command. Even though one can’t dispute Syed Ali Shah Geelani enjoying much sway over the public mood, yet it is very hard to gauge the exact quantum of control he might be wielding over the public anger and alienation here which is expressing itself with alarming spontaneity. The reason behind this conclusion is that even Geelani’s regular appeals to the people to protest peacefully without any kind of violence have gone somewhat unheeded.

Given that the resistance movements are governed more by euphoric irrationality than by rational and well-thought-out choices of the participant public, it seems not only imprudent but also irrational and cruel to put such movements to the cost-benefit analysis. But at the same time, in a bid to draw important inferences that might help in understanding the tactical parameters of the phenomenon, it is at times also necessary to go for such an exercise. So without furthering this debate which is fraught with the danger of treading on so many sentimental and emotionally charged-up questions and choices, it should suffice to say that the recent developments have yet again forced a change in the Kashmir’s political discourse in New Delhi. The political establishment and its intellectual muscle within and without had somewhat concluded that everything is alright in Kashmir. Particularly after the “successful” 2008 Assembly elections, when Kashmir got its brand new Chief Minister in the form of urbane Omar Abdullah, Indian media and intellectual circles hailed him as the panacea for all the problems that bedevil Kashmir. The underlying assumption was that but for misgovernance and the corrupt political elite in Kashmir, India would be the most huggable idea for Kashmiris.

This ultra-nationalist Indian intelligentsia, having their so-called patriotic blinkers on all the time, was not willing to acknowledge that the idea of India has always been problematic in Kashmir. Their expectation that mere change of guard in the political echelons would make difference on ground was always too farfetched and the recent developments have proved just so. The happenings of past couple of months are there as a vivid indicator that the Kashmir problem is beyond governance. It is certainly not about ‘bijli, pani, sadak, taleem and sehat’ and not about the employment packages or economic doles although the importance of all these elements too cannot be dismissed altogether. The Kashmir problem is about the larger political questions that bedevil not only the relationship between Srinagar and New Delhi but also the ties between India and Pakistan.

The recent developments have ended the political dream-sequence for Delhi, forcing it out of the denial mode to concede that Kashmir’s accession to India in “unique circumstances” qualifies it for special handling. Even though Delhi has expressed its willingness to talk with all shades of public opinion in Kashmir, including the separatists, but making such talks conditional brings a question mark to bear on its sincerity about the engagement. On their part, the Kashmiri separatists too have not shown much eagerness to talk. So the deadlock continues. This unwillingness of both sides to enter into negotiations may be explained by their belief in their ability to achieve their aims through other means, typically physical or political coercion. But the question is: can they…?

Paradise Lost


Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil

The unending cycle of violence has hit Kashmir at the peak of its tourism season which makes situation even worse for the local tourism industry. Following the cycle of killings in the region tourist enjoying the summer in the paradise were forced to leave the valley. Tourists who have made their reservations in advance are making them cancel and travel agencies say if the situation persists, in future, no tourist will come here. Most of the hotels here have zero occupancy, Dal Lake, Mughal Gardens and Boulevard road that usually in this very season used to dazzle with tourists are these days deserted by tourists affecting hundreds of People related to tourism trade.

According to Kashmir Houseboat Association President Azim Tuman “90 percent business is based on tourism but because of the strikes and curfew tourist number has gone completely down, now even if the situation improves our business will not happen till next year as the tourism season is over for us, and we have suffered heavy losses this season”. Tuman blames the media’s undue coverage of violent incidents for creating a mess. “The way Army’s flag march, locals throwing stones at the policemen and killings were reported in different sections of press obviously such things create fear among people outside Kashmir. This has also severely affected the state tourism”.

Editor Uqaab Manzoor Anjum, rejects the idea that the press is exaggerating the violence, he said “It’s the responsibility of press to show correct picture of the valley. Media is reporting what exactly happens here. We cannot remain silent on killings, strikes, curfew et al that valley is witnessing for around two months. It’s not fair to blame us for tourists decline. Media has to play its own role and can’t afford to paint a negative picture as positive. Anjum adds “If for example, valley is under curfew, how can we report that everything here is normal. State government may want the media to downplay the incidents in order to attract tourists, but media needs to be objective”

Tourism is the source of livelihood to thousands of people in Kashmir - from hoteliers and house boat owners to the shikarawallas and craftsmen.It is one of the major activities for stimulating the state’s economy. About 3 percent of the state’s population is directly or indirectly connected with this activity.

Prof Nissar Ali, Head of the Economics Department at Kashmir University informs “States GSDP is Rs 34,000 crore per annum out of which 10 percent income per year comes from tourism sector. This indicates Rs 3400 crore is annually generated from tourism. Tourism develops international relations, earns a lot of foreign exchange and contributes substantially to the gross domestic product,” In the last two months of unrest “tourism sector had incurred loss of Rs 560 crores till date,” he adds.

Due to the prevailing unrest we are losing not only sight seeing tourists but also piligrim tourists (Amarnath Yatris) on which our pony walls and other people are completely depended. They are those poor people who wait for whole year for the yatra to take place so that they can also make some bucks. Official figures indicates that last year 6 lakh tourists had taken Amaranth yatra and this year state was expected to host 8-10 lakh yatris but due to on going violence only 4 lakh yatris has come and if things turn normal we may then expect not more 50,000 pilgrims.This simply means that we are losing pilgrim tourism also. Before we end up losing everything, it becomes the responsibility of all conscientious citizens not to allow situation to take any new negative turn. Innocent killings by the hostile security forces, stone pelting incidents needs to be stopped and normalcy given a chance for valley’s better future and peaceful solution.

"No-Holds-Barred Verbomania"

Syeda departs from valley's "set narrative" to describe the Kashmir situation with a fresh perspective

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

Kashmir: What Next?

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

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

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

First, with a kind of current political dispensation in Kashmir, where politicians from both mainstream and separatist camps are trying to locate their positions and stakes, by different means, both fair and unfair, the approaching departure from the earlier stands/strategies suggests the shift of emphasis. Of course, all this is going to constitute a difficult time for all of them. Already many of them are in a mood of utter desperation and confusion.

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

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

Second, contemporary Kashmir is witness to no-holds-barred verbomania. The chatty culture has engaged thinkers in a rambling discourse. From endless dialogues and discussions, the outpourings are usually directionless and the results are regretful. Had such talking succoured any nation, this hapless land would have been salvaged so far.

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

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

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

As the year 2010 is turning out to be a virtual anna-mirabilis, there is more to see. There is lot in store. Kashmir continues to burn. Perhaps, the baton seems to have been passed down with the backlog of failed socio-politic milieu, imprecise vision, ambiguous strategy and squabbling group(s) those claim to lead the people. Twenty years of blood, sweat and tears could not put up at least joint council to make each of them accountable to the hapless people of this land. The leadership needs to explain to the layman the short and long term modus operandi of a sustainable struggle, needs to lay bare the contingency programs for all sections of society and a roadmap till that “logical conclusion” seems to approach. While riding high on the wave of public resentment and unabated indiscriminate killings, rather than issuing hyperboles and acerbic judgements, the leadership ought to look slightly ahead and answer: What next?

Battling Anarchy With Economic Dole

Which came first - anarchy or autocracy? Javid would rather focus on the latter. But his point about economic dole is right on the mark

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 64, 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.)

Economic Doles are not the penance for Kashmiri ills

The caption is one from Sajad Lone’s tele-bytes, the ones we get to hear from him often in the troubled times we are living in. Out of his rich vocabulary laced with gifted oratorical skills, Sajad manages to dole out quotable quotes (a la Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) with one of which yours very own has chosen to decorate his ‘Talking Point’ with.

The one in focus, he recited in his lyrical rhythm on NDTV, the day Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thought it appropriate to address Kashmiri concerns, only after approximately 50 lives had been lost in lethal methods of crowd control, withstanding the fact that there are non-lethal methods practised worldwide, even in India barring Kashmir.

‘Desirables getting drowned in undesirables’ Sajad’s quotable quote springs from the Indian Prime Minister’s linkage of addressing the desired political question with the undesirable-the economic dole! Doling out economic packages has become an Indian staple, a staple that Kashmiris cannot digest anymore. And for sound reasons, the packages are paraded out as largesse, which hurts the self respect of ‘Aam Admi’ in Kashmir. Forget the miniscule minority, who pocket a large slice of it, which is not accounted for, as some form of infrastructure is needed to exhibit a viable administration. Corruption might be a worldwide phenomenon, however in Kashmir it is the only industry that thrives, particularly in post militancy uncertain scenario. Many believe with some justification that sustaining uncertainty might be the balm for their ailing souls, an ailment borne of greed! Otherwise Kashmir is a consumerist society, some allege deliberately worked out to make it dependent on so called largesse, doled out with much fanfare! As it stands, often these packages remain on paper, circulating in the complex web of bureaucracy, until the time wasted in paper work brings the inflationary tendency to fore, making it economically unfeasible-the cost factor multiplies. Let us examine a few recent packages to support our contention.

In March 29, 2005 ‘Task Force on Development of Jammu and Kashmir’ was announced which was headed by C Rangarajan and included Dr Haseeb Drabu-economist, Sunil Mittal–Bharti Telecom chief, Sunil Kant Munjal–MD Hero Cycles Ltd, Moosa Raza–a former chief secretary to the state, SHH Rehman–former home commissioner JK, Analjit Singh–founder chairman Max India Ltd, Dr GC Srivastava–a former IAS officer, TN Thakur–expert in power reforms, Dr D Subbarao–former RBI governor and Sanjay Mitra-then Joint Secretary in Prime Minister’s Office. The recommendations of the so called ‘Task Force’ which met eight times between April 2005 and October 2006 and submitted its 61-page report to the Prime Minister in November 2006 included-transfer of 390 MW Dulhasti Hydel Power Project from NHPC to J&K, transfer of 1020 MW Bursar Storage Scheme from NHPC to J&K for execution in the state sector, tying up long-term capacities in IPP projects in power sector, particularly based on coal and gas and providing intense road and telecom connectivity in J&K.

Public skepticism on non-implementation may be justified, as acting on those recommendations could have had far reaching consequences. A look at these recommendations and why they got shelved is not difficult to make out. They could have formed the basis of self sustaining J&K economy. The transfer of power projects from the central pool to the state meets the demands of natural justice. It is J&K’s natural resource- water, which provides for it and forms its single most essential ingredient. If central funds finance the project and on that plea control is exercised over it, even a person with an elementary sense of economics could make out that money for projects with such huge potential could be raised from anywhere and the loan easily serviced, without conceding total control over the product. It violates not only economic sense but moral sense too. It is not difficult to visualize why Kashmiris see the rat every time an economic package is doled out, with the fanfare of largesse. Moreover Kashmiris are now mature enough to count their chicken!

And now the latest-old wine in new bottles, yet another ‘expert group’ announced by the Prime Minister, headed by the same famed economist, who headed the 2006 group-former RBI governor Dr C Rangarajan, presently the chairman of the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council. Its members include experts on public and private sector employment like founder Chairman of IT giant Infosys NR Naryanmurthy, Tarun Das-former director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), P Nanda Kumar of the Wipro InfoTech and Shakeel Qalandar–president Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK). Qalandar, as per some media reports has expressed surprise over his name figuring in the panel. According to him, the reports say, he was neither consulted nor was his consent sought for inclusion in the expert group. This seems to be a gap in communication, the proposal of his inclusion in the elite group of experts might have come from state government without sounding him? One more name is to be proposed by the state government to complete the recommendatory panel.

In the face of non-implementation of the recommendations by a group headed by the same man who headed the earlier group, the skeptics may not be wholly wrong in asking-how the latest initiative on employment generation in Jammu and Kashmir by the Prime Minister is going to work? This has to be accepted that somewhere, somehow, someone has been guilty of gross neglect. Basically the official inertia builds up counting on public memory being short, it however needs to be remembered that it is not as short as higher echelons of power structure make it out to be! And there is that local dole based on state government’s December 5, 2009 employment package called Sher-e-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Policy for the Youth (SKEWPY), which is yet to have any impact on the ground. How could one say that public ire on these often doled non-implemented schemes is not justified?

In the face of the argument put forth, wouldn’t you give to Kashmiris, if they make it that economic doles are not the penance for their ills? They make it out loud and clear, night and day, with a regularity now, the sustainability of which defies the imagination of most ardent watchers, observers and analysts of Kashmir scene? It is indeed an experience, though I have lived through a parallel one. I was in Iran during revolution of late seventies. Day in and day out Iranians would get on streets in hundreds of thousands chanting ‘Marg Bur Shah’ [Death to Shah]. They were battling an autocracy. I had a measure of it, as I treated many with lethal fire arm injuries, saluting all the while, the courage of the young Iranians, who braved bullets. They were battling an autocracy. Here a battle is on with what is called ‘world’s largest democracy’ hence the onus is very much on India to live up to its democratic credentials and provide what the Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram calls ‘a unique solution’ for a ‘unique problem’! Has the Prime Minister in his address to all party delegation [wonder if you may call it that sans PDP and separatists] gone far enough to provide a democratic solution, being the chief political executive of much prided of ‘world’s largest democracy’?

From the reaction of Delhi’s electronic and print media, with some calling PM’s initiative-too late if not too little to some calling it conceding too much, while as in Kashmir it got branded as nothing substantial, it might be said that strictly within the Indian political parameters, his espousal of dialogue and willingness to take up the demand of autonomy is the maximum, he could have said. It could be denied only by those not versed with real-politick. That it does not fall within even the minimum that Kashmiris demand falls in a different realm. The Prime Minister might be justified in attempting to go to limits of what Indian polity allows him, so are the Kashmiris, who have never seen the much projected fair face of Indian democracy. The utter systemic failure being seen in Kashmir should make Delhi start questioning policies, pursued so far, if it is to live up to its democratic image. In Kashmir of today, it has very few takers. It raises questions, loads of them-is there anywhere, anyhow, by any measure a way out? A way out of differing perceptions has to be found out, where even a remote chance gets explored and worked upon on the path of conflict resolution, if Kashmir is to come out of the nightmarish experience. The onus is on the state, not on groups and individuals, however important or popular they might be-the state might have to deliver much more than, it seems willing to do and provide a ‘unique solution to a ‘unique problem’ taking utmost care that ‘desirables don’t get drowned in undesirables’!