Introduction to Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Ultimate "Zero Sum" Game

Bukhri saheb is ignoring the basic tenant of Kashmiri leadership - which is to co-mingle religion and politics in order to harness every ounce of emotion out of hapless Kashmiris

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

Battle for Hazratbal and Kashmir Cry

Amid the larger battle for “Azadi”, a smaller one has begun to wrest control over Kashmir’s revered shrine Hazratbal. Without attaching much importance to his programme to offer Eid prayers at Hazratbal, the government arrested the hard-line separatist Syed Ali Geelani on September 8.

Apparently the arrest was effected three days before the Eid only to avoid public attention towards the fact that government did it to prevent the veteran leader from “using” Hazratbal to further his secessionist agenda. But it remains to be seen whether it makes any difference on ground.

Of late Geelani has emerged as the leader whom people follow. Apart from visiting other shrines and mosques in the Valley he had made it a point to offer Eid prayers at Hazratbal. He even turned down the offer of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who had suggested that all resistance leaders should jointly offer the prayers at Eidgah to send a message that they were one. However, Geelani highlighted the importance of Hazratbal in the political arena of Kashmir and announced that he would himself visit the shrine on the day of Eid. His announcement sent shivers down the spine not only for the fact that he would turn the big congregation into a pro Azadi rally but also it would begin the process of wresting its control from the ruling National Conference which has traditionally enjoyed the supremacy at the shrine. By any imagination Geelani would seek the support for his “cause” from this important platform and that too on the eve of Eid. The ruling NC’s Chief Ministers from Late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to Omar Abdullah have generally offered Eid prayers at Hazratbal thus making it the permanent bastion for party’s political agenda. By putting Geelani behind bars that too in the backdrop of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s assurance to octogenarian leader that he would be given space for carrying forward his politics in a peaceful manner, it is clear that the government sees his announcement as a threat to “dislodge the Sheikh family” from Hazratbal. If the reports are to be believed Omar Abdullah has decided not to go ahead with his programme to offer Eid prayers at Hazratbal.

Hazratbal has otherwise been the centre-stage of politics in Kashmir. In 1963-64, it was the theft of Holy Relic at Hazratbal, which led to a political upheaval in Kashmir resulting in ouster of then Prime Minister Shamsuddin. It owes its political significance to none else but same Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who launched his political struggle from the same place. It was Late Mirwaiz Moulana Yousuf Shah who introduced him (Sheikh) to the people from the minarets of Jamia Masjid. It is a different case that in later years Sheikh dislodged Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah from Hazratbal. Sensing the importance of shrines in Kashmir’s socio-religious milieu Sheikh Abdullah consolidated the management of the shrines and mosques of Kashmir and set up Auqaf-e-Islamia which later became Muslim Auquaf Trust (MAT) and was rechristened as Muslim Waqf Board after its take over by the Mufti Syed-led coalition government in 2003.

Along with over 100 shrines and mosques, Sheikh Abdullah continued to hold his control over Hazratbal till 1953, the year when he was dismissed as Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. However, he made his appearance to a rousing reception at the Shrine on 21 February 1958 when he was set free for the first time after his dismissal. He continued to appear at Hazratbal as and when he was free. However, his biggest contribution is the reconstruction of the shrine, which stands alone in its architect and attraction in entire valley. Once Sheikh was finally released in 1964, his successor Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad formally handed over control of Auqaf to him as Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq who had by then replaced Bakhshi did not show interest in keeping the control of the religious body. Until 1990, the management continued to be with Sheikh family as Farooq Abdullah replaced his father as the chairman of MAT.

With the changing political landscape of Kashmir, the MAT came under the control of a new body with apolitical members of the Board headed by former Deputy Accountant General Ghulam Qadir Drabu. However, with the return of Farooq Abdullah in 1996, the Board was dissolved and a new setup took its control with most of the members owing allegiance to NC. The then secretary of MAT Sheikh Abdur Rashid was humiliated and put behind bars though he had played a crucial role in saving the MAT from various elements. Rashid later joined JKLF as its spokesman. I had the privilege of being on the Board of Trustees from 1993-2003 (in both non-NC and NC regimes) besides being member of general body from 1976.

With the change of guard in 2002, the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led government had its eyes on MAT as also the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences as both were controlled by Sheikh family. Mufti is a known bête noir of the family. He got an Act in the assembly and took over both the institutions. As NC returned to power in 2009, it could not repeal the Act but Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took over as its chairman with most of NC loyalists as its members. So the cycle of losing and regaining the control over Hazratbal as also other shrines was complete in 2009.

However, the challenges thrown up by present political unrest cannot be delinked from these places of worship. Mirwaiz family has traditionally been holding control over Jamia Masjid wherefrom it propagated its political, social and religious agenda. The family has a notable contribution in the education sector as Mirwaiz Rasool Shah is also known as Sir Sayed-e-Kashmir. Even as Geelani is calling shots in Kashmir’s rejuvenated politics, he cannot afford to partake the space in Jamia Masjid at this juncture. But surely his goals of reaching Hazratbal are becoming clearer with each passing day.

However, at the time of his “softened” stand through five-point formula, the government’s action to curtail his programme may jeopardize any process for returning peace in the valley. As long as NC is in power it may not be difficult for Omar Abdullah to retain control over Hazratbal but to squeeze the political space for Geelani at this juncture may prove counter productive. It is time to put behind the mindset of how the political gains can be made. Any resolution will set its own course, as it will entirely depend upon people’s confidence as to who should retain the control and who should lose it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Can People Succeed When Their Leaders Have Failed Them?

Rouf argues that no amount of sacrifice by public can overcome the mitigating influence of poor leadership qualities among Kashmiri politicians

(Mr. Rouf Rasool, 39, was born in Srinagar (Amirakadal area). He has a Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir, Diploma in Educational Television (ETV) with EMRC University of Pune and FTII Pune, and another Master's degree in International Peace Studies from the Joan B. Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA. He is one of the founding members of the 'Kashmir Images', where he has worked since its publication, and is currently its Editor. Mr. Rasool was previously associated with the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) Kashmir, where he helped set up the Centre for International Peace and Conflict Studies (CIPACS), and lead it for a period. A man deeply committed to his family, Rouf uses his leisure time to do household chores and enjoy reading.)

Don’t Blame People?

History has it that for any peoples’ movement to be successful the protagonists must have clarity of objectives. There must be required discipline and leadership; and the leadership itself must know the importance of seizing and maintaining the initiative as well as the need for tactical actions to support strategic objectives.

A cursory look on the world history has ample evidence suggesting that in most of the situations it is the lack of foresight and political wisdom on part of leadership that has proved detrimental to realizing the optimum potential of ‘people’s power. And certainly the history of Kashmir is no exception. We have seen incoherent leadership failing miserably in channelizing public sentiment to bring about any positive change. One of the primary causes of this shortcoming has been its lack of political acumen and vision, which has, in turn, blinded it to thinking about and identifying the strategic objectives clearly. Not to talk of seizing and maintaining the initiative, those at the helm of affairs in the both mainstream as well as the separatist camps have been overly reactive, and unfortunately the common people on the roads too have proved no different.

Despite having been catapulted into leadership roles by the waves of public anger and resentment, the separatists have repeatedly failed to mobilize the power potential of popular sentiment. By relying on a narrow range of methods, like calling for frequent shutdowns and strikes for instance, they have not only blunted the tactical advantages of these methods but have also brought about a heavy burden of political and economic misery to rag and harass the people. As for the mainstream leaders, they too have never really bothered to look beyond their immediate needs and interests, which have been better served by keeping New Delhi in good humour, even when it came at the cost of losing goodwill of their own people.

Making the matters worse is that the Kashmiri leaders of both separatist as well as mainstream camps are too arrogant to accept their failures and learn from mistakes. Instead, breathing in airs of self-satisfaction and self-praise complicated further by their love for proximity of sycophants, these leaders have serially squandered each and every opportunity situational turbulences otherwise provided them to base their politics on. Today when people of Kashmir, who have all along supported these leaders and their disjointed political programs, are daring to come out to agitate for change in status quo, mainstream political leadership is letting loose the state law and order machinery over them while the separatists too are desperately trying to find their relevance.

It is actually the leaders who have failed in defining the contours of politics here. But to escape blame, they are slamming it on the common people. If the separatist leaders have narrowly defined the political discourse in Kashmir so that it has left no room for the ordinary mortals to crave for and maneuver their opinion to ensure tactical bargaining until the over-arching goal of ‘Azadi’ is reached, these leaders have no one but themselves to blame for it. Same holds true for the mainstream leaders as well. They have squarely failed to take care of people’s basic needs. Why should guns and batons be trained on people whenever they take to streets demanding their rights, their right to live with honour and dignity? Instead of trying to manufacture culpability of common people for their own failures, Kashmiri leaders must confess their inadequacies and try and put their act together so that the trail of their malfunctioning starts to show some beginning of ending for good.

Feeding the Cycle of Misgovernance

Arjimand views recent changes and transfers of government officials as desperate firefighting exercises

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 34, is a columnist/writer and a development professional who matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University and has a diploma in journalism as well. He is an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany and has worked with UNESCO, Oxfam and ActionAid International in some seven countries in Asia and Africa. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit.)

Doles and Reshuffles

Indecision and a lack of confidence in one particular action symbolize a problem. Beyond the acceptable norms for checks and balances, if such a situation is a chronic characteristic of a supposedly democratic political system, it points to a serious crisis.

Band aids to long-festering political wounds, surgical checks and balances and governance instruments suiting a particular political order make the line between democracy and autocracy fade. That is what economic ‘doles’ and frequent administrative reshuffles – designed to suppress a political yearning in Kashmir - symbolize.

In his book ‘Kashmir and the British Raj, 1847-1947’, Robert A. Huttenback, while recounting the state of governance under the autocratic Maharaja rule, reproduces the interesting valedictory note from Sir Albion Bannerji, who served Kashmir’s autocratic ruler Hari Singh as Foreign and Political Minister. The note, which came at the time of his resignation from the state administration, evokes a sense of déjà vu even sixty three years after today.

The note from Sir Albion read, “…there is no touch between the Government and the people. No suitable opportunity for representing grievances and the administrative machinery itself requires overhauling from top to bottom…It has at present little or no sympathy with people’s wants and grievances.”

New Delhi and the state government have again sought to buy peace of submission in Kashmir the old-fashioned way – promise new jobs, a paltry unemployment allowance and a rock and roll of civil servants. All this has never worked.

The problem with these measures is that they, like always, will severely impact the quality of governance and work culture in Kashmir. These measures drastically cut its people’s productivity. The net result is again a governance chaos and lack of proper public services and jobs to the people.

The irony is that this situation then goes to feed the larger political discontent. So, rather than helping New Delhi and governments in Srinagar, these measures – coupled by the atrocities of the tight military control - strengthen a common man’s belief that this political system needs to change.

Shuffle and reshuffles of public servants in an administrative system are, of course, inevitable. Jammu & Kashmir’s history is replete with out-of-rule-book administrative reshuffles and ad hoc governance systems. So are the ‘economic packages’ that are intended to buy peace, submissive subjects and domination. But do these tools work in quelling the Kashmiri quest for political sovereignty and dignity?

The frequency of the government's repeated administrative reshuffles points to a serious governance and political malaise in this state. In particular, Omar government’s regular monthly shuffles and reshuffles of civil and police officials since he assumed power point to a serious crisis.

To those who are watching the state's developments from the outside, these measures appear as desperate firefighting exercises in an environment of public non-cooperation and governance dysfunction. The latest changes in the police and civil administrative systems are political statements, even as the chief minister wants us to believe the contrary.

Seen from another angle, such actions also point to a lack of transparent performance and delivery benchmarks of public servants. These also raise questions about unbridled political discretion in making changes that have implications for the political, security and economic well being of the state. Such reshuffles also point to a crisis within the state administrative system – with the civil and police administrators seen with constant suspicion and questions raised on their own political ideology.

One of the most surprising in the recent set of changes has been the decision of the government to ask for the resignation of Jammu & Kashmir Bank's chairman Dr Haseeb Drabu. This decision has come at a highly inopportune time. At a time when the state is facing economic mayhem - with loss of jobs, a bottom-low investment climate and bearish trade and business confidence - such a drastic step was very avoidable.

The shifting of Khursheed Ahmed Ganai from the position of the Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary to Principal Secretary Planning and Development Department raises questions too. So do the shifting of Kashmir’s Police chief.

In J&K’s context, it is normally assumed that such decisions do not come without the consent of the political and other decision makers in New Delhi. If performance and personal integrity are key benchmarks for people to remain at key public positions, then there are little reasons why Dr Drabu should be asked to leave. If the reasons are political, then it is likely to set a very bad precedent.

Dr Drabu's deep understanding of both the financial and development sectors has been crucial to the state, in view of the acute linkages and inter-dependence of the state's banking and financial sector with the developmental processes happening here. A change which could impact business confidence and financial achievements is most likely to impact the social and economic development goals of this state.

It is possible that in the shorter term such changes are easy to manage for the mandarins in Srinagar and Delhi. But it is also time to introspect: are such band aids and disparaging checks and balances sustainable in the longer term?

These desperate fire fighting exercises deeply impact the quality of governance in this state. Such use of unbridled political discretion breeds corruption and unaccountability. All this finally brings us to the point that addressing the issue of Kashmir’s diluted political sovereignty cannot be postponed for long. A time has come to address the people’s sensitivities about their identity, end military control, ease economic and logistical suffocation, facilitate global economic networking and create greater economic opportunities.

And governance dysfunction and political instability would be automatically addressed. If not so, the algebra of these ‘packages’ and reshuffles will defy reason and logic with each passing day to brazen levels. And the line between democracy and authoritarianism will diminish completely.

Liberation From Fear

Soayib argues that pursuing freedom while ignoring needs of the society, and especially those who are suffering, makes no sense

(Mr. Soayib Qureshi, 21, was born in Srinagar. He did his early schooling from Burnhall, Srinagar, and transferred to the Lawrence school, Sanawar(H.P.), from where he passed his 10th class. He finished his pre-college studies from the Delhi Public Schools (DPS) in R.K.Puram, New Delhi. Presently he is in the 4th year pursuing a degree of law through Indraprastha University, New Delhi. Soayib loves travelling to new places and interacting with the people to learn about their hopes and expectations. He also loves photography.)

Let’s Make the Change

Violence is my second home. My home that I cherished with all my love has become a volatile paradise whose waters are being tested by the tormentors of humanity. I’ve been hearing gun shots, cries for help from the last two decades, I don’t know how louder we have to cry for the world to notice our misery and bail us out of it. It’s been years of fake promises and neglect which has made the present situation in Kashmir so unstable.

Everyone is out on the streets, in the hope that someone would hear their cry for help, a cry for freedom and liberation from the constant suppression.

New Delhi does not understand the basic fact that it’s easy to kill a person’s right to freedom, to deny the people the right to live, but no force can quench the thirst of a wounded soul to rise from the ashes and liberate itself. This is the same power, which above all odds, is making people come on streets and protest against the brutal force. There is a media blockade due to which the cries of mothers and the pain of our brethren are lost in the valley of violence.

We are the victims of the political aspirations of people whom we have trusted for long. We need to rise above and be a part of the system. To cure a poisonous body the drug can only act and clean it from within. The political system has destroyed Kashmir like a termite destroys wood. It’s imperative for us to realize that we are a leaderless community, there is no one who can cater to the needs of the people, understand their aspirations and stand up for them. We are the future of this beautiful land. We need to look within, find that leader within ourselves, so that we are not dependent on the mercy of goons.

Cries for freedom can be heard throughout Kashmir. The word Azadi which is being chanted by everyone in Kashmir has a deeper meaning to it. It cannot be construed just to mean freedom from the Indian dominion or an accession to Pakistan. This word has crept into our lives; we without any resistance have become a part of it. Azadi is the liberation from the fear we live in. This fear has engulfed us from within. It’s time to liberate ourselves and give to the people a place where we can live in harmony, a place where everyone can pursue their dreams.

The last two decades have turned this state from a valley of dreams to a valley of uncertainty. Last two months have witnessed protests like never before. The valley has witnessed strikes and curfews that have crippled life. Now to my understanding the purpose of observing strikes is a sign of protests to stop the government machinery from working. But while doing so we have to take in consideration the effects of strikes and curfews. There is a talk about community kitchens, but do they actually cater to the needs of the poor? It’s always the poor man who suffers ultimately.

The people on the streets protesting against the atrocities need to understand that while we are trying to liberate ourselves from the constant suppression and injustice, we should remember not to act like the brutal forces do. We need to remember that absolute power is a poison, it can neither be given to the people nor to the forces, it has to lie with the sovereign. But in these situations ,when the sovereign ,which instead of protecting the people and nourishing their dreams, is hell-bent on destroying their aspirations , utmost care needs to be taken so as the power does not fall into wrong hands.

While we pursue the path for freedom, we should not curtail the freedom of the needy. Because any amount of freedom will not get him a meal for his family. We are fighting the injustice melted out to us by the but we must not let this anger kill the livelihood of the poor. Let us not curtail the freedom of the same people for whose rights we are protesting on the streets. Let’s open the shops in the night, let’s show the world how freedom and survival can be achieved hand in hand. Let us teach our family the essence of being together as one. Let us be one because that is the way us can liberate ourselves from the pain and suffering.

We are the sufferers, we protest, take the heat but are not made the part of the problem solving mechanism. We take all the harsh steps, but when it comes to the solution process we rest at our homes while the so called leaders have a field day with their blunders.

The problem of Kashmir does not lie in the well-guarded homes of the politicians or the so called torch bearers of freedom struggle. It lies in the silent homes of the sufferers. It’s a high time that people are made a part of the problem. Let’s constitute committees at the Mohalla level, formulate a plan which we think fit, be a part of the political system, and come together and find that leader within us who does not talk about freedom from India or an accession to Pakistan but fulfills aspirations of the people. That leader who could give people a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand and the path of redemption. Let’s not leave it this time with the politicians, let’s take a step forward and be responsible. Let’s be the “change” we want.

Freedom From Knowledge

Does azadi include the freedom to deny the young their right to education?

Education First, Freedom Can Wait

Manzoor Anjum

By denying our children access to education, what kind of freedom we are looking at? If the society is uneducated, illiterate and ignorant, who cares whether it is free or enslaved.

Mushtaq Ahmad is a retired professor. Though money had never been his goal, he has made fortunes out of teaching job and even after retirement, he is obsessed with teaching. Once I asked him that why he is not enjoying his retired life and why he still looks for excuses to teach. In response to my suggestion, he had a hearty laugh as if I was a clown and cracked some joke. “By making such a stupid suggestion, you have proved yourself to be from some very low clan of ignorant. Work is worship and when your work is to teach, it becomes more than worship.

“I agree with the principle that one should retire once he attains the age of 60 because after that the aging impacts his/her ability to make decisions. But the people, who have to make decisions, never retire unless Almighty orders their retirement. You have parliamentarians who have crossed 80 and 90 making decisions for people. You have Khushwant Singh – 95 – still commenting on sensitive issues. They are the people who should retire at 60 because age impacts their decision making ability and understanding. And their wrong and aging decisions and analysis impacts the life of ordinary people. I just teach, I am not a policy or decision maker. So why should I retire?” lectured the retired professor.

I had made a very simple comment and was lectured – nay, bashed and bombarded and amidst this bombardment I forgot to tell him that the mental agony he was suffering of from past few months was over as his son had got admission in a very prestigious boarding school of India outside J&K.

Abdul Rashid is a coppersmith. He too is worried about the education of his child. But he is very poor. He can’t afford the luxury of sending his child to study somewhere outside Kashmir – not even to neighbouring Jammu. Given the situation that prevails in Kashmir, Rashid has one-point-agenda and that is to ensure that his child remains indoors. But the child manages to give him a slip and inscribes Go India Go slogans on roads and walls.

Mohammad Umar is a trader. His son is in Delhi Public School. The school management has managed to take the students of 12th class to Delhi. Parents had to foot in extra bucks but they did so without complaining because the only thing they cared about was education of their kids.

All these people are supporters of Kashmir movement but none of them subscribes to Massrat Alam’s idea that education is not important. It is their belief that education is the corner-stone of emancipation that they are eager to send their kids outside Kashmir Valley to study. But one of three – Abdul Rashid – can’t afford this and that is why his child is following not him but the dictates of Massarat Alam.

Abdul Rashid is not an educated person but has the realization what education means and the other two persons too know the power of knowledge. For Rashid, no freedom (Azadi) is much attractive and inspiring than the education of his child and rightly so. History stands witness that there is no slavery worst than the ignorance and illiteracy.

In 1947, Pakistan emerged as an independent and free state. But where has this freedom led that country? It was named as Islamic Republic of Pakistan. And today in that country Muslims are shamelessly killing Muslims. And today Pakistani analysts confess that as the nation was not educated, it failed to harvest the gains of freedom. And what did Bangladesh achieve after getting freedom? A starving country, plagued by poverty and illiteracy!

The proud Afghans defeated then USSR and achieved freedom. But how did this freedom help the population there? They are now inching toward a victory over mighty US, but will that freedom either change the lives of poor Afghans for anything better? US troops may leave Afghanistan but will their departure end the tribal confrontations? Would the infighting stop?

This country will get the real freedom only when it comes out of the abyss of ignorance. If the people are uneducated, illiterate and ignorant, it hardly matter whether they are free or enslaved. Genghis Khan and Alexandra the great conquered the world with sword but their victories could not bring the changes which were brought by Islamic victories because Muslims then were armed with not just sword by knowledge and philosophy.

What is freedom? Do Muslims and Hindus get freedom if they are separated from each other? If Sindhis are allowed to be separate from Punjabis does this give any freedom to the two? Does break-up of a family mean that the individuals get freedom?

Freedom is a concept which needs a better understanding and that understanding comes only through education. Confining such a great ideal (freedom) to petty hatred or whimsical love can be disastrous for the whole nation. I know, there would be people who will oppose my concept of freedom but I am convinced that for freedom you need an educated and enlightened society and an uneducated, illiterate and ignorant society will never get benefited even if it achieves its freedom.

From past three months everything is closed. We have had loses of almost 27000 crores. However, economic loses are immaterial but the loss we have been suffering on the front of education can never be done away with. By depriving our kids of education, we are committing a sin for which our future generations would never forgive us. The intellectuals of the society (those who don’t write columns in newspapers) are worried and wondering that why the leadership is playing blind to this grave issue. Why they are not opposing the closure of schools?

Agreed, that there are some college and university students who wrongly think that closure of educational institutions for some more moths would ensure Azadi for Kashmiris but it is the duty of leaders not to get carried away by these few who lack both wisdom as well experience.

Those who claim to be the leaders of the movement need to think about the collective good of the society and it goes without saying that denying students access to education is in no way good for the people.

It is a long drawn battle and we can’t keep business establishments and schools closed endlessly. Wisdom demands a realistic approach – an approach that helps the movement to inch toward logical conclusion and at the same time minimizes the sufferings of masses. The children of rich have all avenues available to study and moneyed people are very comfortable despite the three month long strike. But what about the poor, what about the education of their children. No leader, no matter how big or small he/she is has a right to make poor suffer.

Mixing Anarchy and Corruption in Kashmir

Can the SMC stop citizens from destroying their own city?


Srinagar: In what could be a major jolt to government’s inquiry into the Master Plan violations in the past, scores of fresh “illegal” constructions are going on in the City with Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) failing to the check the menace.

From Soura in north City to Rawalpora in the south, to places like Jawahir Nagar and Raj Bagh in between, the constructions are going on “hassle free”, literally under the nose of the civic body.

Greater Kashmir received scores of complaints in this regard from public circles. The SMC officials, as per insiders, are aware of the issue but have declined to act pleading that the “situation isn’t conducive for reaction.”


Parimpora in the north seems to be the glaring example of violations of the municipal norms. Here, in the garb of relocation of building structures which came under the highway widening, scores of new structures, mostly shopping complexes are coming up in the vicinity.

Sources in the SMC said the families whose houses had to be relocated under the expansion of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway, had applied for permission of residential houses but are constructing commercial complexes instead.

At colonies like Raj Bagh, Jawahir Nagar, Barzulla and Mahjoor Nagar in the civil lines, the allegedly illegal constructions are going at full swing. Similar is the scene in Hyderpora, Rawalpora and Nowgam areas, the complainants said.

Interestingly, to ensure speedy completion, the work is going on day-and-night.
The complainants alleged that some officials in the SMC are hand in glove with the builders.

“We learnt from reliable quarters that some SMC babus have asked them to complete the work at an earliest much within the ongoing unrest,” said a delegation of locals from HMT area.


Sources in the SMC said most of the allegedly illegal commercial complexes are coming up through misuse of building permission granted by the civic body.

“Many of the building permission cases were approved by the BOCA for construction of residential houses. But, instead commercial complexes are being constructed which is brazen violation of the municipal norms,” the sources said.


Despite repeated attempts the SMC Commissioner couldn’t be contacted for comment.

A lower rung official, pleading anonymity said there could “only be some isolated cases” of violations taking place.

“We are keeping a check in general. But violations could be taking place in some volatile areas where it’s difficult to act,” he said.


Pertinently, last year, following complaints of Master Plan violations in the City over the years, the Deputy Chief Minister, Tara Chand had sought a probe into the matter.

In December, 2009, the Deputy Chief Minister during his city tour had asked the high-level committee headed by Additional Commissioner Kashmir to submit its report on the Master Plan violations.

Subsequently four sub committees were constituted to report the violations from four zones of the City viz –North, South, East and West.

The committee, as per the sources, close to the deputy Chief Minister, had identified over 1000 illegal structures in the City.


While it was expected that keeping in view a “sympathetic attitude towards the people”, the buildings wouldn’t be demolished but only that the violators would be fined, the government planned tough measures against the officials responsible for the violations.

As per official documents, the Deputy Chief Minister, had asserted that strict action would be taken against officials “involved in or extending helping hand” in violations of the Master Plan.”

Tara had said the violations along with those responsible for permitting these violations, encroachments and illegal constructions should be submitted with the recommendations of action against the erring officials.

Tara had instructed for “categorizing action” against the erring officials.


Even though the inquiry into the Master Plan violations was expected to serve as a deterrent against future violations, the ongoing spree of constructions seems to have put the inquiry back to square one!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Traumatology" in Kashmir

Javid describes a calamity that has no political overtones

(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.)

Deathly Dance on J&K Roads

There is indeed a deathly dance going on in J&K state, the one in focus is different, brought forth by Traffic-info 2010-annual publication of traffic department. It came to fore, as the present unprecedented political crisis erupted and called for a comment. Having done it, the crisis dawned on all and sundry, the comment on Traffic-info got relegated to back burner, nevertheless a file preserved in my laptop documents. The state is still in the grip of crisis; however two concurrent events brought it forth:

a. Unprecedented traffic chaos in Srinagar on off days-the days when civil disobedience in the form of complete shutdown is not on, added to which is the state imposed curfew, meant to convey that state exists-if at all! It made me cover the distance to my office in 3 hours, what normally is a 20-25 minutes drive. The management changed timings-0800 to 1500 hr's on off days, as all and sundry got delayed
b. The state of handling of emergency cases, resulting from vehicular accidents, termed 'Road Traffic Accidents' [RTA] in medical terminology, which form the number one cause of traumatic injuries, somewhere down in the list of other causes is listed 'Regional Conflicts' worldwide-the one we are face to face with in J&K State, claiming lives though much less than RTA's [as per available data in medical books]

While as frightening details have been noted on those getting killed and injured in vehicular accidents, the report has failed to note the lack of medical, particularly first aid facilities, which if adequate could save many lives lost due to traffic mismanagement or those who get injured in regional conflict. We may take up the pointed lacuna before getting to other details concerning traffic management and road engineering-adequately covered in the report.

'Traumatology' the branch of medical science, which deals with traumatic injuries, whatever the cause of sustaining the various forms of injury, has grown into a separate specialty in recent times, for obvious reasons-the high number of traumatic cases and recent advances in the subject. One of the reasons ascribed is fast changing life style-a result of rapid industrialization. Fast pace of life results in pressing the accelerator and then there is also the element of thrill, one gets from it. In J&K, as elsewhere, with the road network failing to spread in proportion to number of vehicles, the rise in RTA's and the mortality related is understandable. However understandability should not be taken to mean acceptability, in spite of number of vehicles multiplying in geometric proportions and everyone getting eager to get on wheels.

Traffic info 2010 reveals statistical data in the first 3 months (January to March) 2010, in 2009, 2008 and 2005, it works out as follows:

No statistics are available for 2006 and 2007, although it is noted that in 2006, the state-wise statistics on road accidents shows that Jammu and Kashmir ranked 13th with 48.2 accidents per lakh population in India.

Let us compare it to country wide statistics of a few years back-number of accidents put at 2 lakh/annum, vehicles plying getting involved 10 % (as high as one out of ten vehicles) number of persons dead 60,000 (approximately one dying in 3.33 accidents) cause in 70 % of those is head injury-50 % of RTA head injury cases are brought dead to hospital, while as in 60 % of the total cases sustaining head injury RTA is the cause. 20 % of those involved in RTA's were found to be drunk.

High mortality [death rate] in India compared to West is ascribed to following factors:

a. Poor first aid facilities including poor training of paramedics
b. Transportation by uneducated non-medical personnel
c. Delay in transferring the patient, first hour being considered the 'Golden Hour' on the basis that lives could be saved by proper handling in first hour
d. Transportation in poorly equipped ambulances.

Maruti or any other vans converted into an ambulance is no substitute for purpose made vehicles, fitted to perfection to cater to the needs of an emergency traumatic injury, be it a RTA case or an injury resulting from regional conflict.

The poor handling of patient at the site of accident, improper transportation may in fact add to the injury sustained. I have had the opportunity to work with a trauma unit on the highway from Tehran to Turkey and onwards to Europe. The unit had three custom made ambulances, with Iranian paramedics specially trained in USA in first aid. They were all trained drivers too, while one would take to wheel, two would work on the case in an ambulance with a wide room. I have no hesitation in accepting that I got loads of tips in first aid from paramedics, whom I was supposed to command. There might be lacunas in training, even at the graduate level in our medical colleges. Theoretically, the training might be adequate, practical training in trauma units needs to be prioritized, if we are to get down the mortality to western levels in growing number of RTA or other traumatic cases in our state. And maximum concentration should be on training of paramedics and utilizing their services in professional handling of transportation.

Getting back to traffic info 2010, it says "There is no let up in the accidents in J&K. If the scenario of road accidents in India is grim, it is gory in J&K," Gory! J&K is getting in many respects-prevailing corruption [second amongst the most corrupt states] with Srinagar being [the fourth dirtiest city in the country] and now in traffic management! Traffic-info cites various reasons:

a. Poor road engineering and road geometry, lacking traffic orientation
b. Irrational transport policy
c. Poor enforcement of laws
d. Lack of mass education
e. Lack of manpower to handle traffic
f. Lacunas in 'Traffic engineering measures' and traffic calming techniques-intersectional poor management
g. Irrational land planning
h. Irrational growth between roads and vehicles

The pot holes appearing within months of asphalting a road cannot be ascribed to harsh weather conditions, as is often the plea taken for the valley and many other parts of the state, having a severe winter. Road engineering is definitely in a poor state, including road geometry, especially on approaches to intersections, where maximum choking occurs. In many European states, parts of Middle East-especially northern Iranian provinces of Gilan and Muzandaran and in Azerbaijan towards west, weather conditions are harsher than Kashmir, yet the roads survive for long. Adequate funding in Europe and oil rich Middle East and poor in Kashmir could not be ascribed as the reason. From a technical viewpoint purely, there cannot be different standards for road building in Europe and Kashmir, given similar weather conditions; hence estimates have to be same, may be with minor variations-no engineer would stick his neck out by submitting a sub-standard road estimate. Whether what is noted in paper vis a vis technical details translates into deliverance on ground is a matter of debate-there is a question mark over it? In maintaining roads, as often as we do, almost after every winter, the overall spending might work out to be proportionately higher than what Europeans spend on construction plus maintenance. A study might be worthwhile to reveal, what the report calls 'Gory' on more counts than one

Legal lacunas are cited in the report "The traffic laws figure at the tail-end of the crime schedule for the reason that traffic violations entail minor punishment. The weak traffic laws tend to encourage violators to commit breach of laws with impunity," although fines are realized from violators According to Traffic info, there has been "unprecedented increase" in fining the traffic violators. "The department has realized an amount of Rs 7, 56, 31,941 as fine from the violators in 2009," Fine might be the fine realized, nevertheless buses plying on roads enjoy stopping anywhere with impunity, thus impeding the free flow of traffic. Traffic department might be lacking personnel, however even with the present team; few seem to be bothering.

Coming to intersections, every time I cross the Rawalpora bypass intersection, I do thank Almighty Allah for guiding me through. Even when the personnel are there, there seems to be mostly lack of concern in handling traffic, alertness however is surprising, as soon as soon as the wailing siren of VIP passage is heard. Hyderpora bye-pass is much better managed-VIP's go up and down the 'Airport Road' same is true of Maulana Azad road in summer, in winter VIP's shift to Jammu. Quite often Valleyites, abhorring it may sound though; wish our VIP's might serve us better by staying in Jammu round the year. Jammuites might have a similar wish, strictly vis a vis the VIP movement affecting the traffic. The way their escorts wave you off the road is insulting, never ever experienced during my three decades abroad.

Our woes are way beyond the ones related to scientific management of traffic narrated in the traffic info 2010. Ethical concerns abound in all walks of life; morality remains in question in traffic management too. However info 2010 is a decent effort, which should serve as an eye opener. It could have been a lot better with an element of self criticism, generally we lack that. Much needs to be done to manage traffic, improve roads, save lives-the police, the engineers; the medicos need to be involved in a multi pronged effort. Our society may not start and end with VIP's-they are the ones supposed to serve and not lord over the commoners. It has already come to a point, where the commoner may feel compelled to cry-where is my space?!

The Boiling Pot Called Kashmir - 7

Two differing perspectives of the problem and expectations. Fida's views conflict with those from the South of valley. Is it a bridge too far and guess who is paying for the divide?

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

Point: Steer the Boat Well

Almost for last three months life has come to halt in Kashmir. Writ of government does not run beyond the corridors of civil secretariat and a population of millions is holed up because of unending trail of curfew and endless hartals. This situation of turmoil which started as an agitation against killing of young Kashmiris turned chaotic. Occasionally, violence gripped the valley so severely that blood of innocent people got splashed on every street and lane of Kashmir. More than sixty people have got killed since young innocent Tufail Matoo was killed brutally. Hundreds got injured by the brute force of security agencies maiming and disfiguring many with lethal weapons. Situation in Kashmir has reached a flashpoint where it can be termed as unpredictable. A situation of ‘stalemate’ has gripped the valley particularly for the last more than a fortnight. This position of status quo has arrived as both administration and leadership of agitators are watching each other’s moves very closely and any fault is exploited and explored by the either side. This situation of stalemate is pushing more young people into the furnace of death and destruction without making any substantial development on human rights front and the basic vital issue of empowering and emancipation of people of Kashmir.

No authority in the world order can deny the implications of Kashmir issue on regional and international political scenario. Security aspect in the sub-continent is completely influenced by Kashmir problem which ultimately adversely effects the economic development and social harmony in the region. For the last more than six decades this vexed issue of many dimensions and facades had experienced multi-pronged approaches of settlement without any progress. Stake holders of this issue except Kashmiris desire to resolve it to their satisfaction and benefit without giving any due consideration to the aspirations of people of Kashmir. From 1947 onwards Kashmir political stage hosted much political drama. Starting with Pakistan’s military interference and subsequent Indian intervention leading to a situation where not less than the Prime Minister of India made a promise with people of Kashmir—promise of self-determination. Issue was even dragged to United Nations for intervention by one of the hostile countries. Beyond promise of self-determination and U.N intervention something else was in store for the desperate Kashmiris—historic blunder of 1953 when Sheikh Abdullah was deposed and jailed for treason.

Later on many experiments to destabilize writ and authority of Kashmiri people were put in motion. In the year 1974 by reinstalling miniaturized Sheik Abdullah under `Kashmir accord’ the intentions of Indian establishment were loud and clear. Now, the strings of Kashmir were firmly held by Indian authorities in Delhi. In between all these developments many other steps were taken to discredit people of Kashmir, Delhi agreement, erosion and ultimately abolition of autonomy of the state, change of nomenclature of head of government and head of the state and getting Kashmir under the purview of several legislations passed by the Indian parliament were enacted finely and with political precision.

These unprincipled efforts ensuring complete but illegitimate integration of Kashmir with Indian union created a state of mistrust between Indian establishment and the people of Kashmir. All political dispensations and authorities in India made cosmetic planning of economic packages, and doled out many other sops and amenities to woe the people of Kashmir from time to time. 1953’s political coup is the best example of sedating Kashmiris with developmental opium and other economic benefits. During this period corruption was deliberately injected into the otherwise pure psyche of Kashmiri people. This mistrust exploded many times and led to confrontation during last six decades but got brushed under the carpet with active support of many local political hypocrites and sycophants. But, no package of any sort and magnitude could completely put out the glimmer of hope for emancipation lying within each and every Kashmiri.

Kashmiris have suffered for centuries but the last six decades of mistrust and deception are more painful as it is being inflicted by a class who where companions of our elders during moment of independence in the region, who claim to be the champions of freedom and democracy. This painful suppression inflicted on Kashmiris for the last more than six decades has effected almost three generations of Kashmir. The people who are on the streets of Kashmir now, leading and vociferously asking for their legitimate rights were born during last two decades under the shadow of gun, rattling sounds of bombs and mines. They have seen and experienced their elders being subjected to torture, killing, pillage, and destruction. They have witnessed women being molested and people of their age subjected to disappearance. They are angry for many years now but the recent gruesome killing made them fuming. Yes, factors of alienation, exploitation, corruption and nepotism over the period of time leading to huge unemployment and deprivation played as catalyst in raging the present fire of anger but the ultimate reason is fraud played with people of Kashmir since 1947.

Young Kashmiris who at the moment are embracing death as against humiliation are being not really lead but steered by a bunch of leaders who otherwise are embroiled in a vortex of conflict and ego, unable to draw their own collective strategy regarding the present resistance. Words of ‘civil disobedience’ and ‘quit Kashmir’ are doing the rounds but ultimately it is the energy and resolution of this energetic younger generation on streets that sustains the present struggle for just and genuine demand of honorable solution of Kashmir imbroglio. Young people in command on the streets are devoid of any significant leadership of their own and thus their struggle at the moment is completely dependent on traditional separatist leadership.

Mainstream political system existing in Kashmir are either trivializing this situation or trying to exploit it and encourage a situation of stalemate for their petty considerations. Majority of these mainstream political groups are either implementing their parroted agenda or work as ‘his masters voice’. Certain mainstream politicians resort to carrot and stick approach and are waiting for the opportune occasion to open their cards.

Presently people of Kashmir irrespective of social and economic class and status have invested much in the present state of resistance and civil-disobedience; younger generation has given. Any deviation or faulty strategy leading to situation of long lasting stalemate will have its far reaching consequences with regard to the indisputable desire of emancipation. Present leadership that is not leading this struggle by choice but by compulsion should understand the mood and temper of younger generation. They should respect the sentiments, aspirations and wishes of this younger lot who work as fuel for this engine of resistance. They should chalk out a strategy which is not only practical but sustainable as well. Unless a multi-pronged strategy of resistance and necessitated negotiation will not be in place the confrontation will take over and overpower our saner efforts making the struggle of empowerment much difficult. We should fight for our legitimate rights in every peaceful manner and on every front. Present leadership should not make this movement personality centric but principle oriented. Multi-pronged strategy demands constitution of pressure groups, literary forums, economic policy groups, and further demand active involvement of social scientist and intellectuals. These saner sections of society will take care of education, economy, society and other measures of sustenance during these testing times. Just issuing programs of hartal and protest will not do. We cannot afford to proceeds on indefinite strike without keeping the doors of reconciliation and prospective negotiations ajar. Not reconciliation at the cost of martyrs blood and our honor but after due consideration and deliberation in the context of our just demand of emancipation. Our leaders have to unite and shift from position of stalemate to strategy of steering preset resistance movement towards dignified resolution of Kashmir issue without making any compromise with the basic principles and the philosophy of justice.

What ails Kashmir? The Sunni idea of ‘azadi’

Link -

The discomfort Kashmiris feel is about which laws self-rule must be under, and Hurriyat rejects a secular constitution

We know what Hurriyat Conference wants: azadi, freedom. But freedom from what? Freedom from Indian rule. Doesn’t an elected Kashmiri, Omar Abdullah, rule from Srinagar?

Yes, but Hurriyat rejects elections. Why? Because ballots have no azadi option. But why can’t the azadi demand be made by democratically elected leaders? Because elections are rigged through the Indian Army. Why is the Indian Army out in Srinagar and not in Surat? Because Kashmiris want azadi.

Let’s try that again.

What do Kashmiris want freedom from? India’s Constitution.

What is offensive about India’s Constitution? It is not Islamic. This is the issue, let us be clear.

The violence in Srinagar isn’t for democratic self-rule because Kashmiris have that. The discomfort Kashmiris feel is about which laws self-rule must be under, and Hurriyat rejects a secular constitution.

Hurriyat deceives the world by using a universal word, azadi, to push a narrow, religious demand. Kashmiris have no confusion about what azadi means: It means Shariah. Friday holidays, amputating thieves’ hands, abolishing interest, prohibiting alcohol (and kite-flying), stoning adulterers, lynching apostates and all the rest of it that comprises the ideal Sunni state.

Not one Shia gang terrorizes India; terrorism on the subcontinent is a Sunni monopoly.

There is a token Shia among the Hurriyat’s bearded warriors, but it is essentially a Sunni group pursuing Sunni Shariah. Its most important figure is Umar Farooq. He’s called mirwaiz, meaning head of preachers (waiz), but he inherited his title at 17 and actually is no Islamic scholar. He is English-educated, but his base is Srinagar’s sullen neighbourhood of Maisuma, at the front of the stone-pelting. His following is conservative and, since he has little scholarship, he is unable to bend his constituents to his view.

Hurriyat’s modernists are led by Sopore’s 80-year-old Ali Geelani of Jamaat-e-Islami. Jamaat was founded in 1941 by a brilliant man from Maharashtra called Maududi, who invented the structure of the modern Islamic state along the lines of a Communist one. Maududi opposed Jinnah’s tribal raid in Kashmir, which led to the Line of Control, saying jihad could only be prosecuted formally by a Muslim state, and not informally by militias. This wisdom was discarded later, and Hizb al-Mujahideen, starring Syed Salahuddin of cap and beard fame, is a Jamaat unit. Maududi was ecumenical, meaning that he unified the four Sunni groups of thought. He always excluded Shias, as heretics.

The Kashmiri separatist movement is actually inseparable from Sunni fundamentalism. Those on the Hurriyat’s fringes who say they are Gandhians, like Yasin Malik, are carried along by the others in the group so long as the immediate task of resisting India is in common. But the Hurriyat and its aims are ultimately poisonous, even for Muslims.

The Hurriyat Conference’s idea of freedom unfolds from a religious instinct, not a secular sentiment. This instinct is sectarian, and all the pro-azadi groups are Shia-killers. In promoting their hatred, the groups plead for the support of other Muslims by leaning on the name of the Prophet Muhammad.

Hafiz is a title and means memorizer of the Quran. Mohammed Saeed’s Lashkar Tayyaba means army of Tyeb (“the good”), one of the Prophet’s names. This is incorrectly spelled and pronounced by our journalists as “Taiba” or “Toiba”, but Muslims can place the name. Lashkar rejects all law from sources other than the recorded sayings and actions of Muhammad. This is called being Wahhabi, and Wahhabis detest the Shia.

Jaish Muhammad (Muhammad’s army) was founded in a Karachi mosque, and it is linked to the Shia-killing Sipah Sahaba (Army of Muhammad’s First Followers) in Pakistan’s Seraiki-speaking southern Punjab. The group follows a narrow, anti-Shia doctrine developed in Deoband.

Decades of non-interference by the Pakistani state in the business of Kashmiri separatism has led to a loss of internal sovereignty in Pakistan. The state is no longer able to convince its citizens that it should act against these groups. Though their own Shia are regularly butchered, a poll shows that a quarter of Pakistanis think Lashkar Tayyaba does good work. We think Indian Muslims are different from Pakistanis and less susceptible to fanaticism. It is interesting that within Pakistan, the only group openly and violently opposed to Taliban and terrorism are UP and Bihar migrants who form Karachi’s secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party.

So what do the separatist groups want? It is wrong to see them as being only terrorist groups. They operate in an intellectual framework, and there is a higher idea that drives the violence. This is a perfect state with an executive who is pious, male and Sunni. Such a state, where all is done according to the book, will get God to shower his blessings on the citizens, who will all be Sunnis.

There are three types of Sunnis in Kashmir. Unionists, separatists, and neutrals. Unionists, like Omar Abdullah, are secular and likely to be repelled by separatism because they have seen the damage caused by political Islam in Pakistan. They might not be in love with Indians, but they see the beauty of the Indian Constitution. Neutrals, like Mehbooba Mufti, are pragmatic and will accept the Indian Constitution when in power, though they show defiance when out of it. This is fine, because they respond to a Muslim constituency that is uncertain, but isn’t totally alienated. The longer these two groups participate in democracy in Kashmir, the weaker the separatists become. The current violence is a result of this. Given their boycott of politics, the Hurriyat must rally its base by urging them to violence and most of it happens in Maisuma and Sopore. The violence should also clarify the problem in the minds of neutrals: If Kashmiri rule does not solve the azadi problem, what will?

India’s liberals are defensive when debating Kashmir because of our unfulfilled promise on plebiscite. But they shouldn’t be. There is really no option to secular democracy, whether one chooses it through a plebiscite or whether it is imposed. It is a universal idea and there is no second form of government in any culture or religion that works. The Islamic state is utopian and it never arrives. Since it is driven by belief, however, the search becomes quite desperate.

India has a constitution; Pakistan has editions. These are the various Pakistani constitutions: 1935 (secular), 1956 (federal), 1962 (dictatorial), 1973 (parliamentary), 1979 (Islamic), 1999 (presidential), 2008 (parliamentary). Why do they keep changing and searching? Muslims keep trying to hammer in Islamic bits into a set of laws that is actually quite complete. This is the Government of India Act of 1935, gifted to us by the British.

Kashmiris have it, and perhaps at some point they will learn to appreciate its beauty.

The Boiling Pot Called Kashmir - 6

Kashmir's turbulence affects its credit worthiness

ADB refuses to release Rs 1410 Cr urban development loan to J&K

Citing serious organizational problems, poor technical expertise and failure to achieve disbursement targets, Asian Development Bank (ADB) has refused to release second installment of Rs 1410 crore loan to Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) towards implementation of Jammu and Kashmir Urban Sector Development Investment Program (JKUSDIP).

The bank has rebutted claims of ERA and said that the agency has not only failed to meet the set targets but also lacks visionary leadership and capacity to undertake major developmental initiatives. Bank has made these observations in a report prepared by its contact mission comprising of urban economist Hiroyuki Ikemoto and Project Implementation Officer (PIO) Saugata Dasgupta.

The team was in Jammu and Kashmir from July 14 to 17, 2010 to review ERA’s performance vis-à-vis release of first installment of around Rs 200 crore by ADB in June 2007 for the implementation of urban sector development investment program. It also had to evaluate ERA’s preparedness for the proposed second periodic financing request for carrying forward the developmental program.

In the report the team has observed that ERA’s cumulative contract award was Rs 128.78 crore i.e. 64 per cent of the loan between 2008 and 2010 while as disbursement achieved during the same period was Rs19.364 crore, which is just 8 per cent of the actual loan amount sanctioned for the programme. Refusing to buy security and climate of the State for slow progress in project implementation, ADB report has held human factors responsible for this.

“Delay in ERA internal decision making procedures, delay in payments, weak monitoring of consultants’ performance and contractor’s work resulting in dishonesty, preciseness, logical thinking, communication, punctuality amongst consultants, lack of attention to remedial measures advised by review missions and limited participation of contractor and consultants in bidding due to perceived business risks,” the ADB report observes.

Considering ERAs’ past performance, the team of ADB assessed that current absorptive capacity of ERA for subsequent loans is not more than Rs 235 crore, unless ERA takes major initiative for its business process reengineering. “ERA failed to prepare institutional audit report with the assistance of Project Support Consultancy (PSC) before arrival of the Mission,” the report adds.

Further, of the ten new projects proposed by ERA for financing, ADB has after appraisal of the project documents observed that only four sub-projects costing around Rs 75.2 crore are ready for processing adding that this amount does not meet the minimum loan size criteria of the bank which is around Rs.206.8 crore of a periodic financing request (PFR).

The project proposals, which ADB team has earmarked for rejection include rehabilitation and strengthening of water supply system at Jammu city, elevated express corridor from Jehangir Chowk to Rambagh Natipora in Srinagar city, construction of storm water drains in adjoining areas of NH Bypass in Srinagar city, parking facility near Lal Chowk in Srinagar, construction of Flyover from Vikram Chowk to Green Belt crossing at Jammu and construction of ERA office complex in Jammu and Srinagar

The projects , which have been marked down for execution include rehabilitation and channelization of storm water drains at Diagiana, Gangyal, Rampur, Nai-Basti and Vikram Chowk at Jammu, rehabilitation and channelization of storm water drains at Sainik Colony and Channi Himat at Jammu, procurement of mobile water tankers and operation and maintenance (O&M) equipments for Public Health Engineering Department in Srinagar City and procurement of solid waste management equipment for Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC).

ADB team has in its report maintained that design and supervision consultancy (DSC) and project support consultancy (PCS) have failed to deliver as per expectation due to poor quality of the experts and weak monitoring by ERA.

Report affirms that ERA has re-tendered the DSC (Kashmir) package, as contract negotiation with sole technically qualified consortium failed in the first round of bidding. Report has further outlined that as per Para 21 (a) of schedule 5 of the loan agreement, ERA’s was supposed to prepare quarterly progress reports and submit the same with the review mission whenever asked. However, ADB has said that despite repeated reminders, ERA has failed to submit any progress report to ADB since loan inception.

The report has categorically stated that ADB will resume loan processing only when ERA undertakes major business process reengineering to improve supervision of consultants and contractors, and institute quick decision making.

Further, it has asked ERA to achieve 90 percent of the disbursement targets in 2010, and subsequent quarterly targets; and award all contracts under tranche 1 by February 2011.

Jammu and Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency (JKERA) is a society registered under the Act VI of 1998 (1941 A.D) with the Registrar of Societies Govt. of J&K under registration No.4645-S of 2004. The society (J&K ERA) came into existence as a result of Cabinet decision No. 105/6 dated 17-07-2004 vide Govt. order No. 60-PD of 2004 dated 16-08-2004.

(Kashmir Times)

The Boiling Pot Called Kashmir - 5

Financial losses are mounting, but business leaders want India to solve a problem which can only be only resolved locally - two reports from FCCIK and KCCI

Unrest Costs Kashmir Rs 8,000 cr

Kashmir has 25,000 hotel rooms. Till June 80 per cent were occupied. Today almost all are vacant.

Kashmir has about 2 lakh small shopkeepers, street vendors and cart pullers. Most of them have remained indoors during shutdowns and curfews.

The past 80 days of violence and strife in Kashmir have not only cost 65 civilian lives but hurt the region's economy hard. Industry organisations have estimated that Jammu and Kashmir has lost about Rs 8,000 crore in these past 80 days.

Shakeel Qalandar, president of the Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCCIK) said the state has 4 lakh enterprises comprising of 12 lakh people. "Almost half of them are one-man or two-men enterprises such as shopkeepers, street vendors and cart pullers. All of them are directly affected by shutdowns and curfews," he said.

Qalandar said the state incurs a loss of about Rs 100 crore for a single day of shutdown or curfew. "That means we have lost about Rs 8,000 crore in these past 80 days of unrest."

The tourism industry, the backbone of the region's economy, has been hit the hardest.

"We have almost 1,000 hotels across Kashmir, with a capacity of 25,000 rooms, besides eateries, restaurants and coffee shops. All of them are vacant. We have not laid our staff off as yet but sent some of them back to their homes," said Siraj Ahmad, president of the Kashmir Hoteliers and Restaurants Association.

He said that if the situation does not improve hotels would be forced to close down like they did in the 1990s, the worst phase of militancy. "We will have only two alternatives then -- to lay off the staff or slash their salaries by almost half. For, once we close the hotels, we won't need the staff," he said.

The corporate sector has not been spared either. An employee with HDFC Standard Life Insurance said, "For the past three months business has been negligible. The company is now thinking of reducing the number of units in the Valley. A list of employees to be laid off has already been drawn up if the situation continues like this. Everybody is distressed."

Kashmir Business Losses Over Rs 21,000 cr in 85 Days

Srinagar: The 80-day period of shutdowns and curfews in the Valley has dented the economy of Kashmir by a whopping Rs 21,000-crore as the ongoing agitation has affected every sector including tourism, handicrafts and the nascent industries.

Several established and upstarting manufacturing companies, hotels and restaurants have laid off staff due to prolonged agitation which is showing no signs of ending.
"We do not have the exact data but lay-offs have taken place mostly in the hotel and restaurant sector and the travel trade," president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Nazir Ahmad Dar told media.

Dar said although reducing the number of employees in the hotel industry was a common practice during the winters due to lean tourist arrivals, this year the lay-offs have started at the peak of the tourism season in July.

Asked about the estimated losses suffered by the business community in Kashmir, the KCCI president said on an average the losses were to the tune of Rs 100 crores per day.

"Even on the limited days of normalcy we have had since June 11, there has been disturbance in some part or the other of the Valley ... it will be safe to put the cumulated losses so far at Rs 8,000 crore," he added.

Dar said business in the state will flourish only after permanent peace is established, which was only possible when "Government of India takes concrete steps to break the impasse".

Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya, the leading hotelier of Kashmir, said he was incurring a recurring loss of Rs 30 lakh per month due to the ongoing agitation.

"My salary bill per month is close to Rs 15 lakhs while another Rs 15 lakhs are incurred on overheads like maintaining the hotel properties, electricity bills, etc," he said.

The Boiling Pot Called Kashmir - 4

Let us hear from young victims

Students Protest Unending Shutdown in Kashmir

Srinagar: A group of primary school students today protested against the 80-day-long agitation in Kashmir Valley, saying it was denying them the right to education.
Dressed in their school uniforms, nearly 20 students from a school in Ganderbal staged the demonstration here, demanding an end to the ongoing agitation, on the ground that it had marred their learning process.

The students held placards which read "we want freedom from poverty, we want freedom from illiteracy, we want freedom from backwardness." A mainstream political activist Farooq Ahmad Ganderbali, who was accompanying the students told reporters that the agitation in the Valley was spoiling the future of students.

"Students in Jammu region don't have any disruption and study without any hindrance but our wards are suffering immensely," he said. However, Ganderbali's statement did not go down well with an unidentified onlooker who pushed him."What about the lives of 65 people, who were mostly students and died in the police and CRPF firing since June 11? Did not they have a right to live?" the agitated onlooker asked Ganderbali before the protestors fled from the scene sensing more trouble.

The Boiling Pot Called Kashmir - 3

Religious fatwas cut both sides - the result is obvious

Valley of Suicides

Kashmir Valley has been witnessing an alarming increase in the incidents of suicides from past few years. Not a single day passes without the reports of suicides or attempts of suicide making it to newspapers from different parts of the Valley. Those who end their lives or attempt to do so are from different age groups – from teenagers to middle-aged house-wives. The seriousness of the issue could be gauged by the very fact that despite religious scholars (Ulema) having issued a religious edict (Fatwa) against suicides, there has not been much decline in the practice. Instead, unmindful of the social, moral and even legal consequences, an ever-increasing number of people have been and is falling prey to the dreadful practice. And what is really appalling is that despite the increased incidence of suicides, not much has actually been done by the government or the society to arrest the trend. Indeed it won’t be an exaggeration to say that there is no institutional help at all available to the emotionally ragged and psychologically stressed population. No wonder ending life seems the only and the easiest option available to the people who are unable to handle the emotional overload of life.

Although there has been increase in the incidents of suicides all over the state, including in Jammu, however, the worst is happening in Kashmir Valley. Unfortunately we, as a society, are not waking up to see and asses why such negative behaviour is creeping into our society. We have switched ourselves into a denial mode and don’t want to look inwards. Instead are always there with denials. Public ‘Fatwa’ notwithstanding, the civil society members are not coming forward to speak about the issue publicly, perhaps for the fear that doing so may expose some bad things within ‘us’ and that is what we don’t want. Despite all ills, we don’t want to go for any introspection. We may make emotional speeches on human rights but will never talk about domestic violence. We may speak for hours, lecturing on morals but would never admit that girls in Kashmir are committing suicide because they don’t have dowry to “buy” husbands. Or, that they are ragged by other terrible forms of structural violence which despite being there woven into the very structures of our social life have thus far failed to attract the kind of attention and correction it deserves. We may accuse all and sundry for polluting Kashmir culture but will never confess that females at work-places are being sexually harassed forcing them to take extreme steps of committing suicide.

Instead of shutting eyes to the harsh realities need is that the civil society wakes up and looks at the issue with realism. Past almost two decades of violence have torn apart the social fabric of Kashmir besides sort of overstretching people’s limits of patience and overburdened their emotional shock-absorbers. The continued trouble has turned people mentally sick. Cases of depression are too common and the only psychiatric hospital of the Valley is witnessing unprecedented rush of such patients. The trend is to be arrested and in this case one can’t look towards the government. It is a social issue and needs participation of the society. This war is to be fought from every household. The civil society has to depoliticize itself for a while and concentrate on this social crisis. A full-fledged awareness campaign is to be launched and besides the teachers in schools and colleges, Imams of mosques have to involve themselves in awareness as well as counseling operations. Counseling is what is needed the most. The campaign must be started today as tomorrow may be too late.

The Boiling Pot Called Kashmir - 2

An interesting Editorial in the Rising Kashmir

Need to Rethink

The fresh protest calendar by Hurriyat Conference (G) is out. It is no different from the previous calendars given by the conglomerate even as people in general expected a “better deal” this time keeping in view the festival of Eid. For the past over two months normal life in Kashmir has come to a grinding halt owing to protests which were fuelled largely by the killing of innocents at the hands of CRPF and Police.

People have been genuinely protesting against the atrocities being perpetrated by the forces and the anger is justified. Whatever the Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani has asked people to do during this period they have religiously followed that showing that he holds sway over people. No doubt the sufferings have increased manifold with huge losses to businesses and education sector. But the people in general have echoed their support to the programme keeping in view the sacrifices given for a larger cause. The motivation for supporting such a programme is also the feeling that it is a “now or never” game. Whether that is a genuine feeling needs to be understood in a proper context.

While people followed the calendars of past weeks they had to face the brunt of continued curfews by the government. Government has also failed to come to the grips and sensitize itself with the problems people have been facing. There is shortage of medicines and even babies have been deprived of milk due to curfew and other restrictions. Two months is a long time and there is no end in sight as New Delhi is yet to wake up over Kashmir. It has only resorted to usual rhetoric and generalization that it was ready to talk with any group. There is no definition of this “offer” which could pave way for some kind of reconciliation. Political deadlock is further worsening the situation in Kashmir and a practical approach is needed to provide an opening for political engagement. But that has to come with any conditions. Meanwhile, ahead of Eid people expected a longer breather as the businesses have been shut and flow of financial transactions has come to a naught. One day before the Eid, which probably will fall on Friday or Saturday and in a latter case, the following day is also supposed be shut, is not enough. It is true that the blood spilled by forces on the streets has not disappeared and no real celebrations can be expected but at the same time, a longer break under the guise of Eid is much more needed. No doubt that the real source of livelihood in this place is dependent on the salaries of government employees and they may get it ahead of Eid but the private sector is going through the worst crisis. Since there is no work, the flow of money is at lowest ebb putting the businesses in danger. According to a rough estimate 60,000 people have lost their jobs in hospitality sector alone. There is no doubt that people here are wedded to the cherished goal of Azadi and have extended full support to all the programmes. But a “better deal” on the eve of Eid is inevitable. Hurriyat should rethink over the fresh calendar.

The Boiling Pot Called Kashmir - 1

Ajaz, from the University of Kashmir, shares his perspective

We’re Victims of Selfish Politics

"No political party works with good intentions to resolve the Kashmir dispute"

Aijaz Hassan

The Kashmir conflict has its origin in the notorious March 16, 1886 Treaty of Amritsar. After Independence it was due to stubborn and egoistic attitude of both India and Pakistan that Kashmir dispute remained unresolved despite lapse of more than 62 years.

Till date lot of agreements, bilateral talks, conferences were held between the two countries but all in vain. Leadership of both sides use Kashmir dispute for their own political gains. India betrayed Kashmiris since 1953 and role played by Pakistan since 1947 towards Kashmiris is well known to all of us.

Now if we examine politics of the state, we will find that all political parties have their own policies and theories regarding Kashmir. The Hindu rightwing extremists not only use Kashmir card in Jammu region but also in the entire India for banking votes. All political parties whether mainstream or separatists have never been sincere to resolve the Kashmir conflict. They always use blood of young innocent Kashmiris to fulfill their own needs. If we talk about National Conference it has lost its credibility since 1984 elections and present government of Omar Abdullah instead being on the side of people has waged a war against them. Another big regional party PDP changes its stand day in and day out. During present crisis one of its top brass leaders was speaking on one of the T V channels that destination of Kashmir lies with India and another leader of the same party was contradicting him. Why this double standard one fails to understand it? Congress never acted with good intensions to solve the Kashmir dispute. I deem Congress and BJP as two sides of the same coin as these parties use Kashmir sentiments to garner support in India and earn votes.

The separatist camp is also sailing in the same boat. I was shocked to see the strike calendar issued by Hurriyat (G) on August 25. On one side it urged people to observe September 2 as ‘Youm-e Tahafuz Khawateen’ and asked womenfolk to march towards Ali Masjid Eidgah on the same day, despite knowing fully the prevailing situation of the valley and the consequences of such action. I also fail to understand why not strike for three or four days including Sunday and routine work for next four days in a week because a particular section of people is suffering by the continuous strikes. The leaders should keep in mind that the flame of agitation keeps on burning because of these people. Therefore it is Hurriyat’s moral duty to think something good for them, otherwise at some point of time they will become answerable to them and at that time nobody will come to their rescue. History bears witness that even towering leaders like Sheikh Abdullah did not escape the wrath of people who at one time would write his names on leaves. Now his grave stands protected by several guards who fear its demolition by the same people.

Therefore it will be sooner the better if these leaders work out a strategy which will be poor-people friendly, good for student community because they are the future of our nation. Everybody is fully aware of the fact that the resolution of Kashmir conflict will take time. I hope when the new calendar is released due consideration will be given to poor people and students community